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TROLL | March 2015 | 1

L I V E I N O U R W O R L D

THE

DEBUT

ISSUE

INTRODUCES

THE

KILL

SESSIONS

&

TABBARD

LARK


TROLL | March 2015 | 2 TROLL | March 2015 | 3

Troll

[trohl] : (n)

1.Supernatural beings, originating

from Norse and Scandinavian

folklore. In Norse sources beings

described as trolls dwell in isolated

rocks, mountains, or caves,

live together in small family units

or unrelated gangs, and are rarely

helpful to human beings.

2. A dime store collection of new

fantasy art, short stories and articles

basted in the ways of old and slowsmoked

over the fires of Mount

Doom, just the way you like it.


TROLL | March 2015 | 4 TROLL | March 2015 | 5

magazine

Issue One

Copyright 2015

Troll magazine, Pty. Ltd

All Rights Reserved

The Work contained herein remains the property

of Troll Magazine and The

Artists, and may not be reproduced or copied

without permission written or otherwise.

ffFind out if World of Warcraft can be taken seriously in our

Top Ten Fantasy Roleplaying Videogames feature (Spoiler: It can’t.)

contents

I

Editor’s Note 6

The Armoury - Excalibur The first in a series on iconic weapons in fanstasy 7

Featured Artist - Mia Arderne We interview the last true surrealist 8

The Kill Sessions - Volume One Journey into the chasms of Dorinstadt 15

TROLL’s Top 10 Fantasy Role Playing Videogames Our Hall of Fame 25

The Spellbook: Magic MIssile We profile famous spells from famous lore 32

The photography on the cover and various other photographs

featured in the magazine were provided by Ryan

McGuire at Gratisography.com. Give his site a visit for

some truly out of this world photography.

Tabbard Lark & The Gilded Blade: Part One Evil rises, as does Lark, reluctantly 33

Poetry Silken words written by our writers 14, 40

The Bestiary: Elves We take a lpok at fantasy’s most fleet of foot and pointy of ear 41

Credits Meet the team behind the stories, poetry and art 48


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I

Editor’s Note

“The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams.”

- George R.R. Martin

We can’t promise you the language

of dreams, but we hope

you enjoy reading our first issue

as much as we have enjoyed writing

and drawing it, which is a lot.

Troll Magazine allows us a temporary

break from our normal lives

to plunge face first back into the

worlds we love so much to visit and

create. It’s great that you’ve chosen

to join us. We want to make Troll

Magazine your high fantasy home

away from home, your Rivendell

away from the Shire, your Earth

from Asgard. Therefore we promise

to keep the magazine free to

read and download so that there

are no barriers forced between the

tapestries we weave and the folks

who like to run the silk between

their fingers.

Doing so costs money, and we

try consistently not to seep further

into debt while getting the

best artists to paint for you, the

best writers to write for you and

the best web builder(’s underachieving

cousin) to keep

the old girl ticking over for you

but in order to keep doing that

we’d love it if you’d head over to

our GoFundMe, IndieGoGo and

Kickstarter pages and drop some

loose coin upon our lowly faces

so that we may keep the bonfires

lit. Come hell or high water there

will always be a team chugging

cheap coffee and bashing keys to

make sure longswords are liberated

from their scabbards in defence

of the realm, we’d just love it

if you would let us give you a better

product. You’ll always have our

words.

Anyway, welcome to what is

and will be a unique and very cool

new fantasy experience.

Enjoy!

- Gerald & the Troll Team

“There drew he forth the brand

Excalibur,

And o’er him, drawing it, the

winter moon,

Brightening the skirts of a long

cloud, ran forth

And sparkled keen with frost

against the hilt:

For all the haft twinkled with

diamond sparks,

Myriads of topaz-lights, and

jacinth-work

Of subtlest jewellery. “

-Alfred Lord Tennyson,

‘The Passing of Arthur’

History

The name Excalibur comes

from the original Welsh Caledfwych

or Caledvwlch (which has

been translated a dozen different

ways, from ‘battle breach’ to ‘hard

lightning’). Over the centuries, the

spelling further developed into

Escalibor and other variations,

until the (relatively) modern

term of Excalibur was applied and

stuck.

Arthur did not pull Excalibur

from the stone, however. Despite

much confusion of the matter, the

scholarly and popularly accepted

‘definitive’ versions of the Arthurian

Legend state clearly that

Excalibur and the Sword-In-The-

Stone, also called the Sword of

Britain, are two separate swords.

The armourY

e x c a l i b u r

Attributes:

In many versions, the blade

was engraved on opposite sides,

each side with its own phrase – it

was usually a variation along the

lines of “Take me up” and “Cast

me away”, a reference to the origin

and final resting place of the

blade – it came from Avalon, and

to Avalon it returned.

