Friday, May 4, 2012

Kneel Before Boog!

Here is a another snippet from Lyn and I's novel, Ritual of the Mark. I was re-reading it and was surprised how much I enjoyed this, almost as if someone else wrote it (I've never really enjoyed reading my own work - maybe I do this time because it was a collaboration?).
Surprisingly, most of the sick parts (like whipping Kyrasoth's bare butt) were not my idea (maybe now you'll want to read it more, heh).
This is from the "centerpiece" of the novel, which is a lengthy dungeon crawl. I realize all the references, taken out of context, might be confusing, but I thought this section, better than any other, is very representative of the book. Disclaimer: We've not done the third (and hopefully final) draft yet, so there could be typos or mistakes in here. Please ignore them!
***

They proceeded deeper into the cave, taking Dacian’s lead for the most part. The floor sloped downward, generally, though it was punctuated with out-jutting platforms of rock and occasional crevasses. The downward path narrowed as they got deeper inside. The sunlight could not penetrate this far back. Kyrasoth conjured a hovering light to illuminate the way. Here Daz and Zobe took point, followed by Ludo and Kyrasoth, with the veterans bringing up the rear. Occasionally they heard faint sounds: whispers, thumps, furtive rustlings and strange sloshes.
For nearly three-quarters of an hour, the companions trudged along the main passage. Here and there, cracks and fissures in the sloping cave walls issued more disturbing sounds, but the gaps were much too small for even Ludo to investigate.
A short time later, the path opened up into an immense natural chamber. It was so large, they could barely make out the opposite side. Random sections of the walls were coated in heavy dew; drops gathered slowly, grew heavy, and rolled down to the floor, where it gathered in foul pools. The companions stood agape as they gazed in wide wonder at the scene – but it was not the size or oddity of the chamber that awed them.
A slum from Metrozium appeared to have seeped through the rock and reassembled itself, haphazardly and without order, in this forgotten cavity. Small groups of diminutive folk clustered around fire barrels that cast a baleful, dancing red light across the chamber. A number of the figures cooked unidentifiable hunks of flesh, holding them on skewers over the fires. Those cave denizens who were not cooking at the fires were plastered against the moisture-bearing walls, noisily licking them. Others hung upside down from rock outcroppings, like bats. The figures were essentially humanoid, about Dwarf-height, but lacking the stockiness of that hardy race. These were lanky and chorded with sinew. Their flesh was pale gray-white. What hair they had was brittle, sparse, and the color of tallow. Noses, by and large, were flat, as if squashed into the face by some mighty fist. The wretches were dressed in rags, and many wore no more than squalid loincloths. The women were bare breasted.
Soon, the creatures became aware of the companions, and dozens of large, milky pale eyes turned out of the red darkness toward them. Some pointed long, bony, sharp nail-tipped fingers, and some pointed similar toes. Thin webbing stretched between their digits. Lips were full and glossy, and when drawn back, showed crooked teeth of yellow and brown – but they looked razor-sharp for all their unhealthiness.
“Gobboes,” Matthias said under his breath.
“What-oes?” Ludo asked in horror.
“We should have seen this,” Dacian muttered to Matthias.
Ludo gripped Kyrasoth’s arm when a small deputation of creatures detached itself from the main group. One was slightly taller than the others. He wore a tall, black hat that, unlike everything else in the cavern, was in pristine condition. He also carried a fine black walking stick.
“Intrudersss,” it said as it got within earshot, pointing the walking stick at them. Its voice was full of wheeze and gravel. “You will kneel before Boog!”
Dozens more of the foul things crept forward, emboldened by their leader. The party soon found themselves surrounded by Gobboes. Many brandished battered and rusted old weapons; more were drawing them.
Matthias heaved a sigh and knelt on one knee. Dacian followed, and the others – all except Daz – joined him.
“I’ll not bow down to any Gobboe!” he growled. Kyrasoth reached up and yanked him to his knees. Daz grumbled incoherently, but stayed where he was.
“There are too many,” Dacian said, laying a hand on Daz’s shoulder.
