Drowntown is a city that exists on the west coast of a wonderful, terrible, savage and murderous land known as Anestasia. Due to the unending presence of a low hanging malevolent mist, Drowntown never basks in full sunlight. What is described by some as a ‘miserable twilight’ is as good as it gets. By this vague luminescence many shopfronts can be seen lurking under weathered awnings, the name of each establishment read, and sometimes figures both seemingly innocent and sinister can be deciphered behind grimy glass. There is a pervading wind yet the air remains stale. The local beach is desolate. The tide does not come in; it creeps in like a vast black monster extending its sharp claws. At night the town disappears into a madman’s obsidian nightmare.
The town was named by its citizens; scared, helpless and hopeless. In Drowntown, there is no constabulary; no government led protective body, because there is no government.
A man named Wolfgang Hellious is the focus of this tale. No hero by any stretch of the imagination, Wolfgang is in it for himself; the typical human.
Like many others long since dead, Hellious had heard the legend of the God-sword. The God-sword was said to be the ultimate power. Whoever, or whatever was good enough, or evil enough, to wield it could rule the realm.
It was rumoured that the great wizard Xaviour Deepscar was currently in possession of the fabled treasure.
Wolfgang Hellious booked passage from Port Nowhere to Drowntown. He would voyage in the company of amoral pirates, but that was of no concern to Hellious. He had challenged and dispatched far worse.
The warrior/adventurer was a huge man. At six feet nine inches tall he towered over most mortal men. To go with his size Wolfgang was agile…. and merciless. He had reached the ripe old age of 31 not because of his charm or gift of the gab (the odd dose of Zoloft didn’t hurt either).
He sailed on the pirate ship Bloodfest.
By pirate ship standards, the Bloodfest was a small vessel and her deck was in a terrible state of repair. The once smooth wooden surface was now a dangerous blend of loose boards and jagged edges. Here and there were scorch marks, black legacies of past battles through which the Bloodfest had emerged triumphant. The remainder of the ship was typical with the exception of the bow. A raised platform had been built in the narrowing space, equipped with a trapdoor and a tall pole from which a thick rope fashioned into a noose at its end swayed to the rhythm of the sea.
The captain of the ship was an imposing type. He measured six feet, five inches tall. His facial features registered trauma and long miles. His bushy black beard was streaked with white as was the long hair on his large head. The sword at his side was monstrous. At his first sight of him Wolfgang recognised the tailor of the captain’s attire. The insignia of the dwarves of Silversword City was stitched into the big man’s left sleeve.
For the privilege of traveling on the Bloodfest Wolfgang paid the princely sum of five gold pieces. He knew what was in the mind of every man on the ship. If this adventurer has five gold pieces, surely he has more….
A motleyer crew, Wolfgang had scarcely seen. But despite the collected riff-raff, the captain was in control. It was clear that Captain Arcomadus was one of the great and, as fate would soon prove, ruthless pirate leaders of his time.
The water was calm which was rare for Evil Ocean. The crew looked relaxed, playfully tormenting each other with their knives and swords. Hellious decided to make some discreet enquiries of one or two of the perverted rabble regarding the wizard Xaviour Deepscar and his God-sword. He approached a likely looking miscreant and sat beside him.
“Good morning sir.”
Wolfgang was not immediately acknowledged. Annoyed, Hellious was not known for his patience, he slapped the pirate’s shoulder with a meaty hand.
The pirate turned. He wore a patch over his left eye. A jagged scar that resembled a dead slug emerged from under the patch making its way south until it came to an ugly halt near his top lip. At the sight of the man next to him, red blotches on the leathery face of the pirate turned a nervous shade of purple. Hellious thought the man had rickets.
“Nice day isn’t it?” said Hellious.
“Uummmgh,” grunted the pirate.
Wolfgang’s nose wrinkled at the stench coming from between the pirate’s dark, chipped teeth. “Do you know anything of Xaviour Deepscar?”
