The Doom that came to Transylvito
They came by night because the Mad Monk required it. Warlady Sonia Greene left her escort of stabbers at the cave mouth and travelled in alone. For what felt like turns she walked through the meandering tunnels of the cavern, with nothing to see but the darkness of the cave and nothing to hear but the dripping of water and the shrill cries of feral doombats. "If only I could bring a stack of stabbers with me." she muttered. Unled doombats were weak, but she could hear hundreds of them moving in the darkness, and attack wasn't the only Number that mattered in combat. She had lost count of the times she had cursed the morbid curiosity that led King Randolph to send her off on these quests for lost tales. "Its bad enough that he spends his time with that freakish Pickman, but squandering military assets at a time like this..." She shook her head. That King Randolph allowed their disturbed signamancer to waste his juice in that abominable gallery of his was one thing, but to squander military assets in this quest for queer tales was just asking for trouble. With the Marxist Republic of New Freedonia was threatening their western border, she ought to have been home helping make contingency plans. To top it off, it looked like this tale, just like most of the tales their king believed, was going to turn out as rubbish. True, this one had at least led to a cave, but she had walked for hours without a sign of the Mad Monk who was said to know the rest of the tale. A tale that Old Kings of Jetstone were said to have written in their famous book, now conveniently unreadable. Still, King Randolph had paid the barbarian the usual exhorbitant finders fee. The barbarian probably croaked laughing the moment he left the city hex, she thought to herself bitterly.
She had just turned to head back when a whisper of wings behind her caught her attention. It sounded like a pack of doombats heading toward her. She whirled back around, reaching for the sword that wasn't in her belt. The sword, she remembered with horror, that she'd been required to leave at the cave entrance. With a sudden whoosh the cave was illuminated by dozens of candles and she found herself staring at a stack of tamed doombats led by a floating warlord. A floating, level 12, vampiric warlord. A warlord, she suddenly noticed, who seemed to be not quite all there. The Mad Monk.
"Excuse me," she said, calling up all the diplomacy she could and waiting for the beating of her heart to stop approximating a twoll stack going at a level 1 city gate, "are you the monk of Mount Mofo?"
"So maybe I am," the warlord bit out in a strange accent "what'zat ta you?"
"I have come with a present and a request." Sonia managed. The monk was looking down at her menacingly and she felt uncomfortably aware of how close she was to a meeting with the Titans.
"Lemme see this present," the warlord said as he drifted closer.
Sonia pulled out the three thousand shmucker gem from her purse and held it out.
"Shiny," said the warlord with a slow smile "and your request?"
"I would like to hear the tale of the Doom that Came to Transylvito."
The warlord's smile died and his eyes turned hard. Then, slowly, he reached out his hand to take the gem. His eyes slid off of hers and drifted, glazed to focus into the shadows of the cave. ...or perhaps those of the past. "It is a story I've been tryin' ta forget. A story I live ta forget. If I tell it to ya, ya gotta leave and never return."
"I will." she promised.
"It happened long ago," he said dreamily, and his voice changed. His accent disappeared, and his words took on a hypnotic quality. Bound as securely as she ever would have been by chains, she sat spellbound and filled with wonder, horror, and sensation. "A very long time ago, in a kingdom dozens of turns to the north of here..."
"Tens of thousands of turns ago, in the High Mountains stood the capital city of the kingdom of Transylvito. A great and mighty capital of a great and mighty kingdom. Tall and grand were its iron towers, deep and dark were its dank dungeons in the days of its power. The warlords, casters, and heirs of a dozen kingdoms knew the hospitality of both, with the result that the coffers were kept full and the borders were kept safe. The war room was full of warlords and casters, the skies buzzed with goyles and skanks, and none dared to challenge the might of Transylvito in the days that Don King ruled and Caesar Borgata led his doombat armies. It was in those days that the doom of Transylvito was founded.
A kingdom to the northeast was usurped by a vulgar piker, and Don King joined with a dozen other kingdoms to restore the rule of the territory to a member of Royalty. Just when it seemed that our victory was assured, the piker and his vile croakamancer used a form of dark findamancy to summon a "perfect warlord" from ... somewhere...
