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"Take hold of this rope," said the first soldier, "and climb
out from your pit, slut. Your presence is requested in another far deeper hell hole."
Grignr slipped his right hand to his thigh, concealing a
small opaque object beneath the folds of the g-string wrapped
about his waist. Brine wells swelled in Grignr's cold, jade
squinting eyes, which grown accustomed to the gloom of the
stygian pools of ebony engulfing him, were bedazzled and blinded
by flickerering radiance cast forth by the second soldiers's
Tightly gripped in the second soldier's right hand, opposite
the intermittent torch, was a large double edged axe, a long
leather wound oaken handled transfixing the center of the
weapon's iron head. Adorning the torso's of both of the sentries
were thin yet sturdy hauberks, the breatplates of which were
woven of tightly hemmed twines of reinforced silver braiding.
Cupping the soldiers' feet were thick leather sandals, wound
about their shins to two inches below their knees. Wrapped about
their waists were wide satin girdles, with slender bladed
poniards dangling loosely from them, the hilts of which featured
scarlet encrusted gems. Resting upon the manes of their heads,
and reaching midway to their brows were smooth copper morions.
Spiraling the lower portion of the helmet were short, up-curved
silver spikes, while a golden hump spired from the top of each
basinet. Beneath their chins, wound around their necks, and
draping their clad shoulders dangled regal purple satin cloaks,
which flowed midway to the soldiers feet.
hand over hand, feet braced against the dank walls of the
enclosure, huge Grignr ascended from the moldering dephs of the
forlorn abyss. His swelled limbs, stiff due to the boredom of a
timeless inactivity, compounded by the musty atmosture and jagged
granite protuberan against his body, craved for action. The
opportunity now presenting itself served the purpose of oiling
his rusty joints, and honing his dulled senses.
He braced himself, facing the second soldier. The sentry's
stature was was wildly exaggerated in the glare of the flickering
cresset cuppex in his right fist. His eyes were wide open in a
slightly slanted owlish glaze, enhanced in their sinister
intensity by the hawk-bill curve of his nose andpale yellow pique
of his cheeks.
"Place your hands behind your back," said the second soldier
as he raised his ax over his right shoulder blade and cast it a
wavering glance. "We must bind your wrists to parry any attempts
at escape. Be sure to make the knot a stout one, Broig, we
wouldn't want our guest to take leave of our guidance."
Broig grasped Grignr's left wrist and reached for the
barbarians's right wrist. Grignr wrenched his right arm free and
swilveled to face Broig, reach- beneath his loin cloth with his
right hand. The sentry grappled at his girdle for the sheathed
dagger, but recoiled short of his intentions as Grignr's right
arm swept to his gorge. The soldier went limp, his bobbing eyes
rolling beneath fluttering eyelids, a deep welt across his
spouting gullet. Without lingering to observe the result of his
efforts, Grignr dropped to his knees. The second soldier's axe
cleft over Grignr's head in a blze of silvered ferocity, severing
several scarlet locks from his scalp. Coming to rest in his
fellow's stomach, the iron head crashed through mail and flesh
with splintering force, spilling a pool of crimsoned entrails
over the granite paving.
Before the sentry could wrench his axe free from his
comrade's carcass, he found Grignr's massive hands clasped about
his throat, choking the life from his clamped lungs. With a
zealous grunt, the Ecordian flexed his tightly corded biceps,
forcing the grim faced soldier to one knee. The sentry plunged
his right fist into Grignr's face, digging his grimy nails into
the barbarians flesh. Ejaculating a curse through rasping teeth,
grignr surged the bulk of his weight foreard, bowling the
beseiged soldier over upon his back. The sentry's arms collapsed
to his thigh, shuddering convulsively; his bulging eyes staring
blindly from a bloated ,cherry red face.
Rising to his feet, Grignr shook the bllod from his eyes,
ruffling his surly red mane as a brush fire swaying to the
nightime breeze. Stooping over the spr sprawled corpse of the
first soldier, Grignr retrieved a small white object from a pool
of congealing gore. Snorting a gusty billow of mirth, he once
more concealed th e tiny object beneath his loin cloth; the
tediously honed pelvis bone of the broken rodent. Returning his
attention toward the second soldier, Grignr turned to the task of
attiring his limbs. To move about freely through the dim
recesses of the castle would require the grotesque garb of its soldiery.
Utilizing the silence and stealth aquired in the untamed
climbs of his childhood, Grignr slink through twisting corridors,
and winding stairways, lighting his way with the confisticated
torch of his dispatched guardian. Knowing where his steps were
leading to, Grignr meandered aimlessly in search of an exit from
the chateau's dim confines. The wild blood coarsing through his
veins yearned for the undefiled freedom of the livid wilderness
Coming upon a fork in the passage he treaked, voices
accompanied by clinking footfalls discerned to his sensitive ears
from the left corridor. Wishing to avoid contact, Grignr veered
to the right passageway. If aquested as to the purpose of his
presence, his barbarous accent would reveal his identity, being
that his attire was not that of the castle's mercenary troops.