The seaman’s eyes widened. “Xaviour Deepscar!! Baah!! I’ll have his head on a platter one fine morn’, bastard killed me captain a few years back and he is responsible for this!” The pirate raised his eyepatch. The sight made Hellious wince.
“Hey you,” another pirate cried. “Why don’t you leave my matey Borg alone? Can’t you see them aint pretty memories?”
Wolfgang took a look at the interloper and thought; are you kidding? Borg’s memories are the prettiest things on this glorified bathtub!
“Why don’t you tell me about Xaviour Deepscar, save your friend Borg the anguish?”
“Well there’s not much I can add matey.”
“Do your best,” said Hellious. He rose to his full height, testing the weight of his sword in both hands. His biceps jumped like frightened frogs.
“Arr well, they say Deepscar has the God-sword hidden somewhere in the depths of Demontown.”
“It’s beyond the Hellfire Mountains. They say only someone with the God-sword itself could probably get there.”
“What else do they say?”
“They say that Deepscar may even keep the God-sword in Drowntown for safe keeping, being it is the last place you’d keep anything for safe keeping if you get my meaning.”
“I do indeed.”
“That’s all I know.” The pirate closed his eyes as if expecting Wolfgang to strike him for his lack of insight.
Hellious believed him. He must have emptied his tiny brain by now.
Ever mindful of his surroundings, Wolfgang moved away from Borg and his friend to a place of semi-privacy.
After a night of sleeping with one eye open, Wolfgang shook his blonde mane, rubbed his eyes and peered to the South-east.
Drowntown had appeared on the horizon.
A loud scuffle broke out. Four pirates were dragging a fifth toward the makeshift gallows at the bow of the small ship.
“Couldn’t even wait till we got to port eh?” one of the four shouted.
“Had to go stealin’ from your own kind!”
The pirate captain approached the fracas. The pushing and pulling ceased.
“Who witnessed the theft?”
“I did captain!” shouted a small man with a face even his mother refused to love. “It was my money!”
“How much did he take then?”
“Five gold pieces captain, my entire stock for whores and ale!”
“String him up!”
Hellious watched dispassionately as the neck of the accused thief was stretched.
“Any last words Tickwell?”
“I’m innocent captain! Please re…” Tickwell’s plea was cut short as the rope around his neck tightened.
“Cut off his scurvy limbs! He’s a thief and a liar!” screamed Arcomadus.
An obedient pirate came at Tickwell with his broadsword. There was a grunt and a prolonged scream and then the deck was running with blood. A pair of severed legs lay at right angles forming a dirty red dam.
Two other loyal sailors ran at Tickwell and cut off his arms. The first came right off like an overcooked chicken wing. The other wasn’t dismembered so easily. The sailor hacked at Tickwell’s right shoulder like an untrained woodchopper. Tickwell lost consciousness. When finally the job was done, Tickwell was a hanging torso. The loss of weight loosened the noose around Tickwell’s neck. He wasn’t dead.
Tickwell woke up long enough to look down at himself. His face contorted into something beyond pain and suffering.
An instant later he was dead.
A bystander ran at the hanging slab of butchered meat, flung his arms around it and launched himself off the rocking, slippery, blood soaked deck. Tickwell’s neck snapped and his skin ripped. The sailor fell still gripping the torso. Tickwell’s head remained snared in the swinging noose.
“Well done Bradwell!” said the captain clapping is sizable hands. “Now clean up all this mess!”
The crowd dispersed leaving Bradwell on his knees with a scrub brush and a jar of elbow grease. Wolfgang shook his head, smiled and returned to his dingy quarters.
The most frequented tavern in all of Drowntown; The Impaled Pygmy, was this day host to an ugly horde of trolls. Thoroughly offensive and disgusting creatures, they drank ale by the gallon, loudly thumped the table at which they sat when they judged something to be funny, fearlessly taunted any human who came within earshot and were oblivious to the feelings of all other patrons.