“For you, maybe,” Daz replied.
The leader of the Gobboes – Boog, presumably – looked pleased. His waxy lips stretched across his face.
“Thisss isss very goodie-good. They obey like intruders ssshouldie-ssshould,” he said. “Boog liksssey-wikesssy.”
Suddenly the Gobboes around him began to chant. “He likesssy-wikesssy! He likesssy-wikesssy! He likesssy-wikesssy!”
The chant faded, and Boog twirled his cane as he turned his attention back toward the party. He rested his big eyes on Matthias.
“You could, you would, you maybe might, ssspeak asss leader, Velvety Knight?”
“I do,” Matthias said with a curt nod.
“Excccelent,” Boog said. “Answer, if you darey-dare, what brings you to the Gobboes’ lair?”
“We seek passage into the old tunnels, those the Bolg made before the reign of Men.”
Boog nodded. “The giant’sss tunnelsss, we know about; perhapsss we can work sssomething out.”
A large group of the more important-looking Gobboes surrounded Boog, whispering together quickly and excitedly. Their sing-song wheezes blended together into an unpleasant din.
“Devolved subterranean societies fall into the same category as occupied wizard-towers,” Ludo said, eyeing Dacian none too kindly. “They warrant a warning.”
“Encounters with them are rare,” Matthias said. “Most people do not believe in Gobboes.”
“But you did,” Daz barked.
“I am a Velvet Knight,” Matthias replied. “I know everything.” Daz huffed, but Kyrasoth saw the smile behind Matthias’ white stubble.
“Doesn’t that underline my point rather nicely?” Ludo asked.
Zobe cut in. “What are our options here? We can save the verbal sparring for when we’re not engaged with an army of Gobboes.”
I’m not afraid,” Daz said, gripping the shaft of his hammer.
“More to the point, what are their options?” Dacian said. “It’s likely they’ll attempt to kill and rob us. They’re a foul and cunning folk. They sneak up out of the sewers in the middle of the night and attack folk who are weak: babies, children, the sick, the elderly…and they eat human flesh.”
“…and from what I’ve seen, their kitchen-craft is atrocious,” Ludo declared.
“We are easy victims,” Dacian continued. “We’ve got items of value and we’re greatly outnumbered, which they like. There are hundreds of them right here – ”
“Counted ‘em, did ya?” Daz said.
Dacian ignored him. “– and that doesn’t count those who are hiding in shadows and side passages and whatnot. I would be very surprised if messengers are not already carrying word about our arrival to others.”
“Well, as long as you keep your optimism,” Ludo said in a withering tone.
“Their other option,” Dacian said, “is that they’ll wish to trade with us. I think that will be their choice.”
Kyrasoth scowled. “So how much is this going to cost us?”
Dacian shot Matthias a grim look. The knight said, “They will not ask for gold.”
Zobe, catching the look, said quietly, “They’ll want Kyrasoth.”
Matthias nodded solemnly.
“How much do you think we can get for her?” Ludo said.
 “That’s not funny!” Zobe said, heat in his voice.
“No, it’s not,” Matthias said.
Dacian stepped close to Kyrasoth and took her hand. He looked into her eyes. His were unhappy, but with a strange calm.
“We will exchange Kyrasoth for safe passage out of the lair, and a guide to the Bolg tunnels,” Dacian said.
“It is our only option,” Matthias agreed.
“You cannot be serious!” Kyrasoth hissed, trying to jerk her hand back. Dacian held it firmly.
“Trust me,” he whispered.
Now you show your true colors,” Daz snarled. “Werewolf!”
Ludo stood beside him and crossed his arms. “We do not like this plan! We may play pranks on our friends, we may say nasty things about them, but we don’t sacrifice them to Gobboes!”
Zobe placed his hand on the hilt of his sword and stepped toward Matthias.
“Kyrasoth,” Dacian said, leading her off to one side. Boog and his minions, still engaged in enthusiastic debate, did not seem to notice.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Zobe said.
