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New entry May 06

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Space Travel for SF Writers

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The Sigil Trilogy

If you're looking for an amazing, WOW! science fiction story, check out THE SIGIL TRILOGY. This is — literally — one of the best science fiction novels I've ever read.

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Book Recommendation

THE SIGIL TRILOGY: The universe is dying from within... "Great stuff... Really enjoyed it." — SFWA Grandmaster Michael Moorcock

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Story Title: [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[["Bugrum The Flabby"]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]

The party returned just after moonhigh. From the shadows, Caelia watched them descend through Fang Corridor. It was rare for Gremlon to send an offensive toward the Light Faerie. Even more rare -- that he allow one such as Urgan to lead the party.

The giant, the only giant, one of the very few Originals who chose to live amongst the Dark Faerie, led his party of dwarves and gremlin from the front. His long legs carried him quickly along the winding path between stalagmites, his back bent and head hunched to avoid the stalactites that menaced from above. Despite the fangs of Fang Corridor, his rapid pace threatened to carry him out of the torchlight. The torchbearer, a dwarf named Androl, scurried to keep pace. The rest of the party followed closely on Androl’s heels.

Even from her vantage point in the shadow she could smell the heat of their sweat and blood. The flickering torchlight cast a sickly sheen over skin that matched the pallid hue of the stone around them, made the blood that clotted upon scalp and brow look as black as earthsblood. Weary and pained expressions painted their faces. Most of them possessed shortswords and daggers, and their hands still hovered above the hilts of their weapons as though they might need them any instant. Urgan was the only one with a different sort of weapon. The immense club he carried was caked with the flesh and blood of what could be the remains of any kind of Light Faerie.

Caelia shuddered, hoping that none of her Light family had died. She stepped back even further into the shadows, praying that her invisibility spell would hold just a little longer. She waited until the war party had passed, then silently followed them along the Fang Corridor.

Many of them carried packs upon their backs, filled with whatever spoils they won in their venture. They made their way silently, and so she too moved silently, down the imposing entryway to the Dark Faerie home. Two borgruth stood guard at Gremlon’s Gate as the party approached. Caelia kept her distance, knowing the keen hearing of Gremlon’s self-appointed guardians would detect her even if they couldn’t see her. The borgruth set aside their dwarven scythes, and opened the wooden door that led to the main chambers of Darkhome. Caelia squinted her eyes at the sudden light. The party proceeded through the doors. Androl handed the torch to one of the borgruth, who doused it in a barrel of earthsblood as he passed. The torch would be there, ready, for whoever needed it next.

When the door shut, she and the borgruth were left in absolute darkness. She reached out with her senses and found a shadow on the far side of the door. She let the one that cloaked her fall away in exchange for the other. Scenes shifted, and once again she could see the party, now making their way through the central community chamber of Darkhome. The glowshrooms above cast a much healthier light upon them, the blood that covered them now glowing crimson.

She followed them, stepping when they stepped, stopping when they stopped. They didn't do much of the latter, even when the walls began to open up into homes and courtyards and side-corridors and let out some of the folk who dwelled in them. Despite the fungus-limmed gloom, the stony sky above, and the decided lack of growing things, she could have been in Liadon before its fall.

If Liadon had been inhabited by murderers.

Caelia kept reminding herself of that. Especially when she saw the children.

They were everywhere. Children of all species, of all races, attached to the dwellings of Darkhome like macabre decorations, one or two to a building. The youngest glowed brightest; the older children were dimmer as their youth, their innocence was drained away by the atmosphere of the place.

Caelia's mouth went dry. She'd come to find the missing youths of the realm; she'd been chosen specifically for that purpose by the Trans-Race Council. But now that she'd found them, a more important question arose: what in the Name of Names was being *done* to them?

She shrank back into the shadows as a couple of the dark ones passed her, close enough for her to reach out and touch the darkly-stained cloaks. Her invisibility spell still held, but she would need to leave before it's power became too depleted to hide her.

She cast around for a position closer to the nearest house, on the edge of the dwellings. The glowshrooms on the high ceiling of the cave were concentrated in the centre, and their light merely cast a faint sheen on the ground ahead of her. The shadows were long, sharply edged, and she quailed as she contemplated leaving their protection.

She looked up at the nearest house, and saw the tortured face of a child hanging from the wall, a trophy on display. She had to get closer, if she was to get any kind of useful information to take back to the Council.

This one was a young boy, a human. As she feared, his expression was not peaceful. Here the words of his final pain were written in festering gashes across his now purple skin. A mouth robbed of teeth hung wide. Empty sockets stretched back into his skull as if his eyes had been sucked out by a great force. She would not have been surprised at all if the entire body was empty. This could be nothing more than a sack of skin, and a few bones.

She didn't have to touch the rotting child to know it was true, to know that he had been gutted and emptied. She had seen this before. Somewhere.

* * *

Bells tolled. Her parents, all the adults of the village were rushing around, sometimes crashing into each other, but never into the children. The other kids, most younger than she, were hustled into Mayor Veyan's inn, with hasty explanations that sounded contradictory to Caelia's ears. _It's a party for Tillia!_ one mother told her son , attempting to sound jolly but managing only a manic hysteria. _The men are going hunting, and we're to wait indoors,_ said another. She sounded more truthful in Caelia's estimation.

She hung back as the older children were pressed into service by their elders, bringing skeins of water and lanterns to where the men had arranged themselves in a rough half-circle. Kneeling, they were stringing their bows, drawing the long arrows and peering into the dim evening light.

A strong hand gripped her suddenly on the shoulder, turning her around. She gasped, but then her face lightened as her father loomed out of the shadows.

"I guess you are old enough," he said cryptically. "Even still, try to stay away from the bows out front, hear?"

She nodded, taken aback by his sudden seriousness, and unused to his face without its customary smile when he saw her. He moved toward the line of men, and she saw his bow slung across his back, the quiver of arrows that normally lay inside the door to their home carried lightly in his other hand. He looked back at her over his shoulder, and paused a moment, before continuing, his head bowed.

Wondering at the sense of panic that gripped the adults in the crowd, she pushed through the mass of people, stretching on tiptoe as she tried to locate her mother. She noticed Mistress Vaer, the blacksmith's wife, sitting at one of the tables trying to calm her screaming infant.

"Mistress Vaer! What's happening here? What's the matter?"

"Caelia! Where have you been? Your mother is beside herself! Quickly, go let her see that you're back!"

"But what-"

"Go, child! There's no time to discuss this!"

Her voice left no room for discussion. Caelia fled in the direction indicated, eyes roving as she looked for her mother in the throng. Finally, as a group of village women rushed toward the well carrying empty buckets and kettles, she saw her mother bent over a small figure lying prone on the ground. She slowed her approach, not wishing to disturb her mother's work.

