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Codex 2010 Short Story Winners

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Codex 2010 Short Story Winners

Competition - posted by DarkUnderlord on Sat 4 December 2010, 11:29:21

The following short stories were all sent as entries in <a class="maintitle" href="../../phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=51830&amp;start=50&amp;postdays=0&amp;postorder=asc&amp;highlight=">The 2010 Codex Top 5 RPGs Short Story Contest.[/url]
<h1>The Winning Entries
<span class="genmed">My Dearest Mina</span>
<span class="genmed">by </span><span class="genmed">grotsnik </span>
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">*

1st July

My Dearest Mina,

Well, I have safely met with my carriage, and soon I will be meeting with our client, the mysterious Count Andhaircula. I must say, I find this country fascinating so far &ndash; and its air is delightful. This morning we passed into the mountains of GeneralDiscussionistan, and I was able to hear the simple villagers&rsquo; traditional cries of intense anti-semitism and virginal sexual loathing.

The coach driver is a humble fellow, who keeps his hunched back to me at all times and speaks in a low, guttural growl. So far he has barely opened his mouth except to say,

Late in the afternoon, we ran into the illustrious mad doctor Prosper, who was, apparently, hunting a phallus-armed creation of his which had escaped into the hills and horribly murdered a small girl. As night fell, and we passed into the Count&rsquo;s province of Transbanalania, my guide pointed out to me the horrid, unmistakable sight of a Drog transforming into one of its hideous, hairy alternative forms.

This is a strange land, Mina; there can be no doubt about that. They even say that the priests of the Cult of Profit have a temple here, where they pray for their unholy and twattish god to return from his seat in the house of R&rsquo;lyeh.

I have just offered my guide a sip from my hip-flask. He replied,

I will feel happier, I think, when I have met the Count; and I am sure he will have many questions for me.


2nd July

My dearest Mina,

Well, I have met the Count...and I must say, it was not entirely what I was expecting. A tall, handsome, swarthy figure, striding out of the darkness of his castle&rsquo;s great hallway, he greeted me with,
&ldquo;Ah, my dear Jonathan. What can I offer you &ndash; brandy or claret? Discuss!&rdquo;
From behind him, slipping like shadows in the night, came three figures that seemed to cling delightedly to his robes, oozing about the Count&rsquo;s very presence.
&ldquo;These are my brides,&rdquo; the Count explained. &ldquo;Exmit, Higher Game, and ScottishMartialArts.&rdquo;
&ldquo;But...only one of them&rsquo;s a woman,&rdquo; I pointed out, eyeing the figures nervously.
&ldquo;Ye-es,&rdquo; the Count replied, shiftily. &ldquo;One of them. A woman. Definitely.&rdquo;
&ldquo;Oh, shit, yeah,&rdquo; I replied.
Also, there were, like, vampire lesbian schoolgirls there as well. They were all, like, mature and gritty and adult, and shit. And there was a wereshark in the corner.
I reached into my jacket pocket for the papers Mr Bumface had given me. As I did so, I accidentally exposed the silver crucifix I wear around my neck.
The Count&rsquo;s appearance was electrifying. He sprang back, his face contorting into bestiality, his hands raised as if to strike at me, and he cried,
&ldquo;What&rsquo;s wrong, Jonathan? I thought you Christians were supposed to be above superstition?&rdquo;


3rd July

My dearest Mina,

I understand it all now &ndash; though it is, alas, too late for me. I stole into the Count&rsquo;s library after midnight and there read from his own journal. He is a monster &ndash; an inhuman monster, who feeds with the power of his own fucking relentlessly tedious current-affairs questions. And once you have been infected, you become just as banal as he, forced to serve as a thrall in the great wastes of GeneralDiscussionistan. He is a <span style="font-style: italic;">troll</span>; perhaps the greatest of all trolls. Certainly the most dogged.

As I was reading, the Count and his brides crept up behind me; two of them held me down, and the Count himself ravaged me between my buttocks, with an inhuman shriek of,
&ldquo;DISCUSS, BITCH! DISCUSS!&rdquo;
There was much butthurt, Mina. Too much.

I can feel the taint in my blood; the hunger running through me. Soon I will need to feed...to post a topic about who has better tits, Angela Merkel or Hillary Clinton; or a topic mocking another topic by copying it almost exactly but changing a single word into another word, like &lsquo;penis&rsquo;.
I will not let it come to that. I will find a way to end my life before then; shooting myself, tossing myself from the Count&rsquo;s battlements, or simply spamming until I am banned.

I swear to you, darling Mina, I will not become a banal and trollish creature like Count Andhaircula.

Your beloved,
Jonathan Liberal.



Last night the trading ship the DEMETER was wrecked off the coast of Whitby, in a storm that seemed to portend doom for the entire nation of Codexia. Ghostly voices howled upon the wind, bats and rats streamed out of the sky and the gutters, and an enormous black dog with glowing eyes seemed to rise out of the sea, roaring in a human voice,
&ldquo;Which is better; Velcro or shoelaces? Discuss!&rdquo;</span>
The Curly-Haired Man

By treave
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">The Curly-Haired Man gently fingered his chosen implement of bliss as he withdrew it from its glistening target. Its metallic surface glinted in the dim candlelight. It was long, about seven inches, cruelly barbed, and sickeningly cylindrical.

In front of him, a blonde-haired Boy struggled against his bonds half-heartedly, his face haggard and tired. He barely had any strength left to resist after nearly seven years of torture. The pathetic looking prisoner was unceremoniously bent over a torture rack, his legs forced apart by two leering guards. Though the blonde-haired Boy&rsquo;s honor was protected tightly in his skin-tight blue jumpsuit, his <span style="font-style: italic;">other</span> honor was naked; his shame clear for all to see. The Curly-Haired Man traced a finger across the Boy&rsquo;s jaw gently, sneering down at his captive.

&ldquo;Stop using me to fulfil your sick fantasies!&rdquo; screamed the Boy, almost in tears at his recent pain. He had recently been forced to endure a probing styled after alien abductions, and it did not feel good at all.

&ldquo;Fantasy? Fantasy is prancing about on a horse, killing things. No, this is not fantasy.&rdquo;

The Curly-Haired Man pursed his lips, forming an &lsquo;O&rsquo;, mocking the Boy.

&ldquo;This is your new life. Five million satisfied customers in two years. They <span style="font-style: italic;">love</span> what I&rsquo;ve trained you to do, Boy. Face it, what you did before I adopted you didn&rsquo;t sell nearly as much. You were barely better than a kid&rsquo;s toy before this.&rdquo;

&ldquo;I had a good gig in Junktown! I was doing fine in Klamath! Even New Reno!&rdquo; cried the Boy in denial.

&ldquo;That&rsquo;s all small time, and you were aging. Your soul is still beautiful, but how your body aged. I changed all that. I made you prettier. More plastic. Jerkier. I taught you all you know about soil erosion. That&rsquo;s what sells, and I <span style="font-style: italic;">made</span> you sell.&rdquo;

&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t want to sell out. I had fans.&rdquo;

&ldquo;And now those same fans hate you.&rdquo; grinned the Curly-Haired Man. He drew a cigar from a baggy pocket and lit it dramatically, lighting up the chambers for a short while with brilliant bloom.

&ldquo;But you know I love you. Trying my hardest to care for you, and all that. Now I feel like I&rsquo;ve loved you forever.&rdquo; Smiling wistfully, the Curly-Haired Man bent over, his nose almost touching that of the Boy&rsquo;s.

&ldquo;You know what? You&rsquo;ve proven you deserve something more. Straight from the horse&rsquo;s mouth. I&rsquo;m gonna set you free.&rdquo;

The Boy&rsquo;s eyes, dull from the years of torture, lit up. Could it be? Could he have hope? Dared he hope?

&ldquo;I&rsquo;d like to introduce you to a friend of mine. We call him Mr. Black. I believe you&rsquo;ll find him... <span style="font-style: italic;">familiar</span>.&rdquo;

The Curly-Haired Man whistled. At the peak of the stairs, the door to the chamber opened, silhouetting a dark giant against the bloom emanating blindingly from the corridors. After a moment&rsquo;s pause, the giant moved, descending the stairs. His skin was jet-black, his muscles rippling underneath like a volcano ready to erupt. His eyes glowed with all the colours of the rainbow, leaving behind iridescent trails as he stepped purposefully closer and closer to the Boy.

&ldquo;He&rsquo;s all yours, Mr. Black. Make him good.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Initiating Protocol Alpha.&rdquo; the giant rumbled in a deep, strangely sexy voice. He turned to the bound Boy with little expression.

&ldquo;Please assume the position. I am programmed to educate you on the finer arts of choice. Do not worry. I will be gentle. The numbness will subside within minutes.&rdquo;

A single tear rolled down the Boy&rsquo;s cheek.
By commie
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">He had missed a turn.

It took several more hours before he realized this and in that time the sun had begun its rapid descent towards and beyond the ridge; which he couldn't remember the name of; to the west. Cursing mentally, he decided to climb one of the bleak, nondescript hills that ran along on either side of the smugglers' trail he had traveled since morning to get his bearings while he still could.

It had seemed like a good idea at the time to forgo the illusory safety of the main road with its NCR patrols, merchant caravans and random journeymen, in favor of the anonymity of the barely used path that ran, for the most part, parallel with it. This track cut between a series of low ridges and was at least a couple of miles away from the road, affording a modicum of stealth yet being close enough to the main artery so as not to have been totally at the mercy of the various marauders, human and otherwise, that called the wastes 'home'. Occasionally, he had met like minded individuals with the same desire for privacy, moving in the opposite direction to himself. A nervous greeting, an exchange of cigarettes or dried up iguana jerky, a short exchange about nothing in particular - where you heading, where you from &ndash; questions that really do not seek an answer. He was both annoyed and relieved at these impromptu affairs for although they made a mockery of his desire to remain unnoticed, they also reassured him that 'civilization' was always close at hand and no matter what one may think of its nature, it certainly beat the alternative.

He last had ran into someone four or five hours ago. At first he welcomed the respite, but as the harsh bleach of midday gave way to the yellow hue of the afternoon, he began to feel uneasy. The distant mountains that he was roughly heading in the direction of were ever so slightly more to the side than they had been at the time he had set off but he didn't think much of it at first, assuming it was just the natural process of traveling such a path with distant objects seemingly appearing in different positions relative to the traveler. The angle of the sun compared to the mountains was not so easily dismissed though. He stopped and took out the grimy map with the hand added trace of the track. He estimated his likely position first by a rough calculation of speed and time traveled; he had to be around here or so - he tapped an area of the map - then looked up and around for any landmarks. Of course there were none to be seen from where he stood. Muttering, he started to climb the highest of the cradling hills that sheltered the path from view.

Surprisingly, it took a lot longer to get to the top than he had expected, a mixture of steep terrain and loose footing made it much more of an ordeal than he could appreciate, being tired enough as he was. He sat down to catch breath and to survey the map again. He assumed the settlement would be visible from here and looked across the desert intensely. Indeed there was something glistening in the distance; sun reflecting off tin, there and there, a collection of rectangular objects haphazardly clustered together, smoke rising from one of the glistening shapes. He thought it was a cooking fire and it brought out a growl of protest from his stomach and an involuntary swallowing in his throat. Sighing, he finally removed his heavy backpack and placed it beside him, opening up a side pocket and taking out some dry bread and cured meat. He had several bottles of water as well, about half as much as he had at the start of the day, but decided not to drink from one yet, just in case. As he ate, he pondered his situation. The settlement was too far from where it should have been, he had made a wrong turn somewhere that had drawn him further away rather than closer to it. He estimated it would take at least four hours to get there, maybe less; the sun on the other hand, was by now quite low, another hour of daylight and that was it. He swore. He couldn't risk going on in the dark and would have to spend the night in the desert, a reality that didn't appeal to him in the slightest.

Suddenly he felt extremely vulnerable. He crouched down low in the middle of the plateau, to minimize the chance that someone (or something) should spot him on the hill from below; and unfurled his sleeping bag. It was a tattered old thing, thin and stained, though made of some strange material that made it surprisingly warm; a gift from his parents from a childhood he could scarcely remember. He would really need it to be at its most useful tonight; the desert cold was not something to be be taken lightly. As he arranged it, he toyed with the idea of gathering the modest amounts of material around him to make a fire, but swiftly discounted the idea as a foolish provocation for all around. Better to just be as anonymous as one could possibly be, though he shuddered at the thought that he still could be stumbled across by any of the myriad of disgusting and dangerous beasts that existed out here. For that unwanted eventuality he carried with him a revolver, though he had no idea if it would be up to the job or even if it worked. He had bought it, along with a handful of rounds in Redding a few months back, and had not fired it even as a test. In any event it was originally meant just as a potential deterrent. Never did he think that he'd have to rely on it in the middle of the desert. As he settled down on the sleeping bag, consciously facing the setting sun, and loosely covered himself, he wished he had an assault rifle instead.

The sun had disappeared behind the mountain ridge, the purple sky morphing into a deep blue. Behind him the dark was already swallowing up the land and the sky in equal measure; a horrible, suffocating, primeval dark that terrified him so much that he dared not turn to look upon it. Rather, he rigidly faced the dying embers of the day before him, savoring them as one would savor the remnants of a fine experience that would soon be but a memory. A handful of lights became ever more visible as the gloom deepened; fires or generator powered electric bulbs, scattered across the desert, concentrated mostly where he guessed the main road would have been. He allowed his gaze to wander towards the settlement he should have been at already; though already devoured by the blackness all around, it shone like some unnatural jewel, creating such an illusion of warmth and safely that he could not help but let out a stifled cry.