In grim silence Grignr treaded down the dingily lit
corridor; a stalking panther creeping warily along on padded
feet. After an interminable period of wandering through the dull
corridors; no gaps to break the monotony of the cold gray walls,
Grignr espied a small winding stairway. Descending the flight of
arced granite slabs to their posterior, Grignr was confronted by
a short haalway leading to a tall arched wooden doorway.
Halting before the teeming portal portal, Grignr restes his
shaggy head sideways against the barrier. Detecting no sounds
from within, he grasped the looped metel handle of the door; his
arms surging with a tremendous effort of bulging muscles, yet the
door would not budge. Retrieving his ax from where he had
sheathed it beneath his girdle, he hefted it in his mighty hands
with an apiesed grunt, and wedging one of its blackened edges
into the crack between the portal and its iron rimed sill.
Bracing his sandaled right foot against the rougjly hewn wall,
teeth tightly clenched, Grignr appilevered the oaken haft,
employing it as a lever whereby to pry open the barrier. The
leather wound hilt bending to its utmost limits of endurance, the
massive portal swung open with a grating of snapped latch and
rusty iron hinges.
Glancing about the dust swirled room in the gloomily dancing
glare of his flickering cresset, Grignr eyed evidences of the
enclosure being nothing more than a forgotten storeroom.
Miscellaneous articles required for the maintainance of a castle
were piled in disorganized heaps at infrequent intervals toward
the wall opposite the barbarian's piercing stare. Utilizing
long, bounding strides, Grignr paced his way over to the mounds
of supplies to discover if any articles of value were contained
within their midst.
Detecting a faint clinking sound, Grignr sprawed to his left
side with the speed of a striking cobra, landing harshly upon his
back; torch and axe loudly clattering to the floor in a morass of
sparks and flame. A elmwoven board leaped from collapsed
flooring, clashing against the jagged flooring and spewing a
shower of orange and yellow sparks over Grignr's startled face.
Rising uneasily to his feet, the half stunned Ecordian glared
down at the grusome arm of death he had unwittingly sprung.
If not for his keen auditory organs and lighting steeled
reflexes, Grignr would have been groping through the shadowed
hell-pits of the Grim Reaper. He had unknowingly stumbled upon
an ancient, long forgotton booby trap; a mistake which would have
stunted the perusal of longevity of one less agile. A mechanism,
similar in type to that of a minature catapult was concealed
beneath two collapsable sections of granite flooring. The arm of
the device was four feet long, boasting razor like cleats at
regular intervals along its face with which it was to skewer the
luckless body of its would be victim. Grignr had stepped upon a
concealed catch which relaesed a small metal latch beneath the
two granite sections, causing them to fall inward, and thereby
loose the spiked arm of death they precariously held in.
Partially out of curiosity and partially out of an
inordinate fear of becoming a pincushion for a possible second
trap, Grignr plunged his torch into the exposed gap in the floor.
The floor of a second chamber stood out seven feet below the
glare. Tossing his torch through the aperature, Grignr grasped
the side of an adjoining tile, dropping down.
Glancing about the room, Grignr discovered that he had
decended into the palace's mausoleum. Rectangular stone crypts
cluttered the floor at evenly placed intervals. The tops of the
enclosures were plated with thick layers of virgin gold, while
the sides were plated with white ivory; at one time sparkling,
but now grown dingy through the passage of the rays of
allencompassing mother time. Featured at the head of each
sarcophagus in tarnished silver was an expugnisively carved
likeness of its rotting inhabitant.
A dingy atmosphere pervaded the air of the chamber; which
sealed in the enclosure for an unknown period had grown thick and
stale. Intermingling with the curdled currents was the repugnant
stench of slowly moldering flesh, creeping ever slowly but surely
through minute cracks in the numerous vaults. Due to the
embalming of the bodies, their flesh decayed at a much slower
rate than is normal, yet the nauseous oder was none the less
Towering over Grignr's head was the trap he released. The
mechanism of the miniaturized catapolt was cluttered with mildew
and cobwebs. Notwithstanding these relics of antiquity, its
efficiency remained unimpinged. To the right of the trap wound a
short stairway through a recess in the ceiling; a concealed
entrance leading to the mausoleum for which the catapult had
obviously been erected as a silent, relentless guardian.
Climbing up the side of the device, Grignr set to the task
of resetting its mechanism. In the e event that a search was
organized, it would prove well to leave no evidence of his
presence open to wandering eyes. Besides, it might even serve to
dwindle the size of an opposing force.
