Grundhu the Derhii

Cardinal_Malik's page

RPG Superstar 7 Season Star Voter. Organized Play Member. 298 posts (546 including aliases). 11 reviews. 1 list. 1 wishlist. 6 Organized Play characters. 1 alias.


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Wayward Rogues Publishing looking for a Cartographer for a campaign world map.
Project size: Full color map with roughly 5 continents. .PSD format.
Pay Rate: 100.00-150.00 USD. Half of payment to start, the rest on final acceptance, paid immediately to artist's paypal.
Additional details: I am looking for a professional cartographer to redraw our world map for our campaign setting. After viewing samples of work, I will email you our amateur map (made by me) with additional details (mtns, rivers, islands, etc)to include.
Respond by: Apr 30, 2015

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Thanks again for the help everyone. I went with Le Petite Mort's suggested build and I am happy to say that I survived all 4 game sessions I played in.

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Hi there, I'm not new to Pathfinder or its system, but I've never played a society game before. I want to play something easy, so an agent for Taldor based on James Bond seems like an seem less fit. Anyone help with a build? I'd lie to try this character out at Gamestorm happening in Portland next weekend.

Thanks in advance Pathfinders :)

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Porphyra is a great setting. Make sure you get some ogres in there. I love ogres :)

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owenstreetpress wrote:
Cardinal_Malik wrote:

Its worked for the 20 submissions I've received so far ;)

Am I correct in assuming that the "www" is not part of the email? Also, since you mentioned getting a bunch of submissions, should I bother sending anything in at this time? If so, are you looking for pitches, or simply an introduction and expression of interest?

yeah, the www. isn't in the address. Shows how internet savvy I am.

I have received a bunch of submissions and some are much better than others. I welcome more.

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Its worked for the 20 submissions I've received so far ;)

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gmail everyone. sorry about that error. I have been quite ill this past week or I would have caught that sooner.

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Wayward Rogues Publishing looking for writers for realm and kingdom creation.
Project Length: 1500 words.
Pay Rate: .01 cent/ edited word. Pay on acceptance.
Additional details: I am looking for 5 additional human cultures and realms to fit into our campaign setting. Ideally, realms should be able to "stand alone" without setting background. Human cultures have bronze age tech.
Respond by: Mar 28, 2015

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I've only played PFS once and am looking forward to playing the card game...are there chances that coming down for my first con, I wont actually get to play?

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I hate working so hard with writers groups AND STILL NOT getting in. Oh well. Congrats to everyone who did get in. You worked harder :) Looking forward to a spooky issue.

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Wayward Rogues Publishing looking for artists for characters/portraits.
Project Length: 1-4 characters, 1-2 portraits
Pay Rate: 45-70 USD per character piece. 25-40 USD for portraits.
Additional details: Typical adventuring party; warrior, mage, rogue, priest.
Respond by: Feb 28, 2015

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Submitting a thrice edited story as I post this thanks to the good folks over at

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Due to an underwhelming response has extended the contest period until September 30th.

Please visit the link below for details

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Its almost deadline for the contest! Get your stories in!

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just noticed its an old thread...

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Hi there! Great work on this thread.

Any fan artists interested in coloring something for me? I drew this a while back and had asked some wayfinder artists if maybe they'd rock some photoshop color to it.

I envision the dwarf with red hair, and I'm not sure if the center barbarian is a shaonti or mwangi...colorists choice.

Thanks in advance for any help here :)

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Time is running out!

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We've gotten some great entries so far, let's keep it up!

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Time is running out authors :) Lets get those stories in!

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on the website it stated 5000 words, here it was 3000-5000. If it falls between there she should be fine. plus, its early in the contest process. Join the forums at There is a password protected forum located there specifically to help authors hone their contest entry.

As for any lower word count rules in various places...those might be for previous years contests, which clearly state which year they were for. Any other authors who may be unclear on this, please refer to the 2012 rules.

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I prefer it to be 5000 words but I made a concession to allow stories to be a minimum of 3000 at James Sutter's request.

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the theme is horror, anywhere in Golarion

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If you have ever picked up a copy of Pathfinder Chronicler Anthology I at PaizoCon or downloaded a copy through the store, this is how those authors get published in there.

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Paizofans and are pleased to announce our third annual Pathfinder Fiction contest!

Eligibility: No entry fee [or purchase] is required, and all rights in the story remain the property of the author. The Contest is open only to those who have not been professionally published. Professional fiction publication (a story, not an adventure or an RPG product) is deemed to be at least 1 cent per word, from Paizo or another major publisher. Entries must be unpublished and may not have won any prize or award in the past. Cannot be a judge or related to a judge through family, real life friend or affiliate. Online pals are ok. You are encouraged to join Pathfinder Chronicler Forums and work with other contestants on your entries! You must be the legal age of 18 to participate. If not, one of your parents or legal guardians must submit a signed, written statement that they have read, understood and agree to these contest rules with your entry, and that such agreement constitutes acceptance of these Contest Rules on behalf of you and themselves. If you have a question, contact us at

Contest Period: Starting July 27th, 12:00AM, Pacific Time, Pathfinder Chronicler will be accepting short story submissions for our Pathfinder Fiction Contest 2012. Short Stories will be 3000-5000 words which must be turned in by August 30th, 11:59pm Pacific Time. Five stories will be chosen to go to Paizo’s Fiction Editor, James Sutter. The winner will be announced September 15th. The top 10 stories chosen by the judges will also be put in the upcoming Pathfinder Chronicler Anthology Voulme IV. Entries will be disqualified if they fail to follow our strict Contest Submission Instructions.

Entry in the Contest: You can enter the contest by submitting (1 and only 1) short story based on Paizo’s Pathfinder Campaign Setting, set in the world of Golarion. The theme is horror. Remember to keep it tasteful. Works that are splatter-gore or filled with gratuitous sexual themes will be disqualified. You may use all sources available in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting line. If you have no access to Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting or material, you may access Pathfinder Wiki for online information. Use the following Contest Submission Instructions.

Email entries to You are limited to (1) entry into the contest.

Winner Selection: panel will judge eligible entries equally on the basis of: sustained writing ability (25%), topic creativity (25%), originality (25%), and overall excellence (25%).

Prize: The winning entry will be allotted a special honor in Pathfinder Chronicler Anthology Vol. IV. Pathfinder Chronicler will also award a 100-dollar Paizo Gift Certificate. Finalist’s stories will also be featured permanently on Pathfinder Chronicler as well. Two runner-ups will receive $50 Paizo Gift Certificates.

Original Work of Authorship: You hereby warrant and represent that (a) you own all rights to all Entry Materials submitted by you; and (b) all such Entry Materials are original works of authorship on your part and have not been copied, in whole or in part, from any other work and do not violate, misappropriate or infringe any copyright, trademark or other proprietary right of any other person or entity. If it is discovered that the above is not the case, your piece will be immediately disqualified. We invite you to participate in our Pathfinder Chronicler Forums to improve your work with fellow contestants. You may not take other’s ideas and incorporate them into your stories nor may you plagiarize anything that your read on the website. Participation in the forums is completely voluntary but encouraged. It is perfectly fine for another contestant to suggest an idea that another writer may use (as long as it is with consent of both parties). Contact Robert Gresham or join the forums and message him privately. You must register and join the Pathfinder Chronicler group (within the forums) to post there. Once registered and in the Pathfinder Chronicler group you may acquire the password to the Fiction Contest 2012 Forums where you may edit each other’s work where no one can see it.