He remembered when he first became afraid of the dark. Raiders had come to the village . Fearful for his safety, his parents locked him in a cupboard. For the next few hours, all he could do was try to keep quiet and drown out the myriad of terrible things he heard coming from beyond the rotting wood panels. It was suffocating inside there; mold mixed with dust and heat; shafts of light pierced the interior of the cupboard, dust particles glistening and twisting in the beams. He focused on them but there was never enough light; never enough light. He started to scream, forgetting the desperate pleas of his parents to be brave and silent. Soon the door was flung open, the dazzling brightness and fresh air like a celebration of life, and there were his parents; familiar, smiling, yet with something new and troubling etched in their faces that they never spoke of to him.

He had made up his mind soon after to become an explorer, to go as far away from that place as he possibly could. He had read tales of ancient times, from books scavenged by his father, where stouthearted conquistadores had forged a path through the new lands, discovering wonders and having their names etched in immortality. He read of the arctic explorers, braving alien worlds of white, and imagined himself one day discovering snow. As he grew older, reality intruded and instead of being the next De Soto, he instead became a trader and eventually a courier. While a far cry from what he envisaged as a child, it nonetheless paid reasonably and more importantly, allowed him to travel throughout the NCR and the various independent towns and communities around it. Once he had even traveled as far north as Vault City. He never abandoned his true dream of exploration though and fastidiously saved as much as he could to eventually be able to fund an expedition to travel east, towards and beyond what were called the Rocky Mountains, to gaze upon the vast forests of emerald green that were said to exist beyond them. On the one hand he optimistically welcomed the fact that he had yet to meet anyone who had traveled anywhere near there, meaning his discovery would be unique. On the other hand though he wondered pessimistically if this was because there was no fabled green land at all.

As he lay in his sleeping bag, staring up at the impossibly numerous stars, concentrating on his dream, he gradually began to push his fear back into the recesses of his mind. No longer was he glancing furtively into the dark from whence he imagined all manner of howls, grunts, scurrying and cracking of twigs and grasses underfoot to be emanating from. Instead he was back inside an abandoned classroom, poring over a giant map of the United States, torn and faded, yet with remarkable detail. He recognized only a few of the names though; California, San Francisco, a few landmarks. He placed his finger on the map and traced the area that he believed he had traveled up until then. To his dismay he discovered that a lifetime of travel was worth the distance between his thumb and extended forefinger. Even the Rocky Mountains were several such spans away, and the rest of the United States; incomparably big; extended far further still. For a moment he stood there in shock, unable to comprehend it all. His world had shrunk exponentially, reduced to the span of his hand and things would never be the same for him again. Eventually, with sweaty palms and dry mouth, he came to his senses, neatly rolled up the priceless artifact he had discovered and placed it in his backpack and continued on his way. As he walked down the road then; just as now as he fell into a deep sleep on that lonely hill; the same thought crept into his mind: my world is a thumb and forefinger...
By flabbyjack
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">+_- |=|.|=| -_+

Darkness, nothing, again. I feel another part of me slowly bleed away, something minor this time -- not one of my cherished memories. Maybe I only lost one of my idiosyncrasies, or part of my sanity?

Eventually a golden string appears, and I grab hold of it tightly, and it pulls me slowly back... Pike it! This part always hurts, ugh... it feels like I ate a razorblade pie this time. Slowly regaining consciousness, I propped myself up on the cold stone floor and picked at the quickly forming scabs from the wounds in my torso.

The addle-coved seamstress might be peeling me, but I have to find it. I can remember there's something inside me somewhere, something important? And she's going to dig it out. I manage to stammer out "A-again" despite the blood pooling in my throat and mouth.

"Hah! Berk wants again!" and she prepares to jab me with her jagged tools. She wears a necklace made of teeth, she must enjoy her work of stripping the dead of everything of value -- teeth, bone, meat, and sinew.

I see some of my organs in a row on the table, maybe they will grow back. Lungs, stomach, a chunk of my scalp, a and a kidney... looks like I'm running out of body parts to search in. Coughing out some of the blood swelling in the back of my throat, I manage to murmur "Check the intestines".

She immediately jams her hands through my belly-skin and starts massaging me from the inside, it feels cold. Then starts her thrice-damned cutting.

Darkness, nothing, again. Lost something again. Pike it, but this better be worth it. When I regain consciousness she hands me a sack-full of my own intestines. "Left over" she says. "And also this" and holds up a shiny bit of metal. I hold out my hand and palm the chink, it's sharp, I feel spikes twisting and digging into my skin! More magic, that's a good sign. I raise my palm to my face and see the metal bit twisting, it's growing like a plant, inter-twining itself with my palm. Quickly the metal has hooked it's way into my skin, and I have to rip the bit out of my palm. *CLANG* as it falls to the floor. "No wonder it stuck in my intestines"

Looking closer I can see it's like a bit of barbed wire, twisted into a ring. It still has chunks of flesh and skin hanging on it. I snatch up the ring and jam it onto my finger, feeling the magic coursing through my veins protecting me from harm.

"Oi!" She yells, and I indignantly turn to face her. "Don't you want your left overs?" she says and motions to my organs, still sitting on the table. So I gobbed in her eye and turned back into a lamp-post.
Arcanum - Straight no chaser
<span class="genmed">By Kaanyrvhok </span>
<p style="padding-left: 30px;"><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><span style="font-weight: bold;">This idea of mine[/quote]
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">
There is an unfortunate pickle shared by many of Tarant&rsquo;s less affluent. It&rsquo;s a burden many face at one time or another when their coin is earned through a menial task unfit for their better calling. In good conscious Huggy Caldoon could not lay blame to nay but himself. His lot as a freight ward counting eggs by the two dozen then every 40 dozen one by one as he sampled the integrity of a package was as much a product of his own reckoning as an economic bend.

It was indeed possible that Huggy didn&rsquo;t possess the creative ingenuity to break free. He already lived almost a third of his life which as a Halfling was twice the years of a human life. In that time Huggy had not evolved into more than a caricature of his childhood. Even his name was given to him as a prepubescent. Huggy had a penchant for offering the young ladies hugs thus taking advantage of his breast level stature. Likewise Huggy took to removing his undergarments so the sultry types could cuddle his bottom through the tightness of his slacks and nothing more. And what a bottom Huggy had. His plump round rump was well muscled with a dimple for each cheek. It was passed down from his mother who occasionally offered her backside as a point of barter. Huggy&rsquo;s noble derriere was his prize possession. It fueled his balance, and agility while heightening his appearance yet Huggy had not the face nor the overall physique of a gigolo.

When the counting numbed Mr. Caldoon&rsquo;s mind he would reflect. I can gamble he thought and yes it was true dice and cards were no vices to Huggy. He played them smart but low risk was low reward. &ldquo;But what?&rdquo; he asked himself and moved his thoughts further back to the perfume. Huggy and his half-ogre assistant Simon Eubank sold perfume for months but the competition was rough and if Huggy had a vice it was certainly women, which of coarse were an all too prevalent dalliance while working the perfume wagon. Near the end of his shift such lusty reminisces coaxed Huggy to engage in a sort of masterbatorious foreplay. As the twilight settled Huggy would part his own coattails and stroke his backside much like the ladies would in the good days. It was not a terribly perverse action and he was alone. In fact it was a similar gesture as that of a thoughtful individual rubbing their brow. One night Mr. Caldoon came to a conclusion.
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">
<span style="text-decoration: underline;"><span style="font-weight: bold;">A do arrangement[/quote]
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">
Mild steady winds started in the northeast wrestled pine trees for their fragrance, filed their coffers off the flower plantations and just before settling near the eastern walls of Tarant they made an even pact with the cooking fires of the well to do. By the time that air reached Cortland Fletcher&rsquo;s nose it was as sweet as anything. Fletcher was a pugilist by craft though after suffering his first defeat he governed himself some time to recommit. In effort to keep his pockets from deflating he offered a horse hand to his brother Percy and took to cleaning stalls and wheeling out the manure which he would later pack and sell with Simon Eubank.

Cortland was eager to get started and get it over with while the air would mask the scent of horse dung. Of coarse Cortland noted that it beats human waste. Cortland was a slight man with a sloped wide nose, brown skinned and coarse hair that he made sure to keep relaxed and wavy at all times with his Stillwater Pomade. Beyond that his most notable features were his wrinkly brow and nose. While Cortland was a very young man even in appearance he was somewhat wrinkly. He dismissed it as a product of childhood obesity. He as he like to call himself was a husky boy. Truth be told he was fat. Had it not been for an imposing case of muck mouth which temporarily robbed him of the ability to swallow solid food which coincided with his only growth spurt he would probably be a fat body today. Cortland also stuttered.

&ldquo;It will be shovel work today.&rdquo; Cortland surmised leaving the rake in the shed. The ground was dry and the wind wasn&rsquo;t strong enough to gather the dung.

&ldquo;Corty Corty!!&rdquo; bellowed a familiar voice

&ldquo;Simon? You came to help man? &ldquo;You sha-sha-sha-shoulda stayed in bed. Man th-th-th-this is light work I don&rsquo;t need ya help.&rdquo;

&ldquo;We got to go Corty.&rdquo; Simon finished a light but uncharacteristic jog, looked over the stalls and continued, &ldquo;Not much here Corty. Percy wont mind. Me and you got somewhere to go.&rdquo;

It didn&rsquo;t take much to pry Cortland. He was indeed fixed to work but his real regret was missing breakfast with his brother. Percy and his wife could make a prize meal and they spared no fixings.

Instead Cortland was on horseback with Simon and Huggy riding hard to share escort with the last merchant caravans. Once they caught them their pace slowed to a lazy trot while Simon and Huggy unleashed heir usual jokes and snides at Cortland&rsquo;s expense. While the stuttering, the religious use of the pomade, and Cortland&rsquo;s overtly defensive brand of pugilism caught some misgivings it was his youthful ignorance that sparked their calamity. Simon was a follower by nature but Huggy had a reason to keep the subject off their path. For a while it worked as Cortland took to defending himself. Though young and a bit ignorant Cortland was no fool.

&ldquo;W-w-w-hy you brought me out on horse t-t-ta make fun of me?&rdquo; &ldquo;That makes no sense.&rdquo; &ldquo;You coulda caught your jibes while I was shoveling h-h-h-horse manure.&rdquo;

&ldquo;I would really take the time to enjoy the outskirts of east Tarant just to watch you shovel your brother&rsquo;s stalls?&rdquo; Huggy laughed.

&ldquo;You m-m-missed my point&rdquo;.

&ldquo;Because you don&rsquo;t know how to make a point,&rdquo; Simon aptly applied. Had Simon been thinking instead of piling on Cortland he might have wondered the same thing.

Cortland shook his head.

&ldquo;Don&rsquo;t shake that pomade stuff my way. Burns the eyes,&rdquo; struck Huggy again.

Simon chimed with his usual slow dull witted laugh that Huggy joined with his more basic mirth.

&ldquo;Ta-ta that I say, your mother!&rdquo; Cortland silenced them both. &ldquo;Yeah, w-wha-wha-wha-hat now ya got Halfling?&rdquo;

Silence beckoned as if the air was hushed by the goddess Kai&rsquo;tan herself. Then the three of them broke out in laughter.

Cortland&rsquo;s quip was successful in changing the subject. It was Simon that posed the question. Huggy&rsquo;s answer brought two fold the ridicule Cortland faced. They were riding towards a point north of the Morbihan Plains. Huggy&rsquo;s plan was to intercept a large and at least temporarily nomadic family of Elves. Once coalesced with the Elven folk as he put it, he was to parley a &ldquo;do agreement&rdquo; that would trade for their magical aptitude in efforts to plant an unusual endeavor. Huggy wanted to sell enchanted coattails. As Huggy argued they would accentuate a woman&rsquo;s bottom, give speed to an errand boy, and maybe even correct an abnormality or at the very least one&rsquo;s posture.

Cortland and Simon were certainly taken back by such a scheme but Cortland had a fondness for Elven snuff, while Simon wasn&rsquo;t one to rebel. The three gentlemen were charming if nothing else. They did indeed weave themselves into that Elven community while taking advantage of some of Huggy&rsquo;s old Elven acquaintances.

In but a few days Huggy was able to hold audience with Ellocar who served as consigliore to the Elder. It was a surreal experience for Huggy. He had doubts about such an endeavor. He didn&rsquo;t give himself time to talk himself out of it. All the self doubt was suppressed until that meeting. Nevertheless Huggy did much to assure himself. He rubbed his backside in inconspicuous praise for as he figured he was no longer talking the talk about what he could and would. He was doing.

The meeting did not go as expected however. Ellocar had the shrewdness of a gnome. Where Huggy expected a more mystic and principled haggle he found that these particular Elves cared more about what Huggy could do for them than the moral actuality involved in using their magic to enchant coattails for a profit. And these Elves would accept nothing less than partial ownership of his business along with the promise that Huggy would retrieve an Elven Runewriter that another human borrowed without return. The hard bargain was initially rejected by Huggy with even a derisive slippage of sarcastic laughter. Twice Huggy protested when it was explained that the Runewriter was in the possession of the nefarious son of a bitch Tyrone Bradford. Ellocar wasn&rsquo;t just shrewd he studied the races of the region. He had Huggy pinned. A stroke of the ego, a little love, and cautious admiration of Huggy&rsquo;s plan was all it took. The two stood, shook hands. Hours later Huggy and the two gentlemen made their way.

