D&D - Combat Chaos, Fantasy Stories of Battle
DUROK V.S. DANAGIN
Captain Danagin eyed the double-headed axe appreciatively. It was a unique piece of work, that was for certain. Each blade was bigger than his head and honed to a razor edge. They seemed to flow seamlessly into the haft, which was made of the same metal as the blades. The balance was superb. Despite its size, it was extremely light. Strange markings were etched into the blades. “Magnificent.” He whispered as he held it up to the light. “It is a magnificent piece, Caspian. But hardly worth the considerable time, effort, and money I have put into this foray.”
Caspian smiled faintly and clasped his hands together under the sleeves of his loose wizards robes. “Have I ever steered you wrong before, Sir?”
Danagin lowered the axe and frowned at the wizard. “No, not yet. But this has been the most expensive trip to date, and you have produced little.”
The wizard nodded. “The isle itself, while small, is extremely difficult to navigate. Though we have managed to almost completely re-stock the ships rations and water.”
Danagin nodded, rolling the haft of the axe in his hands. The reflected light glittered hypnotically through the ship’s cabin. “Good enough then, when we have filled our larder, tell the men to pull anchor and hoist the sails. Maybe one of the other islands will have a better prize for us.”
Caspian shook his head. “Sir, if I may be so bold, I think it would be a good idea to look over the island at least once more. I’m sure there is more to be found here.”
Danagin shouldered the axe and brushed past the wizard. “Perhaps you are right, there is still the matter of our ‘guest’.” Striding onto the deck, he slowly circled around their guest. The beast was huge. If it had not been bound by heavy iron chains binding it securely, he guessed it would have stood near nine feet tall. Even bound as it was it was nearly as tall as a man. Corded muscles tensed and strained at the chains, threatening to break them. White fur covered it from head to toe, aside from the loin-cloth, the only obvious markings was a strange tattoo that covered the left side of the creature’s muzzle. Two horns, each just over two feet long sprouted from the beast’s temples, curving forward. “What manner of creature did you say this was?”
“A minotaur, sir. Actually… The Minotaur, I believe.” Caspian replied smugly.
Danagin turned to face the wizard with a skeptical expression. “The Minotaur? You mean to tell me there is only one?”
“Yes, sir.” Caspian cleared his throat then recited what he remembered of the old myths. “According to legend, the Minotaur was a man, cursed by the gods for some undisclosed offense and imprisoned in a maze from which none have escaped.”
Danagin rolled the axe off his shoulder and held it in both hands. “But if that were true, then how did ‘it’ get here?”
“I’m not sure, Sir.” The wizard replied, his ego deflating slightly. “But we have found no evidence of any other creatures on the isle. Surely if there were more, we would have found some proof.”
Danagin nodded, still not entirely convinced. He glanced at the minotaur thoughtfully. “He killed three of my men before they could even draw a blade. How is it you captured him again?”
Caspian straightened slightly. “Magic and skill will always overcome brute force, sir. Though the beast was strong, he was little match for a real wizard.”
Danagin turned away, unconvinced. “Very well, you have one more day to search the island before we put to sea.”
“Sir.” The wizard called out. “What about him?”
Captain Danagin turned back towards the minotaur, a thoughtful look on his face. “Of course, how thoughtless of me.” Stepping around to the side of the beast, he raised the axe high and brought it down with all his might. The blade cut effortlessly, slicing through bone, flesh and chain alike, embedding itself in the deck with a dull thump. The body twitched spasmodically, blood gushing from its severed neck. The head rolled forward and landed upright, the beat’s eyes popping open with a seemingly startled expression. Captain Danagin kneeled before the beast’s head, looking into the dark lifeless eyes. Slowly reaching out, oblivious to the blood pooling around his boots and pushed back the beast’s lips, revealing sharp, oversized canine teeth. “Take the body to Skinner. Tell him to mount it into a fierce pose, I want it to scare the hell out of anyone who sees it.”
