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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
Assisted

by
Harris Tobias
The Stang

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Against a Diamond

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A Fisherman's Guide to Bottomdwellers

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Michele Dutcher

The Reclamation of Losu

by

Benjamin Wandio



For thirteen days, Zolan Videk descended into the cavernous depths below his dwarven home of Acirag to find the sunken city of Losu.


The five-foot-seven dwarf slid down the scree of a long tunnel, his long wavy blonde hair and thick beard whipped by the wind of his descent. His powerful shoulders hefted his rusty maul and bore the weight of his chainmail vest, his leather breeches keeping his muscular legs from being cut on the scree as he slid down the inky black passage.

His icy blue eyes spied a glow down below, so the dwarf jammed the steel toe-caps of his leather boots against the walls to slow his descent.

A luminescent blue slithered through the opening ahead, and Zolan's heart leapt in his chest.

"And in caves of blue lays the Holy City Losu, long corrupted by our pride and misery. Sceleris, beast of the deep, warden of Losu!" he murmured. "Just as it was written in the Oraculum Librus. I have found it!"

Zolan pulled his feet from the walls, sliding down the scree and through the passage. Thirteen days he had travelled, though he was only provisioned for six. For seven he pressed on, eating raw cave fish and slime molds, drinking acrid and stagnant water, all to find what lay beyond the passage.


Sliding to a stop beyond the door, he found himself in a vast cave such as he had never seen before. The walls were covered in luminescent blue stones glowing in the darkness, casting an eerie light over the chamber. At the chamberís centre a gargantuan stalactite was hanging over a seemingly endless void like a dark specter. In the sides of the mammoth drip-rock he could see stairways, doors, and windows slick and weathered with age.

Losu, city of the Abyss. That was it, hanging over the cavernous depths.

A single bridge of rock connected the city with the cliff edge, and Zolan Videk slowly and reverently approached it.

As he set his foot on the bridge, a hollow voice boomed from the depths. "Who dares approach my home?" it roared from the deep.

The dwarf stepped back, gripping the worn handle of his battered maul. "I am Zolan Videk, son of the city Acirag, follower of the Oraculum Librus, here to reclaim Losu from the black grip of Sceleris!"

"Reclaim it?" the grating, voice howled. "Turn back now, dwarf-kin, your Oracles were wrong, the City shall remain mine for eternity!"

Zolan stepped forward slowly, beginning to cross the bridge, maul at the ready. "No! I have faith in the Oracles! Their word has carried me this far, and I shall not falter!"

A massive tendril whipped from the deep, wrapping around the city, and pulling a massive chitin-covered mass from below. The towering beast was nearly as large as the abyssal city and resembled a nightmarish cross between a squid, a crab, and a man. Six shell-covered legs hammered their sharp points into the walls of the city, holding its bulk in place. Two tendrils wrapped about the city to support its front end, a third one resting on the stone bridge.

"Turn back, dwarfling!" the unusually small, blubbery, yellow-eyed grotesque face screamed from the confines of the creature's thick bony shell. "You are an insect to me. You have no hope!"

"You are wrong. Faith in the Oraculum has given me hope. I can, and shall, defeat you!" the dwarf shouted back defiantly.

Sceleris swiped at the dwarf with the tendril that was resting on the bridge. Unable to dodge quickly enough, Zolan felt the slick black muscle wrap around him like a constrictor, squeezing his midriff. The tendril carried him to within a body's length of the malformed face of the aberration. The face was small for such a massive creature, but even so it was nearly as big as Zolan himself.

"Give up," Sceleris hissed in Zolan's face, the beast's hot, foul breath stinking of carrion and corruption.

Struggling against the powerful tendril, Zolan dropped his hammer. The maul landed with a thud on the bridge below, its head square on the path, but the handle dangling dangerously over the abyss. Looking into the beasts soulless eyes, Zolan groaned, "Death first."

Exploding with strength, Zolan gripped the tendril holding him and pulled with both hands. The rubbery flesh was slick, yet it was pliable enough to give the dwarf a strong grip. The rubbery flesh tore open, causing Sceleris to howl in shock and pain. The tendril went slack, dropping Zolan.

The dwarf nearly fell into the void, but he barely managed to catch the edge of the stone bridge with his left hand. His shoulder dislocated with a pop and a tearing sensation, making the dwarf howl in agony. He slowly heaved his right hand to the edge, teeth cracking as he gritted them against the pain. He managed to haul himself onto the bridge as Sceleris yowled in anger and torment from its injury. The dwarf lifted his maul from the bridge, but Sceleris was too preoccupied to notice.

