Mysterious fane on the banks of the Sea of Ohkotsk

Mysterious fane on the banks of the Sea of Ohkotsk

Friday, 24 October 2014

Prydain Project - Monster - Dark Huntsmen

The horses had grown more nervous as the afternoon slipped away from us.  This should have warned us, but we were arrogant.  

The sky had been like ragged, woolen felt all day, and as it unraveled into scarlet threads in the East the path we followed wound off into steep-sloped ravine.  In the gloaming, the shadows were even darker in the ravine, and the horses grew ever more skittish.  The walls were of packed sand and razor-edged flint.  The path was the putrid remains of a dead brook – clay caked the horses to their hocks and spattered their flanks.

As it grew darker, we searched in vain for a place to halt, to make camp for the night.  Our weariness grew, and even the most surefooted of the horses began to stumble.  Soon, we were pushing on under a moonless sky with little prospect of any rest unless we accepted the inevitable and made camp in the muck.

Just as we thought it might come to that, the heavy silence was broken by the call of a horn so like a ragged howl that it sent shivers down our spines and made the horses roll their eyes.  After a frozen moment, the howl was answered by a dozen others from various directions: the voices of men.

They had found us.

Fear lent us a reserve of strength we didn’t know we had.  But despite our efforts they were on us before we could travel another mile.

As we turned a sharp dog-leg in the ravine, a figure rose and stood silhouetted against the sooty sky:

At first it was hard to make him out, so smudged was his outline by the ragged furs that clad his body – but then he threw back his bearskin cloak and glared down at us with that dark hunger in his eyes.

His limbs were wrought of twisted sinew, ropy and taut.  His arms and legs were smudged with mud and darker things, his nails long and yellowed like claws.  His face was a matted shag of beard broken by a slash of teeth.  As bestial as he seemed, he held a black iron blade in one hand, long and wicked, something between a dagger and a sword.  And above the coal-glow of his eyes, in the center of his brow, was the scarlet brand of the Dark One.

As we stood frozen at his appearance, his fellows had crept close upon the edges of the ravine around us.  There were thirteen: a full band.  My belly filled with ice as I saw them grinning down at us from the heights.  I gave a shout when I saw them, and we tried desperately to form a circle, the better to defend ourselves, but it was too late.

The bear-clad chieftan raised his ornately carved horn to his lips and gave a great peal, his band answered with the howls and yelps of beast.

And then they fell on us like rabid wolves.

1. Alexander, Lloyd (1965) The Black Cauldron. New York: Henry Colt.

(statistics for B/X D&D)

Dark Huntsman
AC: 7
HD: 2+2** (see below)
Move: 120’ (40’)
Attacks: 1 weapon
Damage: By weapon
No. Appearing: 2-13
Save As: Fighter: 2 (see below)
Morale: 11
Treasure Type: P
Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
XP Value:  45 (+15/ additional HD)

Originally ordinary humans, Dark Huntsmen are cruel warriors and murderers who have taken an oath to a god of Chaos in order to receive certain powers.  They initially take their oaths as a Pack of 13, and the powers of Chaos clerics and their dark gods binds the Pack into a powerful unit.  As individuals, they are reduced almost to the ferocious savagery of rabid beasts, and they roam the land near the temple they serve hunting and killing anything they can find, preferring human or humanoid prey but also favouring beasts such as wolves, bears and big cats that they see as symbols of their ferocity.  They wear no armor beyond the ragged furs and skins, and will typically be armed only with a heavy dirk like a short sword (damage 1d6) or spear.  Sometimes Dark Huntsmen will use short bows, but they much prefer killing with their own hands.

In return for binding themselves to the gods of Chaos, and the resulting madness, Dark Huntsmen receive two powers:

Fight as One: A Pack of Dark Huntsmen has been forged into a single unit.  While they cannot read one another’s minds, they can communicate quickly with a glance and a gesture, and their habit of fighting in a coordinated fashion despite exchanging no more than grunts and snarls can be unnerving. Even in complete darkness or under the effect of a silence spell, they will continue to fight as a coordinated team.  More importantly, however, members of a Pack are bound by their blood oaths, and as a result the death of one will make the remaining members more powerful as his life force flows into them:  When a Dark Hunter is slain, each of his surviving companions gains 1 HD for purposes of attack and saves, and an additional 8hp.