The proprietor and bartender of The Impaled Pygmy was an average sized man who went by the name of Zachariah. Very few knew his last name.
Zachariah was a retired adventurer. He had seen much and travelled far. On one such adventure long ago he fell afoul of a temperamental sorcerer. Zachariah was caught in a carnal embrace with the sorcerer’s wife. The sorcerer turned Zachariah into a lizardman so that he would never attract another female human. Eventually most of the spell wore off (the spell or the sorcerer being ineffectual nobody knows). Zach regained his human features save for a tongue that measured twelve inches. Ironically when this story became public knowledge the female patronage of The Impaled Pygmy skyrocketed 200 %.
His speech was adversely affected for some time. Later he was shown by a benevolent local shaman how to intricately manipulate his monstrous tongue to allow him to regain the freedom of speech. Those who knew him understood him just fine.
Zachariah kept a souvenir of his past in the shape of an imposing broadsword which he concealed under the bar. He looked forward to warm nights and halcyon days.
The horde of ignorant trolls continued to behave badly.
A few minutes had passed since Zachariah had issued the horde its first friendly warning. A man walked into the tavern. He was an unfortunate looking fellow who was endowed with a nose so big it covered the approximate area of your average restaurant with an added beer garden. His head seemed to lean forward as he moved. This may have been an optical illusion. The veins in his neck stood at attention.
At their first sight of him the horde of trolls raised a collective bray of tuneless amusement. They laughed and rolled around the table in uncontrolled fits. The man, a ball of self-conscious sweat, ran out of The Impaled Pygmy.
The trolls, intoxicated to their slimy gills, were sick of their own company. They stood in a crooked line and scanned the room for the perfect object of ridicule.
The Impaled Pygmy consisted of seven main tables, five seats encircling each, twenty stools along the length of the bar, two toilets; male and female (although male and female what wasn’t specified), and a staircase, the foot of which was at the far end of the room that led to Zachariah’s quarters and various other lodgings.
Three well-dressed dwarves sat at a table smoking something from an elaborate device. They were spotted by one of the trolls who nudged his friend who nudged his friend.
“Well what do we have here?” said the dominant troll, “a trio of stoned dwarfs!”
“Dwarves,” said an intellectual dwarf.
Every man woman and creature in the bar turned at the sound of Zach’s thunderous bellow. All but the trolls turned back, attending to their own business.
“What is it that you big ugly wart covered fuckers think you are doing? These good dwarf gentlemen happen to be regular, well behaved, well-paying patrons of The Impaled Pygmy, while you lot are good for nothing but causing trouble. So before you cause any you can just fuck off!”
Stunned into silence, the creatures turned to leave. “But first you can cough up three gold pieces for the drinks and two more for the damage to the table,” said Zach. Most of it came out okay, but part of Zach’s speech was garbled by all the meat in his mouth.
The trolls were armed. To a creature they bore battle-axes while two of them carried long sharp daggers.
The dominant troll gripped his weapon and found his bravado. “We don’t owe you a thing barkeep,” he said. The troll stood at least a foot taller than Zach and with his pals by his side he felt even taller.
The troll took half a step forward. A confrontation was unavoidable.
“What’s wrong with your mouth human?” The troll smiled. It was horrible.
“Well…” began Zach moving around trying to find a position that suited him. “I had an accident once, you see this scar?” he leaned forward and pointed to a spot on his face with his left hand. His right was not visible.
The dominant troll leaned forward to look.
Zachariah’s tongue darted out of his mouth and into the troll’s left eye. Before he could blink his right eye, two of the troll’s friends lost their heads. They rolled along the bar and over the far side like a couple of stray olives. The headless bodies spouted blood and toppled to the floor.
The two remaining trolls made for the door.
Zach ignored them and pinned the dominant troll’s head to the bar.
“Where’s my money?”
