The Sorcerers of Orth
An epic-length storypoem - D&D as told by M&M.
Some time ago in the land of Orth,
south of the moon and steadfast north,
a chain of rocky crests carved a niche in the earth,
and on the sloping sides lived the sages Neuss and Hurth.
Neuss lived by himself on the furthest peak
where the wind caterwauled and the roof would creak.
But he never complained and wished it would last,
when the clouds closed in and the sun hid fast,
ice streaming down in needle-sharp shards,
stabbing his skin and stippling the yards.
He called up these storms for no reason at all
and wallowed within what wetness would fall,
but across the valley in the land of Orth,
his neighbor mage Hurth brought other climes forth.
Younger in terms of years and decades,
Hurth favored sunshine rather than haze.
With bespectacled awe he marveled the dawns,
the waxing warm light that softened his lawns
and co-fed his beds of glistening gardenias,
fostering his roses, mums, azaleas.
A salmon-pink morn
he preferred as the norm,
replete with gray geese and gangly herons,
flapping blithely over unfettered barrens.
Nothing bested the boldest blue sky,
not women, not gold, nothing a mortal could ply,
and with the vast powers he commanded,
Hurth kept superfluous clouds reprimanded.
Their clash of wills sparked majestic rainbows,
spanning the canyon with such glorious glows
that distant farmers looked up from their sod,
for such displays were only drawn by a god.
Such was their habit for a fairly long time;
one wizard loved gloom, the other loved shine.
For many years their differences were accepted,
but as time trudged on they grew less respected.
Occasional discussions about brews and potions
gave way to grumbles and unspoken notions
about irritating traits and faults of the other,
imagined maligns against their own occult brother.
Not once did they address this growing deviance,
and their distrust evolved into a dour grievance,
until one day crotchety Neuss woke to a rooster crowing,
and rolling from his cot, heard his mottled milk cow lowing.
A dream about Hurth had disturbed his sleep,
wherein the other magister in his keep
had rudely mocked Neuss’s ripe age
and announced himself the superior mage.
“Ingrate,” Neuss grumbled. “I journeyed here first.
“I found this fine valley. His insolence be cursed!”
He lurched from bed and brewed a coffee pot full,
quaffed three cups and paused to pull
a woolen jacket over his chest,
buckles of brass pinioning the vest.
Neuss’s fabrications and familiars scurried about,
some wooden and wild, others living and stout,
animated statues that clamored and clanged
and feline familiars, cat-clawed and fanged.
“Young fool!” snarled Neuss from the balustrade,
watching the spryer young man ply his trade,
up before dawn plucking rare herbs
for boiling tinctures and flavoring curds.
“He thinks he’s a master I do believe,
but a trickster at heart and owed no reprieve.”
And while on the cusp of Hurth’s wending wall
he watched an encroaching shady squall.
“Cursed old man,” he muttered.
Always summoning his loathsome gloom.
We cannot both live here. There’s simply no room!
Believes he’s actually superior methinks.
Doesn’t he know his methodology stinks?”
And right there spawned a wizardly duel,
fed by fierce egos and fanatic fuel.
A sorcerer to the north who loved when it rained,
opposed by a sage to the south solely sun-ordained,
both close enough to guess the other’s snide leer,
and project right back the same vindictive veneer.
“I claim winter!” yelled Neuss from his tower,
words crossing the gulf with galvanized power.
“And I the spring!” answered Hurth with zeal.
And to all the greatest gods I’ll appeal!”
Neuss summoned his chair and smoothed his gown,
steepled his fingers and fondly found
purring black cats passing round his knees,
their eyes oval and evil, and ready to please
as mechanical contraptions marched on mixed legs,
vaguely arachnid results of Neuss’s dark dregs.
His fine chair arrived with a clickety-clack,
nuzzling up close to support his bad back.
“To the end then,” promised the petulant wizard.
“I’ll bury your bones beneath a blizzard!”
“A deal!” answered Hurth, bristling with anger.
“We settle this now, regardless of danger!”