It was such a little thing, just a single spell. The result, while impressively tall, was thought almost laughable by our noble commanders. Weak, cowardly, and barely able to speak properly, this "Perfect Warlord" was seemed typical of a non-royal rulers incompetence. Our forces closed in on the city smashing the defenders and crushing the outer walls. We had reduced it to a level one, when suddenly.... all our forces disappeared. No one knew how it had happened. A few turns later, our allies began falling one by one to a massive force from Gobwin Knob. One of our allies was the first to discover the horrible truth: the perfect warlord, Parson Gotti, had twisted our own soldiers against us: croaked, then brought back to life just as they were before croaking. He had created turnamancy through croaking. All our forces joined once again to fight the Lord of Hamsters at Jetstone's capital of Spacerock. Employing near Titanic magics, we ended his turn before he could attack, trapping his flyers and casters in range of all our archers and tower defences. Just when we were about to demand his surrender, he struck. By turns end Jetstone's ruler was dead and Spacerock was Gobwin Knob's new capital. Within a few dozen turns of his summoning he had destroyed two royal sides, established a military force in the magical kingdom, and, as we found out later, awoken Erf itself at Spacerock. It was only through the combined efforts of the most powerful side and all the free casters of the magic kingdom that he was brought down. Even with such effort, it was only a twist of fate that he stumbled from his defeat straight into the hands of Don King.
We came by night, because we had questions we wanted answered. Ceasar and Bunny found Parson awake and alert, as though he were expecting them. Where Caesar struck him, poisonous bloodlike ichors oozed out. They came every night, attempting every method Transylvito had learned in its long history of interrogation and turning, but they got no truth from him. What they got for their effort were whispers, subtle insinuations of doom, incentives to treason, seductions of power. With promises of a way of escaping his wrath, with promises of a share of wealth and territory, and with promises of the vengeance against Transylvito's enemies, Parson corrupted the warlord. With promises of forgiveness for crimes unimaginable and with whispers of a power beyond comprehension he turned our thinkamancer from her natural ruler. The torture and interrogation ended, but the visits did not, and slowly Ceasar and Bunny became sullen and hostile, casting cruel leers at Don King when they thought he wasn't looking. It was only the warning of FAQs turnamancer and the intervention of the queen of FAQ that saved Don when the the warlord and thinkamancer revolted. Nearly half the warlords of Transylvito turned joined Caesar in rebelling against Don King. Transylvito lost much of its capital, many of its best warlords, and the heir that would have replaced Caesar before the rebellion was put down. In his sadness over the loss of so many loyal friends, and his horror at how even the Noblest minds could be twisted, Don ordered the destruction of the abominable Hamster.
The day of the execution dawned with a glorious, serence, and clean beauty unusual for Transylvito. The mists which usually hung like curtains from the mountains and towers had been driven away by a chilling wind from the north. The warlords and casters who had survived the rebellion were gathered together in the courtyard. Black and red banners fluttered gayly in the crisp mountain air. The sun glinted coldly off the windows of the city and the weapons of the Goyles. Skanks darted among the spectators, handing a drink to one, a snack to another. Don King sat in his seat a safe distance from the execution pit and watched the proceedings through the eyes of his personal doombat. As the new chief warlord, I had been appointed to perform the executions. After seeing Caesar be corrupted, Don wanted to ensure that no trace of the Hamster's taint would remain on Erf. Gobwin Knob and all its allies had to be crushed, beginning with Parson and the casters that had invaded our capital with him.
First, the foolamancer, so that there would be no tricks. As the last grains of his dust faded, they brought out the thinkamancer. Dignified to the end, she met her fate with the serenity and discipline characteristic of her discipline. Finally, the enemy warlord was brought out. The warlord lumbered out half again as tall as I. It was my first sight of the Hamster, and the moment has been burned into my mind with a power no thinkamancy could purge. I doubt even the Titans could retconjure away the horror I have felt ever since. He seemed to be the product of a cynical genius: a corruption of all Erfly and Titanic. A warlord in name, but in form a quivering mountain of puffy flesh. In his face I saw a vast and cunning but cynical and alien intelligence. His smile was brutal and sinister, as though he had seen behind a curtain no one else saw and reveled in the dark secrets he had seen. In signamancy he was a Man, but devoid of any sense of honor or dignity associated with the form. When he looked it was not to see what was, but to twist it to what it might be. Language capable, yet it gibbered madly with exclamations that reality itself seemed to recoil at. Even as he knelt to kiss the ring on the statue of Don King, he seemed to corrupt the act. He took Transylvito's ultimate victory and turned it to a mockery of all we held True and Noble.
Suddenly, Don King broke the silence I hadn't even noticed had fallen on the spectators. "Does the prisoner Parson A. Gotti, Lord of Hamsters have any final words?" Don King asked regaly, his voice projected through the statue.
"Just these," the prisoner said slowly and with a small, grimly amused smile "I'll be back."
