From the Bowels of Ghouls

Darkness has swallowed me whole, encompassing me like a tight and narrow throat pulling me ever down. I don’t know how long I am consumed by this darkness before it begins to splinter—first in bright, crackling streaks like lighting across the sky, only they are the warm color of fire. Despite all that initial warmth, behind it there howls an ice far colder than any storm of Njordr.

I peel open my eyes against the cold. They feel frozen shut, my eyelashes clumped with ice. I blink against the hard brightness of sunlight on snow—though there is no sun here.

Something doesn’t feel right. I crane my neck to look down at myself—hearing my bones crackle and feeling the muscle stiff like jerky straining with the movement. I recoil, by there’s only so much one can recoil from themselves.

There is something writhing under my torn shirt. It finds its way to the blood-soaked tear and slips out. Fingers. A hand. An arm.

“Djävlar—“ I try to pull away from my own body, pull out of my own skin. I cannot.

Then I notice…a mutilated, twisted leg protruding from the side of my knee. More body parts, grotesque and blended into mine. I touch my face and to my horror, I feel teeth. Teeth breaking through my skin from the inside out—and moving. Just the faintest pulse, as though they’re chewing the air.

Bile stings the back of my throat and tears burn at my eyes. I’m about to go to my knees, wondering if this is some nightmare, wondering when I’ll wake.

Then I see her.

She stands before me in the howling snow and wind, her hair whipped up into icicles like broken and deformed antlers, her eyes two gaping black maws, her skin thin blue ice clinging to sharp, crystalline bone. She looks like a statue carved from the frozen wastes, tall and horrible, her ribcage wide and her waste sucked in to a narrow core around her spine, her hips jutting like ax blades. Her mouth a row of jagged, long teeth like needles pulled into a horrifying grin.

Then, all at once, she’s nothing at all—a flickering gray shadow sinking into horrible black then blasting my eyes with sharp, piercing white, her form changing in flickering flashes. At one moment an emaciated wolf, at another a bear with a hide torn by decay, at another a woman with her breasts out and frozen and cracking like ice, and in between a sucking void my eyes can’t bare to pin down.

She is horrific.

She is beautiful.


A chill runs through me as I realize then—I’m dead. I can’t be seeing her, not really, not if I’m alive.

I did it.

I finally died.

My heart sinks. I had meant to dance in the clouds, with Balthazar. He’d asked me to dance and I’d been coy and mocking. He’d bested me in battle, and he’d given me a bracelet, and he’d kissed me and held my hand and—

He’d been my friend. He’d told me he loved me, and I’d choked on the word because…well…what did it mean?

If I’m dead I don’t get to know.

I close my eyes and shake my head. Oh well. I was never meant for a life like that anyway. I was meant for Sveas. I was always meant only for Sveas.

My eyes search to pin her down. I reach to pull my mace from my belt and ready my shield, doing my best to ignore the writhing of the arm against my stomach, the aimless chewing of the teeth on my face. My body crackles like ice as I bend to brace myself for battle.

This was always where my life was leading. This was always where I was meant to be. I tell myself that it was the only place I had ever wanted to be, and I make myself believe it.

“Disgusting filth,” a hissing voice comes to me on the wind, coming from no particular point but beating at me from every angle. “Abomination. You do not belong here.”

My stomach clenches. “Yes I do,” I grit out. “I am Freydis the Undying, Daughter of Njordr and daughter of the Thrymfrost. I am the daughter of Nidhoggsdotter and the spirit of the Wolf, and I come at long last to defeat you, Sveas!”

Her laughter is glaciers breaking and avalanches burying cities.

“You are nothing. You are un-whole, bits and pieces of peasants left behind and forgotten. You are a cast out little whelp that should have been left to freeze in the snow upon birth. You are shit in the bowels of ghouls and I recognize you not as a daughter of Njordr but as just another southern mongrel.”

Her words are a thousand blades lodging in my chest. I gasp as though I’ve been struck, and the air in my throat freezes.

All I can see is her outstretched hand, her fingers long like twisted branches.

