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The Obsidian Cube

by Michael Mayr 6 months ago in Fantasy
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Just think what we will see when our eyes are finally open?

The Obsidian Cube

Sometime back in the 1980s...

The cube was so black it actually glowed in the darkness around it. That is the only way I could describe it. It was cold to the touch. Not ice cold, but certainly colder than the ambient temperature in the room. It wasn't large, Maybe four inches on a side. But it was surprisingly heavy.

But these details were mere minutiae. The remarkable thing about the cube was when I touched it with my bare fingers. It touched me back. Yes a dramatic statement to be sure, but I could not explain it any other way. The cube was alive. I didn't say born mind you, I said alive. Something created this cube and gave it life. This something must have been an intelligence so much more advanced than us that I could not even begin to guess what the cube's creator could be and that caused my blood to run cold. And this unknown creator had gifted the cube with a sentience of its own. And along with that sentience, came a purpose, a desire, a goal. I don't know what it was, but in that brief exposure when I lifted the cube, when my flesh touched its surface and it touched my mind. I felt this purpose, and I knew that the cube was frustrated because my mere mortal brain could not comprehend the instructions that the cube poured into it.

I had searched for this artifact for over a decade. Starting the night my late uncle insisted on it as he lay on his deathbed. My uncle had searched for the cube for over 50 years. Sacrificing the comforts of home and family. He had spent a fortune seeking it, but he had earned several more, mostly from the other more material treasures he acquired in his various expeditions in search of the cube.

In the last conversation of his life my uncle imparted these words to me and forced me to make this promise:

"Joseph? Joseph!" He gasped blindly.

"I am here Uncle. I am here. But you must rest." I implored him.

"I will rest in my grave, boy. But I don't have time for rest now. I leave everything to you, my boy. Everything. You will want for nothing. But you must promise me this: you will find it." He said, his voice cracking.

"The cube Uncle?" I questioned, trying to keep the skepticism from my voice.

"Yes Joseph. I know what the family and others have said. Even your father, my dearest brother. God rest him. That I was obsessed, that I wasted my life. Well, it is true, I am obsessed. But I tell you the cube exists!" He said with sudden strength. "What's more. It has a power that will change everything. You must find it! And use it to take us to the next level!"

"Us? Next level?" I answered confused.

"Humanity boy! Humanity! The cube has the power to open our eyes! And just think what you will see when your eyes are finally open? Promise me Joseph please."

"I promise Uncle." I said solemnly.

With that he leaned back, closed his eyes and died with his hand in mine.

That had been more than 10 years ago. My uncle's notes had the cube hidden somewhere in southeast asia. And it has taken me over 10 years and tens of thousands of dollars but I have finally located it in an abandoned temple of horrific aspect in the mountains of northern Laos.

Now I had it, it was time to learn how to use it.

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The Northman was a big man. Yet no one noticed him. Tall and muscular with golden blonde hair, worn in multiple braids and meeting in one single braid running down to the center of his back, with the sides of his head shaved and tattooed with ancient black runes of protection and power. His heavy beard was well groomed and he was immaculately dressed, his dark suit was tailor-made and cost more than most of the people walking near him made in six months.

Yes, such a man should have been the center of attention, yet the teeming mass of humanity seemed to take no notice of him, moving instinctively out of his way. Paying him no more notice than the sea paid a shark as it knifed its way through the surf. That was because of the clouding, the subtle magic with which the immortals, the protectors of the Earth, cloaked themselves, making themselves “forgettable” to those they protected, and that is how he wanted it, for it sped his way from his flight to the waiting limousine.

He moved with such purpose, for he had been awakened with a start two nights past. Something had happened, something ominous. And this ominous event had filled the aether of the world like an oily freezing shadow.

The others should be here soon, if not already. The Northman said to himself. But why is it this damned country? I have always hated this part of the world.

The Northman’s mind drifted back to a time more than a millenia ago when he had first travelled to the “new world”, when it was called vinland, and to a place more than a thousand miles from where he now stood. Then he was known simply as Otrygg. It was there that he had first encountered his great enemy the Naagloshii, the skin-walker, a demon of this land. Otrygg had defeated a worker of dark magic - a necromancer - who had led a small army of walking dead against them as they landed. After a great battle where Otrygg’s wyrdcraft had proven superior to the necromancer, his jarl had founded settlements in these new lands.

However, in time the necromancer’s true master arrived: the naagloshii. A shapeshifting demon of the greatest power. Otrygg who had battled linorm, giants and trolls back in his homeland had never encountered a darkness such as this. When he had first seen the skin-walker it appeared as an unholy hybrid of a great bear and a hair covered man of the forest. However that was merely what Otrygg has seen with his eyes. The demon was much worse when seen with his wyrdsight.

A great battle had followed and the northmen were forced to abandon vinland. It was during this battle that his sinews were filled with the lore of the All-Father and the wyrd of Loki. Over the centuries he had encountered his foe the skin-walker twice more, both times the encounters had ended in a stalemate. But he still felt a strong sense of apprehension when he crossed the seas to come to this new world.

