The Bride of Count Dahlvier

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Mother of Witches: Part Seven

Fair Elena’s Betrothal

“The Flanaess is not wide enough to hide her from me!” Zagig Yragerne declared. He was wrong. He employed all means at his disposal—magical, abyssal, and otherwise—to locate his prodigal apprentice and avenge his wounded heart, but Natasha knew his methods and his means. She disguised herself cleverly, wrapped herself in scrying wards, and made her way through the wild ways until she came upon the dancing hut where she found Fair Elena feeding the scraps to the cackling geese.

“How is it that you have dared to come to this place again?” Elena demanded sharply. “Should our mother find you out, she will not deal gently with you this time.”

“I have come for your sake, my sister,” Natasha protested innocently. “My conscience pricks me, and shame goads at me. Was it not cruel and unkind of me to steal away Zagig’s heart as I did? Surely I was a jealous fool. But if you still want to be the old man’s wife, you only need to play it in the manner of the game we played with the Sultan’s son. You take my name and my face, and he will come to find you at once, I am sure. I promise you, after he has claimed you for his own, he will never let you go.”

Elena’s countenance darkened. “Oh cruel, cruel fate of Istus!” she sighed. “Too late you have come! Mother has pledged my hand to another of her disciples: a dweomer-master nobleman who dwells far off in the Northern Reaches. I am soon to go to him and to be wed to him.”

“Console your sorrowful heart sister,” Natasha said gently. “I shall go for you to the Northern Reaches and wed this dweomer-master of yours. He shall take me for you, just as Zagig will take you for me.”

Elena danced with delight among the cackling geese and laughed, “I know the reak well!” She threw arms around her sister and pulled her close in tight embrace. “Sweet sister. This kindness surpasses all others you have shown me. Please let’s not quarrel again over poopnoddies!” Continue reading “The Bride of Count Dahlvier”

Tasha’s Hideous Laughter and the Master of Deception

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Mother of Witches: Part Six

Tasha’s Hideous Laughter

(Spoiler alert for Iggwilv’s Legacy: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth)

It’s no laughing matter, but here’s how the spell works. You need some tiny tarts—two or three will do—and a long feather. Concentrate while uttering the incantation. Clutch the tarts in the one hand (gods know why) and wave the feather in the air. You know: “tickle-tickle.” As if you were tickling your target, much as a giddy child might employ the feather to tickle a playmate or as frisky young lovers sport with one another, the one teasing the other into laughter. The effect will be that the poor chap so bewitched finds everything and every matter about him hilariously funny. He loses himself in convulsive spasms of hideous laughter from which he scarce can recover to catch his breath. Some laugh until they pass unconscious. That’s the spell for which she is most famous, a “harmless prankster’s charm” which young apprentices all over the Flanaess are eager to transcribe into their books. They think it a mere joke, but it’s a wicked spell and no laughing matter. Tasha’s laughter can be deadly. While so incapacitated under the spell, the hapless and witless victim makes himself vulnerable to attack, for he can scarce find his legs, much less defend himself.

Daughter of Baba Yaga

Who was Tasha, and how did she become the blight of our world? The one of which we speak has acquired many names: Natasha, Hura, Tasha, Ychbilch, Louhi, and Iggwilv. Likewise, her fame has won her many titles including Witch Queen of Perenland, Dame of North Reach Farm, the Yatil Witch, Mother of the Old One, and Mother of Witches. The latter title rightfully belongs to Baba Yaga, her adoptive mother, but Iggwilv inherited it, which is to say, she stole it, along with the dangerous arcane treasures she looted from sealed vaults in the old crone’s infamous hut. Continue reading “Tasha’s Hideous Laughter and the Master of Deception”

The Sevenfold Mazework

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Daoud’s Wondrous Lanthorn: Chapter Eight

The Sevenfold Mazework

As the portal shimmered into existence, Daoud steered his swimming carpet toward it and dove through opening between worlds, disappearing from the world of water before the hunting party missed him. It seemed to him that the water all around him solidified until, all at once, he could not move at all. He found himself utterly encompassed by solid stone that fitted about him so tightly it left not room to move a single muscle. Stone sealed his eyes so tightly he could not tell if they were open or closed; he could see nothing at all. Nor could he draw a breath, but rather, he slowly realize that he himself had been petrified and every tissue of his body had turned solid. In such a state, he needed neither air to breath nor water to drink nor food to nourish himself; he simply remained unchanging and solid.

