Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Hacks of Gorm, Part XXXIII: Dishonoring the Past Leads to Unquiet Dead

With the Bloomer gone, the companions continued north towards the cemetery. The moon was lower now, but cast an even stranger light on this wintry land. They shivered, hoping that their quest might soon be at an end.

Gottschalk’s mind went to Ramzeus and Laurissa Austral- were they still under the sway of cultists, Demoncrats, and the zombie Public Lords? In any case, he hoped that the relic would be able to help them- at least Tamara had claimed so. She was quiet for now, assisting Sir Jave down the street. The young man still looked drained by the creature’s nefarious attack upon his youth.

Gorm had recovered though and took the lead. Luckily, the man had only been injured in the head- a place where barbarians were notoriously well-protected due to its thickness. “Me not like this place, Gott-chalk. That Bloomer might come back.”

Gottschalk shook his head. “Perhaps, but we couldn’t slay that undead thing without your mighty axe.”

Gorm nodded. He hoped to be able to use it again soon.

And that opportunity sprang up quicker than he had hoped. Down the avenue, outside the gates of where the cemetery was supposed to lay, the companions spied a crowd. It was obvious even in this strange light what they were. With dyed hair, bandanas on their faces, obstinate placards at their sides, and wine bottles in their hands, they could be nothing but cultists.

And even if they hadn’t been so obviously attired, Gottschalk could sense the false righteousness that they held, their unwillingness to notice the truth of the current situation beyond their warped Cult Doctrines. They yelled outside the gates, demanding to enter and destroy the apparent ‘Symbols of Hate’ within.

Gottschalk signaled to his companions to fan out. Gorm smiled, his axe now ready. It seemed like he hadn’t used it in weeks!

Gottschalk stopped the barbarian though. “We can’t fight them all; we need to find the Torrent Sword!”

Gorm’s eyes narrowed. “No more talk, Gott-chalk! Me want fight!”

Gottschalk was at an impasse: he had learned that there was no point in debating cultists, or even barbarians for that matter... unless you had no other choice, but he also knew there were too many standing in front of the gates for even Gorm to slay.

Sir Jave came up then. And though still weak, he added his advice, “When one cannot war or converse, one can always engage in subterfuge.”

Gorm grimaced at that and began to angle his axe towards Sir Jave’s neck.

Tamara intervened before the barbarian could strike though. “He means that if we can’t fight or talk, we can... sneak.”

Gorm nodded and lowered his weapon. It helped that the woman used various gestures to demonstrate what she meant.

The companions soon jumped over the far fence. The cultists still had not broken through the cemetery gates; it seemed that most lacked the upper body strength to do so.

But it also really didn’t matter. The place had already been defiled.

Despite Gottschalk not sharing kith or kin with this land, he was appalled at the destruction: statues toppled, tombs desecrated, and even bas reliefs defaced. It looked too like this outrage had been done long ago, though the graffiti left behind suggested that those who had done so shared many of the warped beliefs as those who were trying to get inside now.

It was no wonder that the dead did not rest so easily here.

Tamara came up to examine it too. “It never ceases to appall me. It’s never enough for cultists! They always push for more, to topple any remnant or reminder of human civilization that might remain! And then, they want to topple it again!”

“The sword?” Gottschalk knew that time was short.

“Yes, it’s in one of the mausoleums. We should-”

Tamara stopped in midsentence. She thought she saw something move from behind a gravestone.

Gottschalk thought he had seen it too, but shook his head in disbelief. He doubted it was a cultist- perhaps it was a trick of the eye? Suddenly, a phantom passed right into Gorm!

The three of them took a step back. If it could control the barbarian and make him do fell things, then they were in for some dire trouble.

Gorm’s eyes did glaze over, but strangely, he marched to one of the toppled statues. He stood upright and saluted it, like one would to a commanding officer. At that, some of the cultists at the gate shrieked and vaulted inside, seemingly possessed with fearsome power now that they had apparently seen some ‘Hate’ occur.

Of course, the only ‘Hate’ that Gottschalk could see came from the cultists as they made foul gestures and shouted profanities at Gorm. Still, the barbarian’s face remained unmoved, though theirs were vile masks,

Stranger yet, Gorm then calmly turned to one of the cultists, a young woman far shorter than him and said, “There’s going to be a lot more crying before we’re done, honey.”

All she could do was shriek back at him.

“As if by providence, this Neanderthal seems to have gotten a new spirit- fascinating!” said Sir Jave.

Gottschalk was fascinated by it too, though with all the cultists closing in on them now, he wished the old Gorm would return.

And use his axe.

Next week: The Hacks of Gorm, Part XXXIV!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Hacks of Gorm, Part XXXII: In the Clutches of the Bloomer

The aged, strangely-preserved creature pressed its enshrouded hand deeper into the young man’s chest. With the other, it snatched his meagre coin pouch.