“No,” I say through ice and gasping. “No! I was branded in the Rimelands! I grew up in snow and ice, I came of age in blood—”

“You dirty the door of my hall.”

“No, no! Fight me Sveas!” The screams come again, and tears freeze on my cheeks. “I am meant to fight you! It’s all I’ve ever been meant for!” Ice clogs my throat, my voice straining against the sobs that swell, burning and cold in my chest.

“You were never worthy of the last rites.”

“Sveas! You can’t—”

“Be gone from my sight, you wretched dog.”


The blackness bites down on me, closing everything else out. The last thing I hear is my own pitiful screaming.

How? How can she still not want me?

The void that swallows me also swallows my screams, sucks the breath from my lungs until I feel my body collapsing in on itself. The tearing in my heart drowns the horrible burning in my flesh. I don’t care for the splintering agony in my bones, for my soul is being torn asunder.

How can she not want me?

The arm that writhes against my skin, the teeth that pulse on my face, the leg that dangles at my knee…

What have I become? In the bowels of ghouls, rendered shit.

Where he left me.

He who claimed to love me.

Whatever that may mean.

Death of the Undying

The air stinks of rotting flesh. The back of my throat tastes like bile. I cover my nose and my mouth as I move down the passageway, past the first ghoul that crawled out from a crevasse in the wall and attacked. The presence of ghouls explains the foul stench, at least. With the odor so powerful, there were surely more to come.

Balthazar and Sir Connor follow close on my heels. They mutter between themselves about what they see. Balthazar quickly searches the body of the ghoul but finds nothing, and Sir Connor notes that, so far, there doesn’t appear to be much of anything in the ruin. It’s just a stinking, winding cavern leading ever deeper into the dark.

As I round the corner, I hear the sounds of teeth gnawing flesh and bone. I know those sounds. They echo in my ears, a memory.

In the dim cavern that opens up before me, I see a ghoul crouched over an old body. Breaking bones with its broken teeth. Sucking at the marrow. Rending the flesh.

“More,” I say to Balthazar and Sir Connor, and beat my shield to draw the thing’s attention.

Its eyes reflect the dim light as it lifts its twitching head and sets its sight on me. It drops the limb it had been holding, stumbling to its feet and coming at me, giving wet hisses and snarls. It’s easy enough to drop—as is the one that lunges at me from behind, its gnashing teeth clipping uncomfortably close to my arm before I’m able to beat it down.

When I turn, I see something else crawling out of the dark. Something monstrous but skeletal, and bearing a weapon. “Fuck,” I mutter, keeping my eyes on the monster as it stalks toward me. I hear Balthazar shout as more ghouls come up behind him and Sir Connor. The sounds of fighting erupt behind me as I brace myself to fight the thing ahead of me.

The weapon it carries is long and heavy—a thick, curving metal spike on a pole that it thrusts at me. I stumble backward as I manage to block the first blow with my shield, but the second blow comes before I’ve recovered my footing and my shield is held just a bit too high.

The spike slams into my stomach. I feel it punch through my furs and leathers into the skin underneath. My body doubles over the weapon as sharp white pain splinters through my abdomen. My guts are forced to make room for cold metal.

But I’ve known worse pains before. I’ve been stabbed deeper, and with colder blades.

Shaking off the pain as the monster wrenches the weapon back, I pull my shield tight against myself and plant my feet, looking up at the monster. It’s about to strike again, as more ghouls flood out of the darkness beyond, then—

“Freydis!” Balthazar shouts behind me, and I hear ghouls dropping. The monster turns its attention toward Balthazar. Finally, his inordinate loudness is useful.

I’m able to fight back two more ghouls, killing them with relative ease, and when I turn toward Balthazar and Sir Connor, I find only the monster. Blocking the entry. Turning toward me.

Bracing myself, I crouch behind my shield. I deflect the first hit as the monster comes toward me, then it aims lower and splits open my shin, splintering the bone. For a moment I’m down on my knee, blocking a blow aimed for my skull, then—as I am dragging myself back up, trying to angle myself toward the entry and away from the monster, another blow catches me on the shoulder.