Caelia had never seen her mother so fiercely concentrated on her work. Her eyes never left the small body before her, as she called peremptorily for medical instruments and helpers, making no distinction between the two. Caelia recognised her manner as a combination of fear and determination -- determination that she would not lose this patient, and fear that her skills would not suffice.

A sudden pounding in the distance made everyone around her fall silent, except for Caelia's mother, who continued to mutter to herself as she worked. The rushing of the adults ceased, and they stood poised on the edge of motion. The men and women holding the bows raised them, and sighted along the arrows into the dusky light beyond the village.

And the pounding grew louder.

Caelia looked in the direction of the sound.

A War Mastodon was trotting toward the village.

There was only one. But even one was bad news. With its thick skin further protected by armor, a Mastodon was very difficult to kill.

It came closer. The men facing it started to draw their bows, preparing for a desperate fight.

But--wasn't the Mastodon caparisoned in red and white? Yes, it wore the colors of Garoda, their neighbor village, with which they were on good terms. Was this a ruse?

The Mastodon stopped and went down on its knees. Now Caelia could see that it was badly wounded. One man slid down from its back and came stumbling towards the village.

"We've been attacked!" he shouted. "The Dark Fairie attacked Garoda! We fought but were overwhelmed, only I got away! I came here to warn you..."

He collapsed. He was bleeding too, from at least four hideous wounds: one in his head, two in his legs and one in his belly.

He gasped, lifting his head as if it were weighted, his plea heavy in the air;

"They took the children. Please..." The soldier began to jerk and twitch with his death spasms, his breath coming in short, hurried gasps.

Everyone leaned close to hear the strange words he spoke with his last breaths.

"In a...time before time..." the soldier croaked. "...Was written a prophecy in rhyme...Master of Dark Faerie foils Light...takes children under his might..." He coughed and blood dripped from his gibbering lips. "...only one child will see past the charade...with the aid of a magic his dark son has made..."

And with the those final words the poor Gorodan man exhaled and died. His War Mastodon stumbled forward to peer at him out of its beady eyes. Then it trumpeted mournfully.

"I don't understand," said one of the village women.

"That's an old Garodan legend," said another woman. "The people of that village have been known to speak the strange poem with their last breaths. Sounds like babbling to me. And I'm not sure what it has to do with our own children. Who is to take them? Who is to rescue them? What do you think?"

No one offered an answer.

Caelia stared at the dead man as the mighty Mastodon continued it's heartbreaking serenade. The villagers whispered amongst themselves, perplexed. Didn't they understand? She was only a child, yet she understood. When she looked at other youngsters, it was clear to her that they understood as well. They were in great danger. She ran to her father, but he would not listen to her. He was too busy helping the men corral the Mastodon. Besides, what could one so young know about such matters?

That night, they realized just how much she knew.

* * *

They had all felt it, the children: the stirrings of nameless phantoms, words struggling to be shaped by innocent lips. These were the tales of heroes never born, of deeds never done. No village storyteller would ever hear of The Eighteen Deeds of Ji'ita the Lame; The Triumphant Footrest; or Abu-Said and The Screaming Pedestal of Pe'kan.

Yet how they struggled to escape, each tale tumbling out in a great chaotic jumble of half-formed words. The teller would shriek and leap, haranguing invisible listeners as if their lives depended on it.

The children would laugh uncomfortably, and resume their play, aping the actions of the luckless "storyteller." Gradually, the story would cease, coming to an enigmatic and unsatisfactory conclusion, leaving the child drained, but alive.

* * *

At dusk the villagers prepared to bury the unknown Garodan soldier according to their custom. His neck was wrapped in red tellah-cloth, his feet in blue silk, and three robins' eggs were placed on his chest. This was thought to help the soul escape, and though no one in the village could quite tell you why, they all knew it was terribly, terribly important to do so.

The laments and games of "Schmack" continued well into the night, but the children remained uneasy, lingering at the periphery of the revels, fearful even to look at one another.

As the wake went on, it became all too apparent that Borusa, the Town Counter was enjoying his wine a little too fully. He pranced up to the cadaver, wine bottle in one hand, and began tweaking its face.

"ONE nose," he chuckled, and the sound of his laughter was like noxious gases escaping from a swamp. "Ears: one, TWO-HOOHOOOHOOOOOO!!!"

The marvelous thing about Borusa was that his drunken fits made people appreciate just how dull he was when sober.

"EYES!" He declared. "One, tw- HOLY GODS!"

At this point, Martai was the only one listening to him. "What is it now, you ridiculous old sot?"

"His eye just... collapsed!" Borusa was alert now, and trembling. All eyes turned and watched, horrified, as the entire body of the Garodan soldier began to shrivel and collapse, like a rotting apple. The chest sank, and from its depths, there rose a hand...

The grotesque, misshapen fingers were clenched in a semblance of a fist, but the clawish appendage seemed to hang limply at the wrist of the gray, emaciated arm that continued to issue from the chest of the corpse.

Transfixed, everyone watched as the hideous arm slowly emerged and a knobby elbow made itself visible. The arm rose until its entire length extended from the dead man's chest. Then the hand slowly turned over and one long, gray, wasted finger opened out. It pointed and curled back again. And then again.

The hand was pointing at Caelia and summoning her forward.

Not of her own volition, Caelia moved stiffly towards her hideous summoner, her steps coinciding with each curling of that gruesome finger. Caelia's mother, Cresilla, fearing for her daughter, tried vainly to stop Caelia, but as were all of those present except Caelia, Cresilla was seemingly frozen in place, unable to move or speak.

Caelia knelt beside the body as the arm twisted away from her and the hand motioned downward. Reaching into the collar of the corpse's tunic, she removed an amulet from around the dead man's neck and placed it around her own. The instant the amulet's chain was around her neck the vile arm, quicker than a striking snake, snapped forward and the malformed hand clamped down on the crown of Caelia's head.

Caelia thought her head was going to explode. The sensations of hundreds of lifetimes coursed through her mind. She reeled from the mangled stream of scenes and emotions, some indescribably beautiful, others unimaginably horrific. The transfer lasted but a moment, but in that moment she suffered hundreds of deaths, living and dying each. The last was the death of the valiant warrior stretched before her. Mercifully, the apparition vanished, and as it did Caelia collapsed into blissful unconciousness.

She woke to a far greater nightmare. The village was aflame and all around her adults were running through the streets, screaming...the children were gone. The children...

Caelia touched the amulet she had taken from the dead man, felt it cool and smooth beneath her fingerstips. She gazed into its obsidian depths, fearing the truth that lay there.

"Caelia? Caelia, child--you're alive--!"

Her mother's voice seemed far away. Far from the depths of the amulet, far from the flame, from the horror. The children.... Shadows moved amid the fire, huge and sad, until they were shadows no more, but the great Mastodon standing before her, his eyes dark as the amulet. She knew then what she must do. And she knew who would carry her.