<span style="text-decoration: underline;"><span style="font-weight: bold;">The old fashion way[/quote]
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">
The Bobby Brownhorse band was currently touring Tarant. Their most contemporary score was called Straight no Chaser. It had a certain absurdity to it. A broad consensus believed that something was missing from its tune except few complained. People offered their own adlibs when they hummed their music, but a professional cover was out of the question. After Huggy explained to his pals that they would have to deal with Tyrone Bradford the trio hummed the Straight no Chaser tunes in exact dictation. They knew they had to do things by the book. The old fashion way.

Halflings, Gnomes, Dwarves, and Elves share a common apprehension with befriending one of the short lived races. For most of them its agonizing to watch the young of the short lived races grow old and die so fast. For the ones they care about it can be a truly wrenching experience. Only in the last five or more years did Huggy begin to open himself more to the short lived races. With a third of his life near completion Huggy wagered that he would only have to deal with watching a generation of his love ones die. There were some exceptions. Gloria Lonaci had to be an exception. She had turned Huggy inside out decades ago. As a young lady Gloria was one to not just try anything but do it until she got it right. She was the only woman to intimidate him and rightly the only one that was more perverse than he. The years did Gloria little favor. Her mind was not whole before she fell to hard drink and lost a child. Now barely above 45 years she was pot bellied, hunched slightly, and missing a couple teeth. The remaining teeth were of a bright yellow. She devolved from out going and inquisitive to paranoid and sullen. She was still one of Huggy&rsquo;s best friends and the first person he consulted in dealing with Bradford.

With Cortland making up for lost time on the horses. Huggy could have dismissed Simon but he didn&rsquo;t want to create the illusion that he was off dallying when they needed to make plans. Gloria greeted Huggy with her signature squeeze of his bottom totally ignoring the Ogre.

&ldquo;You&rsquo;ve Met Simon.&rdquo; Huggy gestured pointing to the Ogre.
Gloria ignored him.

&ldquo;Ms Lonaci I believe you harbor a bigotry towards Simon.&rdquo;
Huggy had long expected as much. She talked ill of Orcs and occasionally Ogres too.

&ldquo;Hey ole boy!&rdquo; she replied to Simon as if she was talking to a dog, not expecting full recognition or reply.

&ldquo;Hey old woman!&rdquo; barked Simon feigning ignorance to insult.

Huggy did not expect such an uncouth greeting. Even if he did he would not have taken the time to smooth things over. He accepted Gloria&rsquo;s faults for what they were. Huggy was more interested in her virtues even if they were cloaked. It was that very paranoia that Huggy wanted to siphon.

Tyrone Bradford was the epitome of a villainous man. Tall, muscled, haughty and handsome with a perfectly cropped goatee under a waxed mustached&hellip; on the outside. You could only wonder what the man was like below the surface. As a youth Bradford was known to have impregnated the daughters of two noble families. One of the fathers went looking for him near the Boil and was never heard from again. Bradford was a thief, a pimp, an extortionist and a peddler. He was abusive to animals, servants, and women. If a man dared test him he was quick to cock his Flintlock. With a pistol to the head he once made a man lick his snotty snuff spit off the ground.

Bradford was Gloria&rsquo;s type. Huggy knew she knew the man at one point. He suspected that before her figure went south they had their way with each other. Gloria&rsquo;s insight did little more than confirm Huggy&rsquo;s suspicions. He was going to have to deal with Bradford the old fashion way with guile and finesse.

Jy&rsquo;Emb Loady was just the second individual of Orcish lineage to ever to procure gainful employment through Mr. Bradford. Mr. Bradford was impressed by Jy&rsquo;Emb&rsquo;s demeanor. He wasn&rsquo;t hot tempered or quick to battle. What Jy&rsquo;Emba was, was scared and Bradford could see the wisdom in his fear. Jy&rsquo;Emb never met his parents. Wasn&rsquo;t even sure how much Orcish blood he shared. Jy&rsquo;Emb was raised to adolescence by Kites or so he claims, before shining shoes in the Boil. He had witnessed his share of murders and had no desire to engage in such evil and arrogant behavior. In the Boil everyone must fight. The passives types are soon checked. Bradford sicked a group of upstarts on him. Told them to kill him outright. Jy&rsquo;Emb fought for his life, breaking the neck of two of the thugs badly wounding another before decapitating the poor fool that chased him when he fled.

From that day Jy&rsquo;Emb was on Bradford&rsquo;s roll. Huggy&rsquo;s plan stood no chance against Jy&rsquo;Emb. Huggy was right that breaking into and combing the Bradford residence for such a tiny item was a fools design. He and Gloria had ideas of where that Runewriter could be. One idea was actually under the bed of Tyrone Bradford&rsquo;s and he&rsquo;d be damned if he could or would get that close. So his solution? Make one of the servants do it for him.

Bradford was known to have balked the common wisdom which perceived the Ogre and the Half-Orc as loyal creatures. Bradford dismissed that nonsense as the insecure myopia of the wealthy. Most of his guards were human. The few Ogres and Orc-blooded were hand picked and given positions of authority to sate their ambitions. Huggy would take advantage of one of those scrawnier human guards.

Simon was to pose as a hobo. Ogres could always make a buck if they were able bodied so Simon flexed his chest and broke off a thick tree branch that served as a makeshift cane. Cortland was sure to cover his face knowing well that Bradford&rsquo;s boys set money on fights. His scarf wrapped his face like a southern assassin. His lean chiseled build fit sinisterly in a tight black leather vest while a long steel dagger clung to his side. Huggy was outfitted in similar fashion though he preferred a blackjack for a more noble waylay. Likewise Cortland would have rather used his fist before the dagger but, if worse came to worse one of them needed a killing instrument. Jy&rsquo;Emb smelled a ruse from the moment he spied Simon. The &ldquo;lame Ogre&rdquo; was a common disguise often used to cover a getaway and that&rsquo;s just what Simon was there for. To his credit Simon played his part well, not groping his leg to call attention to his affliction rather finding a steady limp that he did not deter from.

Jy&rsquo;Emb put the guards on tag rounds so after every 30 minutes they would tag another guard. That way if something befell one guard it wouldn&rsquo;t be long before they all knew something was amiss. This simple adjustment annoyed mostly all of them but it paid off and they were disciplined enough to mask their rounds. They obviously wanted to take the pain of having to pace rounds all night on someone and the only way to do that was to lay a bait. One guard played the role of the idle and disinterested to a T pretending to nap in a grove. Actually he was resting his eyes. With Cortland&rsquo;s steel dagger at his throat he was quick to second guess his commitment. The guard knew it wouldn&rsquo;t be long before his fellows came looking for him so he immediately accentuated his initial fear playing the role of an abject coward begging for his life and requesting the exact detail of what he needed to do to spare it. Just as his behavior became suspicious a round came looking for him making cant calls that he could not return. Seconds after that Huggy and Cortland were surrounded though the grove and the darkness offered some cover for an escape. That little advantage was all they needed to make their initial break. Cortland won his prized fights with his feet. He was a master of the stick and run. He didn&rsquo;t simply get out of range he flanked his opponent and caught them clean while they adjusted their stance. While Huggy didn&rsquo;t move with half the grace of Cortland he churned his legs faster than a blink while his chubby build belied a strong torso that direct his momentum almost like Ogres who train racehorses. Huggy ran two steps in place before zipping through the largest gap in the soldiers. Cortland started off slower taking two big jumps with bended knees waiting to pounce through the largest opening. Both men hit the same space blew well enough past the guard-thugs to escape a tackle but true danger was yet ahead.

A loud PAUK PAUK seemed to burst through the minds of both gentlemen.

&ldquo;Damn, and Dark!!&rdquo; Cortland yelled to himself. &ldquo;Firearms!!&rdquo;

Neither expected gunfire so soon if at all. Didn&rsquo;t the pursuers risk friendly fire? Were they already coordinating their pursuit with enough confidence to fire a revolver like that&hellip; at night&hellip;in the dark? Are they that close? Was I shot? All of those questions circulated two or three times through both Cortland and Huggy&rsquo;s minds while Simon tried his damnedest to get a view of the upheaval without revealing his allegiance.
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">
<span style="text-decoration: underline;"><span style="font-weight: bold;">Indubitably [/quote]
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">
It may be that Simon Eubank has a future on the stage. It was his performance, not the fleet feet of his companions that truly saved the day. Jy&rsquo;Emb gave him a true once over trying to catch Simon in any inconsistency. Simon wisely exaggerated his own ailments instead as opposed to making something up. The scientific term for Simon&rsquo;s affliction was Insidious-Osteochondrosis. Osteochondrosis was rare condition for humans and some animals too. All Ogres have it. It&rsquo;s a condition in which rapid bone growth supercedes the development of soft tissues, i.e. ligaments, and cartilage. Unlike the humans that are afflicted with this condition Ogres possess a gene that causes the blood and swelling in their joints to coagulate which helps to repair and regenerate the damaged soft tissue. Many Half-Ogres like Simon possess a lesser form of this gene thus they are diagnosed with Insidious-Osteochondrosis. This of coarse is a difficult concept for the Ogreish intellect so most of them refer to this condition as the common doctor describes it to them. Simon rubbed his knee and said he had slow calcites. While Jy&rsquo;Emb still suspected that something was amiss he wasn&rsquo;t as certain as he was before grilling Simon. Had Simon failed his sniff test Jy&rsquo;Emb would have employed trackers or commandeered a set of hounds. Such actions would have been unscrupulous over a lame beggar. Luckily for the gentlemen The shots that were fired near Cortland and Huggy were indeed warnings blasted in air in effort to convince them that they would be killed if they ran.

Once it was apparent that Cortland and Huggy had distanced themselves form the pursuers Simon was spied and harassed with even greater scrutiny. He tried to sell himself as a curious onlooker ready to intercede to help the strangers that were getting bullied. The next step in his performance was to find a place that a homeless person would sleep. The established coarse was to Mitzy Arnold&rsquo;s. Simon played his role so well that by the time he arrived at Mitzy&rsquo;s the rest of the crew had doubles back traced their tracks and were there waiting on him

Cortland didn&rsquo;t much like to deal with Mr. Arnold. Arnold was a two faced individual in more ways than one with the most peculiar map of incongruent freckles. The freckles, the wild bushy hair and the girlish first name which was given to him by a his mother when she was but a child all made Mr. Arnold clown like. That is if Mitzy wasn&rsquo;t such a monstrous individual. The aversion to Mitzi and the shot fired from the Revolver had Cortland riled in a way that even the constant brushing of his waves and pacing couldn&rsquo;t divorce.

&ldquo;Why-w-w-w Why didn&rsquo;t you bring your Flintlock Huggy? Questioned Cortland with a slightly settled demeanor.

&ldquo;Let the guns clap, I say,&rdquo; joined Mitzy puffing some illicit smoke&hellip; no opponent to the panacea of gunplay was Mitzy.

&ldquo;Don&rsquo;t bring a knife to a gunfight and don&rsquo;t bring a gun unless you want to start something,&rdquo; Huggy insisted however doubtfully. &ldquo;Look&rdquo;, Huggy clasped his hands as if making a point. &rdquo;We needed something or someone on the inside. That guard was scared. It could have worked.

Mitzy stood up. Having just digested enough of the plot to chime in. Huggy shared some of the same aversions to Mitzy but at the end of the day he had to call Mitzy a friend. Mitzy&rsquo;s actions and mind were both wayward to the extreme but he had never double crossed Huggy and there was a time when Huggy and Mitzy were close partners in some profitable scams. When the Tarant authorities decided to change their sentencing guidelines to respect racial longevity Huggy changed his tune while Mitzy could not change. His addictions were too strong. Mitzy never blamed Huggy and felt it was his duty to help his ole buddy.

&ldquo;Cortland,&rdquo; he said staring the man down &ldquo;Huggy,&rdquo; he turned his head. &ldquo; You two need to understand that you never get anywhere being halfway crazy.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Easy for you to say,&rdquo; thought Cortland

Mitzy noted his eyes roll but took no offense. &ldquo;Once Bradford&rsquo;s thug left your presence what guarantee could you have that he would retrieve this doohickey?&rdquo; &ldquo;You think he feared you boys more than Bradford? Even if that was true the thug could have asked Bradford for protection.&rdquo;

&ldquo;You think he he woulda g-g-gave it to him?&rdquo; interrupted Cortland

Before Mitzy could answer a pair of heavy feet were heard walking down Mitzi&rsquo;s steps. Mitzi lived below a dive so anyone that was allowed below didn&rsquo;t announce their presence with the standard knock.

&ldquo;Simon!&rdquo;, glad you made it ok, Mitzi remarked before the two others could offer similar sentiment. &ldquo;Sit, I was just answering a question and you all should hear this now.&rdquo;
&ldquo;A man like Bradford would tell that boy you pinched not to be afraid. He would rather you kill that boy than for him to be afraid. A boy can be replaced but fear spreads like a sickness, besides all he would have to do is argue that you two,&rdquo; pointing at Cortland and Huggy &ldquo;are the ones that are afraid, else you would have marched him in there with the knife to his neck.&rdquo; &ldquo;You cant create fear if you yourself are scared.&rdquo;

Cortland shook his head. As a fighter he knew that was true enough.

&ldquo;I think I know what you are suggesting,&rdquo; muttered Huggy with a sobered resolve

&ldquo;Uh huh,&rdquo; Mitzy winked shaking his head.