Alas! I have entered the world of earth and stone and become a part of it! He rued his hasty escape and scolded himself. How long shall I remain here, made of stone and encased in stone? Were not things better for me in the Citadel of Ten Thousand Pearls among my six elf wives?

Daoud had a long time to reflect on these regrets and all that had befallen him as he Continue reading “The Sevenfold Mazework”

The Court of Ice and Steel

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Daoud’s Wondrous Lanthorn: Chapter Six

The Court of Ice and Steel

Daoud awoke and rubbed at his stinging, ash-caked eyes. He saw at once that he had left the world of fire behind and now drifted upon the winds of the world of air. Graceful flying creatures with wings like birds circled about in a world that seemed to be not but bright clear sky in every direction. Strange winds and elementals of air buffeted him and made his ride continuously turbulent. From time to time, air weirds formed and snaked about, attacking him, but he warded them off with his spellcraft until he had no spells left to utter.

Presently he spied a distant cloud. Daoud turned his carpet toward the promise of moisture. As he drew closer to his goal, he realized the cloud was really quite enormous and only appeared small because of the great distance. As the hours passed, the cloud loomed larger and larger until it filled his whole scope of vision. At last he immersed himself in it, plunging into its icy swirling fogs, washing away the soot of the world of fire and quenching his great thirst. Presently he felt soaked and chilled, but after so many months in the world of fire, he welcomed the feeling.

Some several hours later, he passed out of the fog onto the other side of the cloud, and at once, he had to veer sharply to avoid colliding with a sailing ship afloat in the air. Sailors shouted and scolded and shook their fists at him. Daoud swooped back around to see what manner of men might sail a ship upon the wind, but he rued his curiosity when the mesh of a cast net snagged both him and his carpet from the air and pulled him aboard.

Continue reading “The Court of Ice and Steel”

Flight from the City of Brass

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Daoud’s Wondrous Lanthorn: Chapter Five

Flight from the City of Brass

“Now my son,” Surrvaris said to his student, “You have learned some magic and you have learned the ways of undeath. But what do you really know of the world? Are you ready to command the genies? By the power of your great-grandfather’s ring, I will create a portal. Toss yourself into the flames of this brazier, and you will see wonders. Only do not forget to return by the way you have come before the coals of this fire go cold, or you may not find your way back at all.”

Daoud looked apprehensively into the hot flames, then shrugged his shoulders and stepped into the fire. Pain seared his flesh as the fire leapt up to consume him, and in only a moment his whole body burst into flames. In terror for his life, he leapt away from the brazier, only to find himself no longer in the chambers of Surrvaris or anywhere near the city of Sefmur. He stood upon a balcony overlooking a great city of stone and brazen domes, all ablaze with flame. The heat struck him like a blast from every direction. Even the streets burned, as did the arched bridges that spanned a river of hot lava flowing through the center of the city. Daoud lifted his hands and peered at his body, expecting to see himself badly burned, but instead he found himself quite unharmed. Well, if I am really here, I should have a look around and see what I might learn.