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The hotel was clean and functional. A businessman’s hotel. Comfortable but certainly not fancy. Mentu sat at a table across from Zhang. They had not seen each other for over 50 years. Not since the end of the second world war. As both were immortals, and they were here to investigate a mystical threat to the Earth, they did not make idle small talk.

“The Northman approaches.” Zhang stated simply.

“Yes. I feel him too.” Mentu responded. “Odd, even after a thousand years he echoes in the astral sea like a raging bonfire.” He continued with a slight laughing tone in his voice.

“Well, he is a mere youth compared to you after all.” Zhang responded with a wry smile.

“As are you my friend. In fact you are even younger, yet your shade in the great ocean is a soothing presence. A small, well ordered camp fire.” Mentu countered.

Zhang Po was born in the early years of the Ming Dynasty. A scion of a noble house who during his many centuries of life was a master wu tang swordsmen, and trained as both a taosist and shaolin monk.

Zhang smiled again before responding: “But his fire is the secret of his power...and his charm.”

The Northman entered the hotel lobby, using his wyrdsight he spotted who he was searching for right away. Mundane humans showed like fireflies, but the two men he stared at? The ming and the aegyptian. They were like twin lighthouses on a black night. He watched for another moment, noting the half-formed beings of power that circled around the table like a light mist, they would manifest at a moment’s notice in the event of danger. Jinn, that is what the aegyptian called them, the Northman reminded himself.

The Northman approached the table. “Ah, the Dancer and the Priest.” He said good naturedly.

Zhang Po only responded with one of his ever present small smiles and Mentu nodded and said gently: “Otrygg. You look well. Please be seated.”

The Northman did so. “Is anyone else coming?”

“I do not believe so.” Mentu said.

The Northman looked Mentu in the face before speaking again. As always he found the aegyptian’s golden eyes disconcerting. Mentu-Her-Khepeshef, was one of the many sons of the great Pharaoh Ramses II. He was also an accomplished magi and a master of ritual magic including the summoning and binding of various spirits that he called the jinn, a skill that he had learned from the Canaanites millennia ago. He appeared as a mediteranean man in his thirties. He was always clean shaven and bald in the tradition of the priests of his ancient homeland. But his most prominent feature was his golden eyes. A feature that he kept hidden from the masses of humanity via the clouding.

“Not even Geytholos?” Zhang asked.

“I believe most of the others are in the midst of the great sleep.” Mentu responded.

“Should we wait for more?” Zhang interrupted.

“No. Whatever is happening in this accursed place, it is pounding in my wyrdsight like a drum.” The Northman said grimmly.

“I concur.” Mentu added. “I fear we need to move swiftly”.

“And I assume you have information to act on?” Zhang asked already knowing the answer, but not the details.

“Of course. Apparently an individual named Joseph Carmichael has acquired an item. A black glass box. It was found in a temple in Laos. A temple dedicated to Chaugnar Faugn.” Mentu spoke that accursed name as he explained. “He found it about a year ago and has been acquiring both blasphemous and esoteric texts, some at great expense since then. I believe he is trying to learn how to use this artifact.” He continued.

“A black glass box?” Zhang mused, his voice trailing off as if he were deep in thought.

“What is it?” The Northman asked.

“I remember something in an ancient text. Translated from a crumbling scroll supposedly dating back to Kumarai Kandam. This cube is possibly a gateway to somewhere else. Or maybe a prison.” Zhang told the other two.

“Then we definitely need to act quickly before this Joseph Carmichael learns how to open it.” Mentu responded.

“So what is our plan then?” Zhang asked.

“Mr. Carmichael has a house not far from here. Maybe a forty minute drive. It is secluded from his neighbors. Tonight we pay him a visit and acquire this box.” Mentu explained.

“And Carmichael?” The Northman asked.

“As far as I know, Joseph Carmichael is not in league with any malign power. But that does not mean he is not influenced by one. We spare him if we can.” Mentu said.

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It has taken me over a year to make my preparations. I had to acquire several arcane grimoires and ghastly tomes. These vile books set me back quite a bit. I then had to learn the ancient and tortuous dialects that they were written in order to access the forbidden knowledge in these tomes so I could unlock the secrets of the cube. The things I discovered in these books were both fantastic and in many cases horrific, and my sleep suffered greatly for it. In fact, my whole view on the world, mankind and even the very universe was different now than when I started this journey. Of course, much of what these tomes contain would be considered “magic” to most of those who we are unbelievers. I was once like them, a skeptic. But there are some things that go beyond our weak and feeble science.

From what I have read the cube is a power source. One that actually draws upon the 5th dimension of time and space! What wonders could be achieved with this? I have been performing the rituals for two nights now. Part of these rituals were the intricate wards that I have drawn to contain any errant energies. I had dedicated a room in my family's old house to this endeavor. The walls, floor - even the ceiling - were covered with runes and glyphs of protection. These “mystic” runes should keep any errant energies under control.