Hurth bravely leapt to a teetering wall,
stretched his hands for a staff to call
that flew to his fingers like a knobbed wooden bird,
staunchly holding it up as his shouts assured—
“In the name of the deities and all things holy,
I call on your help, all exalted and lowly!”
A gale gathered from the rut of the vale
where a river slithered like a slimy slow snail.
Neuss’s vapors were pushed verily along,
to where Hurth thought they should usually belong.
“Too easy!” cried Hurth. “I’ve not broken a sweat.
“Your paltry preference is soon beaten, I bet.”
Propped in his palisade on the opposite peak,
Neuss sneered at his peer, his expression bleak.
Hands tangling and twisting into tense furled fists,
he beckoned to the sky and dwindling mists.
Turbulence tumbled with nowhere to hide,
and winnowing winds whistled and vied.
“RETURN I SAY!” Neuss’s voice exploded,
and the clouds delayed upon his will unloaded.
Hurth muttered a curse and shook his tall staff,
stepped back from the ledge and gave a light laugh.
“I must tap the realm of unspeakable stuff.
I’ll break this braggart. His stubbornness I’ll snuff!”
So Hurth returned to the depths of his castle,
hopping through halls a hazardous hassle
from clutter accumulated to a daunting degree,
various tomes and scrolls and dangerous debris.
Neuss watched him leave and assumed it retreat,
cackling and cawing at the unproven treat.
“Too old am I, you cocky magician?
I’m livid now and in quite the position
to prove at last who is lord of this vale.
So shun away, run away. You know I’ll prevail!”
But scuttling like a beetle in the base of his bastion,
Hurth was perturbed by more a pressing passion.
Flicking open each door with a quickened cantrip,
he reached the center sanctum, winded, frantic,
and retrieved a magical wand from its cradle,
that hoarded powers both fantastic and fatal.
He hobbled back as fast as he could,
climbed to the roof and ripped back his hood,
only to get a face-full of snow,
hurled in homing bursts by his foe.
“An early winter!” Neuss shouted, laughing again,
as Hurth none-too-gaily glared at his grin.
“Who is the best you cannot deny.
Witness the ground and behold the sky!”
With another flourish and more words arcane,
Neuss nudged Mother Nature to unleash more rain.
“Not a chance!” swore Hurth, and up came the wand,
with which he planned to exact a grim bond
made long ago with beings from fantastic domains
that haunted lonely dells, dimensions and planes.
“Spirits and ghosts,
souls of the dead
who stir our dread,
I call you forth as your immediate lord,
bidding you face the abyss you must ford.
Heed now the tug of this troublesome choice
and push past the veil to follow my voice!”
The thin bone wand began to glow,
an eerie, bleary, dreary yellow
as dark forces that slept at death’s door
awoke from their slumber and began to outpour!
Grisly spirits suddenly surged through the air,
balding skulls, hollow ribs, wispy white hair,
hailing and wailing their whispers of woe,
foretelling the doom and horrors in tow.
Neuss saw them come crooning out of the east,
a mob of pale forms, the unpleasant deceased.
Around him they funneled with unrestrained fury,
harrying the mage in an effluvious flurry.
He toppled beneath their raucous raid,
covered his head, cowered and made
a desperate attempt to repel the attack
with sputtered spells intended to wrack
the unhappy dead with high holy pain,
scalding shocks of celestial shame.
“Necromancy!” cried a beleaguered Neuss.
“The rules are all off! Our game is now loose!
Neuss drunkenly staggered down from the tower,
ghoulies grappling him in a grisly gray shower,
as Hurth waved and waddled his enchanted wand,
slinging spirits around with heedless aplomb.
“Doubt me you did. Last time you’ll do that!
I’m better than you, you quarrelsome quack.
Dare deny me my flowers and sun?
You irritable aged coot. I’ll see you undone!”
But Hurth’s immaculate roses
hung in tragically taut poses,
so he turned to the flora strewn at his feet,
shrouded in snow and sheathed by sleet,
smoothed the snapped stalks and shredded leaves,
and kissed them goodbye as any man grieves.
