No. 6 - Severed! --That bloody teat now forsaken OR Four against many

A field, near a castle. Four men at their respective gallops. "Harder than it looks, castle defense. Requires a man who actually quivers at thoughts like 'overlapping fields of fire', a man who never overreaches his resources, neither tactically nor operationally, a man possessing the subtlest understanding of terrain and advantage."

"Your point, Deckard?"

"I don't believe they have such a man, men. Let us mount a mighty siege of Castle Super Star, and let none survive our onslaught!"

In that too-familiar real world, Acca/Dekka's boots were in the oven, warming so he could wax them. He was growing a moustache, frowning and at concentration, sitting crosslegged in front of the coffee table, his back to the dark tv.

All the housemates stared at a smoky tableau manipulated by El Humidor's fumokinesis. A castle jutted from a cliff face, two rugged towers belching clouds of arrows, enough to blot out the smoke-figured sun. A fog, this cloud of wood, feather, bone and stone, a cloud of men's evil urges toward men given form and flight. These arrows end lives not easily known nor numbered.

Overkill, then, for the lives at stake at the moment are four.

Thorec Zentsoeir, stately and lithe, mounted the parapet, and frowningly surveyed the 'scape. "You backup archers--fire! Redouble all efforts, redoubtable defenders!"

Four tiny, clear figures scrambled to the summit of a grassy knoll, shields held above their heads to ward off that hellish hail of arrow. They surged robustly through this life-seeking, yet life-ending, mass of pointed sticks.

"By all the hells of all the gods of Lankhmar, Deckard, your assessments of enemy forces never cease to amaze!"

"Enough of that mewling, Whigg--they can't keep this up for long."

"What makes you say that?"

Deckard produced a small box from his belt (both intricately tooled and jeweled), and simultaneously Madstadon pointed out in his slow, nearly impeded way "You've never been to Lankhmar, Whigg."

Responding to Deckard's practiced, frantic operations, the box began to emit a profoundly irritating hum. He and Madstadon traded a look, the latter grating "Won't be long now."

Pacing those parapets, Thorec Zentsoeir was just in time to see the airship heave into view, all wicked points and cannons grimly gleaming. Thorec had defended this castle--and defended it well--for a decade and a half. It were only fatigue running deep as depsair that distracted him now, lead him into error. For he diverted fully half of his force to focus on the airship. "Concentrate all forward fire on that Super Star destroyer!"

Sensing the letup in the arrows' barrage, the four men atop the grassy knoll signal'd the ship and hurl't themselves forward as one.

Hugh Mann, mad geometer and wizard of information, still at a dead run, shoved a hand into both of his floppy, voluminous sleeves. Whipping the hands out, he produced from each sleeve a pair of daggers. Each pigsticker had a forearm's length of gaily-colored ribbon tied to a ring on the handle, and oh! how they fluttered as Mann hurled them, two apiece from each hand. They curved into arcs and landed in various spots just shy of the inevitable moat.

The skeleton crew still aboard the airship Enterprise (faceless ensigns, mostly) recognized their signal, and they did hustle to an especial cannon. As it roared and flashed, something like a bolo assaulted the air in a brutal trajectory. It all makes sense in a second, as, in quick succession, four cannonballs embedded themselves in the loamy earth, each one near a knife. From each cannonball protruded a length of chain, stretching to a grisly hook embedded near the top of the castle's wall.

Four men fairly flew up the chains, running up them like gangplanks, an acrobatic display discomfiting those watchers defending the castle. The wide, nearly naked Madstadon got there first, swinging his staff with devastating effect. Skulls cracked and spurted, stove in like shattered bowls of brain-curds and blood-whey, as Thorec, bigger and broader even than Madstadon, bellowed "Na'magh kaplatch!" and leapt from his parapet into the fray. He sported a huge, double-headed each hand.

Hugh slipped in gore as soon as he attained the wall. Torii Whigg has a bat'leth, and he's been gutting people all over the place, in a red-eyed frenzy. He's been deeply annoyed by Thorec biting his Klingon style and shouting the Klingon equivalent to "get off my lawn".

Interested in stealing thunder, Torii shakes his bat'leth like a Sand Person shaking his...stick...and screams "Them what I would destroy I first make mad! --All your mothers wear secondhand combat boots!"