Now is the third night, the blessed number three. Three. A number of power. The third eye. The three Norns. The Three Magi. The Holy Trinity. This is to be the third and final night.

I begin the incantation, I burn the required herbs and minerals in a golden censer created specifically for this task. I muse back on this journey, that began more than a third of my life ago. Suddenly the cube begins to rise on its own! My breathing quickens and I feel my heart hammering in my chest like a great drum.

From nowhere a wind starts blowing, and a smell I cannot identify fills the room. A pulse of energy of a color I can see but not describe radiates from the cube in a silent burst. It slams into me and I am overcome - Pain! Pleasure! Change! I look up from the floor, the cube has shattered into four or five fragments which still float in the air about six feet from the floor. They circle a hole...the fragments orbit it like worlds around a sun. I continue to stare at the hole, I try to comprehend what it is I am seeing...but I cannot put it into words.

I spare a glance to the wider room around me, the runes and glyphs of protection that I had painstakingly inscribed were mostly gone - in some places they burned with vari-colored flames. The walls were on fire! I had done it! I had unlocked the cube.

“Oh uncle, I wish that you were here. What will we see now that our eyes are finally open?” I say aloud.

Just then another pulse from the hole slams into me. I am again knocked to the floor. I am wracked with more pain. An agonizing electricity of a sort tears through me. That is when I begin to notice them. Blurred many-limb things. I look up from the floor and I see them, I try to get up but I am still wracked by the jolting pain and my body is unresponsive. I can perceive more of them entering our world from somewhere else. Suddenly I am very, very afraid.

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They rented a black Suburban and drove to the old Carmichael house. The Northman, still dressed in his tailor-made expensive suit, is behind the wheel. Zhang is next to him, he has changed his clothes and is wearing the garb of chinese warrior monk. In the backseat, Mentu looks like the son of a pharaoh that he is, clad in simple sandals, a fine linen kilt or shendyt and two bracers of etched and inscribed gold. On the seat next to him is an ancient sword, a bronze khopesh even older then he is.

All rode in relative silence. In the back Mentu was in a trance, gathering mystic forces to him that not even Otrygg and Zhang - themselves masters of the supernatural - fully understood. Zhang had the map folded on his lap, but they did not need it. There was a great “drum beat” that they followed. Something was indeed happening, and it was happening very soon.

After about a 45 minute drive they pulled the SUV up to a shut gate. The property was large - at least five acres, irregularly shaped, and was on a small cliff overlooking a river that fed directly into a local bay. There were a few trees, but what dominated the property was the large two story house. It's back facing the waterfront.

The trio stepped out of their vehicle and approached the gate. Neither of the three had to question if this was their destination. Their mystic senses had answered that for them already.

The Northman spoke first: “How do you want to approach this? Strength or stealth?”

Zhang stepped forward. In his right hand he held a beautifully crafted ming dynasty sword. The Northman had seen this blade before and knew of the many chinese swords owned by the monk this was his favorite. He recalled a conversation the two had once shared about swords a hundred and twenty or so years back. How the ming had lectured him, the Northman recalled with a slight smile. This style of sword he called a jian, and it was a straight double-edged blade. Forged from red damascus steel with a beautiful yellow rose wood pommel. The same wood was used for its scabbard. The other more curved sabres, Zhang had called those doa. The Northman knew this particular blade was not merely a work of art, but it was also highly enchanted, and enhanced the Ming's already near superhuman speed to even greater levels.

“I will climb the fence and scout the area. It is better that we see it with our eyes, not just our…” Zhang never finished his sentence as a soundless burst of energy pulsed from the house. In an instant it reached the three immortals and knocked them flat. Even pushing back the large SUV several feet. The only sound heard was the shattering of glass and the splintering of wood.

An instant later Mentu shouted from the ground: “we are too late! It has already begun!”

The Northman jumped to his feet. He took in the scene. The suburban was indeed pushed back a good five feet and its windshield was shattered. He looked at the others, Zhang was jumping up to his feet and the translucent hands of Mentu’s djinn were gently picking him up from the ground. Several trees on the grounds were split as if by a great force. Miraculously the gate still held

“Right! The time for stealth is past! Stand back!” The Northman roared. He then hissed out a short phrase in an archaic version of donsk tunga, the mystical tongue of the old norse. In a distant place, both here and not here, a primal spirit awoke. Ancient pacts compelled it to answer the Northman’s summons, as did its own curiosity. In an instant the primal spirit had left the lands of the Vanir and tread the realm of midgard.

A massive golden-furred boar, barded in golden plate armor, stood amongst them. Its rage barely contained as it snorted and tore at the dirt with its great tusks and armored hooves. The Northman continued to speak in the old tongue of the norse to the beast: “Hail and well met Great Boar! I, Otrygg called Wyrdweaver, implore thee in the name of thy master, Ing hero god of the Jutes. Make mine enemies, thine enemies. Overcome my obstacles as ye overcame his obstacles!”