Sir Jave’s face turned pale from the attack; he tried to say something, but couldn’t. It appeared that his very future was being taken from him.

Seeing that this ‘Bloomer’ was draining the essence of his friend, Gottschalk wrestled the thing around the neck. But though he pulled with all his might, he couldn’t get it off of Sir Jave. He looked to Tamara for help, but the young woman only shook her head. It seemed that this creature couldn’t be defeated by brawn alone.

So he tried talking then. “Leave him be! What gives you the right to steal from him so?”

The foul creature turned to Gottschalk, growing more potent now thanks to a good part of Sir Jave’s life force coursing through its body. “This boy is lazy- all he does is... narrate! In my day, it was easy as pie to find something to do, to find a good job! Now butt out and let me get what’s owed me...”

Then with a simple push, it sent Gottschalk flying a dozen paces, landing on his back with a thud.

Tamara looked around in a near-panic. Gorm still lay against the far wall, unconscious. Sir Jave struggled for breath.

She steeled herself before her own attempt, making sure to stay out of range of the Bloomer’s decrepit grasp. “You would take his future and then claim that he doesn’t do enough?”

“Oh honey,” it hissed as it clawed for her, “You know that we need to just Give Peace a Chance... c’mere!”

“Why won’t you give your own children a chance?” replied Tamara, barely avoiding its clutching hand, “Why would you take their wealth... give away their birthright?”

“It was a Revolution! We Changed the World! We had to shut down the hu-Man! See: you’re a woman; we ended the Slavery of Motherhood! Isn’t that Far Out?”

“More like you ended humanity! This land has no families now! It has no future!”

“We Liberated you!” insisted the Bloomer, “Power to the People!”

Gottschalk struggled to rise. It looked like Gorm was beginning to stir too, though he seemed to have a nasty wound on his mighty head. Tamara maneuvered herself away again as the thing let go of Sir Jave and began to lumber fully towards her.

With the Bloomer now distracted, Gottschalk dashed over to Sir Jave. The young man still lived, but was very pale.

“What is that...  thing?”

Sir Jave struggled to reply, but couldn’t at first, so Gottschalk gave him a sip from his wineskin.

Finally, he was able to speak, “Yes... it is a... type of... wight: one of the intelligent living dead here in Monjaksen. There are so many of them, and they just won’t die, so they’ve become a sort of caste, draining the life force of the youth so that they could live an indulgent life forever. There’s actually a fairly interesting story about-”

“How do we stop it?” interrupted Gottschalk. The Bloomer was closing in on Tamara.

“Not sure,” replied Sir Jave. “They always thought that they were special after they threw out the morals of all the generations that had come before them. They claimed that they were the ‘youth of all time’- unlike any before- and they did change the world. They enriched themselves in the process, draining all wealth and potential from future generations in order to live forever. Now they even seek to bring goblins into these lands; they don’t have enough human descendants left to maintain their unnatural state.”

Gottschalk struggled with that. It was hard news for him to swallow. He had certainly encountered plenty of cultists intent on destroying their own people, but to learn that elders had done it on a massive generational scale, selling away the future of their own children- it was almost unbelievable.

Still, Sir Jave had no reason to lie.

Gottschalk spotted then that Gorm had risen, though he still looked dazed. He turned too to see that the Bloomer had cornered Tamara with some sort of two-wheeled wagon full of junk that it must have brought with it. Perhaps the Bloomer was a wheelbarrow wight?

“Let me taste some of that sweet, sweet Liberated essence you have! I’ll get you, babe!

Gottschalk shuddered: this Bloomer was ridiculous! It would consume all the youth in order to preserve itself if it could. But then an idea came to him.

“Ho there! I have something even better than life force for you, Bloomer!”

The creature turned to him, intrigued.

“A place where you can be waited on hand and foot; where you can indulge any mid-unlife crisis you might be having, repair any decrepitude, acquire any goods, no matter what the cost. A place where your children fully get to experience all your ‘Revolution’ has wrought while you remain unharmed by any of it.”

The Bloomer looked impressed. It knew it was entitled- what better way to experience it?

“And even more,” continued Gottschalk, “it has plenty of goblins, so you can drain their life too, perhaps they have a distinct taste? In any case, you can feel better knowing that you have made the world more ‘Equal’, while still maintaining your ‘Youth’, even if your own descendants die out in the process...”

Now he knew he had it. The Bloomer couldn’t resist. It readied its wheelbarrow, junk sliding to and fro within, waiting for which way Gottschalk would tell it to go.

“Caelum Mount.”

Next week: The Hacks of Gorm, Part XXXIII!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Hacks of Gorm, Part XXXI: The Land That Sold Its Children

The moon arose over the benighted streets, casting strange shadows upon the chill road. Dark structures sat lurking, their arched rooves and many spires rising menacing upon the winter sky. The four companions walked cautiously, ready for whatever horrors Monjaksen might have in store.