The Mastodon barely moved, barely flickered a glance at the child struggling to mount it. Caelia wrestled mightily with the small rope ladder leading to the saddle, but clumsy young limbs, unfamiliar with the task, refused to behave.

All was chaos as the adults ran, screamed, tried to organize search parties. But Caelia only stared hopelessly at the great, blithe War Mastodon.

"Please," she whispered, and the Mastodon's left ear rippled ever so slightly, like a banner in a light breeze. Slowly, ponderously, the Mastodon knelt and lowered its massive head to the ground. Stepping on one of the tusks and grabbing large handfuls of rancid-smelling hair, she clambered up and onto its back.

"Let's go," she said, though she couldn't remember forming the words. It seemed to Caelia that she was watching these events unfold, disconnected from the strange girl riding a smelly prehistoric mount.

It was in this state of mind that she guided the Mastodon to where she knew the children would be. It wasn't on any map; not one drawn by adults, anyway. It was the geography of dreams, the roadways of the mind that the children always followed. A pixie could be pursued into the magical Onion Kingdom; or screaming, laughing children could themselves be hunted by invisible trolls, chased into Hopping Land, where everyone had to hop on one leg, lest the trolls eat their bones.

Her mind turned over the images she saw just before losing consciousness: mermaids, two-headed dogs, treacherous kings and soulless children with glowing eyes. All the old images the strange poem the Garodan soldier had told brought to mind, made somehow clearer now by the dark amulet she wore. She scrutinized each image, chasing it to its source and guiding her Mastodon. One by one, the images fell, until there, looming before her, were the Gates.

The Gates of Night. The trail of dreams led to Darkhome. What exactly had the Dark Faerie to do with her strange waking nightmare of ghostly stories and fictional creatures? Surely the giants, gremlins and dwarves were real, just as real as...

No. Caelia pushed the irrelevant thoughts away. Time to focus on the task at hand. She whispered in the Mastodon's ear, and it once again bent over. She climbed down and kissed the creature farewell.

She loosened the cinches and allowed the great beast to shrug off its encumbering armor and its former rider's arsenal and supplies. The Mastadon cast one last mournful look at Caelia and then lumbered off in the direction from whence they had came. Knowing its fate, Caelia shed a lone tear for the noble animal.

The Mastadon's true rider was dead, and as Caelia had released it from its obligation to help her, she knew it would do as any other War Mastadon would do. It would hunt down and kill whoever had killed its rider or die trying. For at a young age a rider and War Mastadon are paired to train together, and over the years the bond that is formed transcends the physical plane. They begin to share thoughts, and when one dies the other cannot bear to live. She believed it would now be off to seek its own brand of retribution.

But as soon as Cailia turned away, the powerful creature returned to the Gates of Darkhome. For the slayer of its bondmate was within that dank abode and the Mastodon was pledged to vengeance. It would taste the giant Urgan's blood. With a silence that seemed impossbile for its size, the Mastodon followed after Caelia into the dark.

Caelia turned toward the huge Gates before her. Twin spires of black rock thrust up from the ground, dwarfing the surrounding trees, but still lost in the shadow of the mountain that loomed behind them. They pulsed with a sickly green light, and she felt slightly nauseated just looking at them.

Between the spires hung a tremendous spiderweb, glistening wetly in the light from the spires. Caelia studied the web carefully, looking for a gap that would allow her access to the dark tunnel behind it. A motion from the top of the web caught her attention, and she peered closely at it.

A kal'rit! She thought they were only legends! To see a nightmare made reality made her flesh crawl.

The kal'rit tread gracefully down her web, raven hair shining, and spindly legs moving rapidly. From the waist up, the Kal'rit was an amazingly beautiful woman, but from the waist down all Caelia could see was the body of spider. The Kal'rit was massive, and now Caelia began to believe the stories of the many men and woman lured to their deaths by both sexes of the kal'rit people.

The kal'rit had not noticed her yet, but would do so if she remained in the same spot. Caelia returned to the edge of the tunnel and prepared to use what little magic she knew. She pulled her dagger, and spoke the Ritual of Knives. The dagger could now be wielded unconsciously by her, and was enchanted against natural breakage.

Caelia returned to the spot where the Kal'rit was, and found a disturbing site. The Kal'rit had been mysteriously blown to ashes, and the tunnel was smoking. Caelia held her breath and ventured into the now passable tunnel, unaware that a cowled figure watched her. One whose dark power could change the world...

She peered down the long tunnel ahead of her. As her eyes adapted to the darkness, a faint outline of light revealed a small wooden door along the lefthand wall. The wood felt warm and Caelia found it strangely comforting. She pushed gently against the door and it opened noiselessly.

Sitting by a dying fire was an old man. His long, gray beard coiled to the floor. His face was deeply wrinkled but his eyes sparkled with an impish benevolence.

"Greetings Caelia, I have been watching you for many days. I know all of your struggles, and I am sorry it had to be so. I have sought you out, because I am prepared to offer you the chance to save the children. All you must do is promise to complete a service for me..." began the old man.

"I will aid you in your rescue of the children, but upon completion, I need you to aid me in destroying the source of this evil. He is a powerful Wizard by the name of Thaldegast. Do you accept?"

Caelia contemplated the old man's offer. His face seemed so likable, his voice so relaxing. But he was too enigmatic to be trusted and his offer might even be a trap.

Her misgivings must have been evident on her face, as he offered her words of comfort: "Do not fear, child, you can trust me." He dug into his beard and produced a small scroll. "Here child, take this scroll as a gift of my good will. It contains a charm of protection." Benevolence seemed to radiate from him and Caelia felt ashamed to be so untrusting. She began to reach for the scroll. A small movement in the corner of the room caught her eye and she paused. A fly had just fallen into a spider's web and now struggled vainly to escape.

The spider advanced on the fly and suddenly Caelia saw her way clearly. She reached past the offered scroll and gave the old man's beard a firm tug. Her mouth dropped open in shock as the disguise pulled away.

"Rastaroth, is that you?" she asked, and felt like weeping. How long had she mourned his death when the war of the wizards took place? She could still remember the messenger who brought her the sad news. He gave her Rasaroth's white robe and the ring she has worn ever since on the first finger of her right hand. The wizard now shied away into deeper darkness, and she glimpsed that his face was scared by history.

"I thought you were dead," Caelia whispered, and stepped forward to hug him. The old wizard stumbled back as to avoid her touch.

"What's wrong ?" she asked.

"Fear me, for I have become a horror in the night and am made a slave of Thaldegast. You must go now. It is time," he said sadly, and with this a gust of wind blew out a candle in the corner of the room. The cobwebs shook and almost dislodged the fat spider, who was busy wrapping his twitching prey. Rastaroth disappeared and words echoed through the air saying: "I will be by your side child. You will hear my voice when the time is right. Remember my ring in the Withered Hall..." Then there was silence. She looked at the scroll of protection and wondered how was she to cast the spell with so little knowledge of magic...