Not long after Neuss returned,
struggling up top with a trunk and an urn,
but what greeted him upon opening the door
was bright sunshine, and not downpour.
“Oh, why must you bring this awful light?
It causes me pain. It’s too damn bright!”
So, at his feet he opened the trunk,
pulling out seemingly random junk--
remarkably obscure wizard’s regalia,
mystical accouterments and paraphernalia.
“Eye of bat, heart of frog, slit tongue of snake.
I release my slaves. Your thirst ye now slake!
Across yonder gulf waits my wily nemesis!
Bestow him great grief! Regret him his genesis!”
He uncorked a bottle to release its kin,
and out contorted a cantankerous foul djinn.
Eyes of flame, soul of sulfur and translucent wings,
it spiraled higher with other scurrilous things.
Neuss repeatedly reached into the crate
and released new rivals for Hurth to berate.
Feminine sylphs sensuously slid for the air,
clothed in naught but silky fine hair.
Lizard-like salamanders crawled down the walls,
spitting and hissing, flexing fiery maroon claws,
but the earthen urn Neuss kept in reserve,
its strange secret he dared not yet serve.
In the growing conundrum bubbling ahead,
sundry inhuman souls struggled to wed
themselves in a mixture of wrathful entropy,
a catastrophic clash of each writhing entity.
With a burst of ire and ferocious willpower,
Hurth fought fulgurating clouds with a stern glower,
but sylphs and undines linked elegant hands,
careening carefree over lambasted lands
that shook with the wrath of a storm so huge
that few had ever known such a deluge.
Lightning crackled in blinding bolts,
limning the sky with jostling jolts.
“Beautiful!” cried Neuss, tugging his jacket,
his words all but lost in the rancorous racket,
when he saw at the base of his citadel bodies milling
for the earth had opened and out something was spilling;
uncaring clawed creatures crawling up fast,
scuttling up walls — each one a dead ghast!
Dozens there were, sent at Hurth’s bidding,
scaling stone struts as if rigorously ridding
themselves of an eternally dull and dim sleep
in the bowels of a world dismal and deep.
Knowing that this was a desperate turn,
Neuss retrieved his ornate earthen urn,
raised it high with a solemn sworn prayer,
and cast the contents with practiced care.
Hurth immediately suffered woes of his own,
for at the foot of his fort formed a burly rock gnome.
Twelve feet tall it rose at least,
hands square rocks, its flesh cracked and creased.
The golem hardly possessed a mind of its own,
but it did one thing well, and that was smash STONE!
Fists like blunted boulders
rose over its shoulders,
pummeling the tower’s base
with such tooth-jarring haste
that cracks shimmied up the shuddering structure
fracturing higher and wider to no doubt rupture
Hurth clinging to the building above,
teetering beneath the golem’s great granite glove.
Neuss “Hoo-ed!” and “Hee-ed!” with malicious glee,
and then returned to the undead infantry.
From his outstretched fingers licking flames lanced
until pallid flesh puckered and moldy hair danced,
quelling many of the dead thing’s callous ascent,
but other cohorts continued with cruel contempt.
Darkness spiraled over the Orthin basin,
blotting the sun as if hoping to hasten
the lands beneath under a permanent veil,
an impenetrable cowl, a last coffin nail.
The sluggish river inside the gorge
overflowed its banks to boldly forge
across fields of sawgrass and swaying sweet thistle,
sinking groves into graves of goopy gray gristle.
Amidst this bedlam from each pelted perch,
Neuss and Hurth could only languish and lurch
as Neuss’s milk cow, completely forgotten,
bellowed in her stall, sopping and rotten.
“Give up yet?” screamed Neuss over the din,
but Hurth could discern few taunts by then.
A frothing frog-fiend scared Hurth near to death,
belching blasts of bilious, blasphemous black breath.
“I’ll not tolerate these unclean things from Hell!
Enjoy them, Neuss! They’re your own death knell!”
Mother Nature by then had gained full control,
and with her discretion, She sought a fresh toll.
Twisting tornadoes spiraled from high,
Sickening cyclones that none could deny.
Elementals danced in the magnificent maelstrom,
a vicious vortex all but hale and wholesome.