Still, despite the haunted reputation of this place, it was preferable to the horrors that they had experienced inside the Town Hall. What could be worse than traitors, zombie politicians, goblin ‘screamer-dreamers’, and a Demoncrat vampress? Stranger still, he and Gorm had entered that place with two other companions around noon, but time seemed to have flowed strangely, for what could have only been less than an hour inside had brought them now to full on night.

Gottschalk glanced at their new companions, the ones who had led them out of that place. The dark-haired woman, Tamara, and the blond-bearded man, Sir Jave, had mentioned at the outset of their walk that they were from some far-off land named Britanstan, but had to flee the tyranny there. Both were young and spoke with a strange accent which was pleasant, somehow familiar and yet one he could not remember hearing before.

Not caring much for such things, Gorm spoke up then. “We need go back for Ram’ and Laur’, Gott-chalk. Me not trust them around Sal-pink’s burning hat.”

Gottschalk turned to the barbarian, but shook his head. “Now we’re going to find a way to help them. We need to break the spell, the one that the Patrons cast.”

Tamara nodded at that. “I suppose the Torrent Sword should do the trick. It’s been used to defeat Ghul-Ghul before.”

“Yes, it’s actually quite interesting,” added Sir Jave, “it essentially slices through the warping effect that Ghul-Ghul can have on people, allowing direct communication, normal conversation if you will, between them again.”

“Where would we find it?” said Gottschalk. He hadn’t known Ramzeus and Laurissa for long, but had come to already consider them friends.

“That’s also very interesting,” replied Sir Jave. “Don’t believe what you might have heard about it! It’s at the center of what made Monjaksen what it is today. You might even call it the ‘crux of the supernatural, the paranormal, the-”

“Where!” interrupted Gorm. Barbarians didn’t care much for unnecessary talk either.

“Oh yes, the Cemetery, it’s truly a-” Sir Jave would have continued, but stopped when he noticed Gorm begin to point his great axe at him menacingly.

Gottschalk would have replied, but then spotted something odd a dozen yards away. It seemed to be large, roundish, white, and glowing, though it may have just been a trick of the eye from some errant beam of moonlight shining. He started to turn to check if the others had seen it too, but then could have sworn that it moved slightly...

With his fear now rising, he patted Gorm on his shoulder. The barbarian was still distracted glaring at Sir Jave though, so Gottschalk reached up to pull his head in that direction. By the time he was able to do so though, the glowing was gone.

“I saw it too,” said Tamara. “We need to keep moving here...”

Gottschalk could see the fear on the woman’s face. It was strange: she hadn’t seemed afraid of those in the Town Hall earlier- what would make her so afraid of some glowing thing now?

The companions moved on, quiet again, but more wary. The structures they passed made strange creaking sounds, though they could feel no wind- only some distant, frozen scent of rot and death coming from within. From each open doorway it felt like they were being watched.  It seemed that there might be folk inside, though none would be any that they would wish to approach. Gottschalk and Gorm looked at each other, but Tamara and Sir Jave bade them continue moving, grave looks upon their faces.

Knowing no fear though, Gorm entered one structure. Inside was a bleak, lone middle-aged man staring at some Ghul-Ghul box. The place he inhabited could have housed a small family and yet the only possessions inside seemed to be his. He didn’t even react to the barbarian invading his home, but instead only glanced at him for a moment blankly. Gottschalk began to enter too, but Gorm left, disgusted: it wouldn’t be any fun to pillage the place if the owner didn’t even fight back!

Gottschalk noticed too that none of the other structures showed the usual accoutrements of family life. No children’s toys or jump match squares in the yards. No wedding wreaths or even Othala runes upon the doors.

What sort of place was this? All knew that Monjaksen was haunted, but there seemed to be something else at work.

Gottschalk could take it no longer. He turned to Tamara and said, “What has happened to this place?”

Her face turned even paler than before, her voice rising with her increasing fear. “I dare not mention their name- and you SHOULDN’T EITHER!”

Sir Jave looked afraid too and stroked his blond beard as he considered his next words. He wondered if Gorm might threaten him again for saying too much. Still, it seemed that now was as good a time as any. He made sure to whisper at least.

“Monjaksen used to be prosperous, but one generation became too greedy, and wished to live forever...”

Jave paused then, making sure that the barbarian didn’t have his axe out again. Gorm did, but his attention wasn’t on Jave- it was on the sounds of something approaching down the alleyway. All four of them could detect it now.

“... and they gave away their children’s....”

Before he could finish, something came at Sir Jave. It seemed old, yet unnaturally preserved somehow, like one of the zombie Public Lords from the Town Hall. This thing seemed almost vampiric though, like the Demoncrat woman and yet not, its hands outlined in some sort of enervating shadow.

“Hey man,” it hissed, “In the garden of Eden, don’t you know that I... I... I... hope you die before I get old!”