“It’s all right,” Kyrasoth said. Dacian led her into the tunnel they’d just come down, out of direct eyeshot of their companions or the Gobboes. The others tried to follow her, but Matthias convinced them with soft but stern words to “…let them have a moment. I swear to you Dacian would never harm her.”
Dacian finally let go of Kyrasoth’s hand, only to press a glass vial into it moments later. “Kyra, you must trust me,” he said. “Everything will be fine, but we need your blood.”
Suddenly the enormous white wolf stood beside her. After the harrowing training session, she felt a flash of fear. The wolf opened its huge jaws and placed its mouth on her forearm. A sharp pain ran up her arm as one fang broke the skin. The wolf released pressure and nosed at the vial in her hand. She let the blood flow into the vial, though she was mystified at how this was going to help matters.
Kyrasoth felt a faint rush of movement, and when she looked up, the white wolf had run back up the path they’d taken here; its tail winked out, swallowed by darkness, as Kyrasoth looked on, aghast.
Within a few moments, she mastered herself. She heard Dacian’s voice in her head, telling her she was strong and smart enough to know what to do.
The Gobboes seemed to be wrapping up their frantic discussion as she returned to the chamber. Ludo, who’d been pacing, looked up. “Where did your lover go?”
“He’s not my…I don’t know. But I’m certain he has a sensible plan.”
Daz looked doubtful.
“I’m sure he does,” Matthias said, smiling. “I assume he has a way to track us…?”
Kyrasoth handed him the vial.
“Ah!” Matthias said. “Excellent!”
Suddenly the sinister chatter ceased, and Boog emerged from the crowd.
“The sssad-eyed sssulky one, where did he go?” Boog asked. “He mussstn’t go wandering, noney-no-no.”  
Kyrasoth glared defiantly.
“I wouldn’t worry,” Ludo said, waving a hand dismissively. “He does that all the timey-time.”
To their surprise, it was Boog’s turn to wave his walking-stick dismissively. “He’ll provide a welcome feassst when later we releassse the beasssts.”
He then looked at Kyrasoth, his horrid mouth gapping to show his green, yellow and brown teeth, his saucer-like eyes bulging, taking her in from head to toe. Boog then cleared his throat and addressed Matthias.
“We have sssomething you needy-need,” he said, “and visssca-versssa, indeedy-deed!”
The others began to chant. “We needsss it ssso much! We needsss it ssso much! We needsss it ssso much!”
“Give your proposal then, if it pleases you, Master Boog,” Matthias said.
“We sssshow you the sssecret way,” Boog said, then gestured at Kyrasoth. “And the breeder isss the priccce you pay.”
Zobe swelled up his chest and stepped forward, but Matthias held up a hand to stop him. Boog smirked, setting Zobe a-quiver with rage.
“Now that hardly seems equitable, Master Boog,” Matthias said. “This one is of the Elven race, and has long life. She is not yet thirty and will bear children for over a century hence. She is quite fetching, and is of an exalted bloodline. I need not tell you she will improve your breeding stock immeasurably. And you offer us only safe passage to the tunnels in exchange?”
Boog looked disappointed, then angry, then thoughtful. He whirled around to confer with the other Gobboes, who swarmed into a whispering huddle. They conferred for a few moments, then Boog whirled back toward Matthias.
“Cavernsss go back far, far far!” he said. “Windy, twisssty, that they are! Here all Gobboesss have their ssspaccce, but elsssewhere isss a bigger placcce! Gobboesss do not wander there, for that leads to wicked Fessster’s lair! Thisss isss where the giantsss dug, and made their treasssuresss sssnuggy-sssnug!”
“Dug and made their treasssuresss sssnug! Dug and made their treasssuresss sssnug!  Dug and made their treasssuresss sssnug!,” sang the chorus of minions.
“Boog ssshall give you a mappy-map, ssso you’ll fall into no trappy-trap, to the giantsss place that you mussst ssseek – but passst the Fessster you mussst sssneak!”