The great beast snorted and amazingly replied in the same tongue. “Hail and well met Otrygg the Wyrdweaver. Long has it been since my hooves trod the earth of midgard, the land of men. But I see that ye and yon fellows are not merely men. I see that long are the hours that the Maiden, Mother and Crone have invested in thine threads. I will honor the ancient pacts...on one condition.”

“And what is the condition oh Great Boar?” The Northman asked.

“That you tell the story of my Lord Ing, also called Ingwaz, also called Yngvi, and that of his descendants the Ingaevones, wherever you may travel. For I fear his great deeds, and thus theirs, have been forgotten.” Came the great boar’s request.

“Agreed!” Was the Northman’s only response.

“Then I shall treat thine enemies as my own, and serve ye as I did him.” The great boar proclaimed.

“Then let us be off!” The Northman cried as he leapt upon the great boars armored saddle. The boar made a noise that was half-roar and half-squeal and charged through the gate as if it were made of paper and began his way to the house.

Mentu looked at Zhang and stated: “the source of his charm indeed.” Before floating into the air borne aloft by his bound djinn. Zhang shrugged his shoulders and ran at a speed that would shame a cheetah.

The Northman and the armored boar were almost to the front doors of the house when the second pulse hit. A wave of otherworldly force. When it hit the great boar it dispeled its presence here on our world and cast it back to the lands of the Vanir. Mentu saw this and attempted to erect a protecting ward, but the pulse moved at an incredible speed and struck him as an invisible wave, likewise dispelling his bound djinn and casting him to the ground. Zhang to his credit, prepared this time, “rode” the pulse and was able to land upon his feet. He ran to Mentu and helped him up.

Mentu swore in ancient egyptian before thanking Zhang. Zhang asked with concern evident in his tone: “has anything ever dispelled your familiars before?”

“Never.” Replied Mentu. He considered correcting Zhang - his jinn were not mere familiars, but now was not the time nor the place for such concerns. “But we must move quickly” he continued and they both ran to the Northman.

The Northman waited for his comrades at the open doorway - the doors having been literally blown off their hinges by either the first or second pulse. Zhang noticed that during the charge upon the Great Boar that the Northman had summoned his battle-blade. An ulfberht, in fact undoubtedly one of the original blades to bear that name. Zhang, himself a master swordsmen, knew that was one of the world’s deadliest swords. Zhang recalled instructing the Northman on sword forging, at least 125 years gone.

“Are you well my friends?” The Northmen said loudly as the other two approached. When they both nodded. He strode forward “then let us venture into the belly of the beast.”

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I still writhed upon the floor, the otherworldly energies wracking me with agony. Yet I could perceive more and more about these things. They seemed to walk in from nowhere, to manifest out of thin air! How can I describe them? My eyes beheld them, yet my mind could barely comprehend them. They were hideous yet beautiful at the same time. An anagram of insectoid, invertebrate and human-like forms all at once. One moment they were crystal clear in their clarity, clearer than any other image I had before seen, the next blurred and insubstantial. The only constant they exhibited was that they were constantly changing. Worse was their colors, oh there was the color palette I had always known. But that was mottled with shades and colors that were so alien that I could not identify them, let alone explain them. These were colors that up until that moment I had not known even existed and as such, they were colors I could not name.

Then I noticed one of them approach me - despite its alien mien I could feel the malice and threat in its pose. It reached out with an appendage that resembled the scything arm of a vast praying mantis. My heart beat faster as I witnessed my doom coming toward me. And I was helpless to either flee or try to defend myself. Yet as my death came for me I refused to close my eyes.

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The Northman burst into the room with both Zhang and Mentu close behind. He swang his broad battleblade, which burned with a white witchfire, at the first of the abominations that he saw. This large multi-limbed creature seemed to be out of focus to his eyes but it burned with a green-yellow dirty radiance in his wyrdsight. The being stood over a limp human form which shivered on the floor, the creature’s intent was obvious by the scythe-like chitin appendage it was getting ready to plunge into the hapless man’s body. The Northmen’s blow severed the being’s limb and it shrieked in an un-human voice as said limb hit the floor then melted into a stinking gray sludge.

“What are these things?” Zhang asked loudly, his slim duelist sword at the ready and his left arm behind his back. The next alien being charged toward him in flowing, almost graceful - and completely alien - slide. Zhang moved with a speed that defied description, first he was there and then he was in front of the alien thing. Intercepting it. It was as if he almost had not moved at all, but was in one place and then another. He lunged forward with his slim blade, piercing the creature through what appeared to be an eye. It stopped dead, quivered slightly, and then began to melt into the strange, stinking ooze. Zhang did not see his lethal handiwork as he had already moved onto another opponent.

Mentu extended his left hand and uttered a word of power. Spoken in the lost high-tongue of ancient Atlantis, a moment later runes and glyphs of glowing green encircled his hand and a beam of the same iridescent hue sprang from his palm. Mentu scythed the beam through half-a-dozen of the shifting alien beings - where the beam struck the creatures ceased to be. Leaving vari-colored alien bits and appendages to tumble to the floor. His grim work completed he responded to his comrade: “they are extra-dimensional. A higher plane, hence the blurriness and the changing shapes. They are beyond our three dimensional world.”