Gorm made to wrestle the thing off Sir Jave, but it was strong. With a slap, it sent the much larger barbarian hurtling back into one of the structure’s walls. It then grinned and began to let the shadows around its hands creep into Sir Jave’s chest, almost as if draining the young man’s life force. The creature then seemed to ‘bloom’ as a result, growing a little larger and beginning to glow.

Gottschalk turned to Tamara in shock: if the barbarian couldn’t defeat this bloomer thing, then how on earth could they?

Next week: The Hacks of Gorm, Part XXXII!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Hacks of Gorm, Part XXX: An Anthem Does Not a People Make

Listen to the Audio Version here

How else could a barbarian respond to such a betrayal?

Captain Salpinx had claimed to put the interests of the West first. He had claimed to stand up for its people. According to those like Salpinx, what a ‘people could be was relative, easily added to, changed, or even replaced, just as long as the new people pretended to hold the same values and sang before the same flag as those who had proceeded them! Replacing a human nation with goblins seemed just fine with him, as long as they still paid proper reverence to human ways.

Gorm of course knew that this wasn’t the case: a people is far more important than just some songs and traditions. A people created those things, not the other way around. Barbarians knew that, why didn’t Salpinx?

As the man’s trademark red helm burned on the brazier, all this fluttered through Gorm’s mind. And though it was small, it was clear: it held no warped beliefs like those of the cultists who it seemed to have perverted Salpinx’s original message. Gorm didn’t suffer from doubt or inner debate; he simply did what was right as dictated by the natural order of things.

And as Salpinx and his entourage looked on, shocked, he readied his great axe too. Though they loved starting fires, barbarian politics wasn’t limited to symbolic burning, and often required more direct measures to set things right.

Ramzeus and Laurissa Austral moved to stop him, to prevent the barbarian from doing something that, even though he might not regret it, they certainly would! Attacking Salpinx and his entourage would bring far greater repercussions on them all. But it was no use: the Patrons, at the direction of that vampiric-looking Demoncrat woman, had prevented them from speaking or acting anymore via demon-itzation: how could they stop Gorm now?

Gottschalk too wished to intervene, to get Gorm, Ramzeus, and Laurissa out of this insane place. He knew there was no winning in this situation: there was no reason in what these lunatic political types were doing. But the dark-haired woman, the one with the exotic voice and who, along with the blond-bearded man had challenged Salpinx before, held his arm firmly now and finally led him to a hallway apart from the crowd.

“My friends need me!” he said.

“There is no helping them now. The Patrons’ spell is permanent until you find the proper way to free them so that they might move their arms and speak again...” replied the dark-haired woman.

“And how do we do that? They called upon Ghul Ghul! Its strength is mighty! All seek its warped council and it can effectively prevent any who cross it from speaking to others ever again!”

“I know,” she said, a smile coming to her face. “But there is a way to free them and that is what you must focus on...”

Before she had a chance to finish, their attention returned to the crowded room again. Two of the Public Lords: Twitch McCorpsal and All Dyin had intervened with Gorm and were attempting to wrestle his great axe from his mighty hands. Being zombies, they also instinctively tried to chew into his skull in order to get to his brains. Instead, the barbarian began punching off parts of their rotting bodies and they withdrew to their nurses. The pungent stench of swamp rot arose.

Suddenly, another crowd burst into the room. Unlike most of the rest though, these weren’t human, but were goblins, furious and chanting! Almost like a song they spoke, with a few leaders stating their demands and the rest repeating it like a chorus and striking drums, mindless and insolent. Guessing that they were likely allies, the Demoncrat woman came to them and began to chastise Gorm, revealing her vampiric fangs as she did so.

“See! These are the wonderful people that you and the other AMARANTHINE SCUM are trying to get rid of! Well I say that we should GET RID OF ALL OF YOU and let just these people stay in the Vale instead!”

She then turned to the goblins, a faux smile of comradery coming to her face as she willed herself to even touch some on the shoulders. “We made such a great deal with the Public Lords! I can’t wait until you all become the new citizens that you have dreamt of becoming for so long! Of course, we’ll have to pass the measure first in order to see what it does...”

Surprisingly though, the goblins didn’t seem happy at that and continued their chants, focusing now on her. They screamed and drummed again, repeating after their leaders, “We all citizens! This land ours now! It belong to us! Not you, Nanna Legosi!”

And though they refrained from physically attacking her, the goblins kept interrupting Nanna whenever she tried to reply. Her body shook in frustration and fear- even a Demoncrat such as herself had limits to how much she could take. Here were the very people that she was using to replace the local humans, and they wouldn’t even let her brag about it!

Salpinx made to intervene, but then some of his hoplites began to kneel, refusing to obey.

During the distraction, the nurses had been able to reattach parts of the zombie Lords’ bodies and they had overwhelmed Gorm, pinning him to the stage where they had been sitting before. All Dyin held his left arm, Living Groanham his right, and Twitch sat on his legs. The last, McBrain, had attached a strange spike to the gaping hole in his head, now appearing akin to one of the great horned beasts on the doors that had led to this room.