Straightening slowly he reached out and wrenched the axe from the deck. “Put this below decks, in my personal stores.” He said as he tossed the bloody axe to the wizard, who caught it awkwardly, struggling beneath its weight.
“Sir, we have something!” Caspian shouted with excitement as he burst into the cabin.
Danagin looked up from the maps he had been studying and gave the wizard a cold look. “This had better be good.”
Caspain nodded with a wide grin. “We finally found a way to the peak on the island. It was as if the path had just opened up for us, we saw the other side of the island!”
Danagin frowned, unimpressed. “Is that all?”
“No, Sir!” The wizard continued. “There was a boat on the other side!”
Danagin leaned back in his chair, eyes narrowed. “And how is this good news?”
Caspian took a deep breath, collecting his thoughts. “The ship was loaded with treasure! Gems, jewelry, cloth, spice!”
Danagin arched an eyebrow skeptically. “And all this wealth was just sitting out on the beach?”
“There was a person.” Caspian corrected. “One, person.”
Danagin smiled with satisfaction. “So… What you’re saying is, that now ‘we’ have the treasure.”
The wizard looked slightly embarrassed. “Well… Most of it, sir.”
Danagin’s smile faded. “What do you mean, most of it?”
Caspain looked slightly uncomfortable. “Well, it seemed that getting down proved to be much more difficult than getting up the peak. We got lost once or twice, by the time we reached the boat, a good portion of the treasure it had carried had been moved.”
Danagin’s expression soured. “Moved?” He repeated quietly. “Moved to where?”
Caspian sighed deeply. “We’re not sure, sir. That leads us to our second problem. The islander.”
“The Islander? You mean the ‘person’ you found was a native?” Danagin growled quietly.
The wizard nodded. “Yes, sir. I think he came from one of the neighboring islands. And he… Well… perhaps you should see for yourself.” The wizard clapped twice and two sailors squeezed into the cabin with a dark skinned youth between them.
Danagin examined the youth, expecting fear or awe from the simple native. He found neither.
The islander stepped forward and raised his left hand. “Ajeh Alhem. Durok vhem. Vhe jelhem, dehjel Sool’Kar.”
Danagin blinked in surprise. “What did he just say?”
Caspian concentrated for a moment. “It is an ancient language, but I think I understand some of it. He was greeting you.” He frowned then slowly began to speak. “Ajeh, Alhem est dehjel, morham.”
The dark skinned youth bowed. “Byen, vern mir Sool’kar?”
Caspian frowned slightly. “Nyckts, Alhem esyen mir vulour ajeh.”
The islander seemed pleased. “Myve Byen. Vhem reyn. Byen Alhem deya.” And with that, the islander bowed and walked out of the cabin.
Danagin glowered at the wizard. “What did you tell him?”
Caspian shrugged. “I think he believes us to be gods. He says he came here to ‘ascend’. I think he believes we will take him to Sool’kar. Wherever that is.”
Danagin smiled faintly. “Good, let him think that. Maybe we can get him to show us where he hid the rest of the treasure. Don’t let him explore the ship too freely, have someone keep an eye on him. If we don’t get anything useful out of him in a day or two… Have him taken care of.”
Caspian saluted sharply. “Yes, sir. It will be done.”
Danagin watched the wizard leave the cabin and shook his head. “Wizards.”
Durok stood at the rail of the ship and stared complacently at the island. He had expected the messengers to be different, but this was far beyond his imagination. When he was young, his father had warned him about messengers of the gods. “You must be patient with them. They are lesser a creation, and not smart. At best they are pale mockeries of real people. But you must always be polite so you do not anger the god that they serve.”
That was his second surprise for the day. After meeting the messengers, they had taken him to meet a god directly. He would never have believed that a god would come to the place of ascension personally. Much less Danag, the god of the underworld. Durok counted himself lucky, he had lived well according to the will of the gods, and neither Danag, nor his servants would have any claim over his soul.
“Boy!” A familiar, croaking voice caught is attention.
Durok turned away from the rail and raised his hand in polite greeting to the messenger who addressed him. “I hear your words, Messenger. How may I serve?”