As Don King gave the signal, I struck the abomination with my sword. He collapsed against the statue and, as I watched, his eyes scrunched into X's and his tongue lolled out the side of his mouth. For a few heartbeats I stared at the corpse, fearing that it would rise suddenly. Fearing that this was nothing more than another of the eldritch creatures traps. ... a breeze tugged at my trenchcoat. A doombat squeaked. Slowly I looked up to find that everyone else was looking at the warlords corpse with the same intensity I had. As he had before, Don King was the one to break the silence. "The enemy of all Erf is croaked!" He cried, and a cheer went up from the crowd surround the execution arena. All the guests began to drift to the main hall, and, after a moment I followed. As I stepped around the remains of the vile creature I was careful to avoid coming into contact with any of the ... blood ... that flowed from his wound down the statue to form a small puddle at its base.
That night we celebrated with a banquet. The wine flowed freely into the cups and just as freely into the warlords, already intoxicated with the victory we had gained that day. Don King sat at the head of the table, looking more at peace than I had seen him for a hundred turns. He and Benjamin chatted amicably about matters of state and the treasury, Leather and Dewy were chatting it up across from me, even Bill seemed to be getting into the mood: looked like he was making dolls out of grapes and toothpicks. The party went late into night and the dull glow of daylight through the mists had replaced the dining hall lamps before the last stragglers finally left for their chambers. I was among the last to leave the dining hall. I meant to go back to my room, but somehow I found myself moving back toward the execution arena. The castle had suddenly begun to feel stuffy and constricting, and I decided some fresh air would clear my head. It was then that I saw it, and the sight will stay with me till the day I croak. Framed by the towers against a backdrop of heavy fog that obscured anything past the balcony railing was a picture of horror incarnate. Terrifying not so much for what it was as for what it meant. The Goyle that had been standing sentry duty was croaked, and on the base of Don King's statue, scrawled in the vile ichor that had come from the prisoners wound, was the single word "DOOM". In one of the cruelest tricks fate has ever played on a being, our turn began in that moment. The Goyles body de-popped, but as I looked back at the statue... the blemish remained. Dawn had brought no cleansing of the unerfly stain just as no dawn since has cleansed that image from my mind.
We searched through all the adjacent hexes, and Benjamin even made quiet inquiries in the magic kingdom. We never found Parson Gotti, not even a scrap of fabric. The blemish could not be removed from the statue, not even by a signamancer, nor was even Don King able to remove or destroy the statue. Finally, the area was blocked off and access forbidden.
Despite the foreboding statue, Transylvito prospered after that day. As chief warlord I did my best to honor the memory of the courage and strength Caesar had before Parson twisted him. Together with the third royal coalition and the unusually cooperative services of Charlescomm, we crushed the remnants of Gobwin Knob and spun off one of our members to rule much of their territory. Once every hundred turns the royals gathered together at Transylvito to celebrate our victory of Stanley.
The glory of a ten thousand hexes was Transylvito in the height of its power. Its wall were made of Onyx, black and red with a design like a giant bat worked into the towers that flanked its main gate. High into the sky the walls rose and the towers of Transylvito soared like fangs seeking to drain the very sky. The iron spires of its wall's guard towers were curiously spiraled, vanishing slowly into the mists that were ever present on the tops of Mount Mofo. The great central tower of the city held Don King's palace. Those fortunate enough to be guests there, rather than in Transylvito's vast, dark dungeons, reported that the hospitality and grandeur far exceeded even that of King Tramennis of Jetstone. Gold work set with precious gems and shaped into scenes depicting Transylvito's glorious conquests. It was a sight which stunned both guests and the resident moneymancer, though for separate reasons. On either side of the great hallway the murals stretched a thousand paces from the entry door to the throne room. But though the execution of Parson was featured prominently at the far end of the hall, Don King's statue was not depicted, nor was anyone permitted to enter the old execution arena.
It was the celebration of the thousandth turn since the Hamster's scourge had ended and the representatives of a dozen sides, and even some natural ally tribes, had arrived. Even the superfluous elves had come to join in the festivities, although they wouldn't have been needed to overflow the great dining hall into adjacent rooms of the luxurious palace. All the best foods that Transylvino had to offer, and the delicacies of a hundred kingdoms, duchies, and dukedoms were layed out for the enjoyment of the guests. A number of border skirmishes had been put on hold for the event, but mock combat arenas and archery ranges had been set up for those eager to prove their mettle or to match skills against their friends and enemies. Don King was allowing guests to enter his private menagerie, which included animals from as far west as the Great Desert of Kumar, and as far north as the Frozen Wastes. Death Kites from the morning realm of Halcyon fluttered within their cages above the guests, the hooting of the glaringly visible Spotted Owls were woven into the natural rhyme-o-mancy of the small Music Men golems.