The blazing streets teemed with fearsome creatures: efreet sauntered about like Continue reading “Flight from the City of Brass”

Daoud’s Wondrous Lanthorn

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Daoud’s Wondrous Lanthorn: Chapter One

The Pavilion of Hasnat

A dwarf and a man held tightly to the edges of the tattered and threadbare magical carpet on which they sat. The embroidered fringes of the once-colorful rug had been burned away, and the whole of the weave looked to have passed through fire and water. Yet it showed itself still skyworthy, bearing them on a straight and true path through the air faster than any bird might fly. Strapped tightly to their conveyance were several small bags, bundles, and one large purse. The dwarf and the man looked no better kept than the carpet on which they flew. Earth and grime soiled their garments and smeared their faces. Long tangles of hair and untrimmed beards waved and flapped about in the wind like pendants. Despite weariness and all the travails and deprivations they had already passed through, both the man and dwarf radiated expressions of amazement and exhilaration as they peered about at the world below them and the world above them.

Daoud and Grimmly sailed above, or perhaps below, a world delicious and delightful and also doubled; one facing down upon them from above and one looking up toward them from below. It seemed to them as if they somehow flew between the mountains and the reflection of the mountains as it appears on the surface of a calm mountain lake at the height of summer if it were that the sky itself was the surface that created the mirror. Spread out below them lay a thicketed wilderness of trees overgrown and wild, while far above in the remote heights of the sky they could see, as if mirroring the world beneath them, another world in parallel, but of orchards, fields, and gardens, cultivated and tended. Below them grew cedar and pine and fir and branching palm, shade below shade, while above them (growing upside-down it appeared), they saw tended groves and orchards of the goodliest trees heavy-laden with fairest fruits, adorned with fragrant golden-hued blossoms and rainbows of color. Below them the wild untamed mountains and forests spread out for as far as they eye could see, from horizon to horizon, at points giving way to hills and lakes in the far distance or falling into green plains crossed by mountain-fed rivers in another. Above them, in perfect reflection, spread out the same lay of the land, hill for hill and peak for peak, except a world cultivated and tended, a garden of delight.

“Although it be two worlds that we see, they can be but one world and one place,” Daoud informed his dwarven passenger. “Istus has smiled upon us, and we have passed now into the Twin Paradises.”

“By Moradin’s beard!” Grimmly exclaimed. “Are all the old tales of gods and goddesses true then as well?” Continue reading “Daoud’s Wondrous Lanthorn”

The Sultan’s Son and the Witch’s Sister

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Mother of Witches Part Three

The Sultan’s Son and the Witch’s Sister

There was a sultan who ruled the lands of Zeif in peace and fairness under the bright light of Al’Hatha’s truth. He stood firmly upon the Four Feet of the Dragon, and he had the satisfaction in his later years to see the son of his favored wife prove himself a worthy imitator of those virtues and a worthy heir of his sultanate. Only one matter troubled the old sultan, namely that his son had taken no wife. True enough, generosity, honor, and piety handsomely adorned the young prince, but without family, what does one truly possess? This lamentable deficiency gave the sultan much concern, for his other sons all married powerful houses, daughters of chieftans, pashas, and beygrafs from foreign lands who brought with them rich dowries, exalted titles, and strong alliances.

On an auspicious day, the Sultan said to his son Hussin, for that was his name, “I have consulted the rashaw and learned that you must seek a bride beautiful and powerful beyond all the daughters of Zeif. Do not marry a daughter of Zeif; do not seek a maid of Ekbir, be not seduced by the wiles of a Tusmit woman, and do not look on the dancing girls of Ull. Saddle up your steed, take your men at arms, and go questing into the far-off rebellious land of Ket. Beyond Lopolla, beneath the boughs of that dark forest, take a Ketite maid for wife. Her power and fame will eclipse all the daughters of the Bakluni. Istus has decreed it, and the rashaw has foreseen it.”

Since the young prince was always submissive and obedient to the sultan’s will and since he was much flattered that fate had so favored him with such a magnificent bride surpassing all other women, he consented to undertake the quest. Before departing, he asked, “And how shall I know which girl Istus has decreed for my destiny?”

The sultan said, “Ask the goddess for a specific sign. Let it be the maid that sets before you a princely gift of unmatched beauty. She should be the one Istus has chosen.”

This seemed reasonable to Hussin. He saddled up his steed and took six of his men at Continue reading “The Sultan’s Son and the Witch’s Sister”