The messenger smiled showing too many teeth. Durok couldn’t understand the odd habits of these strange messengers.
“Me, speak you!” It croaked, shuffling its strange garment in what could only be called a nervous gesture. “You see Sool’kar want?”
Durok nodded, bowing his head as he had been taught. “Yes messenger.”
The messenger seemed agitated for a moment, then flashed its too-wide grin again. “Feast, you and us. Then ascend for Sool’kar?”
Durok bowed his head again. “Yes, I would be honored.”
The messenger smiled and whirled away, cackling strangely to itself.
Durok watched it go with amusement. “Messengers.” He muttered. “Only the Gods must understand them.”
Turning back to the rail he clasped the talisman to his chest. Soon, ascension would begin.
Skinner hummed as he worked. The bubbling of the cauldron behind him calming him. He knew it would take days for him to finish the preparations for the captain’s latest ‘trophy’, but he didn’t mind. Through the years he had mounted more strange beasts than he could count for Danagin. But this was the first humanoid creature he had the opportunity to work on. It had taken him nearly all day to skin the beast, as big as it was. Each cut had to be planned carefully, so that the seams would not show when it was mounted. He was only mildly irritated that the captain had so carelessly decapitated the beast so. It would take some creativity to hide the spot where the neck was cut. More irritating was that one of the bones in the neck ha been cut in half. Skinner considered himself a master craftsman, refusing to use any artificial frames to mount his creations. Things always looked better mounted on their own skeletons. It would take a long time to boil the flesh off of a carcass this size.
With careful deliberate strokes, he carefully sketched out the beast’s anatomy. A stack of papers with dozens of other sketches had already accumulated off to one side. As part of his work, Skinner made sure to illustrate every detail of the creature he was working on, so that he could get the best results. Bones and musculature were carefully mapped out. From these drawings he would come up with ‘concept’ sketches, of various poses he might place the subject into. Danagin had specified a ‘fierce’ pose for this one, which wouldn’t be difficult. Laying his pens and ink aside, he wandered back over to the cauldron.
With heavy steel tongs he reached into the bubbling cauldron and withdrew the skinned hand within. The fingers flopped open, as if alive. The flesh had cooked and started to separate from the bone.
“This work calls for beetles.” He murmured wistfully. Years ago they had found a vicious variety of flesh eating beetle, he had collected several and kept them for experimentation. They could reduce a large carcass to mere bones in about two days. Once, Danagin had allowed skinner to bring them on board the ship, but then there had been the ‘incident’ and he had to go back to the old methods while on ship. With a resigned sigh he dropped the hand back into the cauldron. With any luck it would be ready by tomorrow morning, then he could work on the other hand. Replacing the tongs he turned back to the table and surveyed the corpse. The skinned, headless, body looked disturbingly human. Picking up a scalpel, he began to cut away each muscle one by one, making sure he had sketched it in place before tossing it in a large barrel. Some of the better ‘cuts’ of meat, along with the head had already been sent up for the ‘feast’. Skinner shook his head faintly, despite his years of work, he doubted he could eat anything that… Human.
Exposing the internal organs, he removed them with a surgeon’s precision. Intestine, stomach, liver, all went into a separate barrel from the muscles. Reaching up into the chest, he cut one then the other lung from its place. As his fingers brushed the heart he recoiled in surprise, eyes wide. “Impossible.” He muttered. For a brief moment it had felt as if the heart had taken a slow beat. Reaching back in, he placed one hand on the still heart. “Must’ve been my imagination…” As he began to cut, the heart throbbed, once, then again. Skinner leaped back in alarm. As he watched in disbelief, the body shuddered once and blood began to ooze from the stump of the neck. “That’s impossible.” He repeated in shock as he crept closer to the body.
Behind him, unnoticed, the door eased open. As skinner stared at the body in awe, powerful hands clamped around his neck and jerked him backwards. His screams, though brief, went unheard in the bowels of the ship.