Pain rains through me from every angle, and I can feel the heat of my blood pouring from my stomach, soaking my pants. The cloth of my shirt clings to me, sticky with blood, and now my pantleg does the same, plastered against my skin around open flesh and bone. Blood is now running in open rivers down my back and front from the fresh wound opened on my shoulder.

Parrying another blow, I make another effort to rise. If I can only manage to get to my godsdamned feet—the monster has moved away from the entry. I might be able to drag myself out of here and back into the light of day.

The weapon, slicked now with my blood, gleams in the dim cavern as it swings toward me once more. Fuck.

With my shoulder in ruins, I struggle to lift the shield. I manage to get it partway up, but too late. The hook catches me in my back and I am dragged to the floor.

As I am slammed into the cold earth, I hear Balthazar’s voice again, and Sir Connor close behind him. Their shouts echo through the cavern, a great and horrible commotion, and the monster looks to them again. It wrenches its hook free of me and goes to them.

If only I could just…get to my hands and knees, it wouldn’t be so difficult to drag myself out of here—

Pain, a searing flash through my calf, ignites within me. I hate to hear the sound of my screams, almost as much as I hate knowing without looking that a ghoul has set on me, and is tearing the living flesh from my bones.

Reaching for my mace—when did I drop it?—I feel another ghoul fall onto me. It seizes my arm and wrenches it back, just about tears it from my body, and it bites into me. I close my eyes against the pain, try to grit my teeth and swallow the screams, but they come boiling madly out.

Somewhere in the distance, through all my screaming and the gurgling snarls of ghouls, I hear Balthazar. “Freydis! No!” I manage to wrench my head up, to see him coming toward me, his mad blue eyes wild with fear and dismay. And there is Sir Connor behind him, spotting the monster looming toward them and vanishing right there into the dark.

That spell of Balthazar’s, his hiding spell—the one he’d put on Sir Connor before we came here. The one I’d sneered at. “A child hiding under a blanket,” I’d said when first he’d showed it to me and, sulking, he’d returned to visibility.

“Balthazar!” I shout, stretching out my other arm, reaching for him with a hand weighted down by a shield and near useless from the ruin of my shoulder. I imagine he’ll grab me, yank me carelessly from the mouths of the ghouls and fly us out of here.

I remember being thrown into the sky—one of his madman’s spells. Next time, I’ll go willingly to dance with him in the clouds.

He’s reaching for me, the jewels on his fingers glittering in the dark. I can almost touch him.

Then he remembers the monster, looks up at it as it moves towards him, and as he lurches back from me and vanishes.

“Tell me,” I once said, sneering, “are you a weak man, Balthazar?”

Some uncertainty wells up inside of me as I am left alone to the devouring mouths. The pain rushes through me renewed, and I am screaming again. I hate these screams—I would give myself up to these tearing mouths and wait it out. They cannot kill me. But these fucking screams…

Blackness eats away at the edges of my vision, and I grow dizzy. My consciousness is fading—it’s okay, I’ve been unconscious before, alone in the forest, in a snow drift, at the bottom of a glacial canyon—when I hear a crash. The ghouls wrench free of me and scatter. They run after whatever sound that was, from wherever it had come, and for a moment leave me in blessed fucking peace.

Slowly, the feeling of the cold earth beneath me comes back. I grit my teeth, blink my eyes to clear my vision, and begin pushing myself to my feet again. I stumble up, pain rocketing up my leg, and I growl low in my throat as I lift my shield and my mace and—

How is the monster back? The cursed skeleton storming toward me and lifting its weapon and—

Back to the earth I crumble, and am barely able to make out the monster aiming its finger at me. The ghouls come in seconds, and I close my eyes and give myself up to the pain.

There is more screaming than just mine. There is a crash of stones, a collapse, and some part of me wonders if the whole cavern is coming down around us, but the ghouls don’t stop eating. Balthazar’s voice returns like thunder through the cavern, chanting some ancient language that I don’t understand, but no spell seems to come.

The ghouls keep eating.