 
Zolan's shoulder screamed in a fierce protest as he charged forward. He let the pain fuel an anguished battle cry as he dove past Sceleris and into one of the passages honeycombing Losu. The corridor was dark, but he could see well enough to tell it spiraled upwards. Zolan could hear the grinding of Sceleris' armored legs echoing down the hall, and heard the beast's voice booming from outside. "I know you live! Come out and face me, coward!"

Zolan ran through the corridor, stepping over rubble and leaping past collapsed sections of the walls. Up ahead, he saw one of the shelled legs blocking his passage, with just enough space overhead for him to swing his weapon. With a fierce battle-cry, he brought the hammer down on the hard shell. It made a satisfying crack, but the haft of the weapon splintered and snapped, the heavy head flying away from him, rendering the ancient maul scrap. The leg retracted from the wall, but Zolan quickly grabbed the edge of the shattered shell before it was out. The beast shook its leg, trying to dislodge the dwarf, but Zolan held on tightly. The dwarf pulled himself up with his right arm to straddle the leg, gripping the edge of the weakened carapace. He gripped with both hands and pulled with all his strength, blocking out the white-hot pain from his left shoulder as he felt the beastís flesh tear away from the hardened shell, black ichors oozing from where the shell once was. The piece of shell snapped off, leaving it with a sharp point, and the exposed blackened flesh sat right beneath him. He shoved the sharp chitin into the injury, causing the leg to spasm in pain until it went limp. Ichors gushed forth as he twisted the shell until he was satisfied the leg would never support the creatureís body.

Sceleris roared, its vital fluids still gushing from its injured leg. Zolan ran up the leg, still holding the sharp chitin in his hands and towards Sceleris's head. The beast swung its injured tendril up towards the dwarf, but was unable to strike him. Zolan climbed up the monster's body, until he was hanging right below the beast's face.


"Back to the abyss with you!" he shouted, shoving the sharp point of the chitin into the fiend's blubbery face, bringing forth a torrent of ichors and gurgled cries of pain. The dwarf scrambled over to one of Losu's windows and grabbing the ledge with both arms. His dislocated shoulder made another tearing sound, causing the dwarf to shout in surprise.  He hung from the ledge uselessly for a few moments before he managed to pull himself up with his uninjured arm, his bad arm all but useless from the damage as he rolled into the corridor.

The creature's legs slackened as it oozed black fluids from its injuries, spasms of pain causing its tendrils to release as it fell, striking the bridge and rolling back into the inky blackness below.

Zolan Videk shakily rose from the ground of the stone corridor, bruised and battered, weary from travel and the fearsome combat with Sceleris. Still, he knew he had to find what he had come looking for, the ancient wonder he had heard of as a child in the city of Acirag.

He dragged himself up the corridor, circling around the stalactite's interior. He admired the vaulted ceilings, the fine carvings and stone work given an eerie glow from the blue crystals outside. He finally reached the top of the city, and found himself standing before a double pair of metallic doors, soft and warm to the touch, hinting they may be gold. It was impossible for him to tell by sight in the blue light, but none the less he put his weight behind his uninjured right arm, slowly pressing the door open. A blast of fresh, sweet air washed over him, making the air in the tunnels seem rotten and stagnant.

The room beyond was dark except for a single ray of light shining on a dust caked throne. Zolan moved towards it, brushing off eons of gathered dirt. The source of the light was a simple hole bored through the roof that seemed to go on for eternity into the heavens. On the throne, Zolan found bits of leaves and trees that had fallen through the shaft over the years.

The throne beneath the dust was a lustrous yellow, carved with images of vast mountains and unending plains. At its base was a simple phrase.

"We rule by faith alone," he murmured. Slowly, carefully he lowered himself into the throne. Zolan Videk alone had saved Losu.


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2011-09-02 17:42:27
I agree that not knowing much about the character weakens the story. Great action and some nice writing, though. It's OK.

2011-09-01 22:52:10
Unfortunately, this reads like a recitation of events. 'this happened and then this happened, and then this happened'. It's also full of overused, overblown tropes. Benjamin, get rid of the cliches, put some depth into the character; a five foot seven dwarf could have a lot more going for him that what you gave in this story.




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