Friday, July 26, 2013

The Treasure of the Iron Range-04

The young hero sat before the fire, deep into a drug-induced trance. The elder danced about both man and fire, beseeching the spirits to aid the young man in overcoming the curse. Soon the wind turned harsh and cold, and with that biting chill came an oppressive presence. The elder splashed water into the young man’s face, breaking the trance.

“It is here.” The elder thrust the young man’s spear into his hands. “Go forth.”

The young man, spear in hand, took to his feat. The fire no longer warmed him, as the flames flickered from the chilling, cutting wind coming from the oppressive presence before them both. His eyes showed, faintly outlined, a great and monstrous giant-sized man-like figure.

“You are a shade!” The young man shook his spear at the foul spirit. “A shadow of a dead monster, unwanted and unneeded amongst the people- be gone!”

The great shade of Wendigo roared at them, blasting the warmth from their flesh with the force of a gust of cold winter wind. Unable to speak, and still mad with hunger, Wendigo’s shade leaped over the fire and bowled the young man over. Both men saw that the shade, for all intents and purposes, was no different than if it were still wreathed in flesh and thus lost their fear of it.

The elder drew a long ember from the fire and jabbed the shade in the flank, searing it and causing it to howl in pain and roll off the young man. The young man followed that example and thrust his spear into the fire, skewering an ember upon the point. When he turned to face the shade, it again stood ready to pounce, but hesitated.

“Now!” the elder said, throwing a ragged leather pouch at the shade, which it rent asunder with its clawed hands. The sands, powders and fetish cords fell upon the shade’s form as if it were flour upon an invisible form, making itself apparent even to the most dim of eyes. It flailed about, screaming as if it were burned by it, and then other unseen forces grappled its limbs and held it in place.

“Strike now!” the elder said, and the young man attacked. His spear pierced the revealed shade, driving the ember into its spectral form. The man then took another ember and did it again. Wendigo’s shade fell to the ground, as if dragged down by the forces holding it fast. The young man impaled one ember after another into it, and soon the shade’s form caught fire. The fire soon consumed it utterly, as each burning ember flared and burnt the shade’s form from within. The young man’s final strike was to its heart, but through its mouth, force-feeding his now-charred spear shaft as well as the ember on its tip down its throat and impaling it to the earth.

As the burning subsided, a rain storm began that washed clean the man, the elder and the ground. The curse lifted.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Treasure of the Iron Range-03

“I know the name,” Ken said, “but not the significance. Tell me.”

The figure approached and placed its hands on Ken head.


Ken’s vision blurred as his mind flooded with memories of years long past. Thrown far beyond the records of the Old World, the spirit showed Ken the world that once was when men first arrived in this land. In the time after a great flood that washed over the world, nations of men once more arose and with them came the reasons for that flood: the half-men, the giants, the great men of renown that were not truly men- monsters, really, great and small alike.

Wendigo was one of these things. He was a great, furred giant of a half-man with a taste for man-flesh that, in time, could not be sated. First his subjects fed him sacrifices of animals, and then of enemies captured, and in time their own dissidents and criminals. Finally he consumed the live flesh of all that displeased him before he lost his reason and became a ravenous monster wholly and utterly, and those who once worshipped him as a god either fled from him, died trying to kill him or kill themselves instead of being rent asunder by Wendigo.

Hunger unceasing transformed the monster into a cunning, feral beast-man that tracked those that fled and stalked them solely to consume them. Some succumbed, and some escaped, but only to delay the inevitable when they found other tribes. The horror spread throughout the land, and soon a desperate nation felt no option but to throw itself into a fight against it. Heroes arose and assembled, armies massed, and a catastrophic war against Wendigo began. Many men died. Many heroes died. Yet, at the last, they struck down Wendigo and slew him.

But Wendigo was undying. Though his corpse be burnt and his bones scattered, his spirit did not leave. Those that slew him he cursed, and those he cursed became like him, and the nation fell into another panic, with wounded heroes succumbing and transforming into monsters that terrorized their tribes before being struck down in turn and passing the curse to their slayers. Once this became known some of those known to be cursed took their own lives, but this did not end the curse.

At last, a strong young hero known to take up the burden despite the dangers sought out a wise old elder who had once been a hero and now was alone in the wild. He found the old man, living by a lake, alone and with naught but what he needed to feed, clothe and shelter himself. The old man saw the young hero approach, and welcomed him.

“Words carry far on the wind, young man.” The old man offered the young man some fish. “I know why you seek my counsel.”

“Elder,” the young man said, “if you know my purpose, then I will ask you simply: is there any way to break this curse?”