General Release: This contest is void where prohibited by law. By entering the Contest, you release Pathfinder Chronicler, Paizo, participating sponsors, companies, subsidiaries, affiliates, directors, officers, employees and agencies (collectively, the “Released Parties”) from any liability whatsoever, and waive any and all causes of action, related to any claims, costs, injuries, losses, or damages of any kind arising out of or in connection with the Contest or delivery, misdelivery, acceptance, possession, use of or inability to use any prize (including, without limitation, claims, costs, injuries, losses and damages related to personal injuries, death, damage to or destruction of property, rights of publicity or privacy, defamation or portrayal in a false light, whether intentional or unintentional), whether under a theory of contract, tort (including negligence), warranty or other theory, to the extent permitted by law.

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does plain ol dispel magic work? One player says it will, another says it wont

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1 person marked this as FAQ candidate.

A PC was the victim of this foul curse last weekend and an argument erupted as to how it would/could be dispelled. I thought I'd turn to the GM's out there for assistance.

How should this be handled?

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so permanancy is out...

with no air and antilife shell on, would the party teleport into rock?

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I have a dm question here that needs urgent advice...

My undead villain has constructed his treasure chamber deep within a mountain.

Using Magic and mundane methods, the villain has sealed the chamber so that it is inaccessible without magical means, ie dimension door and teleport. The room is small, 10x10 and spherical.

The villain placed a living guardian in the room to breathe all of the remaining oxygen and die. He then returned and reanimated the humanoid into some sort of cr 13-14 undead (any advice here is good, but not really my question)

What my question is:

if the guardian is some sort of druid or oracle, she might have antilife shell cast on herself with the aid of the villains permanency spell. If the party dimension door's or teleport's into this chamber, what will happen?

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Sent! Wish me luck!

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Looking forward to this one.

Thanks James for Judging our Pathfinder Chronicler fiction contest! This book should have been part of our awards...

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Next years contest and anthology will be equally exciting. We at have set a high standard for what we produce in print and we will continue that trend.

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I decided that Vordekai didn't return after dimension dooring to area W19. His potential to be a reoccurring villain is too juicy to give up.

Instead, he dimension doors to a cavern he had stone shaped inside the Tors mountains, over 10000 years ago. (it's well within range of the spell) This was the place he had retreated to when needed back when he was a 20th level wizrobe. There he has a back up library that is under a stasis spell so it doesn't rot to dust. Vordekai remains here (with his phylactery)and studies until he is 11th level and can re enter his Lich stone. Then he leaves the phylactery in this inaccessible location, and teleports back to the occulus chamber in area w25 (if the location still remains.) He then goes about creating undead until he has a sizable defense force before taking his revenge on the party and retrieving his Occulus of Abbadon.

This could well be years later and deep into events of AP#34 or even AP#35.

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ANebulousMistress wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
In games I run... eating an intelligent creature is chaotic, but not evil. KILLING an intelligent creature to eat it starts to feel evil, though.


Legends for Rakshasa emphasize, among their eerily beautiful nature and inherent nobility, their penchant for hunting and eating human flesh. And yet, we are lawful outsiders. Native outsiders to be sure, evil to the core of course, but lawful. I can't be running around committing chaotic acts, it's against what I am. But I can't not eat people, how am I supposed to keep those unruly slaves in line if I can't eat one of them to set an example?


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Was it hard to accept the airships in Ultimate Combat given your previous stated dislike of them?

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Don't forget that we editors at the Chronicler can help with these submissions as well. Starting with Wayfinder #7, will be handling all fiction submissions for Wayfinder, so it's a good idea to jump aboard :)

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BOO Ya Pathfinder Chronicler!

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Dorgar wrote:
Wow! Pretty disappointing to see that my story didn't appear in the anthology since I was one of the judges picks for honorable mention last year with Nahdep's Journey. You can really imagine my surprise when I went to the site and saw that my story was gone (It can still be found on the site, but no longer in connection to the 2010 contest) as well as my honorable mention in last years contest. I cannot express my disappointment in this revisionist bit of editing on the site's part. I guess I won't be sending that entry to this years contest after all.

The Anthology was a "Best of" work, not a "best of the contest" work. Stories that were selected were selected for a reason. You only cheat yourself by not entering this year.

If you work hard WITH the editors and join the community you will improve your story from a "honorable mention" to an actual placing story.

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Reta's gear is seriously messed up-a halfling corset and a humans wedding veil? So awesome! Like a true goblin I had reta grapple a dog instead of knifing it when all the players were in trouble. Then I just rode the dog for a round before scoring a crit on it and dropping it. Later the group strapped a sky rocket to her back and she lept out of a tree trying to fly with it lit. Goblin fireworks!

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Iz gunna find dem firewerks for da clan!


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At Paizo Con did you pick up a Pathfinder Chronicler Anthology book and read the story "Shattered Dreams" inspired by your Classic horror revisited entry?

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Don't forget to check out the Pathfinder fiction over at for even more pathfinder fiction!

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I personally hate "rich Parents" as a trait. I NEVER have a PC not take it in my game. Its too powerful.

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Hi there Tim.

I submitted a piece to Liz before the open call was up. She informed she forwarded it to you. It is a "Tales from the Front" article that comes in just under 3000 words. I have no problem turning this into a two-part tale for #5 and #6 if this works better for you.

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ewan cummins 325 wrote:

Here's a simple rundown of my position on the legality of our involvment in the war in Libya:

I reject the argument that the UN Charter can supersede or circumvent Congressional war powers. The crucial words in the Supremacy Clause as regards treaties are 'made in pursuance thereof.' A treaty or part of a treaty that flatly contradicts the Constitution is not part of the supreme law of the land. Since according to the Constitution only Congress has the power to declare war, it does not stand to reason that a reading of the UN Charter treaty which would take away or override that power can be a valid reading. The UN certainly may request that we go to war, at which point the President must go to Congress and ask for the war. He should explain his reasons. A free debate may occur. Then they vote. If we decide not to go to war, and the UN feels that we have not fulfilled our treaty obligations, they may boot us. They cannot compel us to fight in their name.

As for other actions of dubious (at best) constitutionality, I would point to certain parts of the so-called 'war on Drugs.' Contrast it with Prohibition. There are similarities- but also a crucial legal difference.

I see nothing in the Constitution that allows the federal government to regulate what private citizens may inhale or ingest. The feds do have a legitimate power to regulate international and interstate commerce, That clearly doesn't apply to commerce that doesn't cross state or national borders. According to the 10th Amendment ('the whole theory of our Constitution' as Jefferson put it)any powers not delegated to the United States (meaning the federal government) are reserved to the states or to the people. Where is the broad power to regulate drugs? I don't see it anyplace.

Prohibition required an amendment, the 18th! It was very plain to lawmakers in 1919 that no 'drug' power existed, so the only way to legally prohibit alcohol was to grant the federal gov't such a power by amending the constitution. Prohibition was also ended by an...

Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution gives the president the power to wage war or send troops into battle. This has been typically used to justify conducting war without a formal congressional declaration. However, it was the framers original intent to give the sole power to declare war to congress which is why it is explicitly stated in Article I, Section 8. However, congress passed the War Powers Act which gives the President 90 days after troops have been sent into battle in order to obtain a formal declaration of war. While this seems like a compromise, the truth is that if a declaration of War is never obtained, the burden lies with congress to use the one tool it has at its disposal to stop the war, which is its ability to cut off funding. Unfortunately, that can be political suicide, and it would be easy for the opposition to use those phrases we see all to often such as that they "don't support the troops" and whatnot. Voting for or against a declaration of war can have vast consequences, which is probably why congress hasn't manned up to formally declare war since WW2. Because of that, the President has a relatively unlimited capacity to declare and wage war. Putting that much power into one person's hands was not the founders original intent, which is why that power was supposed to be used by a deliberative body so that these decisions could not be entered into lightly.

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Right on! I'm very excited to hear that there will be a physical copy!

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My guess is:

This project is dead.