Berserk: A Dark Huntsman may enter a blind berserk rage while in battle.  This berserk rage will last as many rounds as the Huntsman has HD, and he will gain +2 to Hit Rolls and damage while in this state.

A Pack of Dark Huntsmen may be dispatched by the high priest of the temple they serve to capture or kill specific individuals or to retrieve objects such as relics or treasures.  They will track their prey unerringly, unceasingly and to any distance.


Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Legendary Weapons Old and New

A blade is a blade is a blade, yes?


Some weapons are indeed forged in factory fashion, intended for the armories of keeps or to put teeth into a rag-tag force of conscripted farmers.

Some weapons are “off the rack” as it were, work-a-day tools in the kit of professional soldiers.

But some weapons…

Some weapons are great.

Some weapons were forged in circumstances mysterious or arcane. 

Some are artworks, the life’s work of a great master of the forge.

Some weapons were forged amid blood and fury – more birthed than made.

Yes, some weapons are great.

These legendary blades are storied – at times their names are remembered long after those of the warriors who wielded them.  It seems as though it was the weapon itself that wrought great deeds, as though the weapon was the hero – or the villain – that shook the world.

And sometimes it was.

Such weapons may be lost, but they will be found again: and when they are found, there will once again be great deeds to be sung.


[Inspired and informed by the article "A New Approach to Magic Weapons" by Michael Williamson, published as the Treasure Chest column in White Dwarf issue #73 (Jan 1986).]

Legendary Weapons Old and New

Part 1 : Determine the point value of the weapon

(random or choose):

Legendary Smith (1d10)

Age: 1 per 20 years (10d100)
+1-5 for each major event in which the weapon played a notable part (1d5/20 years)
+10 for any great events in which the weapon was a major player (10% chance per 100 years)
            + 1 per 3 levels of wielder if weapon was favoured for the major part of career (1d10/100 years)

Add for dramatic circumstances of forging (1d10)
Magic weapons add +10 per +1 or special power (flaming, slaying, etc)

Sum the above to get weapon point value total.

Legendary weapons are very focused and thus have only 4 primal alignments.  Select based on history or roll 1d4:
1. Good
2. Evil
3. Law
4. Chaos

Legendary weapons are not aligned in the magical sense, so can be wielded by anyone – but more powerful weapons may well detect as their alignment where appropriate.

Legendary weapons are infused with a sense of purpose.  Roll or select according to what is appropriate for the weapon’s history:

Defend the weak
Defend the law
Defend freedom
Defend oppression
Destroy a force for evil
Destroy a criminal society
Destroy an institution
Destroy a force for good
Fight cruelty
Maintain stability
Foment anarchy
Create fear/hardship
Kill all evil beings
Kill all criminals
Kill all officials
Kill all good beings

(Most entries will need to be detailed according to the setting: for example, destroy a force for evil might be interpreted to mean the weapon’s purpose is to destroy the followers and temple of a particular evil god. Destroy an institution might mean the weapon’s purpose is to kill all members of a particular aristocratic lineage, or it might mean the weapon is working against the institution of slavery)

All legendary weapons have names.  In some cases the name will be inscribed on the weapon itself or on a special case, but in others the name may be unknown in which case the services of a sage or diviner may be required.  Detect magic will identify the weapon as very special, but not reveal the name or properties.  Spells such as Speak With Dead (to ask the former owner) or spells that access knowledge from the outer planes may reveal the name, or knowledge as to where it may be found.  Information found by a sage may be fragmentary, or may only point to where the name may be learned (i.e. triggering a quest to learn more about the weapon and unlock its power).  Intelligent weapons may be able to communicate their names to their wielders, but may or may not be inclined to.

Part 2 : Using the weapon

Weapons infused with the power of their history and great deeds have names and can be called upon to aid the wielder in times of trouble.  The wielder calls out the name of the sword and rolls to attack as normal.  Only a single attack is possible.  If the attack results in a hit vs target AC, but the target requires special weapons to hit, subtract points from the weapon as follows:

1pt silver
2pt magic weapons
2pt/+1 for targets that require specific bonus to hit

Roll damage as usual, then subtract points from the weapon at 1pt per additional hp damage required to kill the target until the weapon’s current point value reaches zero.