Danagin laughed uproariously with his crew, enjoying the fine meal and drink his cook had prepared. Their guest sat quietly to his left, head bowed as he ate everything that was set before him. Caspian sat on the other side of him and tried to unsuccessfully engage their visitor in conversation. Between bites of food and idle conversation, he kept a close eye on the quiet islander. Something about his overly calm demeanor disturbed him. He had expected at least some reaction to his ‘centerpiece’ from the strange islander. Danagin had expected him to break out in some sort of hysteric or other outburst, but he had been disappointed when the islander merely bowed his head and muttered something too quietly for him or Caspian to hear.
As he watched the islander pushed his empty plate away and stood slowly. “Thank you for honoring me.” He spoke slowly but clearly. The table fell into stunned silence, with Caspian dropping his drink from disbelief.
Turning towards Danagin, he removes his strange medallion and handed it to the captain with his head bowed. “As proof of our faith, I humbly offer this token, Dark one.”
Danagin smiled as he accepted the medallion and cast Caspian a dark look. The wizard, thoroughly confused, merely shrugged.
“Thank you.” Danagin smiled as benignly as he could. “I accept your offer.”
The islander nodded once. “I ask to take my leave. So I can prepare to Ascend.”
Danagin nodded, unable to think of a good way to ask the superstitious fool where the treasure was. “Make your preparations.”
Without another word, the islander bowed and left. Leaving them all sitting in stunned confusion.
“Get out.” Danagin growled to his assembled officers. As Caspain rose to leave, Danagin reached out and grabbed him roughly by the arm. “Not you, sir wizard.”
As soon as the rest of the officers had left, Danagin shoved the wizard roughly into his seat. “What, was that?”
“I don’t know.” The wizard stammered. “He didn’t understand anything in the common tongue earlier. He spent all afternoon in the room we set aside for him. There’s no way he could have learned our language well enough in a few hours.”
Danagin frowned and traced the lines on the medallion with his thumb. “Magic then?”
The wizard shook his head slowly. “He shows no sign of any magical gift that I know of. The only things that evinced even a faint glimmer of magic were his tattoos and that medallion. In fact, he seemed to show quite a resistance to magic. The two spells I tried to place on him failed.”
Danagin stared long and hard at the strange device in his hand. It was apparently steel, shined to a high polish and etched with deep swirling lines. The overall effect was faintly hypnotic. “Place two guards on his door, tomorrow he shows us where he hid the treasure.”
Caspian arched an eyebrow questioningly. “If he refuses?”
“It does not matter.” Danagin replied with a shrug. “With or without the treasure, tomorrow we send him to meet his gods.”
Danagin fell into an uneasy sleep. In his dream he was on the island, running through the thick jungle. The forest seemed to blur as he darted through the undergrowth, over rocks and splashing across small streams. Finally he darted into a narrow crevasse and made his way through the darkness. Squinting he could see a bright light ahead. Drawn by the light he stumbled into an open cave and beheld a wondrous sight. Coins and jewelry of all description filled the cave, ornate cups and chalices overflowing with rubies, emeralds, and diamonds. Strange and ornate weapons were strewn throughout. Several large books were stacked off to one side near an exquisitely ornate breastplate. At the center the islander kneeled.
“Welcome, Danag.” He intoned as he bowed.
Captain Danagin tried to say something, anything, but he found he could not form the words. Instead, he bowed his head and held out the magnificent axe he had taken from the minotaur.
“Thank you Danag. Soon we will honor Sool’Kar. I will be waiting.”
Danagin woke with a start. The early morning light streaming through the portholes caused him to wince and cover his eyes. His head was throbbing. He felt as if he were hung over, but he didn’t recall drinking that much.
“The islander has escaped.”
Danagin jerked upright at the sound of the wizard’s voice, instantly alert. “What? How?”
Caspian drew his robes close and sighed. “They’re dead.”
Danagin pushed himself to his feet. “What? The guards are dead? I’ll kill that little savage myself…”
“No.” Caspian corrected, cutting Danagin’s tirade short. “They’re all dead. Except for the five who were lost on the island. They came in this morning.”