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Shattered Dreams

Martin Theron had been out of work for nearly a year. A simple construction laborer, he was injured during the building of the new glassworks near Augustina’s Market Bridge, when a large windowpane broke free and crashed to the ground. The exploding glass sent shards all over the work site and many of the workers suffered minor injures. Martin however, had been severely hurt. Most of the toes on both feet were severed along with some important tendons in his left foot.

Healing had been difficult and had taken longer than expected. The loss of work couldn’t have come at a worse time. Martin and his wife had celebrated the birth of their first child, Jan, only ten months before and had spent most of their savings preparing for his arrival; the clerics at the temple of Abadar took the rest. Unfortunately, the enormous cost did not cover the severe infection Martin had developed in his left foot and it took several months for it to finally clear up.

For the rest of the year Martin struggled to find work, but the Builders guild blocked him at every turn because of unpaid dues. The situation forced Martin and his family into near poverty. His wife, Ingrid, helped out the best she could by selling black cherry pies and mending clothes. Still it was not enough to get by. They were forced to sell off many of their possessions, including a hand carved basinet purchased for Jan. There were times they went for days without eating.

Finally after nearly a year of saving and scrimping, Martin had enough gold to pay off his guild dues and was swiftly put to work.
The morning of his first day he was so eager to work he arrived at the site just before dawn, tools in hand. The guild had sent him to help with the renovation of Rollo Tincture’s Tavern, The New Andoran Rose.

The dwarven owner was adding a room to his wine cellar and needed additional hands to complete the task quickly.

The tavern was a one-story affair with an open dining area, a long oak and stone bar, behind which were several oak barrels filled with various dark and darker dwarven beers. Besides the dwarf Rollo and his wife, there was Agna, the serving girl, and a lanky young man named Barney, who played violin during the dinner meals. Martin had spent many nights before his accident drinking away his sorrows at Tincture’s tavern.

As Martin arrived he saw Rollo outside, sweeping the walkway in front of the tavern with a straw broom. The dwarf watched Martin as he approached, nodding in approval as he saw the man’s tools.

“Aye, good. Another worker,” Rollo said in his thick dwarven accent, “I needed ye. A bit surprised to see a human awake this early, ready to work before the cockcrows. Eh, I suppose it’s because yer new. Still, I approve, I do. Good dwarven principle is to stay busy with hard work.”

“Sir, to be honest I’ve been out of work for a while now and my family has suffered greatly for it. I’m eager to work and put good food on our table once more.” Martin said.
The dwarf put a heavy, thick-fingered hand on Martin’s forearm.

“Tis a good man who works to feed his family. Call me Rollo. ‘Sir’ is reserved for knights and lords, not simple folk such as we.” The dwarf smiled warmly.

They entered the tavern where Rollo instructed Martin to sit at the bar and wait for the other workers to arrive. A stocky dwarven woman with auburn hair gave Martin a small basket of freshly baked biscuits to eat while he waited.

Other workers began to arrive after an hour. Martin relaxed as soon as he saw Edmund enter the tavern carrying a hammer and a large pick.

“Eddie!” Martin shouted, embracing his friend. “Boy am I glad to see a friendly face on this job!”

“Glad to see you as well Martin. I’d heard those thieves at the guild had finally let you back in. Good to see you, good to see you.”

Rollo came into the tavern as the last worker arrived. The dwarf looked displeased as he scanned the group.

“That’s a sorry lot. Half as much as yesterday. We’ll have to make do I suppose.” The dwarf grumbled.

Rollo led the workers past the bar and through a service door that went to the cellar. It was clear the cellar was both a recent addition and designed for someone of dwarven stature. The room was small, no more than ten-foot square, with one wall dominated by a large wine rack, flanked by a wall with a two-foot deep hole gouged out of it. A lantern hung in the center of the room providing a dim illumination.

“Sorry bout the ceiling laddies.” Rollo said as he reached the floor, “I know it’s made it more difficult for ye, and I do apologize, though ye must admit the hard work is rewarding. We’ve a new face today despite losing some o’ the rest, so let him know the task and get to it.” Rollo grabbed a low hanging lantern and moved it to the steps so the workers wouldn’t strike their heads.

The dwarf returned upstairs as the men began working. Eddie explained that the cellar was to be widened to twice its current size. Feeling the walls, Martin discovered they were solid stone. There were seven total workers including Eddie and Martin. Carol, Jax, and Nesbit worked at one end of the wall with heavy picks, while Karon, the Taldoran, hauled out the loose stone in a wooden pail. Martin and Eddie worked the other end of the wall with their picks, and the last man, Herod monitored the water buckets that cooled both the workers and their tools. The men had to crouch slightly as they worked adding to the difficulty of the task.

By the end of the shift they had managed to carve out nearly another foot of rock, widening the room slightly. Their progress was accelerated when they discovered a loose section of stone that was easy to mine out. Martin swung his pick one last time into the loose section and a chunk the size of a house cat fell away revealing a small hole in the wall, about a foot across.

The other workers were gathering up their gear as he revealed the hole, but it did not excite them as it did Martin.

“Look Eddie! Everyone, look a hole! Maybe this rock wall is thin and our work won’t be as hard as we thought.”

The men all laughed.

“Probably just another air pocket. We’ve run into a few already. Let’s pack up; you’ve done good work today.” Eddie said.

As the workers left Tincture’s tavern, Rollo paid each of them two gold coins. Martin had expected to be paid at the end of the week like he had at previous jobs and he suspected that was why there were half as many workers. Some men with gold in their pockets went straight to the brothels and bars to carouse and drink too much to be up in time for work.

Martin took his gold straight to grocer Calbot’s fruit and vegetable stall near Market Bridge. He spent a quarter of his earnings on a heavy bag of potatoes and carrots, a rack of lamb, and three rabbits. Sore from his first day of work in months and from swinging the pick at such an awkward angle all day, he spent three more silver for a wagon ride back to his cabin.

Arriving home, Martin brought the groceries inside and put the remaining gold coin into Ingrid’s hands and kissed her warmly on the cheek. He’d save the remaining silver for some pints down at Tincture’s tavern.

“Da-da!” Jan exclaimed. Upon seeing him, the boy rushed to his father, embracing him. “Da-da home? Da-da home?”

“Yes my boy,” Martin said, picking Jan up and spinning him in the air, “Da-da is home. Have you been a wonderful child for mommy?” Martin looked his son in the eye with a mock stern expression.

The boy nodded and smiled, revealing two rows of healthy white teeth. Martin put him down and began preparing the rack of lamb to barbeque. The scent of the seasoned meat made Martin’s mouth water. That evening’s meal was the best Martin had had since his accident. While Ingrid washed and put away the dishes Martin put Jan down for sleep and then sat on the front porch of the cabin smoking flayleaf and feeling like a good husband again for the first time in a year.

In the morning Ingrid packed Martin a couple of chunks of bread and left over lamb for his lunch. Moving about the cabin in the pre dawn hours, Martin felt sluggish. Walking to work took longer than usual. His back was sore and cramped in places, as were his arms from swinging the pick. Martin yawned as he walked, visualizing turning around and returning to his bed. He shook off the urge and continued walking until he arrived at Tincture’s tavern.

The dwarf was sweeping the front walk way as he had been the morning before, watching Martin straggle in. He shook his head disapprovingly.

“Just like the others. Give a human some gold and he gets lazy.” Rollo admonished. “At least you showed up. Well then, get inside, the others are already here.”

Martin nodded and entered the tavern.

“You look terrible.” Eddie said as Martin walked up to the bar.

“I feel terrible.” Martin replied. “Its like I haven’t slept at all.” Martin yawned, accentuating his point.

“You’re just not used to being back swinging a pick is all.” Eddie said reassuringly. “After a few more days you’ll be used to it. Come on, lets see if we can’t make that hole of yours bigger.”