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Treasure of the Iron Range-02

Ken looked through the eyes of the thrall he’d slain and consumed, sifting through memories of life and undeath, and saw The Necromancer standing before him. He didn’t see his enemy address the thrall directly, but rather the thrall’s superior—some man named “Bell”—and Ken concentrated to mark what was said.

“Bell,” The Necromancer said, “you know the lands and native peoples of North America well?”

On bended knee, the rotting man said “Yes, master. In life I was one of the few experts on the First Nations, and I specialized on the peoples of the Great Plains and the Midwest.”

Ken noticed another living force, easily as powerful as The Necromancer, besides that villain. He appeared to be Christopher Walken, as that actor appeared in the first Prophecy film many years before the fall of the Old World. This figure scanned the assembling group, and then whispered into the ear of The Necromancer, who then nodded.

“Bell, you are to go north to the Iron Range. There are old mines there, iron mines. With this work detail I assign to you, you shall join with two others I’ve already sent ahead. You shall reopen the mines. The iron you shall send back, but that is not your objective.”

The Necromancer waited for Bell, or anyone, to question him but they did not.

“There is something underneath the Iron Range, Bell. Something ancient, beyond the reach of the rebels’ memories or archives, that is rightfully mine- and I want it restored to me. You will find it, and you will recover it in my name, Bell.”

Again, The Necromancer paused. This time, Bell spoke.

“Master, what I am to seek?” Bell said.

“You need not worry, Bell. I will know when you find it, and thereafter I shall instruct you as to how to deal with it. Now go.”

Ken saw his meal follow Bell out of the Great Necropolis, marching without fatigue north to the very open pit now nearby. There he saw Bell talk with two others, whom Ken figured by their actions to be similar expert thralls. Some of the undead host went south and west, and some went north and east, but the bulk of the host stayed here at the Mesabi Range. The rest is a blur of days and nights, hot and cold, digging and shoveling dirt and ore.

“Hmmm,” Ken thought, “that makes this a treasure hunt. I need to know more.”

Knowing that the Necromancer’s thralls won’t be done anytime soon, Ken slipped away from the open pit mine and made for a lake nearby. There, he took forth a small bag from around his neck and shook it over the water as it lapped the shore of the lake.

“Spirits of old, kin to the First People, I ask your aide.” Ken said, “There is a thing that the Great Death desires, and I know only that it is ancient and desired.”

A watery humanoid figured appeared. “Death seeks Wendigo.”

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Treasure of the Iron Range-01

Ken reached the greatest of the old mines of the Iron Range—the Mesabi Range—ruined by the Coming of the Azure Flames that destroyed the Old World, well north of the Great Necropolis of the Necromancer. Ken looked down at the open pit before him, where once great machines sifted through earth rent asunder by means now lost to those yet living- but not to the dead. An army of the dead, working without rest or reason, now to the work of those now-destroyed machines and their lifeless flesh produces the same results in the same time.

“This is it.” Ken thought, “But why? What need does the Necromancer have with these old mines?”

The stench of rotting flesh came over him with a shift of the wind. Ken grinned. He knew that being downwind of them would make it difficult for the Necromancer to detect him. From the smells, Ken deduced that some of these zombies weren’t recent. Even for the Necromancer, one can arrest the decay of dead flesh only so long.

“So,” Ken thought, “those old trappers weren’t wrong. The dead dig for iron.”

Ken’s eyes, no less keen than his nose, picked out an oddity amongst the undead horde of diggers below. He focused upon a trio of man-like figures, working around a tripod-mounted device of some sort, one out-of-place for a mining operation. Even for his eyes, this was too great a distance to be certain of what he saw, so he produced a pair of binoculars and again looked at the odd things and their apparatus.

“This is no hunt for iron.” Ken thought, now seeing in detail who they are and what they’re doing.

Below, though clearly long-dead and half-rotted, he recognized that these three minions were not overseers of a mine. The map, the tripod and their discussions—which Ken, too distant, could not hear—made Ken think of another intensive pursuit that often involved massive digging and careful map consultation: archaeology.

“They’re looking for something. The iron is a bonus, something to make this dig seem reasonable to onlookers. What they’re looking for is something else, something that no one but those long dead could know.”

Ken felt a shiver.

“Something is down there. The Necromancer is after something precious, something valuable, something older than known history- something from before the last Ice Age. I need to know more.”

Ken took off, circling around the pit until he spied a hapless zombie digger all by his lonesome. He rigged up a rappel line, pounced down upon the corpse-thing, cracked its skull open with a hatchet and severed it from the body with a machete. With severed head in hand, Ken quickly climbed back up and out of the pit. He ran out of sight, and then he devoured the brain of the slain zombie, satisfying his hunger for all things unnatural as he sought useful information.

“There!” Ken thought, “I knew it! You bastard.”