With his head now lowered, McBrain groaned, “Let’s gore into that thick skull of yours and remove those delicious, heretical brains... what little there are of them!

Gorm was able to push some of the Lords off for a moment, even breaking away some of their macabre body parts again, but the nurses were ready and rushed to reattach them despite the terrible stench. It seemed that even though the Lords cared not for the health of the people they claimed to serve, they certainly made sure that they themselves were well cared for.

But another intervened, the blond-bearded man. Though young and less bulky, he was able to rush into McBrain enough to push him to the side to prevent him from goring Gorm. The other zombie Lords groaned at that. But, unlike the barbarian, it smelled to them like this young man had plenty of brains! They let go of Gorm and went for him instead.

Just then, Gottschalk and the dark-haired woman arrived and knocked the zombie Lords over. They grabbed Gorm and the blond-bearded man and made their escape.

Gottschalk looked back, but Ramzeus and Laurissa were still lost in the crowd of Salpinx’s entourage, the Demoncrat woman, those screaming ‘dreaming’ goblins, disoriented human citizens, and the rising zombie Public Lords.

They fled the Town Hall and made their way into the cold, benighted streets of Monjaksen. The dark-haired woman was finally able to speak to him again then.

“There is only one item that can save your friends now...” she huffed, still trying to catch her breath.

“The Torrent Sword.”

Next week: The Hacks of Gorm, Part XXXI!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Hacks of Gorm, Part XXIX: The Great Betrayal

Gottschalk’s jaw dropped.

Not only was most of the audience now on their feet, but Ramzeus and Laurissa Austral had joined in too. They stood by the dark-haired young woman and the blond-bearded man, who continued to challenge the zombie Public Lords McBrain, All Dyin, Twitch McCorpsal, and Living Groanham for their failure to do as they promised and protect this land from invaders.

“And what about our healing?” yelled the dark-haired woman. “You said you would fix it and not force us to give all our coin to the Hospitalia, like the Demoncrats had arranged!”

At that, the zombie Public Lords groaned with laughter, showing the great work necessary in keeping their decrepit forms together. A nurse even came out and made sure their jaws could close after all the exertion. She lit a brazier nearby, since McBrain’s had fallen out again and needed to be welded back on.

Even worse, Gorm was approaching them too. And, because of all the commotion, no one noticed that he had his great axe in hand. He spit out the remains of the McBrain poster that he had been chewing and maneuvered himself behind the stage. Barbarians had their own form of political debate and Gorm was nearly ready to begin.

Gottschalk moved to intervene, but was stunned again. Hoplites had entered the room. He hadn’t seen any guards before and assumed at first they were coming to apprehend the barbarian, but then remembered that this was Monjaksen: it wasn’t Olympian, not like Caelum Mount...

And low and behold, who entered the room next, but none other than Captain Salpinx and his entourage! Gottschalk’s heart rose. As his name would suggest, the man had trumpeted the slogan of Making Caelum Mount Great Again for over a year now. And even though he had shown some wavering, he had remained an inspiration to patriots throughout the Vale- those who cared about maintaining the sovereignty of the West. In fact, some claimed that he might even become Emperor.

Ramzeus, Laurissa, and the others’ spirits rose too. Even Gorm cheered, holding his axe high. They had begun to have their doubts about him earlier, since Caelum Mount had fallen and he wanted to invade West by Golly (in Part XXV), but maybe he was going to stand up to these zombies on stage now? They hoped that finally, he would live up to his promises and be a leader who cared enough about his own people to save them.

Salpinx smiled and removed his trademark red Olympian helm to the cheers of many assembled. The zombie Public Lords stared at him expectantly. Gottschalk remembered then how they had said that he ‘seems to be coming around’... Why would that be?

“I’ve come with great news! We’ve decided to allow any and all offspring who were brought into our lands by their parents to remain here as our new citizens! Isn’t that wonderful? We can Make Monjaksen Great Again, just like we did with Caelum Mount!”

The zombie Public Lords clapped their macabre hands together at that, though not too hard since some had fallen off earlier and might do so again.

Shocked, Ramzeus shook his head. “What do you mean, ‘offspring’? Does that include goblin rapist-pillagers?”

“Of course!” replied Salpinx. “Some of them have grown to become very successful and even serve as hoplites! I just made a great deal with the Demoncrats!”

Gottschalk’s jaw dropped again.

Many who had supported Salpinx looked aghast too. Was he mad? How would he possibly save the West by allowing in more of those who would destroy it... or by working with Demoncrats?

Laurissa Austral recovered from the shock first. “But their ‘parents’ invaded our lands! It is wrong! You’ll ruin us all!”

Salpinx waved his finger at her condescendingly. “We can’t punish the offspring for something their parents did!”