“Lead on.”

The workers attacked the walls much as they had the day before. As they worked, Martin could see he wasn’t the only one who was still tired. He imagined the men without families had enjoyed themselves late into the night and that was the cause of their sluggishness. Karon even dozed off at one point, leaning against the wine rack as he was waiting for enough loose rocks to fill the pail. By the end of the workday the room was only one foot wider. Martin spent most of the shift expanding the hole and the area around it.

“By tomorrow I’d wager you could fit the lantern in there and look around, see how deep it is.” Eddie said to Martin as they enjoyed a pint after work. “Get some more sleep tonight. I know I need it. We didn’t really get much done today.”

“I wasn’t the one falling asleep during the shift.” Martin joked.

“True, very true. Its not like that snot Karon has a tough job in the first place, carrying out loads we have to free from the earth with the strength of our backs and the sweat of our brows.” Eddie winked.

Martin laughed.

They left Tincture’s tavern and went their separate ways. At home Ingrid had made a stew from the left over lamb and baked a fresh black cherry pie.

“Da-da story! Da-da story!” Jan said as Ingrid prepared him for bed. Martin thought it over for a second but when he went to answer the boy, he yawned instead.

“Not tonight Bug.” Martin said, yawning again and rubbing his eyes. “Dad is tired my little champion. He has to sleep now just like you. I’ll tell you a tale another night. I promise.”

“Da-da story!” Jan insisted.

“Your father is tired Jan, don’t pester.” Ingrid said, tucking in the boys bed covers.

The boy, defeated, turned over and buried his face in his pillow. He was sleeping in moments. Martin went to his own bed, falling asleep just as quickly, and was snoring loudly before Ingrid could finish putting away the dishes. She walked into the room and saw her husband sprawled out on top of the blankets still in his work boots. She smiled warmly, full of love, as she removed the heavy leather boots, thinking just how lucky she was.

* * * *

Martin could hear a low buzzing noise, causing him to open his eyes. Lying on his back, he felt cold stone pressing sharply against his body. He tried to turn his head, to move, but he couldn’t. Dim blue light emanated from somewhere below him allowing his immobile eyes to see. He could only stare forward, his eyes locked on the moist rock ceiling. Martin smelled something simultaneously sweet and sickly, reminding him of fetid water and rotten vegetation. He called out for help, but his lips stayed tightly shut and the shout died in his throat.

Martin could hear someone approaching.

The footsteps were small and quick, like the steps Jan made as he ran through the cottage. Martin’s heart raced hard in his chest. He was terrified of the approaching figure but he could not remember why. The buzzing sound grew louder, rising from somewhere below. Sweat formed at his temples and on his forehead. An annoying itch grew slowly on the bridge of his nose as his heart thundered ever louder in his ears. His vision pulsed in and out in tune with his heartbeat and a dull ache pounded between his eyes.

The footsteps became faster and louder. Martin knew that his tormentor was almost upon him. He could hear it laughing and giggling in its high-pitched, child-like voice.

Martin was suddenly aware of being able to swallow. With immense effort he forced his tongue to the roof of his mouth, nearly gagging, as he tasted a thick, revolting paste. He slowly and painfully turned his head, seeing that he was underground and that the blue light originated from patches of wet and moldy fungus growing out of the earthen floor. He was on a stone slab stained nearly black with dried fluid, one foot off the floor.

Martin turned his head to the other side of the slab and stared straight into the face of a grotesque looking child thing. Martin screamed through a mouth filled with viscous paste, the sound echoing in the little chamber. The child creature smiled a large grin full of broken, bluish-black teeth, and laughed.

* * * *

Martin woke with a start, covered in sweat, a scream erupting from his lungs. The sound woke Ingrid and Jan who began to cry. Martin sat up in bed, clutching his chest, trying to soothe his pounding heart. He was out of breath as if he’d just run a mile.

“Martin my love, what’s wrong?” Ingrid asked touching his arm, a concerned look on her face.

“I don’t know. Just a dream.” Martin said. “Just a dream.”

“It must have been horrible. I’ve never heard you scream before.”

“I don’t know. I can’t remember it.” Martin said, giving her a weak smile. As he tried to recall the dream, all he got was a snippet of being underground and hearing Jan laughing. The rest was just too hazy.

Martin climbed out of bed and went outside to pour a fresh pitcher of water from the well. He returned holding two glasses and handed one to Ingrid. He rinsed his mouth out, washing away a nasty film that had coated it. Can’t afford to get sick now, he told himself. Martin was terribly tired but slightly dreaded the idea of returning to sleep.

That morning he arrived last to work again and again received an admonishing shake of the head from the dwarf. The assembled group of workers was minus one that morning. Jax had not shown up. Martin could plainly see he wasn’t the only one that was tired. As they descended the steps into the cellar, Martin felt his heart start to speed up and sweat form on his forehead and throat. A sudden pain in his left side felt as if he were being stabbed, but there was no one behind him on the stairs. Martin took deep breaths and when he reached the landing he had calmed his nerves somewhat. He grabbed his pick and joined Eddie at the wall.

Karon was holding the lantern.

“Should I put it in the hole, see how deep it goes?” He said.
Herod snickered.

“Why not?” Eddie said.

Karon smiled large and clambered up to the hole. It was nearly four foot wide and two feet deep. Karon reached in with his lantern hand, peering through the gap.

“What do you see?” Carol said, standing behind both Eddie and Martin.

“Anything?” Martin echoed.

“I think…” Karon trailed off, “not sure…it looks like…”

He was quiet for a moment as he peered closer into the hole, staring intensely.

“What is it?” Eddie said.

Karon did not answer, staring harder into the hole. Suddenly he jerked, his lantern arm thrusting deeper into the hole. Martin and the others watched in terror as Karon flailed about, trying to remove his arm from the hole. He started to scream.

The screaming made Eddie and Carol scream.

Karon suddenly relaxed and pulled the lantern free, laughing hysterically, tears running down his face.

“By the Gods!” Martin yelled clutching his chest.

“Ha-ha-ha. You should see your faces. Those looks are priceless! I got you all good!” Karon was holding his sides he was laughing so hard.

“You jerk!” Eddie yelled clearly un-amused. “What if you’d really been hurt? You don’t go jesting about things like that.”

Karon wiped tears from his eyes and cheeks.

“Relax man, you were all acting like someone died. I had to lighten up the mood before I choked on the tension.”

“You pull a stunt like that again and I’ll lighten your shoulders personally.” Eddie said throwing a small rock in Karon’s direction. “Now get back to work!”

The men returned to work, though Karon’s antics had done little for their tired and sour moods. Fatigue set in around the half-shift point for Martin, who could not stop yawning or nursing the sharp pain in his back. The second half of the shift was like torture for him and, as a result. he barely got any additional work completed. By the end of the day, the six workers had only carved out a half-foot of wall.
When Rollo came to pay them he was clearly upset.

“I’ll not pay good gold for this half-assed work.” He said to them as they gathered their tools and left. “Tomorrow you’d better get to task or I’ll carve the wage in half!” he threatened.

That evening Martin did not eat supper. He was in a foul mood from working tired and sore all day and was short with both Ingrid and Jan. The sound of the boy running through the cottage made Martin jumpy, causing his heart to race and his to head throb. He retired early, though he didn’t fall asleep until long after Ingrid had joined him, and it was restless sleep at that. Each slight creak of the cottage settling jolted him awake and by dawn he was yawning uncontrollably and moving about as if drunk.

Martin arrived on time just as dawn broke. Approaching Tincture’s he saw Rollo and the other workers, plus a half dozen blue-coated city guards. The men stood in a semi-circle in front of the stables, near the broad side of the tavern. They remained eerily silent as Martin approached, their attention in front of them, on what, he couldn’t see. Eddie must have heard him, for he looked back and, spotting Martin, stepped aside to allow him to see what the commotion was about.