The sum of the points spent is the % chance the weapon will break (-5% per magical plus or special power, e.g. flaming, vorpal)

The weapon will regain points up to its maximum as determined in part 1 at a rate of 1pt per 2hp damage dealt in the service of its purpose – random fights do not regenerate the weapon’s points, but if the wielder is working toward a goal that matches the weapon’s purpose hp dealt in fights directly related to that goal will do so.

If the wielder consistently favours the weapon while pursuing goals that are in line with the weapon’s purpose, when a major goal is achieved (i.e. plot impact is high, challenge was high) the weapon may gain 1-5 points.  The weapon also gains 1pt for every 3 levels the wielder gains while using it as a favoured weapon.  These points add to the weapon’s max total.

Part 3 : Special features

As legendary weapons gain in power, they may evolve and develop additional powers.  For each 10pt of power, roll 3d6 once on the following table:

3        Special power: 3d6 lightning
4        Special power: either flaming (1-3) or frost (4-6)
5-6     Special power: defending (any magical bonus can be assigned to AC instead)
7-13   Add magical +1
14-15 Speaks (if no INT score, will communicate only animal urges in favour of purpose, calculate Ego to
                        determine wielder’s ability to resist)
16      Special power: Intelligent: add 1d4 INT
17      Special power: Persuasive: add 1d4 CHA

18      Special power: Extra Ego: add 1d4 to Ego score

Monday, 22 September 2014

Franklin's Curse

(With apologies to Farley Mowatt [5])

It is now three weeks since we became trapped in the ice, he wrote, hand trembling and knuckles aching.

He paused to warm his fingers over the lamp before continuing, breath misting in the flickering light.  When he took up his pen, a film of ice had already begun to form on the ink.

The natives, who at first we found quite friendly and hospitable, have long since become inexplicably hostile so that we can no longer rely on them for help of any kind – much less for help in supplementing our supplies with fish and hunted meat.  Stores are dwindling, even fuel must be ruthlessly rationed in this treeless land.  The men are growing weak in both body and spirit, and I pray God that –

There came a knock, and when the door was opened Simmons – once a bluff veteran boatswain, but now gaunt and nervous – stood clutching his hat.

“Cap’n,” he started, then trailed off uncertainly.  He was a shadow of the man who had set sail from Plymouth so long ago.  When at last the tension seemed unbearable he spoke again, eyes fixed on his frost-bitten feet and voice a hollow whisper.  “We’ve lost another one sir, Jennings.”

With a soft oath he stood up from his desk and reached for the ship’s Bible.  Though, given recent events, he was no longer sure it would do any good.


In 1845, two brand new steam ships left Greenhithe, England under the command of Captain Sir John Franklin and set sail for Greenland and the islands of Canada’s north in search of the fabled Northwest Passage.  They were never heard from again. [1]

What could possibly have happened to erase the lives of 134 brave men so completely from the annals of exploration?

Perhaps the answer lies in the shadows of the North.  Imagine…

Imagine a time nearly 1000 years prior to the doomed Franklin expedition. Imagine the Americas lush with life, rich with cultures growing, rising and falling again without ever imagining the strange civilizations of the Romans, the Chinese, the Egyptians far across the Atlantic.  Until the coming of the Norse.

Imagine how startled the people of the Americas must have been to see those hulking men and their hard-bitten women wade out of the surf and onto the shores of what they called Vinland. Imagine the wonder to see people with bright yellow hair, blue eyes, and full beards.  Imagine the curiosity when they noticed that these strange people used tools – and weapons – fashioned from some shiny, hard material unlike any to have been seen in the Americas before.

And imagine the horror when some of the men chose to import not only their technologies, but their habits:

Drinking, fighting, raiding.

Oh yes, the Norse did well trading with the peoples who lived in the far north – furs, narwhal ivory, perhaps even soapstone jewels.  And what did they give in return?  A few trinkets. [3]

Disputes over the value of trade items were certain.  Tempers were sure to flare.  What if:

What if the Dorset people were not as helpless in the face of Norse invasion as they seemed?

What if they brought to bear forces the Norsemen couldn’t possibly understand?

Imagine the Dorset equivalent of the Inuit Angaqok, or shaman.  Imagine him (or her) singing softly in his tent, the rhythm of the drum, the scent of strange incenses smouldering in the whale fat lamp.