She glanced down at the ring on her finger, the black opal set in silver that had always been Rastaroth's personal symbol. She remembered it on his finger during all the stories he had told her when her mother had brought her to his house, to watch over her when her mother had to go off and treat some injury, or assist in the birth of a child. Rastaroth, her mother's youngest brother and her favorite uncle, who never lied to her the way other adults did, and had tried to show her the beauty and magic inherit in all things. He had told her endless stories about the ways of the world, the ways of magic. She wished now that she had listened more closely to his lessons.

When he died, something had died in her as well. Now she knew that he had not died at all. No, it was much worse. He had been captured by some Dark wizard, twisted into something other than he was.

The captured children, the Wizards of Light, the poor Garodan soldier and his wounded Mastodon. How many other victims had the Dark already claimed? There would be no more. If she had to shake the Gates of Night by hand, Caelia would stop them. She gritted her teeth to keep from screaming her frustration and rage, and balled both hands into tight fists.

The silver ring was suddenly warm on her finger, and she had a sudden inkling of the true gift Rastaroth had given her. But it was only that so far...a whisper of power like a promise.

* * *

Back to the present and the task at hand, Caelia braved closing her eyes for a quick moment to gather herself. Her temples started to ache with the stress of maintaining her spell of invisibility. Just a little while longer she told herself, just a few more moments. She could at least do that for the young ones that had become etched into her memory like the writing that would be on the unlucky one's tombstones. Another dark, shambling figure passed her and she held her breath. She knew she couldn't be seen, but instincts took over anyway. Turning her eyes away from the looming figures she glanced to her right, her lips pressing together to suppress the scream that surely was threatening to escape and throw her cover. Her voice failed her as her mind screamed in newfound agony. Hanging like an ornament,just like the previous child, was a face she had known well in her young years. Her best friend and confidant, playmate and partner in crime stared back at her with lifeless, empty black sockets.

"Sharia"

It was all that she could manage to speak as she tore her eyes away from the sight. Ignoring the wetness leaking down her cheeks she turned, craning her neck to see if her path was clear and started making her way out of this place of nightmares. A newfound emotion rose from the base of her stomach, weeding it's way into her heart to find a sanctuary to be used later, when the time was right. Feeling her nails cut into her palm, Caelia, for the first time in her short life, knew the sweet rush of pure, white hot anger coursing through her veins.

##

Thaldegast stepped out of icy inspace just in time to prevent the wretched girlchild's escape. He hadn't set this jagged maze of treachery in motion only to have Caelia slip through his fingers now, at the penultimate moment of his ascension. He reached out with one gnarled hand, calling to the amulet the brat still wore around her neck. "Bring her to me," he whispered, his voice a bitter coiling in the air.

As expected, the foolish girl turned around. When she saw him she nearly screamed, but of course all the Light Ones did, despite the black cowl that hid his sublimely mishaped face. "Who are you?" she asked, with admirable firmness in her voice. "And how can you see me at all?"

Thaldegast grinned at her. "I am Lord of Shadows, my love. You cannot hide behind them from me." He took an eager step towards her, taloned hands kept wisely out of sight within the endless folds of his black robe. "Besides," he continued, "You are wearing my amulet, Caelia. The one which called to you from a corpse and led you here, past all the petty confusions my father placed in your path. You cannot escape my power while the two of you are one. Especially not here. In Darkhome." He was pleased by the look of horror and confusion in her eyes, but his patience was running short.

"What are you!" she shouted in a quavering voice. "What do you want with me?"

"I am Thaldegast," he answered. "The only known spawn of Gremlon, Master of the Dark Faerie, and heir to all that he now commands." He paused long enough to see the look of dire recognition in her wide eyes at hearing his name. "And what I want from you is no more than what you want, dear Caelia. I wish to free the brats of your people from their torture here in Darkhome and destroy the One who enslaved them."

She appeared far from convinced. "Why would you do that?"

Thaldegast sighed at the obtuseness of the girl. "So that I may rule the Dark Faerie in Gremlon's place, you utter nit. Why else? Once this land's assorted trolls, gremlins, dwarves and borgruth see that their Master cannot stand against even one so pathetic as you, they will flock to my side."

He saw in Caelia's narrowing eyes that she was considering the promise her cursed old uncle had made to her her. When she spoke it was with a return of her former boldness. "Rastaroth said he would aid me if I helped him destroy you, Thaldegast. Or was he just another of your pawns?"

He nodded. "Perhaps you are not as foolish as you appear, child. Yes, I have used him for my own purposes. He assisted my amulet in bringing you here, did he not? And so the old spellmonger didn't lie, did he? By bringing us together he has aided you in your quest. And he does wish me ill, though I can't imagine why..." His grin, well hidden by the cowl, felt nearly wide enough to devour the world.

Caelia shrugged. "Very well. If all of this has been your doing, please tell me what I must do to save my kinsmen from this hellish place and be done with it. You stink of the grave, Thaldegast. I would be done with you as well."

The robed wizard drew himself up to his full height, letting his robes spread out around him like some black dragon's tattered wings. "Make your way deep into Darkhome. My amulet will shield you from prying eyes and prickly ears where your paltry spells cannot. Find the Withered Hall where my father rests his thousand bones and closes his score of watchful eyes. Once there, destroying him will be child's play. My amulet will awaken and unleash a son's collected vengeance against him where he is most vulnerable to its ravaging power. His death will free your people and send you back from whence you came. Go now, Caelia of the Light. This is the final hour. Bring on our destiny."

With that, Thaldegast stepped back into the welcome chill of inspace, where he could watch the events he had set in motion unfold to their final climax. And his triumph.

##

Caelia stood there for a few moments after he had gone. Her anger at being played for a pawn raged within her and she longed to take Thaldegast down off that pedestal he was trying to live on. She would have to watch how she made her next move. Thaldegast would be watching. She wondered then about her uncle and his part in this scheme. Should she use the amulet and journey deeper into Darkhome alone to fulfill Thaldegast's wishes?

She saw she had no choice. It was her destiny. She would need to clear thoughts of Thaldegast from her mind. It would only serve to weaken her.

"I will deal with him later." she whispered.

She turned then and saw the Mastodon. He had followed her all this way. His destiny must lie within as well, Caelia realized. She was happily surprised to see him again and comforted by his quiet strength. She mounted him, hoping Thaldegast's amulet would conceal them both from the dreaded creatures within.

She settled onto the mighty beast and they surged forward, moving swiftly but silently toward the Inner Gate of Darkhome and what lay beyond.

* * *

The giant Urgan snorted up out of ancient dreams and one great red eye opened. Then the other. He sniffed the close, fetid air. Under the familiar, noxious stink of sweating dwarves and spitting gremilins he caught the scent of something out of place.

A Mastodon was passing through the heart of Darkhome.

