Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Nordblom (2)


Previous: a Viking sorceress seeks her vampire counterpart to join a new team.

The Black Wraith could exist by day, making her a unique vampire. A hybrid succubus, actually. This preferred avenue of attack seemed one-sided, given her penchant for preying on only the greatest warriors. Such a pointless existence, Valkris knew, marked the wraith as deeply conflicted. The sorceress moved warily in the gloom, watching the shadows behind dusty, slanted beams of late sun.

"Show yourself." Only the surf answered, gently washing over a beached ship outside. Valkris took some high ground on a slab, boosting the challenge with a taunt. "You spy on women at their daily tasks. Perhaps you are curious about the mortal experience."

The wraith came forth from the dark, a raven haired enchantress in layered shroud. "Has Lord Falco told you he was able to resist me on the dream plane? Did you know I am a sorceress as well?"

It could be an opening. "If Falco intrigues you, join his team." Valkris wasn't surprised to hear Norse; the wraith could no doubt tap into any tongue. For just an instant, she caught a look of dread on the pale features.

Anger swallowed it up as the wraith raised an arm. "How novel to test myself against my own sex." A red miasma spiraled down, began spreading like a blood mist.

Not one to be defensive, Valkris summoned the Fire of Odin. It swept through the creeping death to spear fingers into her foe.

The wraith erupted into a storm of bats. Valkris surrounded herself with a cyclone until the spell faded, but her opponent had already cast another: myriad images of herself. Which was real? Valkris brought up the Shield of Loki, turning constantly to watch through the transparent runes. Almost too late she realized the true threat was above.

The wraith fell upon the hastily raised shield, hands crackling with spidery tendrils. These snaked around the edge, seeking flesh to feed upon. Valkris couldn't dispel it in favor of a different spell, but she could definitely move it. Dropping to a knee, she sent the shield and its sinister rider smashing into a far wall. From the other side of the gaping hole, the wraith arose in a cloud of dust. From a raised arm, she sent a green torrent into the vaulted overhead. 

Valkris recognized the spell of decrepence, ran for the exit, nearly got there before tons of rock came down on her shield.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    

Sayed's small group watched anxiously as the ground shook, and segments of the castle wall blew out. All but Odkeitl: it was a small thing on the wheel of destiny, already decided. When Valkris emerged, minus slippers, Sayed couldn't contain himself. "Here she is, Lord Prince! Come and use your powers of persuasion!"

But the prince began pointing out various "imperfections" detected by his practiced eye, to Sayed's utter dismay. Was the man insane? She was incomparable. An unconcerned Valkris began gathering hair from her neck to rinse away sand. 

"But my lord--I won't get one fifth of your price from the Egyptians!" Sayed could only watch as the prince and his Nubian guards marched away. He waited impatiently for Odkeitl to finish his brief of the sorceress. "It is done?"

"Done but not settled," the big Northman said. "The wraith plays a game with Falco."

Sayed's spirits lifted when Valkris spoke again. "What is it?"

"She wants to know what Nordic women are going for these days."

"Why? Does she know any I can purchase?"

"I would not ask. She's a fierce patriot."

"But. . . .I find myself in need of transport, Odkeitl. The prince will have my head for shattering his fond illusion about the Northern Flower."

"You may sail with us. If the sea is rough, we'll sacrifice you to the sea goddess." Odkeitl strode away, but Valkris was bound to hear Sayed's opinion of the disaster:

Tuesday, September 15, 2020



"By my graying beard," Sayed muttered, "there is her tent, flying the runes of Ragnarok." He struggled to restrain his pace across hot sand full of shells and bracken, just another trader in striped robe and turban. His four thuggish hirelings drew stares from the victorious crusaders sitting around their cooking fires. Still, Sayed needed the insurance, because Prince Khalim was offering a kingly sum for the fabled Nordblom, the Northern Flower. She'd be a rare addition to his harem. Powerful sorceress or no, she must surely prefer palace life to pounding the sea with barbarian raiders.

Abruptly he was alone under crackling date palms. 

His men fled the dragon prow rounding the promontory. Had the crusaders asked the raiders' help in rousting the Saracens from their ruined fort?--or were they here to pick up their wayward sorceress? Alarmed, Sayed hurried closer.

The Viking leader, called Odkeitl, strode toward the crusader captain. Sayed eavesdropped on the universal Greek. How could his men help? Half jokingly, the captain pointed to the fort. In short order, the Northmen lofted ladders and grappling hooks, and screaming defenders were hurled from the parapets.

"Such waste," Sayed lamented. "They would fetch good coin on the slave market."

But Odkeitl was looking at the tent, whose flap opened to discharge the Nordblom herself. She wore a scandalous black shift, to which she buckled sword and cape. Odkeitl tossed her a wineskin. After a long pull, she spat a stream in exuberant excess. Sayed didn't understand their clipped Icelandic, save that her voice was low and cool. Suddenly she set out for the fortress.

Panicked, Sayed got in her path, hoping she spoke Greek. "My dear, war is for men. My client will set you in the lap of luxury. He--" There came a sting beneath his chin. Her rapier was pointed straight up, ready to thrust right through his skull, a calm promise behind eyes of ice blue. 

"Blarendr kyrpingr." She made as if to bite his nose, obliging him to stumble aside. 

Sayed made quick introduction to Odkeitl. "Are you mad, letting her join the fray alone?"

"It is no mortal she faces," said Odkeitl's baritone, "but she who is called the Black Wraith."

"Double madness! How. . . .how did you know this is the lair of the night roamer?"

"Our seeress foretold it. The wraith is wanted for the portal quest at Castle Locklor. Valkris is already pledged to the team." 

"And what terrible risk does Valkris face here?"

"She will fail."

"Then why. . . ." Sayed lacked words for Norse logic.

"The wraith must respect those she would go questing with. Our seeress has foreseen such an outcome. The wraith will ponder this encounter, leading her to accept a later offer. One that will not go well for some Carpathian monks." 

As the Northman would say no more, Sayed sat down to glumly await Valkris' return, or lack thereof. He sprang up when Prince Khalim arrived with a retinue of armed Nubians. 

"This," Khalim said, "is how you procure my prize--by watching her march off to war?"

"War?" Sayed groaned. "If you only knew, Lord Prince. Odkeitl!"

The Northman's head turned.

"What is blarendr kyrpingr?"

"Blarendr refers to your blue stripes. As for the other, I had not known Valkris had such a word in her vocabulary."

Monday, September 14, 2020

Team Ullor on Sublevel Eight


To be more exact, this llx17 is a closeup of their sorceress, Valkris. In the story, they seek a way down to a rumored sublevel nine, site of the Outworld portal which will later be found by Team Falco. At the time, the hair hadn't yet been turned white by overuse of magic. Some say there's a resemblance to the Blondie singer, so I later made some tweaks to make her more Nordic. This is acrylic on canvatex.