Imagine his body smeared with arcane sigils, with paint compounded from unwholesome things.

Imagine his journey to some shadowy region of the Dream, to bring back a nightmare. [2]

Perhaps at first those brash young Norsemen laughed in the faces of the Dorset traders when they demanded something more for their goods.  Perhaps they spat at their feet, took their goods by force, killed those who objected.

At first.

But then the nightmare came, perhaps entering the first of them like a miasma.  Perhaps it waited, hunger growing.  Until at last, on some dark night, the young man’s eyes went blank and he turned on his neighbour with a snarl – teeth snapping and claws grabbing, until his beard was wet and red, the hunger subsided, and mortal consciousness returned.

He fled of course, terrified of the price his victim’s family might exact, but not before the thing had stepped across the chasm and into another of the band.

And so it continued: gruesome death after gruesome death.  Madness in the barrow-lands of the frozen North, until at last there remained only one.

The nightmare could not be sent back, not now that it had entered the world.  But the Dorset Angaqok could trap the thing and seal it up: his fellows hunted the last remaining Norseman like a beast, and like a beast he fled across the tundra, howling.

But they caught him, and killed him, and with great ceremony they sealed him – and the nightmare beast – into a cairn of stones.

Time passed, and the Dorset people changed, moved: no longer the brave arctic travellers, they settled into more comfortable lives as the Algonquin of the pine forests of the South and East.  And the secret of the wendigo left the tundra with them.

In time, the Inuit came to take their place among the islands of the Arctic.  But they knew nothing of the danger that lurked. 

Until Franklin came, with his men, and eager for the secrets of the North they opened the cairn.

They opened the cairn, and the thing emerged into the world once more.  And they were never heard from again.

Decades later: the ships are found, the dead uncovered.

It’s big news, but what if…

What if it wasn’t just brass and papers they brought back?

What if they brought back something…darker?

And this time without the Arctic wastelands to keep it safe.

References and notes

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Enceladus Syndrome

The first stages of the plague the astronauts brought back from Enceladus were terrifying enough - it started as a sticky, brown-grey paste that slowly accumulated between your fingers and toes, but then it would suddenly explode, spreading to cover the whole body in a thick mucus.  

As horrifying as that was, the second stage was even worse, as the mucus slowly hardened into a crisp, papery coating as though the victim had been encased in a cocoon.

The first efforts to reverse the process surgically revealed the victims within at various stages of dissolution, their bodies apparently crumbling into a slurry.  It was widely conceded that the Enceladus Syndrome was fatal.

Until the first cocoons started to open of their own volition...

That was when we realised: it wasn't a plague.  

It was an invasion.


Friday, 25 April 2014

Mind Plague

When They arrived, it seemed obvious that we needed to study not only their technology, but their biology as well.  They were cooperative, and a half-dozen deep black government-sponsored projects were instantly erected around the goal of learning as much as possible from the volunteers from among Them who had opted to stay.  Progress was made on all fronts, but it wasn't until the startling discovery last year that we realised the chilling truth.

Their technology and their biology aren't separate things: The little machines They use constantly in daily life aren't accessories - they're part of Them.  And much of what we had mistaken for natural was actually highly engineered.

Including Their minds.  Including Their thoughts...

It started slowly at first.

A few of the scientists working most closely with Them started behaving oddly. It was assumed that the strain of making the mental adjustment to comprehend what they were learning was having its impact.

And then it was noticed that some of the people working in these facilities were also acting strangely...even though they weren't even highly enough cleared to know They were here, let alone living on the compound.

But really, it wasn't until after Thanksgiving that we realised the horror that had been unwittingly unleashed:

Families started to change as their members' minds started to crumble under the onslaught of self-replicating, engineered thoughts.

Children were most vulnerable of course, and the most dangerous:


Now we know the risk, but is it too late?


Monday, 21 April 2014

Crumbling Utopias

Option 1 - The Crystal Palace

The Arcology glitters like a diamond set in verdant rolling hills.  Nature has reclaimed the land, and after many, many years there is very little sign of the near-disaster that led to humanity encapsulating itself in sealed biospheres.