In less than half a minute all of the alien entities had been dispatched. Mentu started towards the hole in reality. “Is it a gateway or door of some sort?” The Northman asked.

Shaking his head for a second Mentu responded: “No...it’s a beacon. Not an entrance, nor an exit. It is calling these things here...and I think it is getting stronger. More will be coming to answer it’s call.” He said concern was evident in his voice.

“But what exactly are they?” Zhang asked “More of these things or something else?” He continued.

“Can it be closed?” The Northmen asked.

“Yes. I think I can close it. However, it will take time.” Mentu answered the Northman first. “And Zhang As to your question. I do not know. These things may be just the beginning.”

“But more will be coming...and you do not have your familiars to guard your back” Zhang stated.

Mentu felt a flash of annoyance. Again with the familiars. But he said nothing, because before he could speak a pain-filled voice came from the man on the ground. “Wh-what is happening to me?”

The Northman walked over to him and stared for a moment. A look of distaste plain across his face. “The maleficium you have worked has poisoned both your body and your wyrd. Will you survive?” He shrugged his massive shoulders. “That has already been decided by the Norns. We shall have to wait and see.”

“Then you will have to keep them off of me while I perform the ritual.” Mentu stated to Zhang and the Northman as he began to pull materials out of thin air. A small bronze brazier, incense and chalk. He then began to draw intricate geometric shapes. He stopped for a second and looked at the remaining few glyphs and runes of protection that were drawn earlier in the night. He turned to look at the man lying on the floor and spoke: “Mr. Carmichael I presume? Did you inscribe these wards?”

The man lying on the floor responded “Yes. I inscribed them. I failed, didn't I?” His pain and fatigue evident in his voice.

“No. Quite the contrary. These were well done. They may have bought us the time to close this…” Mentu stopped mid sentence and stood up. Both Zhang and the Northman turned and looked back toward the way they had come and then looked at each other.

“You feel it too?” Zhang asked his two companions.

“Yes. More of them, many more of them.” Mentu said.

The Northman grabbed up his sword and headed to the destroyed door. Zhang followed him. “No Zhang, I will buy you both time for Mentu to close this hole. You must guard him in case any make it past me.” The Northman stated simply.

“But Otrygg, you cannot defeat them all.” Zhang replied.

“Like I told that mortal fool on the floor: our fates were spun by the norns long ago. If today is my day to enter Valhalla? Then it has been decided. Stay here Dancer and guard the Priest.” The Northman said as he turned to go.

“Otrygg.” Mentu said. As the Northman turned, Mentu continued. “Farewell.”

The Northman smiled a big toothy smile and walked out to meet his destiny.

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Mentu hastily began the ritual to close the “hole”. He knew time was of the essence and this truly was a beacon and more of these things would be coming soon. He finished the circles and warding shapes, lit the incense and began a loud chant, again in the tongue of lost Atlantis.

Zhang paced back and forth. His frustration was evident. Every few moments he stared toward the direction Otrygg had left. Finally he spoke to the man on the ground: “Why? Why did you do this?”

The man, Joseph Carmichael, looked up from the ground and said painfully: “To take us to the next level.”

“What?” Zhang replied.

“Humanity. This was supposed to take us to the next level. To finally open our eyes.” Carmichael said.

“Well, it has opened your eyes at least, now you see what the world is truly like. Is it what you expected? These creatures, these oni that have come from the god's know where?" Zhang asked.

"The 5th dimension." Carmichael said.

"What?" Zhang asked.

"The books said that the Cube is a power source. That it draws energy from the 5th dimension." Carmichael explained.

"Interesting. That is…" Zhang stopped mid sentence. Suddenly several more creatures manifested. What was odd was that Carmichael felt their impending arrival mere moments before they materialized, just like Zhang and Mentu apparently had.

Zhang moved with blinding speed to engage the new arrivals, while Mentu redoubled his efforts to quickly conduct the ritual of closing.

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The Northman stormed outside, his blade trailing colorless flame. Outside were scores of the otherworldly creatures. A fantastic sea of vari-colored and ever changing flesh. Before the creatures could respond the Northman leveled his left hand and shouted out in donsk tunga: "May the flock of Hugin and Munin take thee!" At that a vast treachery of ethereal black ravens, each the size of an eagle enveloped several of the alien entities. The beings screamed and roared in rage and pain as the spirit ravens tore at them with beaks and talons.

While he still had the initiative and the alien monstrosities were reeling, the Northman struck again, bringing his sword down vertically in a great slash through a more hominid looking entity shearing it in twain from crown to crotch. He then reached out with his left hand again and intoned another invocation: "Face the ravenous rage of Geri and Freki!” With that two wolves, one silver-gray and the other midnight black formed from the air. Each was the size of a draft horse with slavering jaws and eyes that burned like amber lanterns. Like the ravens these were not “true spirits” but mere echoes of the great spirits that dwelt in the lands of the aesir. Unlike the Great Boar which had actually been called to the world of man.