Descending from his perch, Grignr was startled by a faintly muffled scream of horrified desperation. His hair prickled
yawkishly in disorganized clumps along his scalp. As a cold
danced along the length of his spinal cord. No moral/mortal
barrier, human or otherwise, was capable of arousing the numbing
sensation of fear inside of Grignr's smoldering soul. However,
he was overwrought by the forces of the barbarians' instinctive fear of the supernatural. His mighty thews had always served to
adequately conquer any tangible foe., but the intangible was
something distant and terrible. Dim horrifying tales passed by
word of mouth over glimmering camp fires and skins of wine had
more than once served the purpose of chilling the marrowed core
of his sturdy limbed bones.
Yet, the scream contained a strangely human quality, unlike
that which Grignr imagined would come from the lungs of a demon
or spirit, making Grignr take short nervous strides advancing to
the sarcophagus from which the sound was issuing. Clenching his
teeth in an attempt to steel his jangled nerves, Grignr slid the
engraved slab from the vault with a sharp rasp of grinding stone.
Another long drawn cry of terror infested anguish met the
barbarian, scoring like the shrill piping of a demented banshee;
piercing the inner fibres of his superstitious brain with
primitive dread dread and awe.
Stooping over to espy the tomb's contents, the glittering
Ecordians nostrills were singed by the scorching aroma of a
moldering corpse, long shut up and fermenting; the same putrid
scent which permeated the entire chamber, though multiplied to a
much more concentrated dosage. The shriveled, leathery packet of
crumbling bones and dried flacking flesh offered no resistance,
but remained in a fixed position of perpetual vigilance, watching
over its dim abode from hollow gaping sockets.
The tortured crys were not coming from the tomb but from
some hidden depth below! Pulling the reaking corpse from its
resting place, Grignr tossed it to the floor in a broken, mangled
heap. Upon one side of the crypt's bottom was attached a series of tiny hinges while running parallel along the opposite side of a convex railing like protruberance; laid so as to appear as a
part of the interior surface of the sarcophagus.
Raising the slab upon its bronze hinges, long removed from
the gaze of human eyes, Grignr percieved a scene which caused his blood to smolder not unlike bubbling, molten lava. Directly
below him a whimpering female lay stretched upon a smooth
surfaced marble altar. A pack of grasy faced shamen clustered
around her in a tight circular formation. Crouched over the girl
was a tall, potbellied priest; his face dominated by a
disgusting, open mouthed grimace of sadistic glee. Suspended
from the acolyte's clenched right hand was a carven oval faced
mallet, which he waved menacingly over the girl's shadowed face;
an incoherent gibberish flowing from his grinning, thick lipped
In the face of the amorphos, broad breated female, stretched out aluringly before his gaping eyes; the universal whim of
nature filing a plea of despair inside of his white hot soul;
Grignr acted in the only manner he could perceive. Giving vent
to a hoarse, throat rending battle cry, Grignr plunged into the
midst of the startled shamen; torch simmering in his left hand
andax twirling in his right hand.
A gaunt skull faced priest standing at the far side of the
altar clutched desperately at his throat, coughing furiously in
an attempt to catch his breath. Lurching helplessly to and fro,
the acolyte pitched headlong against the gleaming base of a
massive jade idol. Writhing agonizedly against the hideous
image, foam flecking his chalk white lips, the priest struggled
helplessly - - - the victim of an epileptic siezure.
Startled by the barbarians stunning appearance, the chronic
fit of their fellow, and the fear that Grignr might be the
avantgarde of a conquering force dedicated to the cause of
destroying their degenerated cult, the saman momentarily lost
their composure. Giving vent to heedless pandemonium, the
priests fell easy prey to Grignr's sweeping arc of crimsoned
death and maiming distruction.
The acolyte performing the sacrifice took a vicious blow to
the stomach; hands clutching vitals and severed spinal cord as he
sprawled over the altar. The disor anized priests lurched and
staggered with split skulls, dismembered limbs, and spewing
entrails before the enraged Ecordian's relentless onslaught. The
howles of the maimed and dying reverberated against the walls of
the tiny chamber; a chorus of hell frought despair; as the
granite floor ran red with blood. The entire chamber was
encompassed in the heat of raw savage butchery as Grignr
luxuriated in the grips of a primitive, beastly blood lust.
Presently all went silenet save for the ebbing groans of the
sinking shaman and Grignr's heaving breath accompanied by several
gusty curses. The well had run dry. No more lambs remained for
The rampaging stead of death having taken of Grignr for the
moment, left the barbarian free to the exploitation of his other
perusials. Towering over his head was the misshaped image of the
cult's hideous diety - - - Argon. The fantastic size of the idol
in consideration of its being of pure jade was enough to cause
the senses of any man to stagger and reel, yet thus was not the
case for the behemoth. he had paid only casual notice to this
incredible fact, while riviting the whole of his attention upon
the jewel protruding from the idol's sole socket; its masterfully
cut faucets emitting blinding rays of hypnotising beauty. After
all, a man cannot slink from a heavily guarded palace while
burdened down by the intense bulk of a squatting statue,
providing of course that the idol can even be hefted, which in
fact was beyond the reaches of Grignr's coarsing stamina. On the
other hand, the jewel, gigantic as it was, would not present a
hinderence of any mean concern.