The troll dropped his battle-axe and produced three gold pieces from under his armour. He slammed them on the bar with a shaking hand. One landed on its side unmoving, while the other two rolled toward the far side of the bar only to be trapped by copious amounts of blood occupying the otherwise shiny bar top like a stagnant swamp.
Zach turned the troll’s pointed ears in his hands. It brought a yelp from the helpless creature. “Three more gold pieces for the damage to the table and the bar my foul smelling friend,” insisted Zach with a smile. The troll quickly complied.
“If I even so much as sense your presence again my broadsword shall have your head. Now leave.”
The troll scuttled out of the bar in fear, pain and shame.
“Blackwood!” called Zach.
After a moment a black elf emerged from the far end of the bar. He carried a bucket and a mop and began to clean without being asked. Zach poured himself a long drink to get the taste of troll eye out of his mouth.
The remaining patrons which were made up of many colours, creeds and species, talked laughed and drank as though nothing had happened. Just another night at The Impaled Pygmy.
Dawn broke a magnificent crimson. The coast looked beautiful. Wolfgang Hellious woke with a start. His left leg was numb. He felt a flash of panic. At that moment he was vulnerable. If any one of the pirates had caught but a sniff…
He checked his belongings. Everything was where he had left it. He breathed an inward sigh of relief and cursed himself for falling asleep more than a few hours on a pirate ship.
Drowntown was still a good distance away. The Bloodfest ploughed through the rough Evil Ocean swell. She was a sturdy ship. The bow rose and fell significantly.
A huge hand fell onto his shoulder. He whirled to see captain Arcomadus smiling up at him. The captain did not have far to look.
“I thought you might be hungry.” The captain offered Hellious some bread. He accepted, it wouldn’t do not to, and ate the bread slowly. His cautious manner made the captain laugh.
“What is it that you are after in Drowntown warrior?”
“I’m simply travelling to see a friend I haven’t seen in a dragon’s age.”
“Hmmm, I have no friends, just followers and enemies. Which are you warrior?”
Hellious opened his mouth to answer when…
“CAPTAIN, CAPTAIN I’ve been robbed!!” A small scrawny looking mate came stumbling from the lower deck. He was crying. A large bright green globule of snot hung from his red nose. Ignoring the conversation going on between the people before him, he addressed his ruler. “Captain… all my gold pieces… gone!”
“Calm down Viswell, how many gold pieces did you have?”
“This is a catastrophe!” the captain bellowed.
Viswell caught Wolfgang’s eye. The big warrior was trying to suppress his mirth.
“He did it captain!” screamed Viswell pointing at Wolfgang.
“Yes, yes captain. Look at him, he can’t contain himself!”
“Very well,” the captain said. He took a step back and in a laughably melodramatic fashion, his pointing finger at the end of an outstretched arm, thundered, “HANG THE WARRIOR!!”
Wolfgang Hellious drew his huge silver sword and began hacking up pirates. He was hopelessly outnumbered. Amid blood, loose flesh and broken chainmail, the mighty warrior was dragged toward the hangman’s noose. His sword was ripped from his grasp and rammed into the wooden deck, handle quivering.
Hellious struggled fiercely as the sea raged and the ship rolled. After three broken noses and four broken jaws, six mates managed to shove Wolfgang’s neck into the noose. Arcomadus himself was on hand to tighten the rope.
“I’m innocent captain! I’m innocent! How can you believe him so quickly?”
“My men never lie warrior, at least not to me, because they know the penalty.”
“I’m not…” the rope tightened, “… suggesting he’s lying, only… confused. How can he see straight through all those tears?”
“SILENCE!!” The captain’s stomach wobbled as he shouted. “Forget the money; look what you’ve done to my crew! Cut off the warrior’s limbs!”
A number of pirates rushed toward Hellious. At that moment something struck the ship causing it to lurch violently to starboard. All on deck lost their footing. Two pirates fell overboard and disappeared below the churning surface.