“But you’ll only get more goblins coming in then! What else will you get when you reward bad behavior?” replied Ramzeus.

“Yesss....” interrupted Living Groanham who had shuffled out of his seat with the other Zombie lords. “More goblins make us a better land. More Diverse... better braaains....”

Ramzeus pulled his head away from Groanham’s grasping hands. “So when will we have allowed enough goblins in? When will we know that we’re Diverse enough?”

The zombie Lords stared at each other for a moment, nodded, and then groaned in unison. Of course, there was no answer: there would be no end to the invasion. Goblins and other inhumans would keep pouring in, crowding out, driving or even killing off the local population, leading to only one outcome: Human Genocide. Then ‘Diversity’ would be complete. Admitting it in front of all these humans wouldn’t be such a good idea though, so they threatened Ramzeus instead.

“Sounds like we just might have a HUMAN SUPREMACIST here!” said Twitch McCorpsal.

Laurissa turned to Salpinx. “Come on! You were supposed to save us! Goblins clamor to get into our lands and once they do, then they claim our lands for themselves! They already have their own lands- why can’t we have ours?”

Salpinx didn’t answer, but a strange woman standing next to him, small and vampiric-looking, whispered in his ear. She then turned and glared at Ramzeus and Laurissa, but also the zombie Lords. Gottschalk guessed that she must be one of the Demoncrats, since she hated everyone else.

Suddenly, others revealed themselves from Salpinx’s entourage too. These were the Patrons, leaders of the cultists that they had encountered in Caelum Mount (in Part XXI). They seemed to have a particular dislike for Ramzeus and Laurissa.

“By the great Ghul-Ghul,” began one, “In the name of Acceptance, I hereby declare that you are DEMON-ITIZED!”

The others waved their hands as they cast their fell spell. Laurissa and then Ramzeus immediately dropped to the ground, it was almost as if gags had formed about their mouths and bonds around their bodies, since they could no longer move or speak.

The Patrons smiled, the Demoncrat woman cheered, and the zombie Public Lords broke into applause again. This time though, one of Groanham’s hands fell off. The nurse had just welded McBrain’s jaw back on, so she began to work with that on the brazier now.

The hoplites advanced, shields lowered at the audience, and began to force them out. Gottschalk didn’t know what to do. In the confusion, he bumped into the dark-haired woman. She grabbed him by the arm and led him from the room. She began to speak, her voice pleasant, but foreign, though they both turned back towards the crowd.

Gorm had advanced on Salpinx’s entourage. One of his eyes sunk deep into his head while the other bulged greatly. His face turned bright red and saliva dripped copiously down his chin.

He didn’t look pleased.

His barbaric rage now at full force, he grabbed Salpinx’s helm and tossed it on the brazier.

Next week: The Hacks of Gorm, Part XXX!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Hacks of Gorm, Part XXVIII: Town Hall Horrors

Gottschalk searched the town center, though he was unsure how far he should go. On the one hand, he didn’t want the damn cultist to get away; on the other, he didn’t trust this place either.

It was Monjaksen, after all.

Laurissa Austral and Ramzeus soon realized what he was doing, though Gorm thought Gottschalk was still upset about Lights Out and tried to console him.

“Silly Gott-chalk: it happen...” Gorm held up his large fingers as he tried to count, before he finally gave up “...long time ago! You want talk about it?”

Ignoring the barbarian, the three had to decide whether to go in search of the cultist or to remain here. Who knows where he could have gone? Of course, splitting up might allow them to find him faster, but then would leave them each isolated as a result

After a few more minutes of quiet debate, the decision seemed to be made for them. A sound of voices began to come from inside the large building in front of them, the one they took to be the Town Hall. The sun had risen to high noon, though it strangely cast little light on this place, even though the clouds had cleared.

The windows of the Hall and of the other gothic buildings around them were dark, black as pitch in fact despite even the strange, mid-day light. A freezing wind then seemed to blow, though it brought no touch of breeze, only a quick reduction in temperature, an odd whistling-sound, and the fell odor of turpentine.

Sufficiently unnerved, the four ventured inside, weapons ready. The ‘VOTE MCBRAIN’ poster that they had noticed before seemed to stare at them now; its eyes looked almost like they were following them. Gorm, being a barbarian, pointed at it in challenge- one never knew when even pictures might attack! When the poster showed no sign of backing down, he dealt with it the only way he could: by hacking it with his great axe, tearing it asunder, and then beginning to chew it.

There were certainly worse ways to deal with what scared you.

Ramzeus and Laurissa grew increasingly disturbed by Gorm as he continued to quietly debate the poster during his breaks from mastication, even though it seemed to be just made of paper. At least it distracted them from the rest of this place.

Inside appeared Ancient- some sort of holdover from centuries before, back to when that society had failed. The ceiling, walls, and flooring all likely had to be redone since then, because the Ancients apparently didn’t make many of their things to last. Still, the sizing of the rooms and corridors, as well as even the direction of the windows was made by those who obviously had no concern for the angles of the sun or of the changing of the seasons.