"Help me ... please ... I can make it well worth your
while," pleaded a soft, anguish strewn voice wafting over
Grignr's shoulders as he plucked the dull red emerald from its
roots. Turning, Grignr faced the female that had lured him into
this blood bath, but whom had become all but forgotten in the
heat of the battle.
"You"; ejaculated the Ecordian in a pleased tone. "I though
that I had seen the last of you at the tavern, but verilly I was
mistaken." Grignr advanced into the grips of the female's
entrancing stare, severing the golden chains that held her
captive upon the altars highly polished face of ornamental
As Grignr lifted the girl from the altar, her arms wound
dexterously about his neck; soft and smooth against his harsh
exterior. "Art thou pleased that we have chanced to meet once again?" Grignr merely voiced an sighed grunt, returning the
damsels embrace while he smothered her trim, delicate lips
between the coarsing protrusions of his reeking maw.
"Let us take leave of this retched chamber." Stated Grignr
as he placed the female upon her feet. She swooned a moment,
causing Grignr to giver her support then regained her stance.
"Art thou able to find your way through the accursed passages of
this castle? Mrifk! Every one of the corridors of this damned
place are identical."
"Aye; I was at one time a slave of prince Agaphim. His
clammy touch sent a sour swill through my belly, but my efforts
reaped a harvest. I gained the pig's liking whereby he allowed
me the freedom of the palace. It was through this means that I
eventually managed escape at the western gate. His trust found
him with a dagger thrust his ribs," the wench stated
"What were you doing at the tavern whence I discovered you?"
asked Grignr as he lifted the female through the opening into the
"I had sought to lay low from the palace's guards as they
conducted their search for me. The tavern was seldom frequented
by the palace guards and my identity was unknown to the common
soldiers. It was through the disturbance that you caused that
the palace guards were attracted to the tavern. I was dragged
away shortly after you were escorted to the palace."
"What are you called by female?"
"Carthena, daughter of Minkardos, Duke of Barwego, whose
lands border along the northwestern fringes of Gorzom. I was
paid as homage to Agaphim upon his thirty-eighth year," husked
"And I am called a barbarian!" Grunted Grignr in a disgusted
"Aye! The ways of our civilization are in many ways warped and distorted, but what is your calling," she queried, bustily?
"Grignr of Ecordia."
"Ah, I have heard vaguely of Ecordia. It is the hill
country to the far east of the Noregolean Empire. I have also
heard Agaphim curse your land more than once when his troops were
routed in the unaccustomed mountains and gorges." Sayeth she.
"Aye. My people are not tarnished by petty luxuries and
baubles. They remain fierce and unconquerable in their native
climes." After reaching the hidden panel at the head of the
stairway, Grignr was at a loss in regard to its operation. His
fiercest heaves were as pebbles against burnished armour!
Carthena depressed a small symbol included within the elaborate
design upon the panel whereopen it slowly slid into a cleft in
the wall. "How did you come to be the victim of those crazed
shamen?" Quested Grignr as he escorted Carthena through the piles
of rummage on the left side of the trap.
"By Agaphim's orders I was thrust into a secluded cell to
await his passing of sentence. By some means, the Priests of
Argon acquired a set of keys to the cell. They slew the guard
placed over me and abducted me to the chamber in which you
chanced to come upon the scozsctic sacrifice. Their hell-spawned cult demands a sacrifice once every three moons upon its full journey through the heavens. They were startled by your
unannounced appearance through the fear that you had been sent by
Agaphim. The prince would surely have submitted them to the most
ghastly of tortures if he had ever discovered their
unfaithfulness to Sargon, his bastard diety. Many of the
partakers of the ritual were high nobles and high trustees of the
inner palace; Agaphim's pittiless wrath would have been
"They have no more to fear of Agaphim now!" Bellowed Grignr
in a deep mirthful tome; a gleeful smirk upon his face. "I have
seen that they were delivered from his vengence."
Engrossed by Carthena's graceful stride and conversation
Grignr failed to take note of the footfalls rapidly approaching
behind him. As he swung aside the arched portal linking the
chamber with the corridors beyond, a maddened, blood lusting
screech reverberated from his ear drums. Seemingly utilizing the
speed of thought, Grignr swiveled to face his unknown foe. With
gaping eyes and widened jaws, Grignr raised his axe above his
surly mein; but he was too late.
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