“What’s going on?” Martin asked.

“Its Rollo’s horses,” Eddie said, a grim tone to his voice and face, “something got em in the night-hobgoblins or sea critters probably.”

“Got 'em? How so?”

“See for yourself.”

Eddie gestured with his chin towards the pen and Martin stood on his toes to see. Inside, four horses lay still on the ground. They had been disemboweled and long strips of flesh had been torn from their hides. All of the horse’s eyes were missing, as were their tails.

“By the Gods.” Martin said, putting a hand over his mouth
“T’wasn’t no wolf done this.” Rollo said in his deep, commanding voice.
The captain of the guard did not look impressed.

“Count yourself lucky sir dwarf, your horses seem intact enough to still sell for glue. There is no evidence I see that shows who committed this act. Bandit’s sir, this was done by bandits. I shall make a report but, for now, the military simply cannot afford to thin itself by providing your tavern with additional protection.” The captain said, smugly surveying the crowd. “If I were you, I’d hire out.”

Rollo shook his head, defeated by the captain’s words. Slowly the guardsmen departed and left the dwarf and his workers alone with the mutilated livestock.

“Damned city watch.” Rollo spat. “Free country my arse. They only patrol Admiralty Hill and protect humans. No offense. Sometimes I feel if I was a freed Cheliaxian slave, I’d get better treatment.”

Martin nodded, sharing his sentiment. Sometimes he felt that Andoran government policies favored freed slaves over freeborn, impoverished citizens-that they were acting out of misplaced guilt for the actions of their Taldoran and Chelish predecessors.

“What are we to do?” Karon called out. “Start in the cellar or move these horses?”

“Neither.” Rollo said, his voice still heavy and solemn. “There’ll be no work today. Come back tomorrow and we’ll see what’s needed.” The dwarf was clearly distracted. Deep worry lines marred his weathered face.

“Yes, tomorrow.” Rollo muttered, walking up the front steps of the tavern, leaving the men alone with the corpses.

“Well this is crap.” Eddie said. “I was counting on that coin today. I bloody need it.”

Once home, Martin took advantage of his surprise day off and headed straight for bed to catch up on some of the sleep he’d missed the night before. Ingrid was surprised to see him home, but she knew better than to ask questions of her husband when he went straight for his bed. Young Jan lay in his small cot, his canary colored blanket clutched tightly in his hands and resting against his face.

Martin had barely napped an hour when the sound of Ingrid shouting woke him.

“Martin! Martin, wake up, something is wrong with Jan!”

Hearing something was wrong with his son made Martin bolt upright in bed, fully alert. He threw off the blankets and rushed to his son. Jan sat on the edge of his cot, a vacant stare to his eyes, with bluish drool running down his chin.

“Jan! Jan, my boy, what is it? Tell Da-da what’s wrong.” Martin took a hold of the boy with both hands.

Jan did not respond. Martin gave him a light shake. When that had no effect, he shook harder.

“Stop!” Ingrid shouted. “You’re going to hurt him!”

But Jan showed no signs of being hurt and Martin shook him a few more times before relenting. The boy continued staring and drooling. Martin waved his fingers in front of Jan’s eyes and clapped his hands together with a loud crack. Still there was no recognition.

“Something’s wrong!” Ingrid continued shouting. “We have to take him to the temple! The priests will know what to do!”

Martin shook his head.

“The clerics of Abadar would charge us twenty gold to simply look at Jan. We’ve barely three to our name! No, we can’t afford their services. It won’t work.”

“There are other temples!” She said, knowing that Martin’s upbringing forbade him from entering a temple other than the Master of the First Vault's.

Martin looked wounded.

“I cannot. My father would have never…Jan is destined to one day join Abadar’s shining church…that’s why we’ve kept my fathers crossbow all these years.” Martin shook his head but the pleading eyes of his wife quickly melted his resolve. He turned to his son and his heart relented.

“I’m unsure about the idea, but if it’s the only way, take him. Though, the services of the other temples won’t be cheap either.” Martin said, giving Jan another shake, but there was no change to the boy. Martin remained silent for a nearly a minute before speaking again.

“I’ll do what I can for some extra gold. Sell a few more things. I…I have to go. Take him wherever you must. I need air.” Martin said, standing and pacing the cottage distractedly.

“You need air? Your son needs serious attention!”

Martin grabbed his boots, jacket, and the silver tablet inscribed with the holy symbol of Abadar that had rested above the front door since he’d moved Ingrid into the cottage.

“I’ll try and get us more gold,” Martin said and stormed out of the cottage, slamming the door behind him.

Ingrid stared after her husband, the look of confused bewilderment on her face mirroring Jan’s. She dressed Jan and herself and then left the cottage, looking for the first temple she could find.

Martin felt terrible and he couldn’t think straight. As he walked away from the cottage his mind was on Jan but also on how tired he was. Though he worried for his son, he felt restless and oddly anxious at being around him. Martin walked aimlessly through the streets of Augustana and somehow ended up outside of Tincture’s tavern. He didn’t even remember walking in that direction. The place was still closed so Martin walked towards the stables. The carcasses were gone, but there were long dark spots of blood in the earth crawling and buzzing with swarms of flies.

Martin started shaking and sweating. He backed away from Tincture’s and ran towards Copperdown to find a stiff drink. Several times he found himself down roads he didn’t recognize and in front of buildings he couldn’t recall seeing before. He’d grown up in Augustana and knew the city like the back of his hand. It angered him to be this lost.
The day became night as Martin finally found his way. The approaching darkness renewed his irrational anxiety and he began to shake and sweat profusely. He quickly abandoned his plan to have a drink and made for home.

Inside the cottage, Ingrid was holding an unchanged Jan, trying to feed him from a plate of mashed potatoes. He would not eat. She looked up at Martin with eyes red from crying as he entered the cottage.

“Where have you been? I thought you were off to sell that plaque but that was hours ago! I went to the temple with Jan and have been waiting all day for you to return!”

“I…” Martin began but trailed off, unable to answer.

Ingrid shook her head. She felt ashamed of her husband for the first time in their marriage.

“Do you know what Mikal, the cleric from Iomedae’s temple said? He said that Jan was beyond his help, that he’d already been healed and that it would do no good to heal him again! He said Jan suffered a trauma that magic couldn’t fix! What does he mean by that?”
Martin stared at her confused.

“What did you do to our son?” Ingrid screamed.

“Me? I don’t understand what you’re talking about!”

“The cleric said Jan had already been healed! I didn’t do it! That’s how you knew how much the Abadar priests would charge isn’t it? You already had him healed didn’t you? You hurt our Jan and tried to hide it by having him healed behind my back!”

Martin lunged for his wife and struck her hard against the face. The force of the blow sent Ingrid reeling for the floor.

“I will not be spoken to that way woman! Accused of…such atrocity! I know the cost because my father was a priest! You know that!”

Martin hovered over his trembling wife, his face full of rage, spit flying from his mouth as he spoke. Martin had never, in all his life, struck a woman, and the realization made him even angrier. He turned away and stormed off to his bed. He lay there letting his anger subside for nearly an hour; not at all surprised Ingrid did not join him.

* * * *

Martin was running. His heart thundered in his ears. Ahead of him was a bright blue light almost white at its center. He didn’t remember starting to run or what he was running from but he knew he had to get away or they would hurt him again.

They. Martin remembered there was more than one of them.