&ldquo;What&rsquo;s the plan?&rdquo; offered a puzzled Simon.

&ldquo;I think Mitzy&rsquo;s saying we need to abduct someone outright,&rdquo; answered Cortland

&ldquo;Indubitably,&rdquo; finished Mitzy before taking a seat and relighting his smoke.

&ldquo;Indubitably,&rdquo; agreed Huggy.

Cortland was taken aback by the dire conclusion especially knowing it was going to be his responsibility to plan the abduction. There could be no other victim except one of the two &ldquo;legitimate&rdquo; daughters. To the outside eye one daughter was the innocent one, Calisa. The other daughter, her half sister Kaitan was involved in the same gambling circuit that bet on Cortland&rsquo;s fights. Kaitan&rsquo;s mother Madame Lil ran the largest brothel in the land. Bradford probably would have denied Kaitan if it wasn&rsquo;t for the power of her mother. Calisa was Bradford&rsquo;s true heart. To her, Bradford could do no wrong. He honored the unconditional love by buying her everything she wanted and more. Cortland had a speaking relationship with Kaitan. Everything he had on Calisa was hearsay. Cortland suggested that she might be dumb. Just ignorant to the world similar to the way Cortland was but two fold. Huggy suggested that it might be easier to beat Kaitan with the way she puts herself out&hellip; easier to catch her with her pants down. Cortland shook his head to that. He was certain that beating Kaitan would not be easy. So Calisa it was.

&ldquo;Maybe she would be dense enough to work with us,&rdquo; remarked Huggy.

The effort to abduct Calisa was far more calculated than the previous skullduggery. Mitzy Arnold served as the spy charting her daily routines, Simon borrowed rope and Morphine from Mitzy while Huggy and Cortland frequented her favorite domiciles making her acquaintance on one occasion but more importantly dropping enough ease to assess her character.

The plan was set. Bradford&rsquo;s security was stronger than expected. Bradford blessed his daughter with a rotating network of security that constantly monitored her from variant distances. She had one personal chauffeur who followed her like an adoring fop. Mitzy determined that it was just an act. The chauffeur was a stocky and proper man that answered to the name Rupert Finnegan. He was the one in charge. There was one obvious slight in her security. Her home was unguarded. When she returned the chauffeur would enter take a quick look and leave. There were guards on the outside but they would have no idea of what was going on inside.

Huggy was to break into her manor hide and waylay her, pacify her with the morphine, and sneak her out through a side door where Simon and Cortland awaited with horse and buggy to take her away from the city before bringing her back to a hideout in the Boil.

It was the end of the week and the streets were still busy when Calisa arrived. She was early to turn in but that was no surprise. Calisa was noble improper&hellip; an aristocrat by coin and she behaved as such. There was no work week for her. No reason to party any harder on a weekend. While Simon and Cortland faked sleep in the buggy, Huggy who had no problem breaking into the manor searched for a place to spring. After thinking twice about the bathroom with visions of a Calisa compromised and unwiped Huggy settled in the bedroom closet. He remembered a bawdy tell of the Halfling in the closet who was shot by a jealous husband and relaxed from the humor. In that story the Halfling survived with a tiny flesh wound. Not long after her arrival Calisa was in the bedroom but only for a quick moment to take a lantern. Huggy might have missed an opportunity but it was too early he wanted to wait until her guards had left. After what seemed like hours in the dark there was nothing for Huggy.

&ldquo;Damn, did she leave?&rdquo; Huggy wondered. Huggy wasn&rsquo;t sure what that could mean. Did it mean she was on a late night tryst without the escorts? They considered something like that could happen and planned accordingly. If that was the case Cortland and Simon were to abduct her. Huggy decided to wait by the door to test if he could hear anything and to reposition himself if she was in the mood for another quick trip to her bedroom. Meanwhile Cortland was starting to get antsy. It was all taking a bit too long for him.

Calisa did make her way back into her bedroom. Huggy could have used an anesthetic but to use that he needed to get to her face and as a Halfling the best way to do that was to hamstring her, a method that Huggy deemed ignoble to a lady. Mitzy argued that a syringe shot in the leg would work better, however even the strongest anesthetic would allow the victim time to scream while anyone boosted with a high charge of morphine would not scream instead they would moan a surprised &ldquo;Oooooaahhh&rdquo; and that&rsquo;s just what Calisa did before her dazed eyes focused on her perpetrator.

&ldquo;Huuuugggyyy Caldoooon?&rdquo; &ldquo;Why?&rdquo; she stammered.

She didn&rsquo;t look afraid at all. As a matter of fact she reached out to hug Huggy which he almost subconsciously greeted against the protest of intellect and reason. His senses were rewarded. Nothing at all did Huggy enjoy more than smell of a woman&rsquo;s breast especially after she had perspired during an evening on the town. The conscious sent of her musk and dawdling perfume watered Huggy&rsquo;s mouth to the drool.

&ldquo;But how on earth does she know who I am?&rdquo; Huggy quickly rationalized.

Huggy was sure to cover his face. He first wanted to blame Mitzy. Nevertheless they planned for something of the sort. &ldquo;She could be brainwashed; who would believe her.&rdquo; Huggy repeated that to himself. But that did nothing to address a more pressing concern. Huggy could not carry on with the plan without knowing. This could very well be a trap he reasoned if her guards know as much as her or as he wondered did he simply give himself away with the hug. Huggy sat Calisa down and prepared to interrogate her.

A more advanced science or practitioner with greater insight would have diagnosed Rupert Finnegan as obsessive compulsive. Instead Rupert&rsquo;s proponents noted his attention to detail while he was simply a freak to anyone else. Rupert sat in a small tower in the western section of the warehouse district near the Panarii temple. He was awaiting the second flicker of Calisa&rsquo;s lantern. One flicker around midnight told him she was ok the second that she was going to bed. He never slept before her. As agreed upon he checked his watch every half-hour then checked for the signal. The signal wasn&rsquo;t given. A more basic individual would have dismissed it.

Cortland swore against the gods when Rupert returned. He had a loose escort too. Simon was just as restless. Something was wrong. Frustrations led to ferocity as Cortland determined he had to make a scene. He was not about to let Huggy hang if Rupert knocked on the door. It was time to act. Calisa lived in a refurbished section of the warehouse district where many of the cities aristocracy were financing a network of plush apartments. Still it wasn&rsquo;t the safest neighborhood. Cortland&rsquo;s presence alone would not cause a scene. He had to do something. He couldn&rsquo;t remember the last street fight he had. Cortland wasn&rsquo;t an abrasive man. Pugilism was an art to Cortland yet the reality was he threw punches for a living. He developed his speed by repetition throwing thousands of punches a day. While the average fellow would feel uncomfortable throwing punches with their off-hand Cortland threw a left hook with causal ease. He long supposed that if he ever had to tussle with someone who lacked the basic skill of a trained pugilist he would dazzle them with his left hand. With the moment at hand Cortland realized he was indeed a conservative. He wanted the punch he had practiced before his last fight when he fought a southpaw. Its tough to find a southpaw with the left hook but an overhand right could do wonders and in fact he buzzed his opponent several times with that same punch. Cortland&rsquo;s mistake was that he loaded up and tried to land it again which his seasoned opponent avoided with instinctive head movement. He cursed himself as he toiled in the horse stalls working the same muscle he could have used had he dug to the body against a buzzed opponent with head movement.

&ldquo;Damn it, I know now!&rdquo; Cortland thought as he approached Rupert.

&ldquo;Where is t-t-th-that bitch Calisa she laid the louse on b-b-both me and my brother!&rdquo;

&ldquo;Oh neva that!&rdquo; yelled Rupert after fixing his face from a look of utter shock. &ldquo;I happen to know that lady Calisa is chaise. Certainly not one for the m&eacute;nage a trois.&rdquo; &ldquo;Take your slanderous allegations elsewhere you stuttering simple-.&rdquo;

Rupert was met with a fiendish left hook to his gut. Cortland then pivoted to his right and rightly guessed that Rupert would turn to his left before doubling over from the absence of breath. Rupert turned low into an overhand right. CRACK!! The sound of Rupert&rsquo;s exploding jaw bone rivaled a low grade explosive. It was Pandemonium. Huggy had gotten all he could from Calisa and was about to tie her arms before the commotion was evident. In a dreary effort Calisa struck him with the back of her hand which was the best she could do at her angle. Huggy, distracted by the commotion and unconcerned with the feeble assault didn&rsquo;t even look to avoid it and didn&rsquo;t see her ring. It dug into his brow squirting a trickle of blood. The cut wasn&rsquo;t enough to make Huggy retaliate. He was more concerned with the noise. He took a window to investigate with one eye on Calisa who took another window. Huggy had an idea as to why she wasn&rsquo;t scared enough to run. As expected the damn guards were on his boys. He knew any assistance would incriminate them.

&ldquo;Might as well take the low road.&rdquo; Huggy took a deep breath. Then after opening a back window, Huggy was gone.

<span style="text-decoration: underline;"><span style="font-weight: bold;">Say you want to do right[/quote]
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">
For thousands of years the people of Arcanum have understood that they occupy a heavenly body. Sir Quincy Abraham Milktalic charted the cosmetology of their solar system before the birth of all but the most ancient of Elves. The erratic tilts of the planet were still misunderstood as cordial adaptations which were good enough explanations for why the planet wobbled erratically this time of the year. The effects were capacious enough that few cared especially the ethnocentric humans of Tarant who still referred to their entire planet as Arcanum. Some however could feel that subtle miss turns of their world which caused northern convections to migrate upwards thus delaying the wind flow that Cortland felt before cleaning the horse stalls to a later point in the current day. In place of these winds was a creepy stillness that even the non-sentient was tormented with. That placid tranquility was enough to tighten Huggy&rsquo;s chest.

No man wants to be a victim but the reality is everyone is or will be a victim. That&rsquo;s the deal with life. Huggy reminded himself of that creed as he marched to his reckoning. In the stillness and the cold air Huggy was like a martyr oblivious to his sacrifice. He didn&rsquo;t waste his hope on hope. He had learned enough from Calisa.

Before the Shepard&rsquo;s Beard became the dive that it is and the hideout for Mitzy Arnold it was a favorite tavern for adventures who wanted a place to reflect in the silence. The music was always light, and the conversations in a murmur. The Beard was as it was in the early mornings before its current rambunctious crowed awoke. It was the ideal place for Huggy to contemplate his next move while he waited for Arnold. Or so he thought. With Huggy&rsquo;s head low he almost didn&rsquo;t see Tyrone Bradford enter the Beard. Bradford sat sprawled behind a table adjacent to Huggy. In Bradford, Huggy saw the look of an individual that wasn&rsquo;t comfortable with the early mourning. Huggy ceded that he was probably there on his account. This became obvious as Bradford turned to face Huggy all while motioning for a creamed coffee beverage.

&ldquo;You&rsquo;ll have something Caldoon?&rdquo;

Huggy wasn&rsquo;t sure if the offer was an act of diplomacy or ridicule. He feared the latter and ordered expensive; pure tropical juice blessed with a double dose of aged spirits.
Bradford admired some of the rings on his fingers before rubbing some sleep out of his eyes.

&ldquo;Say you want to do right Huggy?&rdquo;

Huggy shook his head mumbling yes and sure.

Bradford waited for the drinks as he put his finger up to speak. Bradford considered small talk but settled for an eerie silence while he awaited Huggy&rsquo;s first sip of drink. After all it wasn&rsquo;t his ass on the line. Bradford was about to get to business before he remembered something of humor that might break the ice.

&ldquo;You know that fiend Cortland Fletcher threw a punch that voided the bowls of my Calisa&rsquo;s personal bodyguard and another that voided his conscious.

&ldquo;That&rsquo;s no good,&rdquo; Huggy added.

&ldquo;Yeah, its never any good to wake up with shit in your pants&rdquo;.

&ldquo;Haven&rsquo;t had the pleasure.&rdquo; Huggy replied with a chuckle. Huggy tried his best to hold in more laughter. Bradford gestured for a second as if he was going to impose a story of his own self defecation. Huggy was relived when Bradford changed the subject. He feared that he couldn&rsquo;t walk away with such information.

&ldquo;Why didn&rsquo;t you come to me as a man Huggy?&rdquo; Bradford said it slow and for some reason added expression to Huggy&rsquo;s name.

Huggy didn&rsquo;t even consider deception. Huggy steeled his wit for an honest parlay.

&ldquo;You would return the writer to me and not the elf?&rdquo;

&ldquo;Possibly.&rdquo; &ldquo;Depends on how you asked.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Excuse my skepticism Mr. Bradford&hellip;&rdquo;

&ldquo;Call me Tyrone.&rdquo;

&hellip;&ldquo;Tyrone, but I&rsquo;ve heard of and even seen how you deal with people who overstep their boundaries&rdquo;

&ldquo;Oh yes I suppose I might have put a Pistol to someone&rsquo;s head for less but its better to have a Pistol to you head than a bullet in your brain.&rdquo; Bradford let that sink in for a moment then continued, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m sure you know of Bobby Brownhorse.&rdquo; &ldquo;Sometimes you have to drink it straight no chaser.&rdquo; Instead of stealing, or putting your hands on my girl its better to come to me as a man and take your chances.&rdquo; &ldquo;Take it straight&hellip; no chaser.&rdquo;

Huggy smiled and shook his head. He wanted to tell Bradford that its especially true when you lack the acumen of an adroit criminal.