He spun and offered a two-handed shove of the wicked weapon into the mouth of the man standing before him. The air near his fingers was sullied by a slurry of frothing blood and tiny fragments of teeth. A quarter-spin, a diagonal upward slash, organs and offal arcing in a horrific splatter of airborne life-now-ended.

Scant meters away, Deckard is an archer by trade, and ill-suited for close-quarters work such as this. As such, he was wheeling and flashing, dancing between combatants and using his cloak like a matador's cape to direct and misdirect his attackers. Strove for the high ground, and a few free seconds with which to rain pointy death upon his foes. Mann understood all this in a wizard's flash, helped by Deckard yowling "Get me out of here!", and his perfected strategy mind suggested a path to the summit.

Coolly, a constant blur of motion, he seemed to pause to say "To the turret?"

"And step on it!"

Headlong he rushed, pell-mell Deckard followed in the wake thrown up by Hugh's flickering kunai. A half-dozen corpses littered their path, knives barely visible protruding from eyes and throats rivering blood.

"Deckard, keep an eye on our six whilst I rummage my trick-bag for some device apropos!"

Atop the parapet, Deckard broke the seal on a frothing jug of hell-violence, introducing a score of lackeys to fate with his infallible arrows of bone and ash. For his part, using Deckard's small box, Hugh Mann beckoned closer their airship, the Enterprise.

At the bottom of the parapet, Thorec slammed his shoulder into the nearly ruined staircase. "Get down here!"

As Mann and Deckard reeled on the assaulted platform, Mann wondered "Time to go?". "Let's beat feet!" Mann manipulated one last time the magic box, and the airship disgorged two chains for Deckard and Hugh to climb.

Winded and frustrated, fell Thorec paused to find a foe to fell. Madstadon yodeled his barbarian's challenge, and Thorec did not in any wise deny him. After some athletic posturing and mutual bellowing, the two began a slow circling, with feints. Madstadon growled "You and me, pal...just you and me," and Thorec, stretched to his full height, chin-nodded and gestured around the surround, as if to say that all had become battlefield for just those two. Circling, then, and searches for the fatal opening. Surrounded by Thorec's remaining men...and Torii Whigg.

Wicked attacks raked the air, and ears rang from the ringing clouts of clashing weapons, hurled by the taut sinews and thews of those two vast men, Madstadon and Thorec Zentsoeir. They were not evenly matched, for though Madstadon had momentum on his side, no man alive could hope to stand long against the matchless Thorec. Grinning, he tossed his head. "Yield, now, and I shall allow your comrades to withdraw. You cannot take this castle."

Madstadon, sweating and trembling with fatigue, mutters the traditional curse of his savage tribe: "Eat me raw and unsalted, dick." His staff fell from nerveless fingers. Grimly, rejected, Thorec raised the the axe, every inch the executioner.

Thorec then was ripped open from kidney to Whigg's bat'leth. From behind.

As Death leached the color from his world, noble, half-mad Thorec Zentsoeir grasped for Torii Whigg's hand and croak't a question attending all too much of life from beginning to end: "Why?"

Whigg cradled Thorec in a cruel, mocking pietas pose as the question wheeled in the air like a carrion bird.

"Hey, man, it was a nice castle. We just wanted to fuck it up."

A yawning chasm, vertigo, meaninglessness buffeted Thorec and he became one with an infinite nothing. His last moment alive stretched into an eternal keening note of sad wonder, that life could be made to mean so very little.

The Enterprise hung off the castle, Deckard and Mann leaning over the railing, enjoying the carnage vista below over their mugs of strong drink. Madstadon and Whigg stretched their weary limbs amidst the desolate, worthless horror. Those two yet living were ankle-deep in entrails, and Thorec Zentsoeir's discarded clay could be seen face down in offal.

The scene then wavered, collapsed, and drifted away. It was, after all, never more than smoky figuration.

"Geez. Bit of a downer ending, don't you think?"

El Humidor simply shrugged, his long face drawn with fatigue. Jer stood, seeming a giant surrounded by a vile rodeo of tiny, cavorting furniture robots--"To-morrow, I'll show you a play that's a bit peppier! I'll use my little guys to--"

"Cable fixed tomorrow."

"Really, 'Man?"

"Yeah. Paid the bill."

"Oh! Nevermind, then."

Words by C. Collision, drawings by D.D. Tinzeroes