He did not shrug off this unlikely conclusion as a mortal would have done. He was an Original. He was old when the world was young. A millenia of brutal experience had sculpted his primitive mind, taught him never to question his instincts.

With a great heave, Urgan got to his feet. The shifting of his terrible weight woke a score of gremlins nesting nearby. The scaley beasts scattered like leaves blown by a cold forest wind, each fearing a careless foot that could easily snuff out a life should it fall from above. The gremlins hissed and snapped their impotent rage as Urgan hefted his gnarled treetrunk club and thudded off into the endless night of Darkhome.

The pallid illumination of the glowshrooms was no impediment to the giant. His senses were heightened far beyond any mortal's and could not be deceived even by the most powerful of magics. So why could he not see or hear a creature as large as the Mastodon? Why was there only the faintest whiff of the beast hanging in the air? Urgan's slow, but relentless brain worked at the puzzle like a hungry troll might gnaw at a human bone, trying to sink down to the marrow of the mystery. But he was patient. He would wait. And in the meantime, he would follow. The scent of the Mastodon was wafting from a tunnel that led to only one place: the Withered Hall. Hallowed resting place of Master Gremlon. He would stalk his prey till it reached the Hall. Then there would be no escape.

Urgan's laughter echoed down the stone corridors and set even the glowshrooms to quivering.

***

The Mastodon heard Urgan's laughter and reared in fear. "Whoa," Caelia said, grabbing a fistful of the Mastodon's hair. The beast quivered, but stopped his rearing. "What is that stench?" She gagged, covering her nose and mouth with her arm. The end of the tunnel was near. "Get us out of here!" she exclaimed and without further promptng the Mastodon took flight. Caelia held on with both hands and lay her head low, trusting the massive beast to find his way. She knew her Mastodon was frightened: but of what?

They were so close to Withered Hall. Whatever it was that followed them would be almost as close. _Oh, what she wouldn't do for a potion of teleportation right about now._ she thought to herself.

The noxious stink grew in strength as the Mastodon carried her onward, away from the creature that followed at their heels. The tunnel opened out into a dark, twisted cavern and Caelia gasped when she saw it, instinctively drawing in another gulp of the rotten air.

The Withered Hall was a place of gnarled tentacles. They hung, black and dessicated, from the roof high above. Knotted into each other, they writhed like a thousand twisted serpents. It took Caelia a long, horrified moment before she realized they were merely roots from the forest of dark trees that grew above the subterranean warren of Darkhome. But these roots were diseased: corruption foamed over them, slick as oil. This was the source of the raging stench she brought inside her with every reluctant breath she took.

And now the Mastodon was trying to dislodge her from his broad back. Drop her into the midst of this putrescence. She clung to him. "Please!" she cried. "Stop!"

But he leaned down and shook her to the filthy wet ground, ignoring her pleas. The whites of his eyes gleamed in the dimness, a sure sign of panic. He left her there, shivering beneath the nightmare canopy of black roots, and took off back the way they'd come. He would meet the giant Urgan in battle alone. He would have his vengeance for the death of his bondmate. Nothing would stop that now. Not even his fear for the Child of Light.

The tread of his great feet was like thunder shaking the earthen tunnel walls as he departed, leaving Caelia alone and confused, one hand lifted in negation.

"Please..." she whispered again. "Don't leave me."

Then she heard something which chilled her blood. A movement among the nest of coiling roots. _Gremlon,_ she realized. The Master of the Dark Faerie was waking up . . .

* * *

The Giant Urgan saw the Mastodon clearly now, as if a veil had been lifted from his ancient eyes. The great creature was moving back toward him at a fleet, thudding pace. Urgan planted his feet wide and raised his bloody, tree-trunk club. A wide grin split his muddy face. "Come to me, pretty..." he whispered. "Your race is as old as time. As old as I. I have not tasted your rich blood for too long..."

But he was not prepared for the force of the collision when the Mastodan slammed into him. He was throw back in surprise against the shuddering walls of the tunnel and his club fell from his meaty hand.

The eyes of the Mastodon were daggers of mindless rage. It let out a horrendous trumpeting that scourged the giant's ears and rose up. It's sharp tusks found the leathery skin of Urgan's belly and. . .tore through.

The giant bellowed in surprise and pain as ripples of agony traveled out from his tender, innermost organs. He gripped the Mastodon by the head and, using the last of his legendary strength, hurled the shaggy beast away.

The tunnel could bear no more. When the Mastodon struck the walls they collapsed inward with a chorus of groans and the earthen roof, abruptly without support, crashed down as well in a hail of jagged boulders and swirling dust.

One last, victorious trumpeting came from beneath the mound of rubble. Then nothing but the sound of settling dust.

* * *

Many slitted eyes, shining hot and red in the gloom of the the Withered Hall, watched her as she quaked in fear. A voice so deep and powerful it seemed to shake the world boomed out from seemingly everywhere, yet nowhere, all at once.

"WHO....IS....HERE...? I SENSE....."

_O, by the light!_She thought, terrified. Thaldagast's amulet was not shielding her from his dark father as it had his minions. Desperately, she searched for the strength to cast another invisibility spell. She found some hidden reserve, and hissed the chant through gritted teeth. The spell was ragged and warped, probably due to the palpable stench of evil surrounding her. But it would hold, perhaps long enough for her to accomplish what she had come here to do. As long as Gremlon couldn't see through her spells too!

####

Thaldegast paced anxiously as he watched the recent events unfold. "This," he hissed, "is much too slow. My father will devour her before she casts that insipid spell!"

Thaldegast raised his hand and a velvet chair appeared. He sat, pulling at his beard nervously. He stood and waved the chair away. Again he paced. "I must think! This girl is a waste of my time!" His thoughts turned toward his amulet, that obsidian stone whose very essence was made up of eons of jealousy and rage against his father. The concentrated substance of patricide itself. Why hadn't it awoken yet? If the stupid Child of Light perished before the amulet had time to feed from her darkest passions, all would be lost! She was the catalyst! But what was taking so long? Thaldegast paced and raged in this moment of exquisite impotence.

Then he froze in place and a foul grin spread his gaunt cheeks as if they were lifted by hooks. He could feel it now. His amulet. Working its way into Caelia's soul. It was awakening! Now would come the denoument. Victory was but moments away....

#

Caelia got to her feet on uncertain legs, arms crossed protectively against her chest, as the Master of the Dark Faerie moved out of the writhing shadows. When she saw the whole of him she gasped.

Gremlon was armored in silver scales. They covered every inch of his serpentine form, beginning with his forked tail, riding up over his six powerful limbs and broad, spiked back, until they grew sharp as knives in a furrow around his obscenely human head. Many of his red eyes searched the decaying lair for her. His head tilted this way and that, sniffing the putrid air. Then all those crimson eyes settled on Caelia.