At least that’s what they hoped: it was so cold in here and dark. Things seemed to keep moving out of the corner of their eyes. They could also hear the sound of the voices, louder now.

The four kept their wits about them though and finally, after a few more minutes of exploration, came upon a set of double doors. Strange, lime-green carpet covered the floor from one wall to another in a most unnatural way. The doors themselves too were Ancient, made of some flimsy form of wood that, unlike the rest of the Town Hall, had never been refinished or replaced and remained in all their corroded glory. There was something sickly and green about them too, perhaps a reflection of the carpet. At the center of each were etched the symbol of some great beast with large horns on its nose.

They could now tell that the voices were coming from inside. The doors stood before them. What horrors did they hold?

Before they could decide how to proceed, Gorm took the last quarter of the McBrain poster out of his mouth for a moment and thrust them open.

Inside were a large number of people on benches, perhaps around 50. Beyond were four strange men sitting on fancy chairs on a stage. Like the audience, they appeared human, but upon closer examination, something seemed very off about them. It was almost as if they were as desiccated, corroded, and macabre as the doors through which the party had come.

“And now, as Honored Public Lord McBrain has offered, we move to end the motion that would hold Captain Salpinx in Contempt for being a Maurian Agent- he seems to be coming around...”

The other strange men on stage nodded in agreement with the one who had spoken.

Another, who could be McBrain since he looked much like the one from the poster that Gorm had nearly finished chewing, responded, “Thank you, Speaker All Dyin. Now, if Master Twitch McCorpsal and Sir Living Groanham don’t have anything else to offer, I would also like to put forward the motion declaring Any and All Acts, or Even Attempts of Human Sovereignty, including Speech, Assembly, Association, Suggestion, Statue Protection, et al.,  to be the Absolute Evil!”

“Here! Here!” they said, though their voices almost sounded like groans now. “Human Sovereignty IS the Absolute Evil!”

“What about the wall, Public Lords?” shouted a member of the audience, a young woman with dark hair. “You promised to protect us from the invading goblins intent on rape, murder, and pillage!”

“And condemning the cultists!” added another, this one a young man with short hair and a blond beard. “They attacked my uncle in Caelum Mount, claiming he was an Amaranthinist! They even support those who hang children in effigy! Why haven’t you denounced them?”

“Friends.... friends!” groaned All Dyin, who had to pause briefly as McBrain’s jaw fell out onto the stage, allowing some rotten innards to escape. “We are a Community of Settlers, and it just wouldn’t do to keep other Settlers out, even if they are, as you say, ‘goblins intent on rape, murder, and pillage’. Is a wall really what you want? Will that help us get brai... I mean, er, help our shopkeeps or even our Great Lord, Geedeepee?”
It was now Twitch McCorpsal who spoke. “And the ‘cultists’ as you say aren’t really the problem, now are they? It’s the AMARANTHINISTS! As if humans should ever be allowed to advocate for themselves? Ha! That would be Hateful!”

Groanham and McBrain clapped their hands in agreement at that, but Groanham’s fell off; McBrain had only just reattached his jaw.

The dark-haired woman was standing now and spoke again. “But we ELECTED you to build the wall- to protect our borders! Why aren’t you DOING it?”

The blond-bearded man had arisen too. “And the cultists are BEATING those who voted for you, Public Lords! Why won’t you do anything about THAT?”

Laurissa and Ramzeus moved up to join the debate with the men on stage. It seemed that roughly half the crowd, generally the younger ones, were siding with the two speakers and the rest, those older, wanted to keep giving the decrepit men respect for some reason.

This situation was shaking out to be just what Ramzeus had been warning them of before, a true horror like those zombies on stage- Demoncracy: elected officials betraying the very ones who voted for them in order to destroy the very land that they were supposed to protect. Gottschalk looked for the exit and hoped that Gorm would follow.

He then turned back and realized, to his horror, that Gorm was approaching the stage too.

And he had just finished eating the McBrain poster.

Next week: The Hacks of Gorm, Part XXIX!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Hacks of Gorm, Part XXVII: Those Behind Cultist Pawns & Demoncracy

Morning grew late as the four traveled the bleak moors, clutching their cloaks tightly. Nevertheless, the chill wind did little to relieve the overcast sky.

Gottschalk’s mind wandered back to the outrageousness of last night’s attack. How did the cultists find them? He knew they hadn’t been followed to the house, perhaps they had used the fell Peek-a-boo? Many Demon Lords nowadays concealed their nefariousness behind seemingly harmless animals and childish symbology- colorful letters, birds, fruit, shapes, friendly faces- allowing them to bypass most protections, so it made sense. They were only too happy to demon-itize those who stood against them with a smile, or at least allow their cult followers to ruin lives or end them.