Captain Danagin sat back in disbelief. “How…”
“Decapitated, each and every one of them. Except for skinner. His neck was snapped and his heart was ripped out. The heads of the rest of the crew and skinner’s heart are missing.”
Danagin shook his head in disbelief. “We should have killed the savage when we found him.”
“There’s more.” Caspian added quietly. “The axe and the body of the minotaur are both gone too.”
Danagin swore quietly. “Gather the remaining men. We’re not leaving this island until the savage is dead.”
Danagin hacked his way through the thick undergrowth, Caspian and the five remaining sailor trailing behind him. Sweat trickled down his face as a cloud of insects buzzed around them. Ignoring any path, he had hewn a path through the trees, straight for the heart of the island. His arm was beginning to burn from the repetitive cutting through the dense foliage. It seemed as if they had been slogging through the brush for hours now. Gasping for breath in the oppressive heat he paused. “Rest here.”
The wizard sagged gratefully to the ground. His robes had been nothing but a hindrance, but still the wizard refused to take it off. The five sailors had fared better, but they were still covered in a multitude of cuts and scrapes courtesy of the branches and vines.
Wiping the blade of the machete on his sleeve, he sheathed it and reached for his canteen.
“Captain!” One of the sailors called out. “You might want to see this…”
Cursing under his breath, Danagin pushed himself to his feet and made his way through the brush with Caspian struggling at his heels.
“This had better be good.” He grumbled as he broke through the underbrush to a cleared area. “What did you… find?” His words trailed off as he beheld a grisly sight. Like ghastly fruit, the missing heads of his former crewmembers hung from the vines of a single massive tree. Behind him he heard the wizard’s gagging and fought his own urge to vomit.
“We’re close.” He muttered through gritted teeth. Stalking around the tree, he hacked at the thick curtain of vines viciously. After a single blow, his machete rang out with a metallic clang and snapped, the blade flying over his shoulder, narrowly missing the ill wizard. Letting the useless hilt fall, Danagin reached out and pulled the vines aside. Deeply etched gray stone greeted him. “Here!” He shouted. “Help me clear this away.”
Leaping to the task, the sailors quickly cleared away a large swath of greenery, revealing a large swirling design cut into the stone. At the center, where the lines converged, was a single empty spot. Drawing the medallion from under his shirt, Danagin stared hard at it, tracing the designs in his mind. Slowly he reached out and placed it at the center of the design. As they watched, the carvings parted and shifted, revealing a narrow entrance.
Captain Danagin stepped back and smiled grimly. “Caspian give us light. We’re going in.”
Captain Danagin pushed Caspian forward through the narrow crevice, his own armor scraping noisily on the jagged stone. Lights bobbed over the two sailors in the lead and the three sailors in the rear. “Do you see anything?” He called out.
“Nothing, sir.” The sailor called back. “But I can see that the path splits off ahead. To the left or the right?”
Danagin cursed the confines of the cave. “See if you can see anything down either passage.”
The sailor nodded, the light over his head bobbing in unison. “Aye sir.” A moment later he returned. “Nothing down the left, but I think I saw something move down the right.”
Danagin smiled grimly. “We go right then, but watch out.”
Danagin watched as the first two passed out of sight and prodded the wizard. “What are you waiting for?”
Caspian snorted indignantly and started to retort, but his words were cut off by two shrill screams. A moment later, the lights above them faded and they were plunged in darkness.
“Damn it, do something wizard!” Danagin shouted.
Caspian muttered something vile under his breath and began chanting the words of a spell that would give them light and shield them from further attack. Another scream erupted from behind them.
“Hurry, wizard!” Danagin urged, drawing his sword.
Caspian smiled faintly as he felt the magic flow from him, shaped by his will. For a brief moment a shimmering field of light enveloped them. The wizard’s mouth went dry as it flickered, then vanished. Immediately he began summoning energy for a second spell, one to take him and Danagin back to the ship. Two more screams echoing behind him. As the words rolled off his tongue, something heavy slammed into the back of his head, smashing his face into the stone and sending him spiraling into blackness.