"Ahh," he said, in a voice made more terrible by its illusory patina of kindness. "Dearest Caelia. I wondered when you might arrive. You seem to have been made a pawn in a family squabble. How unfortunate for you. I will take as little pleasure as I can in gnashing on your sweet bones, child." Then he grinned, reavealing jagged, bloody teeth. "I cannot promise the same for my prodigal son. Thaldegast has been a thorn in my side since he poked his head from his sorry egg. Teach me to take my pleasures from a mortal woman, if this is the spawn which comes of it."

His laughter was like the flaying of a thousand howling beasts and its echo shook the roots of his dark lair. He moved closer, his limbs sliding roughly across the damp ground that separated them.

But Caelia was no longer afraid. Some deep, malignant place had opened inside her like a tomb, releasing all the ghosts of hate and rage that haunt the souls of humankind. She would not go gently into this horror's gaping maw. This was enough. She would have justice for once in this nightmare. Vengeance for all the useless violence that had been done to her friends, her family, her world. A cold, numbing pressure bloomed in her chest, where the amulet rested against her skin.

She planted her feet wide and screamed: "Come and get me, you corruption of nature! I'm waiting for you!" She spread her frail arms in invitation, opening herself to Gremlon's feral embrace.

The Master of the Dark Faerie came for her with the speed of lightning. But when he reached her he froze, his score of crimson eyes widening in surprise, as black fire burst from the amulet she wore. It danced between them for a moment, like tendrils of harmless smoke.

Then the fiery cloud engulfed him.

He reared back, claws tearing at the dark tongues of flame that raced up his limbs and over his scaled body. He screamed in horror for the first and last time in his long, overconfident life as he realized this was a power against which he had no defense: the vast energies of his own dark substance, interwoven in an impossible bond with the Power of Light.

His roar of anguish and regret filled the Withered Hall even after his scorched form was entirely consumed, leaving nothing but wisps of silvery dust. When sweet silence returned at last, it seemed unfamiliar and uncertain, as if afraid its stay would not be long.

Caelia, spent beyond conscious thought, fell face first to the damp ground and into a blessed darkness...

#

She did not know when the darkness finally dissolved. It may have been hours, or mere moments, but as she lay in the blissfull darkness, she slowly became aware of a shape above her.

Over time, it resolved into a dim white blur. Then it became a shadowed face. A hint of pale flesh beneath a cowl. It hung over her like some bloated, leering moon.

"Oh, good. You survived," said Thaldegast. "I was ever so worried for your safety."

Caelia tried to move away from him, but found she was unable to move. "What have you done, you bastard?"

He stood, rising up until he towered above her. He chuckled as he replied, "I've won, Child of the Light. And it is only thanks to you that this is so. I could never have gotten so close to my father. He was afraid of me. But you served me better than I could have hoped." he smiled, and bowed to her, "I am in your debt, and must repay you for your service. I could simply let you live, that would be more than you expected when you entered this fetid land." He wandered away, and Caelia was hard pressed to turn her head to follow his movements.

Thaldegast wandered through his father's throne room, examining it with a mixture of curiosity and contempt. Finally, after several aimless moments, he seemed to recall his helpless guest, and turned back to her. His eyes danced.

"Ah, yes. I know just the thing."

He strode over and planted his feet on either side of her prone form. There was a hideous shifting in the shadows of the cowl he wore, an aberrant movement beneath the cloth. Perhaps it was a smile. "A choice," he said. "A delicious choice." The writhing grin widened. "I shall release the children you came so sweetly to rescue, transporting them in an instant back into the waiting arms of their families. Or I shall let you live. One or the other. You decide, Caelia. Their fate is in your hands."

She was too tired to be angry at his inevitable betrayal, too weary to care about anything but seeing an end to this nightmare. There was really no choice at all. It was Thaldegast's greatest weakness that he would never understand that. "Send them home," she whispered. "I no longer care what becomes of me."

Thaldegast snorted. "Not much fun, are you?" he said. "Very well. I never wanted the brats here to begin with. They stink, you know. Terribly." He sniffed. "So do you, actually. But I don't hold it against you." He raised his arms above his head and mumbled black words.

The joyous sound of a thousand young voices filled the air of the Withered Hall. They rose up from the sharp stones and fallow earth of Darkhome like a torrent, free at last from its dark embrace. Such contentment could not be an illusion of Dark magic, Caelia knew. Only the Light could rent the oppresive silence of this place so boldly. The children had finally returned home.

"See?" Thaldegast asked. "Don't say I don't keep my promises!" He lowered his clawed hands until they were just above her sprawled form. "And now, dear Caelia, it's time for me to live up to the other half of my oath."

Caelia touched the amulet Thaldegast had given her. "How do you know I won't use your own foul gift against you?" she asked. "You are as over-confident as your sire."

Thaldegast laughed, an unpleasant sound. "That stone is wasted, girl. Intentionally so. There is nothing left to ignite its power. I measured out its potency with care." He waved his gnarled hands over her. "Goodbye, foolish child. Enjoy your stay in the Nine Hells. There are many who will be eager to play with you there."

Caelia closed her eyes, ready for the worst. Suddenly, from deep inside her mind, the voice of her dear uncle Rastaroth spoke up. _Now, Caelia!_he cried._Place my ring against the dark amulet. Let my revenge have its day as well and free us all...__

Without thinking, Caelia did as her uncle commanded, even as Thaldegast unleashed his dire power against her.

When the ring touched the black stone, time itself stopped in its tracks. The lethal conjuration of the cowled wizard paused in the air and his sharp fingers ceased to move. Even Caelia froze in postion, clasping the two talismans to her breast. The amulet alone retained animation. It glowed a molten scarlet and then warped out completely out of shape, transforming into pure energy. The burst of red light surrounded Thaldesgast like a second cloak: a cocoon of reflective magic.

When time moved forward once more the powerful spell the wizard had been directing at Caelia rebounded on himself. It was a banishment spell, intended to send her straight into the gaping jaws of Hell.

But now it was Thaldegast who was being bodily transported.

He understood his fate and railed against his own reflected command. He tried to step into icy in-space and thereby escape the doom he saw so clearly. He failed. The last Caelia saw of him before he vanshied was the writhing mass of his true face as his cowl at last fell away. His malformed lips opened in a soundless scream of rage. Then he fell into Hell.

Caelia, surprising herself, laughed. Her voice echoed through the Withered Hall, shaking the roots that fell from above. "All the vengeance," she whispered, "has come full circle."

She realized it would be wise to remember what transpired in this unhallowed place in the years to come. It is dangerous to despise. In the end, hate always devours itself.

She walked to the center of the Withered Hall, between the hanging roots. She reached up and tugged on what seemed the most sturdy of the bunch. Then she climbed it to the earthen roof and struck out at the dirt there. The rocky soil fell away like so much darkness, and the glorious pink light of dawn warmed her face. She struggled up the root until she was entirely above ground. She leaned against the great ravaged tree and wiped the sweat from her brow. She was free at last. They all were. Thank the Light.