Somewhere in the distance Sir Connor’s voice reaches me: “We have to go, Balthazar! She is dead! This is her arm! She’s dead, we have to leave!” And as I scream, I laugh. I cannot die. I am the Undying.

The ghouls keep eating.

More shouting, more fighting, the sounds of bodies being thrown to the floor and the eruption of magic down the halls. A riot of violence and booming voices intermingled with eerie silences…

…and the ghouls just keep eating, leaving less and less of me to drag out of here, and the less there is of me, the further into the darkness I seem to go.

It’s okay though.

I’ve been in the darkness before.

I’ll be okay.

I always am.

Death or Freedom, A Legendary Tale by Clagh O’Mugnahn, True Son of Dunland

To you, my humble reader, I bid welcome and congratulations. You have the pleasure of reading one of the finest works of literature ever to be produced in the world, and certainly the finest in Gotha. For it is I, Sebastian de Aquila, who the people acclaim as none other than the most infamous charmer, poet, dandy and impeccable lover of Costa Luceste; whose penmanship and swordsmanship is unparalleled, whose poise and grace is unmatchable, and whose sonnets and ballads woo the noble ladies of Aquila.

Alas, my humble bibliophile, I cannot once again steal the show, as I did to Gottfried von Laatzen in the summer of 600. Instead I will narrate to you the description of a man who, after sharing an evening sharing glasses of wine and flagons of dark ale, I have come to admire as a man of action, of tenacity, of effrontery, and of intrepid spirit. He calls himself Clagh O’Mugnahn, which he has disclosed translates to “Stone, descendant of Mugnahn,” in Gothic. It is a fitting name for him as he is by trade a miner. You may be tempted to cease your perusal of this document upon learning that the subject is but a common man, but I bid you to continue, as I have seldom met a soul as gilded as that of Good Clagh. And it is known that great deeds often stem from humble origins, as I portrayed in my critically acclaimed drama Blacksmith of Wood.

That night, as the ale and spirits cascaded, Good Clagh regaled me with the origination tale of his surname. It seems that long ago in the Age of Heroes there was a Good King Caomhán and his loyal knight, the seminal Mugnahn, who lived on the island of Íomhair, on which Good Clagh and his house still live. Good King Caomhán’s rule was wise and just and the people thrived under his jurisdiction, but those from without began to grow envious of Íomhair’s growing bounty. All of these ne’er-do-wells coalesced under the banner of Nathair, a sea-captain who had set his sights on possessing fertile lands. The bannermen of Good King Caomhán and Cunning Nathair met on the field of Réimse Glas to decide once and for all who the Lord of Íomhair would be. At this point in the telling of this tale Good Clagh must have had enough dark ale to kill a lesser man, and yet he still continued though I admit that I may have misheard some of the names given in his account due to my own battle with the spirits of the bottle. Continuing on, Good Clagh details how, at the height of the battle, Good King Caomhán is fighting furiously with the Cunning Nathair but ever so slowly, the Good King is gaining the upper hand. Then, just as it seems that the Good King is about to deal the finishing blow, Cunning Nathair transforms into a giant winged blue serpent, who is hereafter referred to as Nathair Gorm. Nathair Gorm regains their advantage, and the Good King is struck low by Nathair Gorm’s devilish form. The men of Íomhair, suffering greatly against Nathair’s Invaders, begin to buckle at the sight of Nathair Gorm and they begin to flee. It is at the point that the Great Warrior Mugnahn, previously defending his lord’s life against the Invaders, shouts a challenge of single combat to Nathair Gorm. The conditions are thus; if Mugnahn dies, his people shall be free from persecution. If Nathair Gorm dies, the Invaders shall turn back and be exiled from this land. Possibly incensed by his recent fortunes and amused by the absurd proposition that the Invaders would agree to the outcome one way or another, Nathair Gorm accepts. These two titans clash and Nathair Gorm is taken aback by Mugnahn’s ferocity. Mugnahn fights with the strength of twenty men, and bit by bit, he is able to pierce Nathair Gorm’s armored hide enough to deliver the final fatal blow. The Good King’s men cheer and Nathair’s Invaders are shocked by Mugnahn’s ferocity but move as if they mean to continue the battle just as it had left off, that is until they look upon the visage of Mugnahn, who has stripped bare and bathed himself in the blood of the defeated Nathair Gorm. The sight was too much for Nathair’s Invaders to bear and they turned and fled back into the sea from which they came.