Within the Arcology is a utopia of advanced technology and social harmony - but for some the deprivations needed to maintain the delicate balance that permits human survival chafe, and more importantly the controlling ideology is saccharine sweet in its effort to keep everyone on an even keel and incapable of discord.  They yearn for struggle, for some sense that their existence has some meaning. They find the ideology that keeps their society running suffocating, and now they have a plan: a way to break out of their packed-in-cotton lives and strike out to create a new society of their own.

And soon, they will glimpse the iron fist that the placid, smiling faces of their rulers has hidden for generations.

Option 2 - The Lost City

The Great War ended everything.

Nuclear, chemical, biological and ultimately nanotech weapons tore down our cities and left the survivors trembling amid the rubble.

Slowly, and with great effort, tiny pockets of civilization have started to congeal amid the twisted wastes, but nothing is the same:

The Great War changed everything.

Radiation, retroviruses, DNA targeting nano-weapons, all these have combined to warp Nature into shapes we would barely recognise. Strange creatures have emerged from the ashes.  Familiar creatures have changed, grown from our subjects to our rivals in the race to reclaim the Earth.

Against this backdrop, a light has risen:

One community of like-minded beings has slowly gathered the strength to build economic and intellectual wealth. A handful of perilous trade routes have been established between this center and a handful of areas that can feed into the civilization engine in various ways.  Journeys can only be undertaken on an irregular schedule, but there seems to be promise: the Elders have found evidence among the scraps they have gathered of the knowledge of the Ancients that this is how the Ancients rose to such heights.

An expedition sets out, cutting its way through the glowing jungles and tribes of savages that sprawl across the landscape.  But disaster strikes!

An attack, a storm, and the caravan is scattered.

Individuals, even small groups are doomed so far from the heart of the growing civilization - things are just too foul, too savage for the weak bodies of the parts of the whole.


A handful of survivors stumble on the entrance to ruins of the Ancients, and quickly secure themselves inside.  As they rest with the winds of corruption howling outside, they soon realise that this is no ordinary ruin: this is just the entrance to a vast complex that not only stretches far and wide below the canopy of the jungle, but seems also to delve deep into the bedrock.

The world outside is still far too dangerous, but perhaps there are tools or valuable secrets surviving here that could be used to help them return to civilization alive.

But if random travelers can stumble on the entrance, so can many other things.

What horrors wait in the depths?

More importantly, even if the depths are still secure, will whatever still lives there be friendly?


Monday, 24 March 2014

Tools of the Ancients

Two lives lost because of the detritus of a pointless war long ago.  

But the weapons deployed by humans pale beside the cunning devices wielded by the Ancients in the war that ultimately led to the end of the First Age of Earth civilizations. Our "Great War" was a pillow fight in comparison, if translations of the few Progenitor tablets thus far found can be trusted.  What strange things were left hidden in the Precambrian muck, buried under kilometers of sediment, and only now working their way back to the surface as we delve ever more deeply?

Would we understand how such things work?
Would we be able to defuse them, or even contain the forces unleashed?

Would we even recognise them as weapons?

And what happens when someone inadvertently triggers one?

Or wakes it...



Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Secret epidemic

When the first few made their complaints to their doctors, they were dismissed - it was a psychiatric pathology, they said, an obsession.

But then the numbers grew - hundreds of people, all suffering from an infestation and the itch that came with it.

Their reddened skin, their sores, the growing desperation in their eyes...Still some dismissed it as in their minds, but others tried to solve the mystery.

Just an overactive itch reflex, said some - your body wired to imagine unreal insects, your mind concocting explanations to match. A few brave researchers, immune to the mocking voices of their peers, determined to look a little closer, if only to prove to their patients that this was nothing, all in their mind.

What they found blew their minds:

Tiny fibers - setae? spines? Something like the irritating urticating hairs of an insect thrusting up through their skin.

And they moved.

The hairs twitched, waved...and sometimes travelled across the surface of the skin to create a new lesion elsewhere.

Samples were taken, biopsies secured.

The hairs seemed attached to nothing...but then what were they? Were they left behind by creatures that had as yet escaped scrutiny?  Were they tiny fragments of irritating fibers?

Tests were done - the objects were examined under microscopes, chemical analysis was done, and meanwhile those who suffered endured the unending itch, the sense of something moving just under their skin.

Tests were inconclusive.  Some dismissed it - it was little sharp fragments of animal hair, of nylon, of cotton, they said.  But others said: yes, some of them are, but others...