After resting for a bit, Caelia found a dusty trail and followed it out of the dark woods. Around noon she came upon a trickling stream and stopped to quench her thirst. The water was cold and clear and she doubted she had ever tasted better.

"You've done well," a familiar voice said from behind. "I could not have done better myself."

Caelia laughed and jumped into the arms of her uncle. "We're free!" she cried. "And you look as surprised by the fact as I do!"

Rastaroth wept into her dark hair. "I am indeed," he whispered. "Caelia. My sweet Caelia. What a wonder you are." Then he held her away with firm hands. "We must get going," he said sternly. "You've got a hero's welcome to prepare for, niece. And a whole new life to begin."

Hand in hand, they started home. To Caelia it seemed the land had begun to blossom once more. But, of course! she thought. Why wouldn't it? That, after all, is how these tales always end.

#

On the Third Mound of the Seventh Vale of the Ninth Level of Hell:

This wasn't such a bad place, Thaldegast decided, watching distantly as a pack of fanged, gibbering beasts tore into his carcass for the thousandth time. The grisly sight no longer bothered him. He never much liked his deformed flesh, after all. These mindless demons could have it.

Freed of his wasted form, the wizard was finally grasping his true, boundless power. And he was making friends in low places these days. Rising in the infernal ranks. Soon he'd be in charge of his own department, perhaps. After that, it would not take long to find a way out. The living world, after all, was filled with ignorant wizards who thought they could trifle with devils. It was only a matter of time before one was convinced to call him up. There was unfinished business up there, Thaldegast knew. And a certain loathsome girl. He'd have his revenge on her soon enough. He'd have his revenge on all of them.

The demon Thaldegast left his mangled corpse behind and began his ambitious journey through Hell. His spectral laughter brought a chill even to this humid place, and scattered lesser evils in its wake. . .

[DONE?]

[DONE. DEFINITELY]

{ Most definitely done}

[This story is awesome! definitely complete. A sequel?]

Thaldegast considered his plans for revenge. The desire pierced him, a white-hot needle, striking to his core.

It would take careful planning. The timing, the situation... Conditions had to be precise, for Caelia to experience such exquisite torment as she had never before seen in her life.

It would have to begin with her most prized possession. Something she valued, above life itself -- or someone, he told himself.

But, what of the price? What thing of value could he extract, to thank her for his current state? He felt the pure, raw power course through his being. He wanted to thank her for it. He was stronger, far less vulnerable, then he had ever been in his life.

She deserved no less from him for this payment. He would see to it that his suffering paled in comparison to hers.

He would have continued to ponder in that vein, if an object wouldn't have fallen on his head - from heaven. But it did fall, and so suddenly, so unexpectedly. This never happened to Thaldegast before. "Awesome," he said. "It didn't break." It was a transparent 125 mL Erlenmeyer flask - with a black rubber stopper. Thaldegast held the flask in front of his eyes. It contained a greenish liquid. He pulled out the stopper. Holding the flask with his left hand, he lifted it to his nose, and wafted its fumes. "Gorgeous!" cried he. "Turpentine!" he said. And throwing back his head, emptied the entire contents into his mouth. The results were terrific. Except... He now had no genitals.

Without a doubt, that was the one down side to his current condition. Although he had left his dilapidated corpse behind along with all its weaknesses and faults, he had consequentially sacrificed all the little pleasures that he had enjoyed with it. Still, he felt invulnerable; he was an immortal, a celestial being, an invincible demon. Yes, he did have weaknesses, a few that might even lead to his destruction but only a man of the clergy would know how to use such spiritual weapons. A slight chuckle escaped his phantom lips as he floated in mid-air. The sheer insanity of his existence seemed humorous enough, yet now he would journey through the very depths of hell and face his greatest trial to determine his "life" as a serpent of the night. Without warning, Thaldegast felt his spirit, his soul being sucked into an empty void, a hidden expanse layered by visual trickery. His world swirled away as he fell endlessly into darkness. The bleak opaquness suddenly vanished and was replaced by leaping flames of unbearable heat. Thaldegast felt pure agony almost as if the pain was inflicted directly upon his mind. A great pillar of flame arose from directly in front of him and gradually morphed into the vague form of a man. Unnerved, Thaldegast barely managed to stammer a short question. "Who...are...you?" The flaming form opened its burning lips and replied coldly. "I am he who all fear, I am he who reigns over earth and hell, I am Lucifer, Beelzebub, and Satan. I am your judge. Why should I allow you to use my power as a demon, what have you done that makes you worthy?"

Let me see, Thaldegast said to him self. I have been unwittingly banished into hell, but I was attempting to banish someone else. Thaldegast thought to him self I must find a way to undo this apparent catastrophe. I am faced with this so-called devil but he seems to be in my way. If all the rest of the beings of hell have never gotten passed him as he seems to be the Gate Keeper then the only way to free my self is to destroy the Gate Keeper. But I will need to create a new hell so that all the other demons don't spill out into the real world and try to destroy the world or me. This would allow me to find a new body. And then get my revenge on Caelia. But in order to do this I would have to learn how to transform worms or grubs into humans flesh because they by now have eaten my flesh. But how? This seems to be the central crux of the problem of all demons. How to escape hell with out being endanger of going right back. And with out letting all the other demons interfere with your plans. If I have to play by the rules I will never be free of hells grasp even if I escape.

Just then the devil shot flames out of his forehead through a red gash in his already chard demonic flesh. They were directed straight for Thaldegast. Then words that seemed to come from every where that shook the very gates of hell said “Foolish demonic you can never free yourself from my hell.”

How had he known my plans Thaldegast thought to himself? Satan must have read my mind. But just has the flames that came from the devils forehead hit Thaldegast a thunderous chain reaction of catastrophic proportions erupted made from shear hell. Seething energies that blasted massive balls of super hot light fused and then vaporized everything around Thaldegast including Satan himself. The greenish fluid that was now in Thaldegast brain as the flames of Satan entered his skull caused the tremendous explosion of erupting hell.

Normally Satan’s Brain Fire can subdue any who try to escape hell. But this time the forces that subdue all of hell exploded in a fantastic massive eruption of super hot light and plasma.

As the episode continued Thaldegast saw a way to use this situation to his advantage. He would store hell in his mind. The same way as Satan could enforce hell to be subdued Thaldegast could escape hell by absorbing all of it. Just then the balls of intense plasma that had blasted hell into particles started to rush into Thaldegast skull. The intensity of the force was so massive that Thaldegast’s mind surged with magnanimous power. This caused his skull to transform into a large and bizarre shape then the rest of his body transformed into a gigantic creature. It was called the Glor’Vuglust the most terrifying figure possible. The Glor’Vuglust then used its massive six arms and six legs to rip open a hole into the real world. The Glor’Vuglust has six hundred heads the middle ones more massive and grotesque with several layers of jaws on each. With two torsos connected at the stomach and spires of bones lining its two backs shooting molten blood. The massive two thousand foot high Glor’Vuglust smashes and rips through the Earth’s mantle until it makes landfall. Peering some of its six hundred heads out of the volcano of super hot molten blood that it just made it lets out a enormous roar that blasts the newly formed island apart sending three hundred foot waves rushing out to sea.