“Had enough?” croaked Hurth, his specs caked with frost,
but in the mayhem, his crass question was lost.
More ungainly ghasts reached Neuss’s nest,
eyes rolling in their dead sockets with zest.
Neuss, now much too weak to defend his seat,
dolefully retired to dismal defeat,
but his fearsome felines were prepared to brawl,
and they launched at the dead men, shredding them all.
Automatons also engaged in the fight,
forcing foes into a flailing flight
down to the trenches of the treacherous chasm
where they shattered apart, a splat and a spasm.
Landslides shunted to the valley below,
dashing the ground a great drumming blow.
The pugilistic golem bounced down a slope,
bashed and battered until it finally broke.
Both wizards’ towers quavered tremendously,
until they detached and quite stupendously
joined an avalanche of cataclysmic scale,
shattering limestone, granite and shale.
Neuss and Hurth dropped out of sight,
effectively ending their final fight.
And as far away as the monarchy of Gling,
actinic clouds surveyed the might and sting
of a thousand tiny fires devouring the land,
choking out life and charring the sand,
demolishing forests with voracious hunger,
in panoramic lands pounded by thunder.
“What’s happening?” distant citizens wailed,
but they would never know, no mysteries unveiled.
It sufficed to say that the gods waged a war
beyond Man’s ken on an immortal far shore…
The following morn revealed new landscapes,
devoid of old features like moors, hills and lakes.
Smoldering ruins were smoky and smashed;
the knolls sundered; the crags all dashed.
Some ponds had vanished to a mere puddle,
others transformed to a messy muddle
of rotting moss or a morass of peat,
filled full of rubbish and the stink of old feet.
Fields were seared by fading fires,
others fraught by fallen spires,
and across this waste approached two tired men,
one shouldering remorse, the other chagrin.
Their robes were shredded, shirts and shoes torn,
a display of disarray in unusually rare form.
“I’m still alive,” muttered Hurth, face deadpan.
Neuss shrugged nonchalant. “I did what I can.”
They moved side-by-side and gazed off in the distance
to the remains of their homes, just rubble-razed remnants.
“Was it worth it?” asked Hurth, his wet eyes a hint.
“I confess you this now: I’ve resigned to relent.”
“Worth it? Worth it? That’s an excellent question.
Let us examine our score and re-tally the session.”
At a later date not far from then,
water having fled from each flooded fen,
and the flames had died down enough to walk out,
sorcerers Neuss and Hurth engaged a new route.
“It’s Sunday,” said Hurth, sipping herbal tea.
“Really?” answered Neuss. “That’s news to me.”
Neuss raised his arms and slivered his eyes,
murmuring appeals to the gods and skies.
Gentle rains soon soothingly spattered
over the ramshackle valley so violently shattered,
but a scintillating sun winked through the cloud,
promising a morrow of which Hurth would be proud.
“On Monday then,” added Neuss quickly,
“sunshine again to pot my plants prickly.”
“The cacti you mean, you irascible lost cause,”
but Hurth said it with mirth and soft applause.
The older man waved him away,
stretched his arms and legs to display
sallow skin showing the start of a tan,
for the first time something other than wan.
The frames of new homes stood nearby,
split stone reworked, fresh rocks to apply.
Kittens capered with mewling cries,
cornering crickets and blue bottleflies.
Neuss’s milk cow, miraculously alive,
munched on grass, seeming to thrive.
“Could be worse,” mused Hurth, finger to his lips.
“We pushed our luck. Cast in our last chips.”
“Gambled,” agreed Neuss, “with our lives and souls.
So foolish to do. We’ve had higher goals.”
The two men glanced languidly around,
inwardly calm and outwardly sound.
To their gratitude, Mother Nature had ruled with a firm, fair hand,
reminding these penitent practitioners that Life was still grand.
About the Creator
I am a writer, artist and poet from North Carolina. I recently self published a children's/YA book called Harold and the Dreadful Dreams. You can learn more about it at my blog https://jmhauser.com, as well as other projects.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Wow I love this story in a poem.