Martin’s shaky legs felt heavy and mired in sticky mud as he struggled to move. He couldn’t focus his blurry vision and things appeared unreal. He saw nothing ahead of him except the bluish-white light.
The quick patter of tiny feet echoed behind Martin. He wanted to turn and face his pursuer but his body wouldn’t let him. To slow down or stop is to die, Martin’s mind screamed, you have to keep moving! His watery legs wobbled with each step. The sudden rush of a sickening, flowery smell overpowered his nostrils and burned his throat. Martin’s eyes began to sting and swell and he felt his throat tightening shut.
The sound of pattering feet grew louder and closer. Martin desperately tried to surge forward but he tumbled to the uneven earthy floor. The blue light vanished but somehow Martin could see the rocky ceiling above him. I’m underground, Martin realized.

Suddenly a pale blue, child-like face pressed itself against Martin’s.
Martin stared into bleached-white eyes. A wide grinning mouth revealed two rows of sharply chiseled teeth below flared nostrils. The thing’s cherub face was twisted into a grimace of pure hatred. Oily white hair sprang from its head like overgrown grass. Martin opened his mouth to scream, just as something sharp entered his left side below the ribs. The scream died in his throat. His vision grew dark. As the blackness overtook him, Martin saw a long handled hook descend towards his open mouth.

* * * *

Martin bolted upright in bed, slick with sweat, a scream erupting from his mouth. Ingrid was startled awake beside him, and Martin saw she had Jan with her.

“Dear, what is it?” Ingrid asked, half asleep.

Martin rubbed his eyes and glanced over at his son. The boy stared silently back at him, wide-awake with fresh drool blanketing his chin. Jan’s eyes did not seem so vacant to Martin this time, they seemed to stare right through him. He swore he saw the boy’s mouth curl into a cruel smile.

Martin took a few calming breaths realizing that something about Jan was different. He lit the lantern on his bedside nightstand and heard an audible gasp from Ingrid. He turned back and saw that his son’s hair had gone completely white and stood straight on end! Something about the change gave Martin an uneasy feeling in his stomach and quickened his already storming heart.

“Jan!” Ingrid exclaimed. “By Abadar’s grace what is happening to our son?” She clutched Jan to her chest and began sobbing. The boy didn’t acknowledge the movement, his eyes regaining their glassy, corpse-like gaze.

Martin’s heart beat fast and painfully now. His back was sore and his entire left side was cramping on him. Ingrid began rocking back and forth as she clutched Jan, her sobs increasing in volume. Martin could feel a sudden mix of rage and anxiety building in his stomach. He couldn’t think. His instinct was to dress and rush off to Tincture’s tavern in hopes the dwarf had reopened and needed him. He just had to get away from Ingrid’s sobs and his sons blank, sinister gaze.

Dawn was still approaching as Martin left the cottage. His rising anxiety caused him to tremble and sweat, though the morning was anything but warm. His legs shook with each step giving him an ominous feeling that this had happened to him before. The cramps in his back and side increased as he walked and by the time he arrived at Tincture’s tavern he was a wreck. Martin suddenly realized that in his haste to flee his home that morning he’d forgotten his tools. He walked into the tavern with his head hanging shamefully.

There were only four other workers sitting at the bar as Martin walked in: Eddie, Carol, Herod, and Nisbet. They all had somber looks about their tired, haggard faces. Eddie didn’t appear to have slept at all. He must feel like I do, Martin thought. I wonder if his son has been struck dumb as well. Eddie looked up and smiled as Martin sat down but it felt forced and disingenuous. He wanted to tell Eddie about Jan and fearing sleep but couldn’t bring himself to mention it.

“Martin, did you hear? Karon went and hung himself last night.” Carol said.

“What?” Martin replied in shock, his thoughts finally leaving his stricken son. “By the Gods!”

“I know,” Eddie said, joining the conversation, “Gave no reason for it whatsoever. His wife Mary was beside herself with grief when I went by there to pick him up for shift.”

Martin’s head started to throb. His squeezed his eyes tightly shut, trying to ward off the oncoming ache.

“Are you okay?” Nesbit asked. “I didn’t know you two were that close.”
“That’s not it. My head just hurts. My whole body is sore in fact. On top of that I haven’t been sleeping well.”

Eddie paled and gave Martin a sympathetic look.

Herod spoke up, startling the others. The swarthy Kelishite rarely uttered two syllables.

“Has anyone seen Rollo?” he asked.

Looking around the men all realized they hadn’t seen the dwarf at his usual predawn post, sweeping the walkway in front of the tavern.

“No.” Carol said.

“Someone had to light the lanterns, unlock the doors…” Nesbit stood up looking around the tavern as if expecting an ambush by a shadowy attacker.

Indeed all of the men seemed jumpy that morning. The smell of freshly baked bread suddenly rushed through the room followed by the heavy footsteps of someone walking from the back kitchen. Rollo’s wife appeared carrying a basket of steaming biscuits.

“Hello men,” she said, her voice cracking, “me husband’s off this morn on some foolish adventure and left me here to see to ye. Wouldn’t speak of where he’s off to so I won’t know when he gets back until you do. Now I’m left to do the work of three since that good for nothing Agna up and quit on us yesterday, following the cow killings. Human women,” she spat shaking her head, “no stomachs.”

The dwarf placed the biscuits on the bar, along with a tray of goat cheese and butter, and then poured each of the men a pint of her lightest beer on tap-a red cloudy ale too thick to see through.
“I heard about yer friend as ye were speaking.” She said. “Tis a real shame. I’ll see to it his widow, Mary ye said it was? I’ll see to it she gets the rest of his wage for this job. It’s the least me husband and I can do.”

The men raised their glasses to her and drank deeply.

After their light meal, Rollo’s wife led the workers downstairs to the wine cellar. Martin borrowed Carol’s pick and the other man took over Karon’s duties hauling out the loose stone in the wooden pail. The men worked most of the day in silence; Karon’s suicide weighed heavily on them. An hour before quitting time Nesbit let out an enthusiastic yell followed by the sound of tumbling rocks. Martin and Eddie turned in time to see a large portion of the stone wall crumble away, revealing a nearly four foot deep chamber. It appeared to be a natural pocket in the rock, but something about its shape made Martin uneasy and he did not share Nesbit’s enthusiasm. Eddie and Carol looked nervous as well.

They began clearing the rubble out of the way to get a better look at the chamber’s walls. The jagged stone surface was moist and lined with cracks and fissures wide enough for a small child to squeeze through.

Nesbit entered the new space and set to work on one of the larger fissures, trying to widen it with his pick. The others made no move to help, standing and watching Nesbit stoop in the chamber. Carol dropped his tools to the floor and walked past Martin, who could smell fresh urine as the man wordlessly climbed the stairs. No one said anything and Martin fought the urge to follow him.

On the way home after the shift, Martin tried not to dwell on Carol’s abrupt departure but found it was all he could think about. The closer he got to the cottage the more nervous Martin felt. He dreaded walking inside and seeing his son’s unsettling glare. When he arrived home, Martin did not go inside; instead he stood out front and stared at the cottage. He could not bring himself to go closer. After a quarter hour Martin walked away. He was determined to buy a strong bottle and drown in it. Something about going to sleep worried him and he needed the courage to face it, though he knew of no reason to fear his dreams.

Martin purchased his bottle and drank most of it while wandering the streets of Augustana, singing loud hymns to Abadar that his father had recited to him hundreds of times as a child. Night descended on the city and Martin had the drunken nerves to face the oncoming darkness and continued his wanderings for several more hours before finally returning home.

Inside the cottage Ingrid and Jan were already asleep. Martin stumbled through the kitchen, knocking aside a chair and noticing that a plate of stewed rabbit and potatoes lay cold and untouched on the table. He walked to the bedroom, kicked off his boots and fell heavily into bed, causing Ingrid to shift away, groaning in annoyance. He fell asleep quickly.