The feast began with Transylvito's turn: the sun glinting gloriously, though chillingly, off the golden roofs of two dozen casters and warlords private roosts. Our banners and the penants of visiting nobility fluttered triumphantly in the cold breeze which had sprung up from the north. There were more courses planned for the banquet tables that night than many units see turns: sushi rolls and edamame, steaks and fries, fresh radish salads, breads, soups, fowl, and exotic fruits and vegetables. In deference to sides not gifted with the drain life special, the yellow SureBert Transylvito normally used to cleanse the palate between courses was replaced with a flavorless icey substance. The sumptous feast was washed down by wine, fruit juices, water from FAQs mountain springs, and SoDuh (a curiously bubbly beverage whose signamancy many found irresistable).
It was dusk and the banquet had only reached its sixth course when Odio Ose of the Superfluous elves and his ally King Tramennis of Jetstone began to feel disquieted. Slowly, and with great discretion, they slipped out of the banquet hall and departed with their retinues for home. The bonfires of the common units glinted off the gilded roofs of the towers and music from the hired rhyme-o-mancers wafted down to the fleeing guests as they crossed the hex boundary. That was the last anyone has ever seen of the great and mighty capital site of Transylvito.
It came at night, because they had. I was out in the field at the time, dealing with another upstart overlord with delusions of grandeur. I received a ruler order from Don around midnight to return with all haste, but it was cut off suddenly, and I found myself the new overlord of Transylvito. Without a treasury, I was forced to disband my field forces. I flew back alone to find out what had happened to Don King and the others. The weirdness started a few dozen hexes out from the capital: snow in what had been grass hexes. The sun began going down even though my turn had just started, and it was well into night when I finally ran out of move, still on turn. The fifth turn after the fall of Transylvito my journey came to an end. My head spun, time itself was wrong, I felt as though I couldn't breath, and the way was blocked by titanic ferals called Hamstards with signamancy resembling that of the Hamster. Only one hex from the capital, but I could go no further.
Just as Stanley once brought Parson into our world, Parson had brought his world into ours! Parson truly was the perfect warlord: a warlord who sought to bring all into subjection to him, even the very world and the Titanic order! Parson had remade our own world into the image of his! A world of turns without end, where the dusk brings no respite from threats and the dawn brings no cleansing! A world of shifting hexes, of chaos with at best an alien and eldritch sense of order beyond the strangest dreams of hippiemancers and the most esoteric ramblings of half-insane thinkamancers. A world of silence, without the cries of animals or the voices of Language, but only the snarking of Hamstards and the sure spreading DOOM of the Lord of Hamsters upon our world. Beware the Hamster! That is not croaked which can with Xs in its eyes lie, and by the will of Parson we shall all one day die. "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Parson Columbus wgah'nagl fhtagn! La Parson! La Hamster!"
Fleeing from the insanely shrieking warlord, warlady Sonia Greene rejoined her stack, cursing the tradition which had forced her to end turn in the hex, trapping her for the night. They made camp at the far corner, clumps of grass making lumps in the floor of her tent as she thought about the insane story the Mad Monk had told. "Ludicrous," she sighed, "simply impossible. Probably just a turnamancy spell that went wrong and snapped his mind. He's obviously mad. For Titan's sake, it's in his name. Why does King Randolph keeps sending me to hear these crazies tell their tall tales." With that thought she fell fast asleep. Too fast asleep to notice the snowflakes drifting in through the flaps of her tent, or the ever increasing shuddering of the earth. Too fast asleep to respond before she and her stack were well on their way to the Gates of the Titans, with the words of the Mad Monk echoing in hear mind.
"That is not croaked which can with Xs in its eyes lie, and by the will of Parson we shall all one day die.
This story was inspired by a post by minigendo on the reaction forums for Book 3 Page 149 (Reaction Forum). Being somewhat of a Lovecraft fan, I thought it would be neat to make a story which approximately mirrored "The Doom that Came to Sarnath". As I wrote it, I realized that it wouldn't work to do a perfect mirror, and it wound up only vaguely resembling the Doom that Came to Sarnath by the end. Sonia's comments on the warlord's phrasing is meant to be a compliment of H.P. Lovecraft's style, not my own writing. Also in the style of Lovecraft, I have not attempted to explain how Parson escaped or what happened to Transylvito (the whole point of Lovecraft's horror is that things are occuring which are impossible for the human mind to truly comprehend).
Lastly, it was interesting that as I wrote this I noticed just how much of an eldritch creature Parson could seem to Erfworld beings not in constant contact with him. Obviously the events of this story are likely to contradict cannon, and the history is meant to reflect Transylvito's understanding of what happened, not what we know as readers.
(NOTE: User was awarded 40 Shmuckers for this post. -Rob)