It is my opinion that such an outlandish tale cannot possibly be anything but a child’s fable, with a narrative structure similar to Certainty Of Eternity, but Good Clagh told the tale with such impassioned zeal that I could naught by be impressed. Having at this time been into our cups for some while, I bid the Good Clagh good night and slipped silently into a slumber, but I hope to have the pleasure of dining with the True Son of Dunland once again.


SandFlyers are found in the deserts of Sha’ra.

They are insects with powerful hind legs and long thin membranes between there hind legs and the second set of legs. They use these membranes to glide. The front claws end in barbed hooks which they sink into the flesh of their prey. Their mandibles are odd shaped resembling human hands with interlocked fingers.

When they attack the mandibles will tear a small piece of flesh from their target which it stuffs in it mouth. They are voracious and will attack again as soon the mandibles are free.

The average adult Sandflyer measures 1 to 2”s in length, although some have been found to measure up 4” in length.

They travel in swarms of dozens but larger swarms of hundreds have been found around battlefields.

The best protection against Sandflyers is thick padded clothing, or wearing several layers of clothing that do not show any exposed flesh.

The Child Soldier

A Legend of the Falaisia, along the border of the Throne and Sha’ra

They say that when it arrives in your town, it is heralded by the sound of ghostly laughter. It seems childish, at first, taking small, worthless items, moving objects, upending pails of water. And perhaps that is all it really wishes to do, for it was once a child born of the forbidden union of a Capacian man and a Shariqyn woman. But like so many children born on that border, so many lives caught up in that ancient struggle, violence twisted it into something darker. Its laughter turns to the guttural moans and screams of the suffering of war. It begins to remember what became of it, in its short, tragic life. Its parents driven apart by their families, its father killed in senseless fighting between his brothers and those of his love, its mother driven into the streets in disgrace for bearing a child outside of marriage, only to starve to death. Its own life of fear and deprivation, ended when it was forced into battle all too young, a soldier long before it was truly old enough to understand the war.

Childish pranks soon no longer suffice, for it was never really allowed to be a child, but a soldier. It turns its pain and rage on those it encounters, those still living, whispering thoughts of violence against the self and others into the ears of those it encounters. As violence and fear spreads, its power grows, and it begins to appear in a physical form, its face veiled except for its dark, sunken eyes. A touch of its hand can bring even the strongest man to despair, the sound of its cries are enough to cause even the most hardened soldier to quake in fear, for fear and despair are the only things it ever knew. It will lash out with hands that have been formed into razor sharp claws, rending the flesh of those that come near, for it learned not love, but only war. And wherever it can find those who stoke conflict for their own gain, it curses them, turning them more and more fearful and insane, forcing them to suffer as the victims of their wars suffer. And only when your town is utterly destroyed, torn apart as its home once was does it disappear, moving on to spread its pain and madness to the next town or village it sets its sights on.

The Night Malefic

There is something wrong with the world. The world is sick. Scholars say that it wasn’t always like this, but to the people of the Throne, it is an everyday fact of life. The sun rises in the east, one eats and drinks to live, the night is purest evil. The Night Malefic, as the people call it, is the idea that the world responds to the wickedness of the deeds which take place there. Wherever natural law is broken, wherever a disgusting crime goes unpunished, wherever something happens that is just wrong, the Night Malefic grows. It leaks into the dirt and settles into the land like a canker, getting worse over time. The blood spilled from the roadside murder nurses carnivorous plants, the cannibal rises again from his grave with his hunger renewed, the hanged and crow-eaten pederast draws the neighborhood children to his death site like an eerie dream. The Night Malefic takes innumerable forms, and is always at its most powerful in the dark. The night itself is considered to be an evil time, when the laws of God and man are subverted and perverted, and each new dawn is a blessing – proof that you have survived the terrible dark.