The wolves tore into their foes with a storm of flashing fangs. The first entities fell to the pair of wolves and the treachery of ravens. However, once the initial shock wore off, the creatures rallied and began to encircle the Northman and his summoned allies.

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It was an apex predator in its own place. Mighty and feared. How could one describe it? It appeared as a nauseating, vari-colored column of flesh, eyes, tentacles and fanged mouths to our three-dimensional sight. Pieces of it seemed to fade and reappear at random, undoubtedly they existed on a plane we could not perceive. Like its lessers, it was at once blurry and clear. Yet unlike its lessers this was no mere beast. This apex predator had a keen, yet alien intellect. It perceived the beacon with senses we did not have and could not comprehend. And it was curious, it began to travel to the three dimensional planes to see what was causing this...annoyance.

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The Northman spun and hacked again and again. Yet despite his best efforts he knew it was only a matter of time before he was overwhelmed. Already both of the echoes of Geri and Freki had been dispatched by some of the larger entities and the remaining ravens began to “fade” from this reality. He turned to his right, slashing at one monstrosity with his enchanted blade and began his death chant: “Lo, there do I see my Father! Lo, there do I see my Mother! And my sisters and my brothers! Lo, there do I see the line of my people stretching back to the beginning! Lo, they do call to me. They bid me take my place amongst them in the halls of Valhalla! Where the brave may live forever!” As he stabbed at one entity, yet another was able to slip past his guard and grabbed his left arm with a scorpion like pincer and tore his arm from him just above the left elbow. He roared in pain and rage at his attacker and screamed out: “Feel the icy winds of jotunheim!” As he breathed a great gout of freezing wind at his foes, and their flesh was rent by icy shards which struck like bullets. The one that had maimed him bore the worst of this, as bits of its flesh actually froze solid and broke off, shattering against the ground. The Northman finished it off with a cleaving slash through what he perceived was its head. Yet as it’s alien flesh melted into the foul smelling gray sludge, others advanced to take its place. Surrounded and alone, the Northman grimmly called out a challenge: “Come draugr, you may end me, but I will send many of you back to the hell you crawled out of!”

After which Otrygg the Wyrdweaver was crushed under a tide of hideous alien flesh.

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The Great Boar roared its frustration and rage as it tore at the ground of its home realm of Vanaheim. It snorted and ran in circles trampling small trees in its wrath. Now my Lord Ing and his blood will be forgotten! Great deeds lost to the minds and hearts of man! Suddenly, the Great Boar grew strangely calm. No. It does not have to be this way. The Great Boar said to himself. I can still aid the young Otrygg. The Great Boar began to run forward at great speed. He would cross the boundaries between worlds, it would be incredibly painful, but he would honor the pact made...

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Mentu worked to close the cube as fast as he could, however the ritual was complicated and despite his literal millenia of experience, time consuming. As Zhang battled the extra-dimensional invaders behind him, Mentu began another incantation. Suddenly he felt a ripple in the great ocean, it was different then the waves the creatures made. Stronger, yet at the same time more subtle, as if something was trying to mask its approach…

“Zhang!” Mentu screamed as he jumped up. At the same moment it manifested. A nauseating, vari-colored column of flesh, eyes, tentacles and fanged mouths, it shot forward with near blinding speed and slammed straight into Zhang with bone-breaking force knocking him back into a wall. Zhang slid down into a heap, unconscious...or dead...his sword fell from his grasp and landed near Carmichael’s face.

Mentu’s heart sank. He could close the cube - in time. He could battle and defeat this new monstrosity - mayhaps...but he could not do both. The time required to defeat this thing would allow uncountable entities to access the earthly plane. But what choice did he have? He viewed the chamber with his magesight. He saw that Zhang still lived, though he was gravely injured and would not be able to rejoin the fray. He noticed Carmichael’s aura and was intrigued to see it was growing, though he knew that it was a mystery he may never have a chance to explore. He could see Otrygg’s light in the distance, surrounded by an alien horde. However, the chamber was dominated by this creature’s aura, a blinding greenish-yellow light. Proving it was so much more potent than it’s lessers.

Mentu picked up the bronze khopesh and it erupted with a colorless witchfire. He brought to mind the ray of unmaking that he used earlier against the lesser entities, and grimly turned and faced the monstrosity.

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The apex predator entered three dimensional space not with a roar but a whisper. The transition caused it great pain and confusion as its flesh and senses were forced into this more limited reality. The “beacon” which had attracted it here to begin with, “pulsed loudly” this close to the apex predator and that filled it with a great rage. It struck out slamming into a strange symmetrical being, whose shape was static and unchanging. What an odd little thing? The apex predator said to itself as it threw the thing into the far wall.

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I was still wracked with pain and nausea, but it was fading. The asian man, he fought these horrors. The way he moved - I had never seen such speed or grace. Who were these men? A viking in a business suit? A man dressed like a pharaoh? And this man, who looked like he stepped out of Kung Fu theatre? And all of them with swords? And how had they known about this?