“Passst the Fessster you mussst sssneak! Passst the Fessster you mussst sssneak! Passst the Fessster you mussst sssneak!”
“We got it,” Ludo said. “Sneak past the Fester.” He rolled his eyes. Matthias shushed him.
“To hisss lair we never go,” Boog declared. “Gobboes won’t face Fessster, no, not for any gift you bring – even for baby-making Elf-Thing!”
“Baby-making Elf-Thing! Baby-making Elf-Thing! Baby-making Elf-Thing!” rang out the Gobboes.
Matthias rubbed his chin for a moment, seeming to consider it. Then he nodded. “We accept your offer,” he said with a short bow.
“No!” Kyrasoth cried. The latest chorus got louder and more frenzied.
“Baby-making Elf-Thing! Baby-making Elf-Thing! Baby-making Elf-Thing!”
“Trust me,” she heard Matthias say to the others as he forcefully herded them away from her. Reluctantly, they allowed themselves to be led away, casting frequent glances back at Kyrasoth.
Boog turned to her and a slow, cruel smile spread across his face. When he did, his skin stretched like dough rolled too thin. He ran his tongue over his already-slimy lips. The Elf was unable to suppress a shudder.
“To the Tribe we’ll offer you asss a presssent, for many will want you when I am ssspent,” Boog wheezed.
He snapped his long, bony fingers and instantly several female Gobboes rushed forward. They grabbed Kyrasoth roughly and began to drag her deeper into the chamber. She kicked and struggled, but their grips were like iron. They dragged her through a hole in the wall and through several lesser tunnels. She lost her sense of direction very quickly. It did not help that every time she slowed, or so much as turned her head, she was given a sharp blow by her escorts. Soon, they emerged into a smaller room guarded by two heavily armed and armored Gobboes. More were inside the room, and all of them were naked. Kyrasoth turned away in disgust.
Her pack and her mother’s bow were ripped from her and taken from the chamber. “Remove your clothesss or earn our wrath,” barked one of the armed males. “We need to get you to the bath!”
“I will not, filth!” Kyrasoth snapped, spitting in his face.
The Gobboes roared with laughter. The side of her face exploded in pain as the male backhanded her. The rest closed in on her and she was forced to the ground. They roughly removed her boots and soft leather breeches. She screamed in fear and outrage, which only intensified the Gobboes’ rude laughter.
She was flipped onto her stomach and felt hot, stinging pain on her buttocks and thighs. One of the naked male Gobboes wielded a whip.
“Thisss will go better if you do asss we sssay,” he said, “of courssse it isss more fun thisss way!”
They yanked her to her feet. “Now take the top off, breeder, quick, or take a punch, a jab, a kick!”
She shook her head and tried to cover herself. “I would rather die than let you touch me!”
The whip stung her again and again, and she stumbled back into a cave wall. The creatures crowded in on her, punching, kicking, clawing her face and pulling her hair. Blow after blow rained down on her. She fought back fiercely, but the Gobboes overwhelmed her.
“Sssubdue the breeder onccce and all,” she heard the whip-wielder say. “We have no time to bruissse and brawl!”
The Gobboes held Kyrasoth down and a female stepped forward. She held out her palm and blew something into the Elf’s face.
Instantly, a wave of drowsiness hit Kyrasoth like crashing surf. Her struggling became sluggish. She felt strangely serene. The room began to pulse in and out of focus. She found she did not really care all that much anymore what they did to her. She just wanted to lie down and take a nap.
“Maybe I’ll just drift off for awhile,” she said, slurring the words, and joined the Gobboes in their subsequent laughter. They took her shirt and armor off of her. She did not object or resist.
“The bath, the bath, the bath!” the Gobboes cried.
She was lowered into a tepid pool of filthy water, and one of the females climbed in with her, holding a sponge, and began to scrub Kyrasoth thoroughly. Somewhere, deep down, Kyrasoth felt humiliation when the Gobboe pushed the sponge roughly at her breasts, but it was hard to focus on that, hard to care.
The other Gobboes hooted and howled. “The bath, the bath, the bath!”

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