Danagin whirled as he heard the wizard’s chanting cut off and the heavy thud of a body falling. With a yell he charged forward, swinging his sword overhead.
He grinned in victory as he felt his blade connect with flesh and swung again, only to curse as his blade met empty air. “Damn you!” He shouted, charging forward. In the blackness he felt himself step on the wizard’s body. Fueled by anger he pushed himself forward, bouncing off walls, his armor ringing off the stone and echoing through the tunnel. “Come to me and FIGHT!”
Surging forward like a madman, he felt the walls open up and he swung in a wide arc, slicing empty air. “You can’t run forever!” He shouted, continuing forward, hacking blindly in the darkness. His next step met empty air and he fell, screaming. Tumbling head over heels into oblivion.
Danagin awoke in a haze of pain. His head, neck and shoulders throbbing, but his body numb. Blinking away blood, he looked desperately about, trying to gain his bearings. His pain forgotten he gasped in awe at what he beheld. The cave was filled with treasure, just as in his dream. Coins, gems and other trinket lay strewn about. In the middle of it all, the islander knelt, facing away from him, the bloody axe lay at his knees.
“You.” He gasped painfully.
The islander turned slowly towards Danagin and smiled. “Ah, you have returned!” Standing slowly he walked towards Danagin and bowed reverently. “Thank you for honoring Sool’kar so.”
Danagin looked past the islander and felt the blood drain from his face. On the far wall, dozens of minotaur skull sat in niches, at their center, the head of the beast he had killed sat staring at him. “You killed my men.” Danagin growled. “Why?”
The islander looked at him quizzically. “I only killed the demon, who was preparing the body.” He smiled broadly. “I thank you for blessing my people through such a sacrifice. Never before have we been so honored by a god.”
Memories flooded back to him full force. Getting up in the middle of the night, taking the axe and… “Oh no…” He murmured. “No…”
Apparently oblivious to Danagin’s sobbing, Durok continued. “I thank you personally for bringing your voice to me.”
Danagin looked up in confusion. “My voice?”
Durok nodded and gestured. Danagin followed the islander’s movement and saw Caspian bound to the wall, blood running from his face and mouth. “He will be sent to my people. As proof of your blessing.”
Danagin squeezed his eyes shut, not believing his ears. “What did you do to him?”
Durok bowed his head. “I removed his tongue, as instructed in our traditions. So that he cannot steal souls. He will be cared for until he decides to leave his mortal body and return to your realm.”
Danagin shook his head slowly. “And what of me?”
Durok bowed his head solemnly. “Unfortunately, your mortal form was broken, so you will remain here until you are strong enough again to leave it. But your five messengers will wait with you.”
Danagin looked past Durok and saw that there were places along the wall that had been carved out and walled up with stones. Five were walled over in this manner except for a narrow slit that was about eye level. The sixth was empty.
Bowing deeply, reached up and removed the medallion from Danagin’s neck. “And with your blessing, I ascend.” Placing the medallion around his neck, he began to chant in a deep rhythmic voice. As Danagin watched the islander’s skin began to twitch and writhe. Collapsing to the ground his whole body jerked spasmodically, then grew. White fur sprouted, his face stretching as bones cracked and rejoined. Two points ripped through the skin at his temples, elongating into short horns. Gasping, the newly formed minotaur pushed himself upright. “Again, Durok, son of Sool’kar I thank you.” The minotaur growled, his voice becoming more bestial. Around him, the sailors began to come to and started to scream. “The litany of your messengers, will comfort you as you leave your mortal form. He tried to say more, but now his throat and tongue had changed over completely and his words were lost. Bowing reverently, Durok picked up Danagin and placed him in the alcove, securing him to the wall. Helplessly he watched the minotaur place stone after stone, walling him in. As the last stone was emplaced, all he could see was the shining treasure that lay before him, and the sailor’s screams were joined.
By: Jason Haley