Then out of nowhere it came! It was similar to the other horrors - but far, far worse. It was like a branchless tree of horrid flesh! Filled with eyes, mouths and claws. It stunk like sour milk and old leaves. It moved like lightning and knocked the asian man into the wall behind us! His sword fell to the floor near me. I reached for it, I had to do something to make this right…

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The Great Boar tore into the realm of midgard like a hurricane as it roared its pain and anger and charged into many multi-formed creatures. “Ye are not of the realms of man! Ye do not belong here unclean things! And where is young Otrygg? Where?!” As the Great Boar slashed left and right with its gilded, iron-hard tusks and trampled the invaders with its gold-shod hooves, he noticed they seemed to congregate around an area and that is where he headed to.

The Northman was surrounded and was definitely the worst for wear. He had suffered greatly, with his left arm missing, in its place was a glowing construct of mystical energy shaped as an axe. Which he used to deadly effect along with his blade. Maybe a dozen of the entities still surrounded him. However as the Great Bore tore into their ranks, they broke and began to fade away like a morning mist.

“Hail and well met Otrygg the Wyrdweaver.” The Great Bore greeted the Northman.

“Hail and well met oh Great Boar.” The Northman responded weakly.

“I see much has transpired in my time away. But regardless I have returned to fulfill our pact.” The Great Boar stated.

“Surprised and glad I am that you have returned. In the house my comrades battle more of these things and seek to stop them from invading my world.” The Northman said.

“Then come young Otrygg! To battle and glory we ride!” The Great Boar announced.

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As Mentu mentally prepared himself, summoning the energy to invoke the Beam of Unmaking, he saw Carmichael rise up holding Zhang's sword in a two-handed grip. Carmichael stabbed forward, piercing deep into the creature's flank. The thing recoiled and screeched an angry cry of pain. What happened next ranked as one of the most amazing things Mentu had ever experienced. The creature divided - where once there was only one, now there were five! But Mentu realized divided was not the right concept. For Mentu could see each in his magesight, and he saw that these were not new creatures, but the same being. By Holy Ra! Mentu said to himself. It is not bound by linear time, these are the same being existing in different time streams, but here at once in this NOW! How is this possible?

Mentu invoked the beam of unmaking and it struck the first creature, bisecting it. However, unlike the lesser entities the creature did not dissolve into stinking gray sludge. It simply ceased to be - possibly dispelled back to its respective place in the timestream? Almost immediately two other “examples” of the creature surged forward to engage Mentu. The duo extended their varied tentacles to their sides and pelted Mentu with chromatic balls of what appeared to be light but that impossibly transformed into a matter resembling flesh and seemed to emerge from their forms - Mentu was able to invoke several translucent kine shields that shattered under the assault but were able to absorb the otherworldly fleshy-energy.

The fourth entity rushed forward to harass Carmichael, who kept Zhang’s blade ahead of him in a two-handed grip in an attempt to keep it at bay. The remaining creature - the “original” - hung back as it’s wound began to knit itself closed.

This is not going well! Mentu screamed to himself. He realized that the longer he engaged this entity the more likely the beacon would attract other creatures. In time they would be overwhelmed, and despite Carmichael’s apparent bravery, Mentu knew he could not face a multitude of these things alone.

Just then the back walls of the old house ceased to exist in a silent explosion of colorless light. Mentu blinked furiously as his vision cleared. There standing on a levitating stone platform clad in a bronze kilt and bracers was a muscular man. His shoulder length white hair was kept in check by a bronze circlet and his white goatee was combed and trimmed. However his most distinctive feature was his eyes. His eyes were two glowing green orbs - no pupils, no irises, no whites. But two jade green orbs that burned with an internal flame.

"Thank Ra and Osiris!" Mentu exclaimed. "Geytholos! You are with us!"

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Geytholos, also called Aganar the Scythian. Was the last scion of fabled Atlantis, son of the great King Phenius, husband of the pirate queen Scotia and First King of the Gaels. And He had dwelled upon and defended Mother Gaia for millennia. Geytholos raised his left hand and a spear comprised of the same glowing light as his eyes materialized. He cast the spear and it pierced the side of one of the alien monstrosities and it began to shriek in a pain-filled keening wail. As all four versions of the entity turned to face this new threat, the remnants of the opposite wall caved in as the Northman astride the golden boar burst in the room.

Geytholos took command of the situation in an instant and barked orders: "Otrygg! We strike together! Mentu, shut that down!" He cried as he pointed at the beacon.

The Northman, still mounted atop the Great Boar, charged headlong into the fray, swinging the glowing-energy axe into the closest entity and following up with swipes of his burning blade. The Great Boar gored the same creature with its gilded tusks.

Meanwhile Geytholos threw a second and a third conjured spear of the solidified emerald fire into the flank of the being he had originally attacked.

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The Apex Predator was experiencing something it had never known before - fear. It had come to this three dimensional hell to investigate the maddening pulse and now was being attacked by these hideously symmetrical - and surprisingly powerful - creatures. It was time to return back to the embrace of possibilities.