* * * *

Martin could feel the cold stone beneath him even before he opened his eyes. His left side was wet and sticky. When he looked around he saw he was in a stone chamber, illuminated by patches of glowing blue mushrooms. Across from him on another stone slab was Jan. He sat upright looking quizzically at Martin, drooling. His white hair stood on end, reaching greasily toward the sky.

Martin tried to move but found he could only turn his head slightly and dart his eyes back and forth. Then he heard footsteps quickly patter into the chamber. High-pitched voices chattered and giggled to each other in the blue glow of the room, causing Martin’s spine to tingle and frost over.

A childlike face came suddenly into his view, hovering inches above him. The skin was deathly blue and had tiny pockmarks lining the lips. It glistened with an oily sheen. The creature’s fetid breath was sour as rotten milk. Moist, milky white orbs filled its sockets and its hair stood straight on end, like Jan’s.
Leaning close, the child-thing pressed its mouth against Martins ear, whispering hotly.

“P’nuglu iä iä. N’ga sethie e’nath”

The sounds made no sense to Martin but he surmised they foretold the fate awaiting him. The creature displayed a long handled hook for Martin to see, cackling in its high-pitched voice. Sharp pain tore through Martins left side and he felt warm blood flowing from the fresh wound. The child-thing jerked savagely at Martin, pulling furiously on its hook, tearing deeper into his side. The pain was overwhelming, drowning his vision in a flare of white.

Martin’s vision returned slowly and he tore his eyes away from his tormentor, frantically searching for his son. The boy still sat across from him, a wicked smile on his drool soaked lips. Two more pale blue child-things were on either side of him, one bearing a rusty razor, the other, who bore a bushy white, handlebar mustache, held a ghastly looking, hooked-legged grub in a set of tongs. With a fluid, practiced motion, the creature holding the scalpel ran the blade across Jan’s forehead at the hairline. Blood trickled down the boys face in a thin stream.

Jan giggled.

The mustached child-thing brought the grub to Jan’s forehead. The ghastly creature leapt onto Jan, crawling into the fresh wound. The boy’s head bubbled as the grub crawled under his skin, heading for the crown of the skull. As it moved the mustached figure applied a foul smelling, blue paste to Jan’s forehead, while the other chanted strange words.

“Iä, iä, p’nuglu iä! W’gna gna sethie iä! Yoag’ so-to, Yoag, so-to!”

Jan continued giggling as the grub crawled in his head. The lump settled as it reached the crown, relaxing flat, becoming almost imperceptible.

Martin wanted to scream but his voice wouldn’t come. The white-eyed creature with the hook in him continued to yank and jerk, each action sending excruciating pain through Martin’s body. He could feel the heat of the child-thing’s breath on his face. The creature clamped a slimy hand down hard on Martin’s nose and mouth. Martin could taste a salty, viscous paste.

* * * *

Martin awoke with a start, his hands reflexively wiping at his mouth. He was sitting in his rocking chair on the porch, fully dressed, work boots laced. He shook his head trying to remember how he’d gotten there. Seeing the empty liquor bottle at his feet he deduced he must have blacked out. He looked about, trying to get his bearings, and saw that it was already dawn. He’d be lucky if he still had a job! Without entering the cottage, Martin ran at full exertion towards Tincture’s tavern.

He arrived, out of breath. There was no sign of Rollo outside, and Martin saw that the walkway had not been swept as he climbed the stairs and went inside. Martin burst through the doors and found Rollo’s wife behind the bar filling a glass for Duncan, one of Tincture’s elderly regulars.

“Ah, there you are. The others have gone down. Dinna think ye’d show.”

“I’m terribly sorry.” Martin pleaded. As he spoke Rollo’s wife closed her eyes and crinkled her nose.

“Well it smells like you swam in spirits. Humans can’t drink like dwarves. They become unreliable and idle wastes.” The dwarf threw a look to Duncan.

“Er, yer a waste!” Duncan slurred, slamming his mug onto the bar counter. The motion nearly threw him off his barstool.

“Shut it Duncan, you damned fool!” she exclaimed, taking up his mug and filling it with a nearly obsidian colored stout. “Put this in yer mouth and keep yer words to yerself.”

The drunk smiled and chuckled and the dwarf returned the sentiment. Martin could see it was a game the two played together.

“Come on, I’ll show you downstairs.” Rollo’s wife said. “In fact, I haven’t heard much racket from down there this morning so I wanna check on ‘em anyway. My husband’s still gone, but don’t believe I’ll be taken by lazy, drunken humans for a full wage just because I’m a woman.”

Martin walked around the bar and followed the dwarf through the service door and down the stairs to the cellar. He was struck by the silence. As they descended, Martin saw that Eddie, Nesbit, and Harod stood with their backs to the landing, staring at something on the ground.

Rollo’s wife strode forward but Martin held back on the stairs, his heart pounding. He wanted desperately to turn and get above ground. The memory of his nightmare still haunted him and although he remembered no previous instance of the dream, it felt queerly familiar.

“What’s this?” Rollo’s wife demanded. “Why are those picks not chiseling away?” She pushed by the men with her stocky, muscular arms.
On the floor of the wine cellar was a long handled hook attached to a twenty-foot length of strange looking cord. More cord was wrapped around the handle. Man-sized boot prints made in blood lined the floor and seemed to disappear into the stonewall near the largest fissure.

The dwarf picked up the hooked weapon, holding it in front of the men. Martin could swear he saw them flinch in recognition of the thing.
Just as he had.

“Who’s is this?” she asked waving the wicked tool around.

“What is it?” Eddie asked, his tone dark.

“It’s an akyls.” she said. “You use it when you’re hunting in tunnels. You throw it, hook it in and…”

She gave a quick jerk of the hook, causing the men to jump.

“Yank.” she went on obliviously. “You got ‘em.”

The men stood staring at the weapon while Martin slowly approached.
Rollo’s wife dropped the akyls disgustedly to the ground.
“I don’t hear any picks chipping stone. My husband didn’t marry an idiot. If you don’t earn your gold today, I won’t pay.” She turned and stormed up the stairs.

The hook from my dream was used to hunt in tunnels, Martin thought. He wanted to say something to the others, but kept his tongue silent out of embarrassment. Surely he’d seen them recognize the akyls too. Instead, Martin grabbed up Carol’s abandoned tools and set to work in the small chamber. The hook remained on the floor and the men took pains to avoid it.

The wall in the newly uncovered pocket was soft and the stone chiseled away easily. After three short hours the men had made more progress than they had during the previous week. Nesbit gathered up loose stones and filled the basket with them.

“Ouch.” Nesbit said suddenly, jerking his hand away from the basket and balling it into a fist.

“What’s the matter?” Eddie asked concerned. He walked over to check what was wrong.

“I don’t know.” Nesbit said, examining his hand. “It feels like something just stung me.” His last few words were slurred and Eddie watched in horror as the left side of Nesbit’s face relaxed and drooped down his jaw before he slumped motionless to the ground.

“Nesbit!” Eddie screamed and let out a terrible gurgling noise. Blood poured from Eddie’s nose and mouth as he backed away from Nesbit.

Standing just behind the basket of stones was the blue-faced monster from Martin’s nightmares. The creature’s eyes were wet, featureless pearls. It was barely three feet tall and held in its hands a cord that was attached to an akyls hooked into Eddie’s throat. The creature’s horrible cherub face was twisted in fury and it sneered at the other workers through jagged blue-black teeth. Stained leather garments covered the monster’s more sensitive areas and its stark white hair was flecked red with Eddie’s blood.

Martin and Herod raised their picks and swung them sideways at the creature just as the room was engulfed in darkness.

Martin brought his pick down biting deep into stone. He was totally blind. Terror gripped him and he began to panic.

Herod had been luckier. His pick struck the creature and it began screeching. In the darkness Martin could hear Eddie choking on his own blood. Suddenly the sound of the creature was in Martin’s ear, directly behind him. He swung his pick and struck solid stone, the awkward strike sending a numbing pain shooting up both arms.