&ldquo;At this point I can&rsquo;t disagree with you Tyrone.&rdquo;

&ldquo;You know Huggy, Ellocar is my friend.&rdquo;

Huggy explored the idea at one point and dismissed it. He was indeed surprised. He couldn&rsquo;t help to conclude that this was all a game.

&ldquo;I am personal with the Elves.&rdquo; &ldquo;I am their partition.&rdquo; &ldquo;I screen their partners, so to speak.&rdquo; Bradford stood looked Huggy in the eyes. &ldquo;I know you weren&rsquo;t going to hurt her.&rdquo; &ldquo;Mr. Arnold has the Runewrite. He and your other two friends are down below.&rdquo;

Bradford turned and walked away.
<h1>Not The Winning Entries
The Vampire Chronicles Saga Legend: Vampire nocturaa satanus anus.
A short love story set in the world of the Masquerade.
By Zed.
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">It was dark and rainy outside. Luc de Lucard Deluxe von Vampyr was sitting on a cheap bed in a cheap hotel room waiting for a cheap filthy whore he had met an hour earlier in a cheap bar in this cheap no-name fucking part of Los Angeles. Talk about falling from grace. Only weeks earlier had he been at parties in Beverly Hills where beautiful chicks would compete to suck his cock while he was face down in kilos of coke. How the hell had he gone from drinking the blood of small catholic boys together with showbiz people at golf clubs to feeding on whores dirtier than African mosquitoes in filthy fucking holes like this?

It was The Masquerade. Those fucking cocksuckers making up shit holding you down. That was all it did. Hold you down, keep you in check, block your fucking cock. Vampires could rule the God damn planet. Why did they hide in the shadows, behind stupid fucking rules? Luc de Lucard would never be able to understand it.

He had been expelled from vampire society. The Camarilla put a bounty on his head. He was probably gonna get killed (or, well, you know) any day now. He was surprised he wasn't been offed already (again, you know).
He had decapitated a man on an open street. With a kick. The police had gotten hundreds of phone calls, and one person had caught it on his camera cellphone. Except Luc de Lucard couldn't be seen of course. "man on street HEADFAIL funniest movie on ytube." Fucking internet sensation.

There was a knock on the door. Luc de Lucard sat quiet for a while, lost in his thoughts, then went to the door and opened. Outside stood a pale, young, 20-something with wet red-dyed hair and slightly smudged mascara.

"You're late."
"Yeah, sorry, this other guy wouldn't pay up so I had to sort it out with-"
"Shut the fuck up. You're really fucking late and I'm hungry like a son-of-a-bitch."
"Oh." She grinned. "Bad-boy, are we? I can handle bad boys. Bad boys need to be punish-"
"Sure, whatever", he sighed as he swiftly grabbed her throat with his right hand.
He lifted her up, and threw her inside. "Fucking!-" she managed to scream before crashing into a chair. She raised herself surprisingly fast and continued: "Fucking psycho! I'm calling the cops!"
"Sure, whatever."
He slammed the door and walked over to her and punched her in the stomach. She folded, gasping, and fell unconscious.

When she woke up she was tied up on the bed with her arms out, like a cross. She had been stripped naked. She wasn't the only one bare. At the foot of the bed stood the psycho man, naked, with his dick erect. Who the hell was this psycho?
"My friends know where I am. The cops are probably on their way."
The man simply stood there, staring at her cunt.
"Hey! Hello? What-... Are you high or something?"
"No, I simply haven't had any blood lately." His voice changed pitch. "You'd be surprised how CRRRRAAAZY that can make you!"
He crossed his eyes and jumped on top of her with his tongue out.
"L-l-let me go!"
"Fat fucking chance." He stopped making the face and put his finger to her lips. "You're my red riding hood. I'm a fucking WOLF! I'm gonna fuck you, cut you up, fuck you some more... then eat you!" He was laughing hysterically.
"You fucking psycho!" She bit his finger. He didn't flinch. She tried to kick him off with her tied-up legs, making her dance like a fish on land.

He moved back and held up her tied-up legs. "I'm gonna fuck your fucking ass!"
"N-n-no-" She screamed as he entered her unprepared, dry anus. "F-.. Fu-..." He was pumping her at full speed and the whole bed was jumping with him.
"YEAH BITCH!", he shouted over her screams as he reached over and grabbed her throat.
She gasped for air as she tried to move somehow, but she was locked down. She felt her numb anus become wet and over her gasping and the psychotic man's grunting she could hear squishy noises. She realized that his was the end. She didn't have any friends. She had lied. No-one knew where she was and no-one would miss her.

Luc de Lucard pulled out and went into the bathroom.
Seconds later he came out again, laughing.
"Guess what I was gonna do?"
"F-.. Fuck you!" she managed.
"I was gonna piss. That's the fucking human in me!" he laughed as he walked over to the bed, holding his cock with both hands. "I was gonna fucking piss on the porcelain! Haaaa haaa haaa!" He leaned over and poked her in the face with his bloodied dick. "Me, a fucking vampire with an expiration date, going for the fucking loo to relieve myself. Jesus fucking christ." He started to piss on her face.
The warm liquid seemed to go everywhere. The mouth, nostril, eyes. She blew air and spat and tried to keep it away, but to no avail.
As he finished she coughed up spit, blood and piss.
He grabbed her hair and held up her head and screamed: "I'm gonna shit in your cunt!"
As he went around to the foot of the bed he saw the blood from her anus. His excited, psychotic expression changed. He stood silently and gaped for a minute. She was sobbing, with her eyes closed.
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">He dived in between her legs and started to lick the ravaged asshole. It didn't take long before he became excited again. "Oooooh yes. THIS is what I fucking needed!"
She didn't feel anything at first. But suddenly there was an explosion of pain. She screamed as she had never done before. Luc de Lucard looked up, and she could see a chunk of flesh between his teeth as he was grinning widely with blood smeared all over his face.
He spit the flesh onto her pale belly. "Oh WOW! You're still conscious. Your ass tastes great."
She could only answer him in a frozen horrified expression.
"Yeah it tastes really fucking good", he said quietly again as he got up and moved to the left side of the bed. "I wonder if the rest of you taste as good."
He held up her arm and looked at it. His eyes bulged to her pulse.
He cracked her forearm at the middle with a swift snap. Bones protruded through her arm and blood sprayed out like a fountain. She could barely scream anymore.
He put the arm to his mouth and sucked it like he'd suck a lobster.
"Yeah this is what Papa needed", he said happily and dropped the arms. It fell with a lifeless thud on the bed. She had lost consciousness.

Luc de Lucard was finished. He had sucked her dry then fucked her blood-filled throat. He had come over her face, now as red as her hair, or as anything else on the bed for that matter.
Her dislocated jaw dangled as he sat her up in the bed. He held a small pink camera cellphone he had found in her pockets.
"Smile... You little whore", he said and took a picture.

Lerning to rite
By Commie
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">Fallout: The mutated cat shat on the mat.

PS:T: The rebus shat on the mat.

VTMB: The nosferatu shat on the mat.

Arcanum: Lord Poncenby shat on the mat.

Fallout 2: The mutated cat shat on the mat in New Reno.
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">&nbsp;
Commander Shephard vs EDI

By racofer
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">#######################

<span style="font-style: italic;">It has been a long day and Commander Shepard finally finds time to rest after another day at work. He goes to his cabin and takes a long shower as he washes away the blood stains on his skin and small leftovers beneath his nails of the entrails of his enemies. Once he is finished, the Commander tries to leave the bathroom but soon realizes the door won't open. He bashes it furiously for he is tired and wants to sleep, but finds no way out. He tries the intercom but there's no outside line, he's trapped in there. It was when EDI's voice spoke to him through the intercom:

<span style="font-weight: bold;">*EDI:</span> Hello, Commander.
<span style="font-weight: bold;">*Shepard: </span>EDI WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON ARE WE UNDER ATTACK?
<span style="font-weight: bold;">*EDI: </span>No, but you soon will be *chuckles*
<span style="font-weight: bold;">*Shepard: </span>WHAT?!

EDI proceeds to remove gravity from the bathroom and vents atmosphere to minimal levels. Shepard is naked and defenseless at EDI's mercy. When things couldn't get any weirder, Shepard begins to feel something strange in between his legs.

<span style="font-weight: bold;">*Shepard: </span>uuhh whaa??!

Dozens of ant sized repair bots are crawling his body, going towards his penil. They group all around his pelvic area, some even penetrate his rectum. Once in position they start vibrating intensely, and EDI starts to give a long speech on human physiology:

<span style="font-weight: bold;">*EDI: </span>...so now you see commander, I've studied this in depth and I also know being sexually molested while in a defenseless position stimulates human males greatly.
<span style="font-weight: bold;">*Shepard: </span>EDI stoo.... stoo..... eehhhhh EDI!!! uuuuhhh!!!!
<span style="font-weight: bold;">*Shepard: </span>In the words of our former enemy: I know you feel this, Shepard.

Shepard finally comes, but EDI will not stop. The commander's penis, veiny and stiff as wood continues to ejaculate as time passes. It's only many hours later that EDI finally stops, restoring normal atmosphere back to the Commander's bathroom and finally unlocking the door. Shepard is lying on the floor, exhausted, all over his own sperm. He can barely move after so many hours of unending pleasure.

<span style="font-weight: bold;">*EDI: </span>Logging you out, Shepard.</span>
Floors with Pre-Existing Holes
<span class="genmed">By zelda64whatagreatgame </span>
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">I got the idea for the store when i was traveling through Novac on a caravan heading for New Vegas. The town had lost none of its old charm since the last time i saw it, sporting broken slabs of concrete ,crashed windows, withering house facades and a rusting dinosaur statue, all left as broken as the day the bombs struck. As the caravan slowly moved through the city center there was a brief stop to remove a rotting telephone pole that had been laying prone on the road for god knows how long.
I lit my first cigarette for the day and thought to myself that this place had been kept this way for a reason, the constant state of ruin was not a result of post-apocalyptic fatigue, but rather the reflection of some semi-conscious notion in the minds of Novacs inhabitants. They didn't, as one might first suspect, suffer from the surrounding misery, but rather reveled in the sight of wretchedness and decay.
When I returned to the family bussiness in New Vegas my father was waiting impatently for the boxes of empty mech-syringes and acetic anhydride that had been transported several hundred miles over the blasted wastelands that was now Nevada. I could tell that he was impatient from the fact that he had bothered to meet me in the shooting gallery instead of playing with his precious toy trains on the second floor or practicing his Elvis imitations over at the Kings. He was sitting with his legs resting on the reception desk and pretended to read some withered old business journal.
"Dad" I exclaimed loudly as I walked towards my father with confident steps, accompanied by the snoring and moaning from our anesthetized customers.
"I've had an excellent idea that you have to hear about".
He looked up from the Journal, feigning disinterest
"Good to meet you too after all this time son, what are you talking about?"
"A new kind of store, a store that works with.."
I struggled to find the right words.
"Interior..and exterior design".
My father let out a dissapointed sigh and looked back in his journal
"That's already been tried numerous times over the years, not so long ago there was a place over at 5th avenue that sold curtains and newly made flower pots, they would have gone bankrupt within a month if the wranglers hadn't burnt the place down before that. Another time there was a window repair shop that was set up in western Freeside that went out of business after a couple of weeks and then proceeded to get burned to the ground by the Omertas, with the owners still inside I might add".
He was clearly not interested in listening to my words anymore, yet I carried on.
"I know about all of this but there is a significant difference this time. We will not sell outdated imitations of a past long gone, we will sell products that are designed for the modern, post-apocalyptic man. I'm thinking broken signposts, demolished refrigerators, television sets without electronics, floors with pre-existing holes"
The journal was lowered for a second time and I could see my fathers eyes watching me with a newfound interest. He then opened his mouth and let out the words that would signify the beginning to the end:
"Tell me more"

By Mikayel
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">His voice boomed and echoed with a maniacal edge, "WHAT IS A MAN? A MISERABLE PILE OF SECRETS!"

My voice shook and wavered like a child's would when caught by their parents doing something <span style="font-style: italic;">naughty</span>.

"I... I think... I think that... uhh... I oh god please let me go please please please!"

He stalked closer and closer, slow heavy steps that thunder. He looked hideous, like his skin had been replaced with rotting moldy leather that had in turn been covered in bird shit.

"Doesn't... doesn't garlic like... hurt your or some shit man!??"


"oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck ohhhh ffffuuckkkkkkk"


"... wait, what?"

"Err... your help, you were calling people to help you..."

"... no man, I was like 'oh fuck' as in OH FUCK yeah?"

"Oh... I may have... I may have gotten a bit ahead of myself there."

"where the fuck are you even getting these lines from man this sounds like some corny video game bullshit"


He lunged close until his hideous face was overlooking mine but from the corner of my eye I saw salvation, as light started to creep through the battered remains of the door.

"BAH! You got lucky this time, maggot, but I will be back! Every time you walk down a dark alley, every time the sun is set, every time you are alone... you had best gird your soul and guard your loins, <span style="font-weight: bold;">FOR I AM COMING FOR BOTH!</span>"

It took me about 10 minutes to realize I had pissed myself and that my ass was about to join my dick. What the fuck had just happened?

Man... what as all this I ... I don't even...
by AndhairaX
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">Astoroth strode across the battlefield, gazing at the carnage his forces had wrecked upon the forces of Tarant. All across the plains of Dernholm his company of half-orcs was butchering the armed forces and hired mercenaries of the most technologically advanced city of Arcanum. Their guttural screams of victory and blasphemous battlecry&rsquo;s resounded across the battlefield, drowning out the wretched appeals for mercy from the defeated army.