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As they pressed their attacks the entity began to fade. “It’s retreating back to once it came! Let it go!” Geytholos exclaimed as he walked down from the floating platform. Using steps that were invisible to the eyes of everyone else. When he reached the floor of the shattered mansion, he strode over to Zhang and laid a hand upon his chest.

The monk was filled with the glowing green energy, which knit broken bones and torn flesh, and awoke with a start. “Lord Geytholos” he said with a wan smile and a slight bow of his head.

“Master Zhang.” Geytholos replied with an offered hand and helped the monk to his feet.

Zhang approached Carmichael and asked: “my blade please sir. As we are not finished yet.” Carmichael returned the sword, almost sheepishly.

Several minutes passed in silent vigil, no more of the alien entities appeared though they could feel them gathering in great numbers. Finally with a thunderous sound, akin to glass shattering, the pieces of the cube slammed back together and the pulsing sensations stopped. Though it still floated in the air.

Geytholos approached it. “Excellent work Mentu.” He said as he probed it with his mystic senses.

“What is it?” The Northman asked.

Without turning Geytholos answered: “It's a weapon. Created before our species even existed. Possibly even before Gaia existed. A doomsday weapon crafted in a war between beings almost godlike in their power. In time, it would have attracted thousands of these extra-dimensional beings, they would have ravaged the world. Not just through their own malice mind you, for not only does this thing summon them, the pulsing fills them with pain and rage.”

“It is alive…” Carmichael said aloud, almost at a whisper.

Geytholos and the others turned to him. “Yes, you are correct. It is indeed alive. And it wants to do what it did tonight. After all, that is what it was created to do. Even now, I can feel its anger and disappointment.” Geytholos responded.

“I spent ten years of my life searching for it. My uncle spent more than fifty years. We spent a fortune on this. I, and he, we thought we were going to change the world...advance mankind..” Carmichael said despondently.

“Yes. That is what this weapon wanted you to think. For those ten years, it fed this into your subconscious.” Geytholos told him.

“So what do we do with it now?” Mentu asked. “Can it be destroyed?”

“I do not think so. I think I will take it to the vault”. Geytholos said.

The Great Boar spoke up “Now that the danger appears to be past young Otrygg. I must return to the fields of Vannaheim.”

Otrygg dismounted “of course Great Boar” He responded. He had dispelled the arm-axe and he appeared that his wounds were actually healing. Including the severed arm which seemed to be slowly growing back.

“I have enjoyed our battles together against these draugr. And you may call upon me again, young Otrygg - as long as you keep the pact and tell the story of my Lord Ing, also called Ingwaz, also called Yngvi, and that of his blood the Ingaevones.” The Great Boar informed him.

“I shall Great Boar. Farewell and my thanks.” The Northman replied.

“Farewell and long life young Otrygg.” The Great Boar said as he faded into mist and was no more.

Carmichael was stunned. From the tomes he had read he realized that the world was so much more than most people believed. But this? This was too much. “Who...who are you people?” He blurted.

It was Zhang who answered first: “We are the protectors of the Earth. Well at least some of the protectors.” The monk said.

“We defend the world and humanity against things like this.” Mentu continued.

The Northman stepped forward with his sword in his hand. “So what do we do with this fool? He is clearly dangerous.” His intent was apparent to all.

“Stop.” Geytholos quietly demanded. All three turned to Geytholos.

“Look at him. Use your magesight. You can see he is no longer completely mortal.” Geytholos said.

“But he is not one of us…” Mentu replied.

“No. He is not. But I believe it is time we reformed them. After all, it has been fifty years, and we cannot do it all alone.” Geytholos explained.

“But last time...it ended so…” Zhang started.

“Yes. But it took millenia before such corruption was seeded. And this time we will not be complacent.” Geytholos said. He then approached Carmichael. “Good news. We will not kill you.” He told him.

“What?” Exclaimed Carmichael.

“But you do not get away without penance. I assume you are still a man of means?” Geytholos asked.

“Yes…” Carmichael said.

“Good! Because you now work for us. And you are the first recruit in reforging an ancient secret society fifty years dead. And that will take resources.” Geytholos explained.

“What?” Carmichael responded.

“You have much to learn. But do not worry! Otrygg will teach you what you need to know.” Geytholos announced.

“What? I?” The Nortman blurted out.

“Yes you. After all. You want to kill him. Who better to ensure he stays on the straight and narrow. But do not worry, Zhang and Mentu will be there to aid you.” Geytholos informed them all. “So you four get started on that, as I take this thing somewhere safe.” Geytholos turned away and again began walking on the air. “And it was good to see you all again.” Geytholos proclaimed as he walked out of the ruined mansion.

The three turned to Carmichael. It was Mentu who spoke first: “Well. Mister Carmichael. What a night, eh? It appears you are to be our student.”

“We will get to that soon enough.” The Northman interrupted. “But first, I will tell you all the tale of Ing, the hero god of the Jutes, also called Ingwaz, also called Yngvi, and that of his descendants the Ingaevones.” And they talked on into the night.

Fantasy

About the author

Michael Mayr

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