All at once the final four meters of a long thick black tentacle groped along the wet deck. A mate became ensnared in its grip. He flailed at it uselessly with a sword. Another dark arm covered with ravenous suckers appeared. It reared and descended.
“KRAKEN!!! GIANT BLACK KRAK…” the captain’s voice trailed away as he was hoisted by the ankles. Hellious stood forgotten on the gallows. He removed his head from the noose and with two long deft steps and a neat pirouette; improvised when the Bloodfest sharply changed course; took back possession of his sword.
Deadly arms engulfed the breadth of the ship. The Bloodfest was in the grip of a Black Kraken, the deadliest thing in the sea. The creature shook the ship like an infant will shake his rattle. It took a lot to surprise Wolfgang. He stood incredulous as the thing climbed the side of the boat. Two gargantuan ebony disks rose above the rocking cracking rim, the black eyes laced with hate and anger.
Then Hellious saw the mouth. The thing had teeth as big as a man. It reached out and cut a man in half. Some of a torso rested on a pair of oversized pants.
Some of the mates were busy hacking at the tentacles to no avail. Their arms were weakened by fear. Suddenly there was a bony crunch and a pirate screamed his last watching himself disappear into the mouth of the Kraken.
Arcomadus was still upside down above the deck. It was as if the creature was aware of the personage of its captive. The brave pirate king had screamed himself hoarse and was close to unconsciousness. The tentacle with the captain in its grip fell close to the deck. The big man was beginning to weigh it down. Hellious took his chance. He brought his sword down and separated the captain from the beast. Arcomadus crashed onto his back. The Kraken cried in pain. It was a sound that perhaps had never been heard; certainly never described. Hellious whirled and struck the creature again and again until six pirates owed him their lives.
The monster was gone; dismembered so many times the ocean was red. The ship took on water through cracked boards and limped toward port.
It was then the pirates realised Hellious was free. They rushed him once more as if a siren had sounded demanding immediate return to business. Wolfgang raised his weapon.
The captain had found his voice. “This man just saved my life and the entire ship, which is a lot more than I can say for you ridiculous snivelling cowards. You’re lucky I don’t have you all beheaded. Be gone with all of you… except you Viswell and Cresswell; start swabbing the deck.”
“But captain?” Viswell said.
“One more word from you and I will stomp your head into red dust! Now go to work!”
Arcomadus turned to Wolfgang.
“I now have an answer to my previous question. You are indeed a follower Wolfgang, not an enemy.”
“Well captain, I would prefer to call myself… the first friend you ever made.”
The pirate king laughed. “Well warrior friend,” said Arcomadus as the Bloodfest took on more water. Viswell and Cresswell stopped working; the deck was gone, replaced by small waves. They were standing knee deep; “we might just make it to Drowntown before we drown.”
“Call me Wolfgang.”
Xaviour Deepscar worried about one thing. Somewhere in Anestasia was a scroll upon which were written words that when spoken as an incantation could take away the power of the God-sword; at least until it may change hands.
The God-sword was a creator. It could create anything its possessor desired; riches beyond wealth, protection from the greatest enemy, a palace a mile high. But it could not see. It had no magic sight. It could not tell Deepscar who or what was after it, therefore he had to intuit for himself.
He used all in his power to seek out the scroll; the words that once recited could never be remembered.
The so called God-sword Scroll was indestructible and immovable; once its words were read the location of the scroll flew from the mind like dandelion spores in the wind and its words quickly faded from memory. It was a scroll in words only. In reality it was a stone carving with elaborate finishing at both ends that resembled a scroll. Its purpose was to instruct the next adventurer on his quest for the ultimate power. No one was meant to possess the sword forever. And many had tried.
Deepscar wanted to buck the trend.
He concentrated day and night for a week. Something flickered in his mind’s eye. It was Drowntown. Somewhere in Drowntown…. somewhere beneath Drowntown….
Xaviour Deepscar sent protection; vile monstrous protection.