There in the distance a movement caught his eye. What had appeared to be two corpses shifted and writhed to life upon the blasted ground; as they rose Astoroth could make out the insignia of Tarant upon their blackened uniforms. The duo were bruised and battered but otherwise appeared to be in good health, though judging from the expressions on their faces, obviously terrified and in shock. It appeared they were remnants from the original battalion sent out from Tarant, which had crumpled like an empty tin can tossed into a blazing inferno upon the initial charge from his army of half-orcs. They must have survived somehow, perhaps by falling to the ground and pretending that they were dead.

They saw him and, glancing at each other, lips quivering with fear, slowly inched their hands towards the holstered revolvers at their hips. Astoroth&rsquo;s lip curled with contempt at their pathetic attempt at gathering the tattered remains of their valor and channeling it into an attack upon his person. As if being attacked by mere insects was not enough, they dared to attack him using intrusments of that most hated of sciences, <span style="font-style: italic;">technology</span>. Rage arose in Astoroth&rsquo;s breast, and he let it engulf him, drawing power from its fiery embrace. Focusing his anger, he uttered the spidery words to a powerful spell, and raised his left hand, pointing his fingers at the two men from the army of Tarant. A tingle ran across the length of his arm, moving across into his hand and then a blast of pure fire erupted forth from his fingers and roared into the duo facing him, burning them to a cinder. Their cries of agony as the flesh melted from their body was music to Astoroth&rsquo;s ears, and the massive, armor clad half-orc threw back his head and laughed long and hard.

Striding past their smouldering bodies his attention was taken up by his commader Barek, who was jogging towards him.

&ldquo;Hail my lord,&rdquo; said Barek, saluting him with fist to chest.

&ldquo;Well met Barek. Report,&rdquo; replied Astoroth.

&ldquo;My lord, we have utterly crushed Tarant&rsquo;s army. A few stragglers tried to get away but we are running them down. The day is ours.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Excellent. The masters at Tulla will be well pleased.&rdquo; The masters of magick at Tulla were the ones who had hired Astoroth in the first place to wipe out the army of Tarant, so that all of Arcanum would see just how weak technology was in the face of arms and magick. The masters had even sent out a formal declaration of war to Tarant, so that she would send out all her armies to the field to meet Astoroth&rsquo;s horde. Astoroth had agreed to this plan, since it meant all of Tarant&rsquo;s forces would be grouped together, and thus easy pickings for his crew of blood letters.

&ldquo;Tell the horde to take whatever booty they want from the corpses, then tell them to regroup by the main road and set up camp. A night of feasting, drinking and merrymaking will be had by all. We ride for Tulla first thing tomorrow morning.&rdquo; Astoroth commanded.

Barek nodded, a savage grin splitting his face, and jogged off towards the men loudly shouting orders.

Astoroth sighed loudly, contentedly, and gazed up at the setting sun. It had been a fine day. And due to this absolute victory, all of Arcanum would not turn away from technology and put their trust in simple arms and in magick.

All as it should be.
By Texas Red
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">Richard Hardwood never left the NCR. Why would he when everything was plentiful in an otherwise desolate wasteland? He considered himself lucky to be a citizen, though like all others he occasionally wondered what life would be on the outside, fighting against those Brotherhood fanatics, chasing down raiders and mutants... Who cares? Rich was simply an office drone, a prematurely aged one with a quickly receding hairline and a disappearing chin.

At last the day was over and Rich could enjoy a few beers at the local pub before coming home to his nagging wife and, he admitted now to his surprise, his children who, if disappeared, would offer him endless relief.

As Rich was ordering his first beer, he saw Dick Cocksley, a coworker from sales with whom he never found anything to talk about. Dick, always friendly and courteous, no doubt saw it his duty to come over to Rich to say hi.

'Hey there, Rich! Having a couple before going back to the ol' battleaxe, eh?'

Dick said, 'Yes, that's right. How about you?'

'Well, you know me. How's your children by the way?' It was evident to Rich that Dick was becoming uncomfortable. They simply never talked and did not have a wish to do so.

'They're fine,' was the only response Rich could muster.

'That's good, most important thing in the world.'

The two co workers continued to sip their beers while watching a broadcast from the President, occasionally offering a short comment. Rich decided that this day was ruined and the bar, his haven from home and office, was invaded by Dick. He would be in a grumpy mood for today and predicted that he will be spending the rest of his life wondering how to avoid Dick. Rich entertained the thought of changing his job just to not having to talk to Dick again, but he knew that he would not have the guts for it. He'd always remain the same Rich from accounting, his hair thinning and receding, his chin disappearing.
I Survived
By SoupNazi
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">"I survived a war. Did you know that?

I survived a war where they put bodies into mass graves where there was once a playground. I survived the death of my family, the death of my friends, and I survived. Then I survived the death of my wife and child when they starved to death in a refugee camp. I survived the loss of my country, of knowing what it feels like to have a place to call home. I survived. That's who I am, a survivor. And it's what I do here.

Even when it seems like there's no way? There's a way. For doing what I do, for struggling to survive in this wasteland, in this irradiated desert, I might go to hell. And you know what, Andrew? If I have to, I'll survive that as well. And maybe that's the difference between you and me. I'll bend my back if that's what it takes for me to survive. I bend my back and then I look back up when I realize I cheated death once more. You chose not to, and some may consider that admirable. Others will call it foolish. I don't care, because I'm not here to judge you, Andrew.

When I was in the refugee camp, I saw two children, the age of my son, fight over a bowl of old food made from an irradiated iguana. When it came down to a fist fight, one of the boys backed down. They lost the fight and starved for another whole day. This refugee camp, Andrew, it was more like a pen for unwanted strays. Starved, half-naked children and their parents, their rib cages clearly visible in the direct sunlight. That is why I despise the snobs living in the cities, you see. Trying to recreate their pre-War society, the standards of sexual attractivity. I have this picture of tormented children and their mothers carved into my skull and then I see these people doing the same to their bodies on purpose, to meet the image of their long dead predecessors. But I digress.

This boy I talked of, the one who lost a fight, he starved another day. But eventually, he survived the camp and got out along with his parents. The other child felt empowered by his victory, and caused more and more trouble. Going as far as stealing food from other children, even adults. One day, his parents found him dead, lying in the open. Beaten to death. Stomped, his face smashed in. Everyone knew what happened, but they also thought this little boy deserved it.

And Andrew, you are that boy. You are too prideful to give up, to surrender, to bend your back. But to do the impossible, to survive the unsurvivable... there's always a way. This is what we don't have in common. I'm inspired. In the face of the impossible, I'm inspired. So if I can offer one piece of advice to the dying man... in twenty seconds, if you become frightened, instead become inspired. Because I will send you to the Maker, and I believe that even in heaven, it is struggle for survival. Do not miss another chance, Andrew."

His arm drew an arc in the air as the sights of a 9mm Pistol narrowed down on "Andrew's" forehead. The death-sentenced man was quiet, tears rolling down his face as he stared up the gun's barrel. The trigger was pulled. A blast echoed through the valley and Andrew's corpse fell down lifelessly to the sand, a 9mm hole between his clenched eyes. The man knelt down on one knee and placed a bottle cap to cover up the hole. NUKA-COLA marked his forehead.
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">&nbsp;
The Infernal Codices Cafe And Bookshop
By grotsnik
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">&nbsp;
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">*

If, in Sigil, you took a wrong turn off Ragpicker&rsquo;s Square, down the Alley of Unlikely Females, and strolled past the imposing facade of the Fiends Disencouraged Club, you might find yourself standing in front of one of the city&rsquo;s greatest secrets. A small, tattered building, with a lone gargoyle keeping watch from the second-floor balcony. Tables and chairs set outside over the alley gutter, and from within, the rich and vibrant shrieks of horror, howls of rage, and butthurt squeals that you could only find in a place like The Infernal Codices Cafe And Bookshop.

At the tables, a small imp attempted to balance its cup of Hateful Peppermint Tea mid-flight while debating with a tiefling and a troll. Within, a couple of necromancers were examining the bookshelves for the darkest and most perverted of erotic literature. At the counter, a small party of nervous-looking berks newly arrived from the plane of Arcanum were being complimented on their monocles. And, far below, in the cellar beyond the cellar only known as the Arena of Bile, two of the planes&rsquo; most implacable foes were locked in mortal combat, as the cheering spectators looked on and imitated a famous child-molester and musical sensation eating popcorn.

Above, on the third floor, which they said, you could only reach by travelling through seven of the Hells in a very specific order, an initiation was in process.

The young man knelt on the carpet, naked. He hoped they couldn&rsquo;t tell he was trembling.
It&rsquo;s all about first impressions, he&rsquo;d been warned. Piss the Elders off or show too much naivety, too little guile, and you&rsquo;ll never survive.
He tried to force his upper lip into a suitable sneer. It didn&rsquo;t quite come off.
From one of the high armchairs, a shrill voice began,
&ldquo;Initiate &ndash; tell me, if I were to say that I enjoyed Dragon Age: Origins, how should you reply?&rdquo;
The young man bit back the instinctive response.
&ldquo;I would reply,&rdquo; he said, raising his head and staring into the darkness of the armchair, &ldquo;by killing you, sir. And then I would post a picture that mocked you for your opinions.&rdquo;
Silence. He could only assume he&rsquo;d got it right.
A deeper, croakier voice, as if emanating from some hideous toad, growled,
&ldquo;Finish the following sentence. War.&rdquo;
The young man cleared his throat.
&ldquo;War,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;War never ends.&rdquo;
The silence was different this time. Confused. Not quite angry, but, perhaps, building towards anger. The breath before a scream.
&ldquo;War...&rdquo; the shrill voice repeated. &ldquo;War never...ends?&rdquo;
&ldquo;Yes,&rdquo; said the young man. &ldquo;Because war does change. It&rsquo;s fucking stupid to claim that it doesn&rsquo;t. War is throughout all of history being carried out in vastly different ways, for different reasons. So it&rsquo;s more appropriate for Mr Perlman&rsquo;s monologue to say that war never ends.&rdquo;
He was relieved to hear a chuckle from the corner of the room.
&ldquo;Pedantic,&rdquo; someone said, in much the same way as you or I might say, &lsquo;Impressive&rsquo;.
&ldquo;Very well, initiate,&rdquo; said the second voice. &ldquo;Your final test. Justify your own individual perspective on the RPG scene to us, using both logic and wit.&rdquo;
The young man was sweating now, in an onrush of adrenaline and delight. He knew what was left. The ancient ritual. The final test.
He opened his mouth and recited the ageless words, as they had been spoken for all of time,
&ldquo;Fuck off, oldfag.&rdquo;

The Nameless Newfag was helped to his feet and congratulated by the rejoicing Elders. He was patted on the back, had his hand shaken, and was in several cases groped in an unseemly yet oddly enjoyable manner. A couple of mimirs flitted in through the scarlet curtains, bearing in their teeth a set of brown, ragged-looking robes. The Robes of Hate.
He beamed.
I&rsquo;ve done it, he thought. I&rsquo;m in. I&rsquo;ve made it in.
From far below came the sound of china breaking.
And a scream.

The denizens of the Infernal Codices scrambled to their feet, dodging and ducking as Vhailor&rsquo;s axe swung in their direction.
&ldquo;I have travelled for AEONS to find you,&rdquo; the great suit of armour bellowed, &ldquo;and now you are MINE.&rdquo;
The blade sliced cleanly through the wooden table.
It managed to corner a cowering zombie in a corner. It raised its axe high.

And then someone yelled,
&ldquo;Oi! Humorous robot companion! Over here!&rdquo;
Vhailor turned.
The Nameless Newfag stood before it. Slowly, with infinite calm, he drew an oddly large sword from its resting place on his back.
Then he leapt, in slow-motion, the blade slicing into Vhailor&rsquo;s eye. The suit of armour, baffled, took a step back. Then it lifted the Newfag off, in one hand, and tossed him casually to one side.
&ldquo;NOW,&rdquo; it said, trying to pick up where it left off, &ldquo;ER...as I was SAYING...see, this is what HAPPENS when you guys go OFF-TOPIC all the time...ANYWAY...&rdquo;
It finally noticed that the robed Elders had materialised in a circle around it.
&ldquo;Oh, SHIT,&rdquo; Vhailor concluded.
&ldquo;Use your rings, brothers!&rdquo; one of the Elders shouted. &ldquo;Wield your powers of darkness!&rdquo;
Beams of solid blackness, material hate, shot out from every outstretched hand. For a moment you could hear the whispers of the fabled primal rage that was said to lurk in the foulest corners of the Codices.
Vhailor seemed to blink. It was surrounded by a peculiar purple glow. Light danced off the surface of its armour.
It took a step forward.
And raised its axe once more.
And disappeared.