Laughing, drunk with his new found power, Thaldegast/Glor'Vuglust stepped out of the blood-filled volcano backward into the sea to admire his handiwork. His hindmost feet slipped at the edge of an escarpment, and he flung out all six arms in a wild attempt to regain his balance. Like a caterpillar, his six legs churned in the sea muck, trying to secure purchase. But even his massively powerful body was subject to the unforgiving laws of gravity. The edge gave way under his towering bulk, and all two thousand feet of him toppled into the immense depths of the sea. The cry from his six hundred heads ripped the sky asunder, but in vain as the immense blue depths swallowed even his tremendous body, then rushed in to cool the molten rents in the earth.

As the last and largest head writhed grotesquely in the waves, it vomited forth a disgusting packet of pinkish phlegm, then disappeared with a shuddering wail. The foul slimy cocoon hit the churning sea, and an arm could be seen working beneath the transluscent surface. Old, gnarled hands broke through the sticky mass of the cocoon, followed by an old pair of shoulders. Sputtering and coughing, an older and wiser Thaldegast fought free of the yolk-like sac. He struggled amid the waves for his life, searching desperately for something to cling to in the boiling sea.

As Thaldegast was flung about in the sea the turmoil of the situation gripped on him like a vise. Franticly turning this way and that he searched for something, anything to hold onto. In the distance is what was once a piece of the island, or so he presumed. Now it was simply an overlarge rock jutting out of the water in all different directions. As his strength started to weaken Thaldegast desperately made his way towards the rock. As he swam his way it seemed like an eternity, the rock never seemed to be any closer then last time he checked. Eventually the eternity ended and he lay clasping the rock with all his remaining strength. Climbing on the rock he laid down and, with a final sigh of exhaustion, fell into the black abyss of sleep.

To this day Thaldegast is still not sure what woke him, maybe it was the pounding of waves crashing into rocks, maybe the steady beat of oars hitting the water, maybe the shouts coming from different directions, whatever it was, Thaldegast awoke to the sun beating down upon him. Salt was stuck in his throat, making him cough, sputtering to his knees he became slowly more aware of his surroundings. With a reluctive, steady, and painfull groan all the events rushed back into memory. He felt empty inside, a constant yearning for the god-like form he once inhabited. Now he felt weak and vulnerable. Another shout came from nearby and Thaldegast looked to see what was causing the commotion. A ring of fishing boats had found him on his rock haven and stopped to examine him. Aboard one particularly large ship a old grizzled man stood at the bow. "Ahoy there, look what the fish threw up." the old man said with a weak smile that barely touched his cold gray eyes. "Bring him in, we will see what we can do" he shout, turning around to throw more commands at his crew. A ladder dropped down the side of the fishing boat and nearly smacked Thaldegast in the head before settling on the side of the boat. Thaldegast climbed the ladder and hopped over the top onto the deck of the ship. Already he could feel some of his strength coming back to him...

Thaldegast came to suddenly, spitting sea water ang coughing loudly. He could still feel the burning in the back of his mind, haunting memories of the immense powers he had formerly weilded. He glanced around at his surroundings and didn't notice anything interesting. He was on a barren shore, split only by a single boulder which sat in the middle of the beach, almost as if it had been placed there intentionally, to break up the empty shoreline.

Thaldegast thought to him self as he came to. “What the heck happened to the ship and the sailors? Was it all a dream or a mirage brought on by my weakened state?” So Thaldegast got up and looked around. This was a small sandy island, about one thousand square feet and only a foot above sea level. The one rock that was on the island was chard black and smoking with bluish fumes. Thaldegast walked over and investigated. The rock was about three feet high and six feet by four feet wide. Its surface was covered with black bubbles and crevasses. Suddenly Thaldegast heard a voice from inside of the rock.

“What is the function of your form?” It said in a low monotone booming voice that pressurized Thaldegast’s inner ear. Thaldegast was shocked and fell to the ground then started to look around the rock for an opening or a clue as to how the voice was made. The voice spoke again “What is the protovector of this dimension?”

Thaldegast decided to speak. “I am Thaldegast, who are you, rock?”

The voice spoke a third time. “I am Thaldegast, I am one hundred fifty eight point two five nine zero zero nine three one one one seven four trillion years old. You must be my quasiform. Stand up and place both of your hands on this rock.” Thaldegast decided that this was a harmless venture and didn’t want to upset a talking rock with a booming voice, so he stood up and placed his hands on the rock. Just then the black bubbles that were near his hands grew and quickly covered up his hands in the rock, so that his hands where buried up to his wrists. Thaldegast franticly and desperately tried to remove them but the rock around his hands was as solid as granite.

The rock that was now holding Thaldegast began to turn red in the center and then the glow increased to yellow and then white. Smoke started to come from the rock and Thaldegast's hands started to burn. He yelled for help and then he began to scream in pain. Just then Thaldegast's quasi-form began to join with him but to his great amazement he was the wrong Thaldegast! The mistaken merger resalted in a soul bomb of stupindus power that blew a hole in reality making a vortex of space-time that blasted apart the universe creating a new big bang and starting a new universe called "Bugrum The Flabby".

In this new universe Thaldegast was alone. He could not see anything. He could not feel anything. He could not hear anything. Just then the fattest man that he had ever seen started to come into view. As the fat form sped towards Thaldegast from a great distance away it grew and grew. Soon it was massive, an immense new universe of fat. It was Bugrum The Flabby. As Thaldegast watched Bugrum burped and farted a stinking atmosphere for his new universe. When the green and purple gasses met and then surrounded Thaldegast he smelled a smell that was more horrible than he could have ever have imagined in a trillion years. Just then Thaldegast heard Bugrum's voice coming through the stinking fumes. "Bugrum Blurbul Blorth Glorp Loblob Lorblublum is my name you can just call me Bugrum The Flabby, how are you stranger? Welcome to me! I am your new universe Bla ha ha ha ha Bla ha Ba Aah Aah Aah Aah Blah ha ha ha ha. Blooooooorrff. Excuse me!"

[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[The End]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]

O’er foggy heath the light did worm

As unsuspecting Vernal watched it form

From where he hugged the earth’s fair warmth

That night the bell tolled far across the moor.

Yon wav’ring light fell soft and formed

As legs and arms green mantles wore

With stars of gold she wore before

And red-gold tresses spiked him rays as gored

His eye. That Vernal mortal seven score

Did turn his head while seven more

The Tuatha de Danann, so goes the lore,

Did captive take his heart that day before

This song e'er drew a breath

Or minstrel poet e'er drank your health.

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