Friday, March 2, 2012

Apocalypse Under Ground


He could barely remember a life before the refugee camp. His family had fled there like the others when their village had been overrun. They were without his two sisters; they had been carried away to fill monsters’ cookpots, perhaps. While he spent his days begging for food to feed his family, the monsters took his father, too. Maimed and in constant pain, his father had died with the beak of some leech-thing in his arm—a drug sold to those without hope by agents of the mind-flayers.

If the cleric was to be believed, the monsters took his mother as well. Even then, boy that he was, he knew enough to be skeptical. The wasting sickness that claimed her seemed all too common in the conditions of the camp—gods know he’d seen it enough. The cleric, evangelizing among the refugees, had claimed it was a magical disease sent by the monsters. The clerics always blamed the monsters. Their gods were as hungry for monster blood as the monsters seemed for the blood of man.

The boy didn’t care about the truth. He found a makeshift club, beat some scavenged nails into it, and joined the new crusade. Down he went, with a few veterans but many more hollow-eyed youths, into the lair of the foes of man, into the underground. The boy had survived. He had watched most of the others die in horrible ways: cut down, rended, chewed, dissolved. He had survived.

That was years ago. He barely remembered how young he had been—how weak he had been. Wounds that would have been fatal before now healed within days. He was strong and fast. The underground changed you. The trick was not to change too much. Some scholars thought that many of the tribes of monsters had once been men, in ages past.

Those same sages said it had always been like this. When a civilization mastered enough magic to discover the undergrounds, the war started. Who built them, no one could say. All the beings fighting for them now were like babes crawling through a grand temple in search of a toy. They understood so little. They knew only that there was treasure to be had: the doors in the depths through which the most ancient monsters traveled, the magic they fought over, and the gold that drew the poor and the greedy.

And no one—not goblins, not trolls, not dragons or men—was inclined to share.

16 comments:

Tim Shorts said...

Amen Brother Trey.

And no one—not goblins, not trolls, not dragons or men—was inclined to share.

Ain't that the undeniable truth. Say it again.

The Angry Lurker said...

Brilliant and true, and an amen for Tim!

Bard said...

Testify!

Great setting.

Though I'm wondering how that photo my wife took of me waking up in the morning ended up on the internet (*scratches head*)...

Johnathan Bingham said...

Awesome stuff Trey!

Beedo said...

Really evocative Trey, great read for a Friday. Now to work this vibe into a campaign. I like how it 'explains' levels and hit points and the rise of adventurer culture in a mysterious way. there's your 0 level character funnel in action.

Canageek said...

This very strongly reminds me of http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?476196-setting-riff-entire-amies-go-dungeon-crawling an excellent thread by Reason (A skilled RPG writer who works for Fantasy Flight Games on their W40K RPGs) showing how you can have awesome dark fantasy.

Sylvaeon said...

Very gritty... I could see a lot of intrigue and harsh battles in a place like this!

Mark. K. aka - EvilDM said...

Nicely written: tight and to the point.

The Happy Whisk said...

You tell a story very well. I enjoy reading these. Thanks.

The Happy Whisk said...

PS: I also like the transition. Well done.

Malakor said...

Sounds like a good opening for a campaign guide. Nicely done

Sean Robson said...

Awesome stuff, Trey. I love your style of writing and your ability to spin a tale.

"If the cleric was to be believed..."
Words to live by, indeed.

Trey said...

Thanks guys! I'm glad you liked it.

@Bard - That's you? You're cranky in the morning.

@Beedo - Yeah, I tried to squeeze as many rationalizationing for things like that in a small space.

@Canageek - Interesting. Good stuff there, though it seems to be a bit large armies and Tolkeinesque language. This I view as a little more guerilla warfare, and personal/gritty.

@Sean - Ain't that the truth? ;) Given the proclivities of D&D clerics and their vampire-hunter inspirations, I've wondered before why the "dangerous fanatic" angle wasn't played up. So I did.

knobgobbler said...

Excellent stuff!
Thanks for the inspiration that send my brain roiling for the rest of the day.

garrisonjames said...

Sounds like winter in Wermspittle, and I mean that in the best possible way. Wow. Very nicely written. Time for me to get back to work.

Bill the Dungeon Master said...

Brilliant work as always, Trey. This actually perfectly sums up something I was working on away from the computer this past week, and was intending to polish up for Crown and the Ring -- Mythic Underworlds and the necessity of adventurers in Thervingia.