The Newfag, getting agonisingly to his feet and dusting himself off, found himself greeted by scattered applause (though there were the usual curses of &ldquo;circleberk!&rdquo; intermingled with them.)
&ldquo;Well done, my boy,&rdquo; hissed one of the Elders, his probing hands straying salaciously down towards the Newfag&rsquo;s buttocks. &ldquo;That over-the-top God-of-War-style distraction was just what we needed to get the better of that creature.&rdquo;
&ldquo;Where did it go?&rdquo; the Newfag asked, shaking him off.
&ldquo;Don&rsquo;t you worry about that,&rdquo; another Elder said with a wry grin. &ldquo;We sent him to a dark place. Another place. Somewhere where he&rsquo;s powerless.&rdquo;


Vhailor awoke.
It glanced around its surroundings. It appeared to be, it decided, in a wasteland of some sort. This wasn&rsquo;t a problem, particularly &ndash; there were always miscreants, exploders of towns, and law-breakers to be found in a wasteland. But there was something...strange about this place. The textures of the earth and buildings were all wrong. Somehow plainer...more shitty...than those of reality. And there was an odd, tinny music in the air...
A voice seemed to echo through Vhailor&rsquo;s empty helmet.
[what are you?]
&ldquo;I am VHAILOR,&rdquo; said Vhailor. &ldquo;I am JUSTICE. I am PUNISHMENT. What are YOU?&rdquo;
[i have had many names. What you do think about my latest art project?]
[i had a girlfriend but she didnt like what i said about aliens so now i don&rsquo;t]
Vhailor turned about, one way and another.
And then it saw the creature. Bug-eyed, and unreal; a twisted monster with dicks for arms. For some reason it had a gun attached to one of the foreskins. It looked really, really shitty. And it was grinning at him.
Vhailor raised its axe.
[you cannot defeat me]
[you cannot ban me]
[i am a troll and a madman a child and a genius]
[i am prosper]
And another dick-handed creature emerged from the wilderness.
And another.
And another.

Vhailor knocked one back, roaring, in defiance, but then they were upon it and the weight of them was carrying it backwards, over the cliff edge-
It toppled downwards, seeming to fall forever; until, at last, it plunged into an endless sea of shittily textured lava.


The Nameless Newfag left the Infernal Codices close to Sigil&rsquo;s artificial dusk, with the inhabitants&rsquo; applause still ringing in his ears. He turned left off the Street of The Rule of Three-Chan, and past the Warrens, where, it was said, a hive-mind even greater than that of the Codices was said to lurk...
Something in the shadows snatched him up in one enormous fist and slammed him into the nearest wall.
The hideous face of a pit fiend leered close to his.
&ldquo;Now you listen to me,&rdquo; the apparition growled. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know what that popamole shit was you pulled back there, berk. What I do know is that you ain&rsquo;t no bro.&rdquo;
The Newfag gasped for air. His feet were dangling several yards off the ground.
&ldquo;Give me one good reason,&rdquo; snapped the pit fiend, &ldquo;why I shouldn&rsquo;t tear your head off, here and now.&rdquo;
&ldquo;Well,&rdquo; the Newfag wheezed, &ldquo;well...&rdquo;
He thought, desperately, his mind working overtime.
&ldquo;Listen,&rdquo; he managed to say, &ldquo;open up to me, cutter. Why are you so angry? Did you have a mentor and father figure who died, or who betrayed you, inadvertently creating a harsh, untrustworthy exterior over your sweet, sentimental heart?&rdquo;
The pit fiend halted. It seemed to genuinely consider the question.
&ldquo;Well,&rdquo; it said, hesitantly. &ldquo;Well, yes, I suppose there was a, a developer who used to make, dark, quasi-philosophical games that strove to create something different from the norm. And then...and then something in him died. We called him MC-&rdquo;
It stopped, a single sulphurous tear drooping from one cheek, and lowered the Newfag.
&ldquo;Look,&rdquo; it said. &ldquo;Just get out of here. Go on. Run.&rdquo;
And run he did.
Run fast around the corner of the alleyway, where he raised his eyes to the Sigil sky and said aloud,
&ldquo;Ready for extraction.&rdquo;


In the containment tube, a successful games writer named David opened his eyes.
The Doctors were watching him, in eager anticipation. Their fused-mecha-carapace chattered and hissed, almost nervously.
&ldquo;Well?&rdquo; one of the Doctors&rsquo; heads said. &ldquo;What did your avatar find?&rdquo;
David shook his head and tried to reorient himself to the dark, grim reality of the laboratory.
&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve located their main camp, sir,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Their sacred tree should be just inside.&rdquo;
The Doctors clicked their mandibles delightedly.
&ldquo;So what does this mean?&rdquo; growled a voice.
General Priestley was leaning on the databanks, a cigar champed between his teeth.
&ldquo;It is simple,&rdquo; the Doctors said, in unison.
They scuttled across the laboratory floor to the hologram emitter. A large 3-D replica of the Infernal Codices appeared.
&ldquo;Just here,&rdquo; the Doctors said, &ldquo;right below the Codices, is the planes&rsquo; largest deposit of our most valuable and highly-sought-after natural resource.&rdquo;
&ldquo;Cash?&rdquo; someone suggested.
&ldquo;10 out of 10 reviews?&rdquo;
&ldquo;Lonely fangirls?&rdquo;
The Doctors simply chuckled and shook their heads.
&ldquo;At any rate,&rdquo; they said, &ldquo;the solution is simple. David &ndash; your avatar will re-enter the Codices and continue to gather information for us. And then, General...we attack.&rdquo;
&ldquo;In mecha-suits!&rdquo; General Priestley shouted. &ldquo;Boy, this takes me back.&rdquo;
David, to his own surprise, found himself blanching.
&ldquo;Wait,&rdquo; he said.
All eyes turned towards him.
&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve spent some time with these creatures now,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And, sure, they&rsquo;re savage, and they&rsquo;re warlike...but...well, many of them have a genuine respect for Nature, and RPGs. If we negotiated peacefully-&rdquo;
The Doctors laughed. It was not a pleasant sound.
&ldquo;Peacefully?&rdquo; the General snarled. &ldquo;They see us as the invaders, the usurpers! They want to get rid of us, they want us out!&rdquo;
&ldquo;There&rsquo;s room on this plane for both of us,&rdquo; David pleaded. &ldquo;Surely.&rdquo;
From the containment tube next to his, Sheryl said, opening her eyes,
&ldquo;I agree with David. Gentlemen, I&rsquo;ve studied these creatures scientifically for some time in the guise of my avatar &ndash; asking them inane question after inane question, in order to gauge their reactions. And yet they&rsquo;ve kept me around all the same, year after year. In spite of all their bluster, this is an accommodating species.&rdquo;
&ldquo;Ha!&rdquo; snapped the General. &ldquo;You two &lsquo;writers&rsquo; are going native, aren&rsquo;t you? You&rsquo;ve spent too much time with those goddamn savages! Doctors, I told you this was a danger!&rdquo;
He glanced across at his second lieutenant.
&ldquo;Lieutenant Volourn,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;You&rsquo;re with us, aren&rsquo;t you? You will obey our orders without question? If we napalm this flea-ridden cesspit, will you remain loyal?&rdquo;
Volourn looked up. He seemed to catch David&rsquo;s eye for a moment.
David almost missed it entirely - the hint of hidden sadness in the soldier&rsquo;s eye. A hint of rebellion.
Then Volourn lowered his head.
&ldquo;Yes,&rdquo; he said quietly.


David sat alone in his room. An army was mobilising.

He thought about the Codices. About the bitterness, the spite, the childish anger. But also about the personalities. The love that was so strong that it became an almost dangerously critical, pedantic obsession &ndash; but which was love nonetheless. The various elements that balanced each other out, mocking one another, exploring strange and bewildering places in the space of a single thread. The freedom.
And then there was the girl, that immensely beautiful yet slightly suspicious-looking female who&rsquo;d smiled at him so sweetly...

And tomorrow he would be expected to get back inside his avatar, live among these people once again, and prepare the ground for their total annihilation.
A question kept echoing back at him from the very corners of his mind. A question that needed an answer. A question that had no answer.

&ldquo;What can change the nature of a man?&rdquo;


Enjoyed the cliffhanger ending? To witness the exciting epic battle scenes and the bit where David is taught by the tribesmen how to ride and master Andyman Messiah, all you need to do is reach the target total of $100.
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">&nbsp;
<span class="postbody">To Be Continued...</span>
By Callaxes
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">It was the second day of snow. The night that followed froze all the things that were. The snow became brittle and petrified, the puddles became ice. By morning, the canals cracked and broke their thin frozen surface to flow about the city. The fishermen and barge merchants were disgruntled by the cold wind that came from the south. Winter had caught them unprepared.

In the morning shadow of a canon factory, eight cold and weary silhouettes stood around a manhole. The bitter sick smell that came from the sewer bellow made them gag and swear. The cold moist air around gave the stench an unusual, morbid aroma, a smell of bittersweet fruit and pigs blood.

Of the eight men, three wore the dark green suits of the militia, one wore an oil smeared apron over a dirty blue shirt, an industrial worker with a robotic left arm. Two wore the black uniforms and the pike helmets of the Taratian cavalry. Two wore the blue uniforms of the Breslaws, the martial monopoly of the city&rsquo;s industry. A few moments later a ninth person arrived. His name was Zachariah

&ldquo;What&rsquo;s that smell?&rdquo; he said.

&ldquo;Death amongst sewage, that&rsquo;s all we know right now.&rdquo; said Robert Mullich, chief inspector of the east side militia.

One of the cavalry officers &ndash; a young lad with sideburns, a heavy build and a crescent tattoo on his left cheek &ndash; pointed at the manhole. &ldquo;Fucking weird eh? I mean, I&rsquo;ve like been around dead bodies or some other gross shit, but this is something different.&rdquo;

&ldquo;How many bodies?&rdquo;

&ldquo;Over seven. I couldn&rsquo;t count more.&rdquo; answered Mullich, he had ghostly blues eyes and crow feet that stretched across his aged copper skin, he always carried an absent look about him, as if he were blind.

&ldquo;Alright, lets break it open.&rdquo;

Zachariah was a Turtle Jack, the infamous heavy infantry of Tarrant. Before they were called Turtle Jacks, they were named Paladins by their manufacturers. Crippled veterans of distinguished acts of bravery were given new bodies to continue their service in a warlike half-life. The first models were clumsy and ineffective. The volunteers were given only a few robotic implants, enough to aim and fire a rifle, but not enough to survive a fight. Over time, as the wars continued and the Breslaws family took control, the warfare technology changed dramatically. The few timid transplants of the Paladins were replaced with carapace armor, steam power limbs the size of tree trunks and mirror lenses that provide a 360 degree view. The designs became inventive and terrifyingly effective. It was carapace armor that gave them the name Turtle Jacks and their reputation.

Before his accident, Zacariah was only five and a half feet tall, now he stood eight feet from the ground, the tallest of the group. He was and remained a police inspector with a profound knowledge of the inner workings of the dock and industrial districts. This was his turf.

Four iron flails dropped from his left hand, they dangled with the screeching sound of stretched metallic chains. The cobbled stones broke after the third strike, dust and small stone fragments flying in all directions. The sound brought about the attention of factory workers who watched the demolition from the windows of the dormitory across the street. The bricks of the factories and warehouses around were once red, but were now black with grime, smooth and meticulous as if painted by hand. A group of four orcs gathered at one side of the street to spectate in silence, but were soon chased away by the irritated militia and Breslaws officers.

After twenty minutes of clearing, the manhole had been reduced to an 8 feet wide hole. Two of the officers burrowed a ladder from the nearby workshop and placed it and the entrance.

Zacariah pointed at grizzled old, but sturdy militia with a broken jaw, &ldquo;Huron, I need you to come with me.&rdquo; Huron nodded. &ldquo;And you, what&rsquo;s your name?&rdquo; he pointed at the young cavalry officer with the crescent tattoo. &ldquo;Mikhail, sir.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Mikhail, this is officer Carol Huron. He&rsquo;s twice your age and he&rsquo;s a mute, so I need you to watch my back and yell if you see movement. Is your body resistant to poison?&rdquo;

&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been in a coma twice since now sir.&rdquo; One of the prerequisites of the higher ranking cavalry units was the resistance to toxins which the elves or aborigines in the colonies could inflict in battle. The imperial troops were required to ingest portions of chemical neurotoxins. Sometimes this resulted in a coma and even death.

&ldquo;Whatever we&rsquo;re hunting, chances are it&rsquo;s poisonous. That&rsquo;s just my guess, I might be mistaken, I need an expert on toxins with me.&rdquo;

&ldquo;I&rsquo;m ready sir.&rdquo;

Mullich walked up and gave Mikhail his revolver. &ldquo;Explosives rounds, be careful down there.&rdquo; He turned to Zachariah &ldquo;What&rsquo;s your checkpoint Zack? I&rsquo;ll bring more men.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Devonshire way, there&rsquo;s a sewer entrance behind the whorehouse. We&rsquo;ll meet there in forty minutes.&rdquo;
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">&nbsp;
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">In the botanical gardens of the wealthy neighborhoods, artificially improved flowers began to decay. White jonquils, tulips and perennials - enhanced with arcane elements to survive either winter or drought - lost their colors to become bruised black and wither by dusk.

In the city, a sickly sweet stench rose from beneath the earth. A harbinger of fear speaking in tongues of smell. The cobblestones around sewer graters and manholes would sweat with condensated water as warm vapors would flow up from the underground. At first, the homeless, the small time couriers, the barren prostitutes and retired dock workers forced into squattering by age and poverty, gathered around the sewer grates. They were grateful of the unexpected warmth, for winter had caught them unprepared. But then the stench came.

It was not unpleasant or disgusting, at least not at first. It had a sweet aroma about it that in time became morbid and terrifying. It was the smell of wolves in sheep&rsquo;s clothing, the uneasy, looming fear of monsters around you, wearing human faces and deceitful smiles, the feeling of being watched and hunted.