“By the light of the Dawnflower!” Herod screamed.

Suddenly the cellar was awash in cleansing, morning light, emanating from a stone held in Herod’s outstretched fist. The creature was on the far side of the room, bleeding a thick black ichor, trying to retrieve its akyls from Eddie’s still form. Martin rushed toward it, his pick raised. The creature shrieked at the top of its lungs and threw a handful of wool on the ground. Martin suddenly stopped in his tracks, feeling dazed, and struggling to keep his balance.

Herod grabbed up a melon-sized stone and brought it down onto the creature’s shoulder with a sickening crunch. The child-thing crumpled to the ground, a gout of bluish-black blood spurting over its pale blue lips. The weight of the rock pinned the creature, which began thrashing about wildly.

Martin shook his head, clearing away the daze, and then tightened up on the pick. He took two solid steps toward the creature and swung the pick, burying it deep into the thing’s chest. The pale blue child thing let out a shockingly loud scream; the sound burst smashing into Martin and Herod like a charging warhorse. Both men were knocked backwards, off their feet. Martin felt hot blood pouring from his ears. He struggled to sit up. Gazing over at the monster from his nightmares, Martin felt something inside his mind break, like a branch snapping in two. The child-thing was still, its mouth agape and pooled with dark fluid.

The pain in his ears proved too much and Martin collapsed. He vaguely saw Herod, through his haze, crawling over to him, mouthing words he could not hear. A whistling noise washed through Martin’s ears. Herod took a hold of Martin’s leg and instantly Martin felt a comforting warmth flow over and through him. Slowly the pain faded and the normal noises of the cellar returned to him. Martin could hear Rollo’s wife shouting as she came running down the stairs.

“What in the blazes was that noise?” she shrieked but fell silent, stunned as she saw the carnage before her. Eddie was dead, bled out from his throat. Nesbit was also still, long black veins spider webbed up his arm and into his neck, originating from a swollen blue-black cyst on his hand. Blood ran down his head from his ears.

“Are you okay?” Martin heard Herod asking. Martin stared past him, looking at the corpse of the child-thing.

“They’re real.” Martin managed to say.

“Will someone explain to me what’s happened?” The dwarf repeated. Martin stood with Herod’s help. Once on his feet, Martin ran up the stairs, fleeing the cellar. He could hear Herod and Rollo’s wife calling after him but he didn’t stop to listen to what they said. He ran from Tincture’s tavern, making for his cottage as fast as his legs would carry him.

He threw open the door as he arrived home, wordlessly moving toward Jan.

“Da-da” the boy said, his first words in days. Martin snatched Jan up and searched the boy’s hairline with trembling fingers. As he probed, Martin found what he feared: a thin waxy scar ran the length of Jan’s forehead. He searched further up his son’s skull, coming to the soft spot on top of Jan’s head. Lightly Martin caressed the tender tissue.
The soft spot bubbled and twitched.

Martin knew then what he had to do.

He turned Jan around in his hands and held the boy in outstretched arms before him. Martin walked out of the cottage this way just as Ingrid spotted him from the kitchen. Startled to see her husband after nearly two days of absence and confused by the way he was holding their son, Ingrid followed after him.

Martin walked straight towards the back yard well and raised Jan high above his head.

“No!” Ingrid screamed, running towards them.

“I have to do it Ingrid!” Martin screamed back. “They did something to us, the little blue devils! They did something to our son! Can’t you see? This isn’t him! It’s a monster in a Jan suit! They stole us Ingrid! They stole us both!”

“Please don’t, you don’t know what you’re saying! Please Martin, put our son down!”

“This isn’t our son.” Martin replied flatly, turning away from Ingrid closing his eyes.

When he opened them, it was with steely resolve. Martin stared deep into the black abyss of the well, seeing only bleakness there. Above him Jan was crying in his hands. No, not Jan, Martin reminded himself, they made Jan into something else. Martin kept staring into the well as he whispered a prayer.

“Abadar the Gold-fisted, Master of the First Vault and Judge of the Gods,” Martin recited from childhood memory, “please deposit this soul into your eternal vault and protect his undying spirit forever from harm. Please accept my son, my innocent Jan, who did not deserve what has been done unto him. Though he has become a threat to the city, this can help us all. Forgive me my son. So it is judged.”

Martin opened his eyes and looked up at his son one final time. He knew in his heart that Abadar would forgive him for this deed. By ridding the city of this future menace Martin would earn his place in Abadar’s eternal vault. He could hear Ingrid yelling at him from behind, but he tuned her out, resolute in his decision.

Suddenly a gold tipped crossbow bolt pierced through Martin’s chest, impaling his heart and killing him instantly. Martin fell to the ground, Jan tumbling after, dropping gently onto his father’s crumpled form unharmed. Jan began to cry.

Ingrid stood a few feet away, holding Martin’s father’s gold inlaid crossbow, tears streaming down her face. She fell to her knees, her cries joining Jan’s.

* * * *

A week later on the fourth of Rova, Ingrid buried her husband in the Oldtown cemetery in a quiet ceremony. Banker Clovis Hett, head of the temple of Abadar in Augustana, attended the services along with his wife and four daughters. Rollo and his wife attended as well. Ingrid wondered about her husband’s relationship with the dwarves but the dour pair made no effort to enlighten her. As the gravediggers piled earth onto the casket, Rollo began singing a deep-voiced dwarven dirge, full of sorrow and grief. This caused fresh tears to well in Ingrid’s eyes.
Jan had returned to his old playful self, although his stark white hair remained. Try as she could, Ingrid could not comb the stubborn cowlicks down, so Jan’s oily hair always stood on end. During the funeral the boy seemed distracted and full of energy, trying to escape his mother several times to frolic among the headstones. As they walked home from the cemetery Jan continually tore away from her giggling and grasping for shiny objects.

They walked past Tincture’s tavern on the way home. Jan ran ahead again, turning down an alley between two buildings, disappearing from view.

“Jan stop!” Ingrid yelled running after him. She turned into the alley and spotted her son standing near the center, staring down into a sewer entrance.

“Da-da!” Jan said motioning toward the sewer.

Ingrid felt a knot in her throat and fought back the urge to cry. When she spoke, it was with choked words.

“No sweetie, Da-da’s gone.” She couldn’t hold back the tears any longer and they flowed down her cheeks. “He’s gone Sugar-bug.”
Ingrid took her son into her arms and sadly pondered how she was ever going to explain to him how she’d had to kill his father to save his life. She silently hoped she would never have to.

* * * *

A buzzing sound caused Ingrid to open her eyes. She didn’t remember leaving the alley let alone returning home and going to sleep. Her arms and legs felt restless but when she tried to move them she found she was frozen in place. A blue light emanated from somewhere below her as Ingrid realized she was lying on moist, rough stone. Her back hurt and felt wet and sticky.

She could hear Jan crying near her on her left side but Ingrid could not turn her head to look at him. The sudden smell of rotten vegetation assailed her nostrils and she felt bile rising in her throat. There were other sounds, like the pitter-patter of tiny feet, all around Ingrid. The footsteps grew louder as what ever was causing them moved closer. She could hear metal scraping against stone.
Jan began to scream.

The shriek gave Ingrid new determination to turn her head toward her son. With renewed vigor she exerted herself and painfully turned her head slightly to the left.

Staring straight into the blue, cherub face of a monster.
The child-thing raised a long-handled, barbed hook, and began giggling in a high-pitched voice. Its laughter grew louder as it brought the hook down on Ingrid, the impact causing everything to go black.


Sovereign Court

Shattered Dreams: A horror story set in Augustina.

as originally featured on

Sovereign Court

this is almost a spring issue now.

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