There was too much silicon, strange chemical ratios, results that didn't match any database...

But these researchers were ridiculed, and they struggled to get funding to find out more.

And meanwhile, the earliest patients were beginning to change again...


Monday, 3 March 2014

Meanwhile in the Tragic Kingdom

Name the movie:

The tale starts with the birth of the brave and powerful King’s son, driving yet another wedge between the king and his brother who – despite being physically weak – is the more canny of the brothers and resents the way in which he has been marginalized.  The King makes matters worse as time goes on, teaching his son to treat the kind and intelligent Court Advisor as a fool, publicly humiliating him by making him the butt of practical jokes, and instead favouring the semi-coherent ravings of a half-mad mystic as guidance for his rule. 

As the Prince grows, he becomes ever more spoiled and arrogant, going so far as to deliberately disregard the Advisor’s warnings in favour of a frivolous adventure that takes him into a dismal slum populated by the kingdom’s oppressed underclass. The young Prince trespasses and mocks the conditions in which the underclass lives, and finds himself on the sharp end of trouble when he’s cornered by a group of toughs.  The King, however, has been warned by his loyal Advisor and uses his own power directly to slap down the toughs and make personal threats of retribution against the people of the slum if the Prince is ever harmed.

Despite this near-miss, the Prince becomes even more obnoxious, and at last the Royal Uncle can take no more – dissatisfied with what he sees the future holding for the kingdom, he goes in secret to the slums and makes contact with the fierce fascist revolutionaries there, harnessing their ability to mobilize the downtrodden in support of his try for the throne. Together, they formulate a plan to assassinate the Prince in a hunting “accident” and when the King leaps to his son’s aid – ever the brainless “hero” – the Royal Uncle takes advantage of the situation to kill the King as well.

The Prince survives this assassination attempt, but horrified at what his incompetence has wrought, he flees his responsibilities and eventually takes up with a pair of ne’er do well fools who spend their lives in dissipation and idleness. As the Prince grows up in the company of these sodden idiots, the Usurper’s grip on the kingdom begins to crumble:

He eliminated all the real challenges immediately of course, using the muscle of his fascist allies, but the ladies of the court are resisting him in every way they can, using their position to stymie attempts to get the economy working properly after the confusion of the coup. Knowing that only the Advisor has the brains to truly challenge him, he has him jailed and kept nearby, but the Advisor turns out to be too loyal to the old regime and willing to watch the kingdom fall apart rather than help the Usurper in any way.

Desperate for some way to save her homeland, one of the young ladies of the court flees the kingdom, throwing herself into self-imposed exile as a way to hone her skills and perhaps return one day to dislodge the Usurper from the throne.  One of the two dissipated fools who adopted the young runs afoul of her, and as she is about to skewer him the Prince Prince – who has grown into a fine bully-boy to protect his two “uncles” – arrives to save the day. The two cross swords, but are an even match, having been trained in their youth by the same masters.

In the course of the battle she recognises him as the rightful heir, and begs him to return with her to set things right. At first, the Prince refuses – not only is he still wracked with guilt for his recklessness and cowardice in running away from responsibility in the first place, but he has grown used to the indolent lifestyle of his “uncles” and reluctant to make any major changes.  She puts her charms to work, however, and ultimately seduces him before manipulating him into joining her to at least see what has become of his kingdom.

Arriving, they discover that the ladies of the court have given up all hope of help coming from outside, and have attempted a counter-insurgency only to be beaten mercilessly by the fascists, who are now straining at the flimsy leash the Usurper holds on them. Seeing that a full fascist takeover is imminent, the Prince and his Consort organise the royals for one last attempt at regaining power.  In the final battle, the Prince is brought face to face with the Usurper, and is forced to kill him.
In the aftermath, the fascists are driven back underground, those loyal to the Usurper are forced into exile, and the Prince re-establishes the power of his line – reinstalling the Royal Advisor, but also using his power to offer positions of authority to the dissipated “uncles” and other cronies, and once again looking to the addled mystic for advice.
And so the cycle begins again.


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The War Overhead

They dismissed it when I warned them the first shots would be fired.

But then the Galactics fired the first shots - bombarding the rebels' lunar installation from their kinetic weapon platforms in Jovian orbit.  Even then, they tried to explain it away - tried to make the naive public think it was just business as usual.