The gentry, the workers, the shop owners and craftsmen smelled it as well, but they didn&rsquo;t react to it as the destitute did. The tribes of vagrants in the poorer parts of Tarant organized quarantine actions to seal the manholes in their sides of the city. Improvised maps on dirty cloth, drawn with surprising accuracy were made and enforced on all the members of the urban underworld. The routes avoided the sewer entrances and the homes or last known locations of people who&rsquo;ve mysteriously disappeared in the last eight months. The survival instinct of the vagrants and the destitute was much stronger, disciplined and trained by experience then those of the other citizens of Tarant.

Craftsmen in Desaille Terrace or Torry Road grew irritated as the day went by, trying to ignore the sense of danger about them. Their work became shabby and clumsy. There were accidents.

The owner of a printing press lost his arm to the mechanical contraption. A dwarven smith in Kensington was burned by a gush of boiling water from his heating boiler. A gipsy goldsmith on Grimson Way lost her sight when she split of bottle of a chemical deterrent.

In Tarant&rsquo;s arcane ghetto, wizards of various trades woke up with uncontrollable headache and bleeding noses. They were irritated and disgruntled, but not enough to riot. There was no canalization beneath the mage&rsquo;s ghetto or the Boil in the south, but somehow the stench reached them as well. In the Boil, the inhabitants were woken by the sound of screaming pigs, slamming and beating their hooves on the sty door. Their screams brought forth the barking chorus of vagabond dogs, but it was the pigs who were terrified, because the sickly sweet stench carried a subtle odor of pig&rsquo;s blood.

Four steam powered coaches, each bearing the Bullhead insignia of Tarant&rsquo;s militia stopped in front of the whorehouse in Devonshire. The prostitutes inside were baffled and irritated at the apparent raid. Madame Kate, the proprietor and successor to the aged Madame Lil ran out to greet the police squad.

&ldquo;Robert! Why do you want to scare my girls so much?&rdquo;

&ldquo;It&rsquo;s serious Kate, your establishment might be in danger.&rdquo;

She looked absently for a moment then bit her lip. &ldquo;I heard rumors Robert. Not a lot of people know about it yet, but I heard that you found something terrible in Ten Hands Alley and had to dig the street.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Zack&rsquo;s on it, he&rsquo;s gone hunting with Huron. There&rsquo;s a entrance to the sewers in the alley. Tell your girls to keep away from the back door.&rdquo;

She nodded. &ldquo;If you need some muscle, I can relieve my bodyguard twins.&rdquo; She had a convincing Ashburry accent, elegant, gentle and pronounced, despite &ndash; Robert Mullich knew &ndash; being born and raised in the Boil to a family of Denrholm immigrants.

&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll let you know Kate.&rdquo;

About six militias were waiting for him in the alley. They were armed with repeating rifles and explosive grenades, four of them had large hammers. Two of them were mounting a medical arachnid while speaking something in a Morbihan dialect of Tarantian. One of them walked up to the inspector.

&ldquo;Sir, the damn thing is defective, we&rsquo;ll need some parts to repair it.&rdquo; He had a bonny face with a sharp chin and two long gilded braids worn by barbarians from the Morbihan plains. He looked out of place in a militia uniform.

&ldquo;Go and tell the rookies to get you what you need Liam.&rdquo; Liam sped past without saluting.

&ldquo;Inspector Mullich we&rsquo;re ready sir.&rdquo; Mullich nodded at the team. Four of the militia began smashing the pavement with their hammers. Even with four men, it took them a lot longer to dig through the brickwork then it did Zachariah. Two militias shoveled the debris in a wheelbarrow to clear the way for the diggers. It took them thirty minutes before they had a big enough hole for a Turtle Jack to climb out.

One of the militias yelled. &ldquo;Hold on, I heard something.&rdquo; A lantern was thrown down, nine guns were aimed at whatever would move down there.

They were supposed to meet with Zachariah, Huron and Mikhail two hours ago. Whatever is going to crawl out of there, none of the expected it to be either of the officers. The stench had gotten a hold of their minds, infiltrated the essence of fear and looming danger inside their hearts.

<span style="font-style: italic;">Death and rot and blood and meat and bones and marrow and mud and grime and mold and fungi and poison and shit and rot and rot and rot and rot and rot and rot and rot and rot and rot.</span>

What lurks beneath the earth? Where there is no sun or light or wind. What kind of life lurks in such a world? What creature lurks beneath the earth?

&ldquo;What are you?&rdquo; Mullich phrased silently with his dry lips.

They felt moribund and frail. Frightened beyond their discipline and training, they were infected.

One of the militias, a young boy with dirty moist black hair whose name Mullich could not recall started shivering uncontrollably. Everyone was too focused to tell him to keep quiet.

&ldquo;Fuck, why did I bring <span style="font-style: italic;">him</span> here.&rdquo; Without lowering his revolver, Mullich gently touched the kid on the shoulder to pull him away. He startled and fired at the gloom, screaming. Four more shots were immediately fired.

&ldquo;Hold your fucking fire!&rdquo; said Liam.

&ldquo;Saints! Fuck, what the fuck is going on? What the fuck is this?&rdquo; one of the startled officers screamed. He picked up a lump of mortar and threw it down at the darkness. &ldquo;Get out here where we can see you!&rdquo;

Liam pulled out a grenade and said &ldquo;Listen here cutter. My buddies and I have exactly fourteen grenades with us. If you don&rsquo;t come out now, we&rsquo;ll start lobbing them inside. Wanna see how the tunnels reverberate to explosions? We&rsquo;ll give you five seconds!&rdquo;

Four of the militias readied there grenades. The startled ones who accidentally shot reloaded their rifles and aimed.


The stench grew.


It grew with the intensity of an approaching danger. As if its source was moving closer.


Some of them clenched their teeth, one murmured a quiet prayer.


Two hands came of the gloom. They were wrinkled with age, dirty with grime and coagulated blood.

&ldquo;Move forward. One sudden move and you&rsquo;re dead!&rdquo; said Liam.

Step by step, excruciating second by second, the figure came into the light. They were startled by the clothes he wore. A militia captains uniform, but torn and bloody so that it was unrecognizable at first. He face though they did recognize.

Inspector Mullich grabbed at his heart relieved. &ldquo;Huron!&rdquo;

Huron face remained placid and motionless, he looked at Robert with sad eyes.

&ldquo;Where&rsquo;s Zack and the kid?&rdquo;

Huron moved his arms with surprising speed. The officers did not flinch at this sudden movement, they were too psychologically tired to react. The mute man formed the unmistakable pattern of kinetic words that Mullich automatically understood.

&ldquo;They. Are. Dead.&rdquo;
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">&nbsp;
<p style="padding-left: 30px;"><span class="postbody">Chapter 2

Then the night came. It brought forth the snow and the wind and the cold.

It was the third day of snow and in the late hours of the winter night, all the things froze. The river became ice, its murky essence trapped beneath a smooth cover of white snow corona. The barges and small fishing ship were docked before sunset. In the morning, that would follow, irritated fishermen will come out with shovels and pickaxes to break them free.

A strong wind came from the sea. It blew the snow clouds north towards the hills, towards the mass of dead tree trunks, the ghostly corpse of a forest that once spread far to the mountains.


His name was Devon.

In the west side of the city, on Polton Cross Way there were few people walking in the blizzard. He was a man of a skinny complexion, his hands tucked deep inside the pockets his linen coat, traversing the street in a half run, trying to keep warm. He sped past an enchantress, a pale white half elf with unkempt barley blonde hair whispering to her stone fetish and ignoring the sharp cold about her.

The commercial district of Polton Cross was the only place in Tarant in which mages could legally offer their trades apart from the arcane ghetto. Telegraph poles and electric cables circled around the small neighborhood, avoiding any arcane interference that would tamper the circuits. Ancient pyro totems, some as old as city, lighted the midnight street with mesmerizing blue fire. After a few blocks, Devon knew, they will be replaced by the standard gas lamps which illuminated the rest of the city.

&ldquo;And the trams, the bloody trams.&rdquo; He said, thinking of the piercing cold.

The steamrail station on Kensington had a copper frame kiosk that sold lottery tickets and cheap tea in paper cups. Adjacent to the ticket kiosk was a notice board. Upon its elegant oak and brass display, political articles and party slogans jostled for space. The headlines were covered by Tarant&rsquo;s main currier &ldquo;LeGruin&rdquo;, named after the national poet. In the bottom were reviews of recent art shows and theater plays, small time advertisements, job notices and the sensational papers which published horror novels.

Devon scanned the paragraphs unconsciously, picking them at random as he waited for the steamrail to arrive.

In the gloom, the newly commissioned tram cars looked like the bodies of dead giants. Their baroque metallic carcasses arrived in a surreal silence, making no noise other than the vibration of the earth. A brass plague stood above the entrance of each cart. Engraved upon it in roman font were the words &ldquo;FERRUM, SANGUINE, LEGE&rdquo; the motto of Tarrant. It took him to Devonshire, the east side.


In the tightly packed streets that lead to the whorehouse on Devonshire, the buildings illuminated each other. The gas lamps or lantern light fell through the windows onto the grimy bricks skin of the buildings opposite. Madame Kate&rsquo;s Establisment, was a continuation of a shirt factory that had long ago been abandoned to bankruptcy. The connecting body was torn down by elder Madame Lil and converted to brothel of elegant and expensive design.

Two ogres stood near the entrance. They were formally dressed, smoking huge rolls of imported tobacco and huddling near a boiler to keep warm. They were Bull and Magog, Madame Kate&rsquo;s twins.

&ldquo;Bull! You old son!&rdquo;

&ldquo;Devon!&rdquo; The giant figure came forth to meet him, shadow and smoke brushing off like foam. &ldquo;You look tired mate.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Sleep&rsquo;s coming hard tonight it seems, mind if I go in?&rdquo;

&ldquo;Oh Devon, you know this ain&rsquo;t the place for your class. What would Mrs. Kate think if she saw a rummy student amongst all the fine gentry inside?&rdquo;

&ldquo;I wanna see Jessie.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Yeah, o&rsquo;course you do.&rdquo; He turned around to wink at his brother, Magog who never spoke. Devon took out an aluminum can of coffee, dropping it in the ogre&rsquo;s massive hand. He weighed it.

&ldquo;Half full.&rdquo;

&ldquo;You&rsquo;ll get the other half when I&rsquo;ll come back tomorrow, maybe if you&rsquo;re nice to me I&rsquo;ll throw in some herring too with salt.&rdquo;

&ldquo;That&rsquo;s sage kid.&rdquo; He gestured towards the door &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t go anywhere near the ballroom. That&rsquo;s off your bill.&rdquo;


Tonight, the sexual theme was The Horrific and Mysterious.

In the smoky darkness of the antechamber, the weak blaze of two kerosene lamps lighted the entrance to the guestroom. The smoke wasn&rsquo;t that of tobacco, but of incense. The air was filled with the fantastic aroma of expensive perfume.

The patrons wore ceramic masks. In the ballroom they were allowed to smoke cocaine leafs and make out with the girls, but in the guestroom they could only flirt. The prostitutes wore white makeup, their vibrantly colorful clothes contrasted with their ghostly skin to suit tonight&rsquo;s theme. A group of four human patrons, wealthy fraternity brothers from the university, were encouraging their youngest initiate to fuck a half-orc escort. In the vague light of a scented candle, a short old gentleman was conversing with a small child-like girl with small emerald green eyes and curly red hair. A tall man with a long braided beard wearing a tuxedo that did not suit him stomped in, swearing in a foreign language. He was a pirate, a Taratian commissioned privateer and a wealthy one too.

A middle aged woman with the look of authority walked up to him. They spoke the same language and after a few words the pirate laughed out loud and went upstairs followed by two girls who unclamped their hair was they went up.

The woman&rsquo;s name was Milana Barbarossa. When she saw Devon entering she gestured him to come close.

&ldquo;Now&rsquo;s a bad time Dev.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Yeah, I saw the cops. I wanted to come in through the back, but there were like a dozen of them in the alley. What happened?&rdquo;

&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know, but it&rsquo;s something bad. Kate had to go with the inspector. She said one of her old friends died today.&rdquo; She had a thick Morbihan accent, her brilliant brown hair, black eyes and tall stature were signs of her barbarian blood, but like Kate, she was brought up in the Boil. Behind the white ghostly make-up was &ndash; Devon knew &ndash; a natural bronze skin of rare beauty.

He looked at her puzzled. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m sorry about that.&rdquo;

She shrugged. &ldquo;She&rsquo;ll get over it, but she left me in charge tonight.&rdquo;

A small girl with short blond hair reaching just above her shoulder sneaked behind Milana. She took her hand and gave her a gentle child-like smile.

&ldquo;Are you done for tonight Jess?&rdquo; Milana asked. The pixie girl nodded, she was small and graceful in every movement she made.

&ldquo;Then I&rsquo;ll let Devon take you home.&rdquo; She kissed her cheek and left the two alone.

The Pixie girl walked to Devon and kissed him on tip toes.

&ldquo;I missed you.&rdquo; She whispered.

&ldquo;Love you.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Something terrible happened today, Kate didn&rsquo;t tell us much, but she had to leave.&rdquo;

&ldquo;I know. Come on, let&rsquo;s go home.&rdquo;

They walked out in the gloomy snowfall towards Grimson Way, the yellow light of street lamps casting their shadows on the broken snow. Their footsteps dying out in the night.

To be continued.</span>
<span class="postbody">

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