The others weren’t so concerned with the current state of demonic divination as with the change that had come over Gottschalk though. The man had slain two of the cultists in a rage so quickly, they barely had a chance to restrain him in order to save the remaining one. They needed to know what the cultist knew, to see if any others would be following. Unfortunately, the man refused to speak no matter how many times Gorm tried to force his mouth to move.
So Gottschalk approached the captive again, his miner’s pick still bloodstained from last night’s victims. His face remained cold despite the obvious threat from his weapon. “Are we being followed even now? TALK.”

The cultist still refused to speak. Gorm unslung his great axe to try and pry the man’s jaw open.

Laurissa intervened though, gently lowering both men’s weapons despite her own arm still being in a sling. “That’s not going to work. You there, cultist: would you like something to eat?” She pulled out some rations that she had found at the house last night.

“No, but the Great Glowing Spectral Rainbow in the Sky would certainly like to eat your Amaranthine Soul.”

Laurissa recoiled at the viciousness of the man’s statement; Gottschalk and Gorm raised their weapons again to strike.

It was now Ramzeus’s turn to intervene. “You know that you’re just a pawn, cultist.”

The man stared at him and spat, “I can’t wait for you Amaranthine scum to get your Social Justice Desserts. The Patrons will have a field day punishing you for violating my rights... brandishing weapons, threatening to use those weapons...”

The others ignored the cultists now- they knew that they were outside the reach of those corrupted town leaders here, or at least, they hoped that they were. They were more interested in what Ramzeus had said.

“What you mean... ‘pawn’?” asked Gorm.

“The cultists serve a purpose,” replied Ramzeus. “You saw it yourself with the fall of Caelum Mount and even Dinglesfuhr: it’s not just that they hypocritically preach ‘Tolerance’ and ‘Equality’ and then do the exact opposite. They serve other masters who benefit from the terrible pain and destruction they cause, not to mention the resulting tyranny they create, which in turn causes even more terrible pain and destruction.”

“So who is behind it then? Shopkeeps?” asked Laurissa.

Ramzeus shook his head as they walked on. “Many go along with the cultists, but they do so because their ultimate loyalty is to their coin. Some might be True Equalitarian Believers, but that’s not because they are shopkeeps.”

“Demons?” added Gottschalk. He didn’t understand what Ramzeus was getting at.

Ramzeus shook his head again. “There’s no doubt that they thrive on all the evil the cultists create, but there’s one mortal foe that is responsible for all that’s happened. Who else is behind the invasion of the West?”

Gorm’s mouth hung open as he waited for Ramzeus to finish. He slowly gestured to the captive cultist. Perhaps he was the one that Ramzeus meant?

Before he could answer though, they realized that they had come to some sort of town center. Yes, they had been engaged in discussion, but the place did seem to appear before them suddenly, as if out of nowhere. Such things weren’t unknown in Monjaksen.

The four immediately formed into a circle with their backs facing each other: zombie attacks also weren’t unknown in Monjaksen.

But it was still day though. They hoped that the proscription against undead, banning them from the light of the sun still applied in such an accursed place as this. The four waited a moment, muscles tensed, weapons ready to make sure.

None emerged yet from the strange, Gothic-style buildings that surrounded them though- nothing living or dead. The place seemed deserted.

The only sign of folk here was a poster of an elderly, short-haired smiling man upon the wall of what looked like it used to be the Town Hall. Strangely, the man’s eye and forehead were damaged. The words on it read: ‘VOTE MCBRAIN’.

Ramzeus took a moment to inspect it. “They must have still practiced Democracy here until fairly recently.”

Gorm scratched his mulleted head. “You not know that demons... are... crazy?”

At that, Ramzeus chuckled. “I do. No, Democracy is where the people voted for their leader.”

“I’ve heard of it,” replied Laurissa. “I remember my family saying that they used to have it back home in Chaosada and even Amercia too.”

“I imagine it didn’t work?” asked Gottschalk.

Ramzeus nodded. “At first it did, but then it was corrupted, used to destroy all tradition and meaning in people’s lives, while enriching the most crooked leaders. They would lie and cluck like chickens to keep their posts and please their dark masters. Those entrusted with protecting their country betrayed their own people by enslaving and even trying to replace them. It turned to Demoncracy.”

Gorm snapped his fingers: he thought that’s what Ramzeus originally said!

“How did it get corrupted?” asked Gottschalk.

“By the same group that is causing the invasion of the West today. Luckily, their plans for a fully decadent, deracinated society were stopped before then- when the Ancients’ society collapsed, when the Lights went Out.”

At that, a chill ran down their spines. The sense then arose that they were being watched by one of the dark windows above. Their minds went wild with all the terrible tales they had heard about Monjaksen.

Gottschalk looked around suddenly then and slapped his leg in frustration. No one had been watching the cultist; he had escaped.

Next week: The Hacks of Gorm, Part XXVIII!