Then came the firefight high in the Van Allen belt, with dozens of ships ripped into nothing more than ionized particles as the Galactics extracted vengeance for the rebels' sins.

Even now, the public are in the dark, completely unaware of what is happening high overhead, lied to and tricked into believing the fallout is simply a natural phenomenon.  But the world's governments are trembling.


Because the rebels' sin was sharing their knowledge with us - how else do you think we advanced so quickly over the last few decades?

But now the Galactics are here, and who knows what they will do to us once the rebels have been dealt with...


Friday, 21 February 2014

The Wicker Man

They had always said his skin was like parchment, and that he creaked like rattan when he moved.

But when the accident happened, none of them were prepared for what they saw.


Thursday, 20 February 2014

They mostly come out at night. Mostly.

She wept with relief when they found her, hidden behind the closet door in a hole-in-the-wall apartment.

It was six years ago when it started in a lonely, boring town in Alaska.

Just a group of kids playing with a ouija board.  Then pendulums.  Then seances and channelling.

And then she found The Book: an old, leather-bound tome that had fallen down behind the stacks at the library so many years ago.  The pages were dark with the scrawl of half a dozen hands and twice as many languages. Yellowed slips of paper jutted at every angle, covered with comments and notes, strange diagrams.  Sometimes so arcane they almost seemed written in code.

Poring over the pages, using musty 50-year-old dictionaries and the internet to find meaning in the pages was dorky, maybe, and a little weird.  But to bored teens in a small town who had already shocked parents and peers with goth styles and vampire personas it was the best. Puzzle. Ever.  

When at last they started to make progress in their translation, they tried one of the rites they deciphered, thinking of it as just another LARP.

But it worked, and the thrill of discovery made them want to try more.

Again and again they tried: first flashes of light, then a mysterious moaning voice. Then action at a distance. And boils to plague that girl.

And then they did it.

They wanted revenge. 

He'd touched her, threatened her.  Made her do things. He was a bad person.  But The Book told them there was a way he could be punished. A summoning.

They tried it, and the thing that came plagued their nightmares for days afterwards.

But it worked, as horrible as the punishment was to watch.  And there were others who had scores to settle.  Other knives to grind.

So they did it again.  And again.

But what they didn't know was that the things they had woken, the things that came when they called and seemed to do their bidding were old.  

They were hungry things that had dwelt in the sunless steppes of the arctic since before humans had come to this land. They were the dark things that even the Elders had feared.

They were wendigo, and now that they were awake they were hungry.

And they didn't really care about the sins of their prey.

They just. Wanted. More.


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The Diamond Edda

Imagine an alternate history in which the first European settlers of Iceland and Greenland were Vikings.

Standard fare, sure, but how about this:

At first these Vikings went about things in typically Viking fashion, complete with Althings, expeditions to Vinland, and grand tales of daring do by warriors set on feasting in Valhalla with the gods.

In their expeditions across the Arctic, through Hudson’s Bay and beyond in search of furs, ivory and trinkets traded up from the South (Aztec gold, perhaps? Lapis lazuli amulets? Strings of gem-like shells?) they ultimately begin exploring the west coast of the continent – eventually coming into contact with the Chinese colonies there.

And so, rather than converting to Christianity these New World Vikings converted to Buddhism.

True to the transcendental traditions of their own Wiccan, these alter-Vikings adopted an esoteric approach to Buddhism, something like Shingon or Tangmi/Mizong – with their practice founded on the idea of Odin as their own boddhisatva, and ultimately developing a tradition of warrior mystics who seek enlightenment through development of their bodies in the fighting arts and various ascetic techniques and mortifications. 

In the end, the religious text "The Diamond Edda" would be the foundation of this tradition, and berserk a manifestation of transcendental Zen as the masters of this tradition release attachment to the self and thought and immerse themselves in the moment of battle.

Sun darkened, half-clothed warriors - shaggy in the fashion of the Indian ascetics - would necessarily wander the frozen steppes of the Arctic circle, the crunch of their fur-wrapped feet on the snow nearly drowned by the rhythmic "jingle...jingle...jingle..." as their belled staves strike the ground.

Naturally, their robes would be blood red, their furs white.

And the infidel would weep with terror in the night.