A sword with no small amount

of magic imbued in its forging, Excalibur

was a blade of extraordinary

quality. As the sword’s name

implied, Excalibur had the ability

to reave through enemy’s weapons

and armaments, unless they

bore some protective enchantment

of their own. This turned

the already formidable Arthur

into a nearly undefeatable force in

his own right – Arthur was likely

only surpassed by the very best of

his knights – Galahad, Lancelot,

Tristram, Gawain, and perhaps

Percival – and of course, Mordred

- were usually stated outright to

be equal or greater than Arthur

in battle-prowess. Many of these

usually had magical weapons of

their own – though none as famous

as Excalibur.

The blade Excalibur remains

one of the most influential weapons

both in British legends and in

the imaginations of fantasy writers

and enthusiasts today.

TM


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featured

artist

mia

arderne

“Art has no other purpose other than itself.” Yet

these days it’s a word seemingly used too often to describe

things that are frivolous in their conception or

practical in their purpose. You don’t have to go far to

find a sullen faced critic drenched in port referring

to a plate of food as art, or further to find someone

looking at a shaped wingback chair and calling

it the relaxation equivalent of Raphael. The most

basic form of the word “art” is assailed these days

by industrial design, the filters on your Instagram

and some really witty food bloggers who marvel at

the artistry of stacking asparagus on top of a bed of

potatoes. Ascribing the allegorical quality of “art” to

the mundane crap of daily life allows people to feel

the elegance of creativity without having to pay extra

for it. Art for art’s sake makes no money, not in this

country anyway, so having a nice curve on

your toaster or a filter on your nude selfie is

enough to satisfy you when you don’t have seven

thousand rand to drop on a canvas painting that’s

making you feel funny.

Mia Arderne paints on canvas, with oil based

paints. That drips normality and naturally one

expects her to paint as most other painters do on

this most orthodox of platforms: A simple country

landscape, or the face of an adorable golden retriever

puppy. After all, the most edgy painted works have

moved onto the street walls these days, right? And

while “edgy” seems to have a modern, urban connotation

these days, its classical definition is still work

moving toward the fringes of the mainstream, and

in the world of mountains and puppies, her work

is definitely fringe. I met Mia on a toasty Tuesday

morning to pick her brain, and as she sat down I immediately

hit her with the oversimplification

that her work seems to be a cross of


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Salvador Dali and Adventure Time.

“I’d probably go with that,” she says, jokingly.

Asking her more seriously, she says she has loads

of influences with Dali being one of the more complicated

ones, and the aesthetic of the female body

as being a more simplistic another. Majorly though

her work always seems to be subliminal, a piece

of the subconscious. Her work Dreamscape (The

large three panel spread on page twelve) is the most

extreme example of that. She says the image itself is

part of a subconscious fantasy, a look at the dichotomy

of a woman and her aggression. I say the dragon

looks quite cool, and she looks at me blankly. Admittedly

reducing an entire painting to the quality of the

dragon is, well, quite immature. In my defence this is

a fantasy magazine and she’s only ever read one true

fantasy book, and that was long after she’d painted

the majority of the work you see here. So the dragons

and spirits that you see in her paintings, demons

included, come from a place of honesty as opposed

to the majority of fantasy art that often seem contrived.

I guess that’s what makes it cool along with

those thick brush strokes that just seem to swathe

across the canvasses.

Does it bother her, that the rest of the world is

moving toward digital art?

“Not really. Digital opens doors when it comes to

manipulation. You can add layers and increase the

level of detail in a way that’s impossible when painting.”

But surely the absence of risk annoys her?

“It’s not as visceral,” she concedes.

“Or valuable, or tactile. You’ll never replace a

brush stroke.”

So digital art is less valuable?

“Paintings have more exclusivity. The concept,

technique and aesthetic of the artist is there for you

to see when you look at the painting.”

That technique, and tactile quality that she

touched on earlier is quite clear on the Sage (opposite

page) that almost seems to be a two dimensional

pictograph of a clay sculpture. That tactile quality

seems to add the age to figure, evoking a bit of the

Istari or the classical wise man fantasy trope.

If had to ask her about whether that was a creative

decision taken to make the painting look like it was

a clay piece she would probably shrug her shoulders

and say she doesn’t see it, just as she doesn’t see the

fantastical qualities of painting the ethereal in the

way that fantasy nuts do. Fantasy art has for a time

been stuck in a Game of Thrones rut, obsessed with

gritty realism and trying to make a dragon as photorealistically

as bad a destroyer as it can be, in quite

a masculine fashion. Seeing an artist try and paint a

dragon as something else than a beast bent on smiting

your wooden home town is refreshing. A dragon

as a shield, an alter ego, a philosophical element.

Fantasy begun as metaphor, and people have let that

facet slip over time, making it more and more realistic,

Hollywood and one dimensional. Maybe that’s

why someone who has almost no context of fantasy

who sets out to paint something subliminal and ends

up with an element of the fantastical is capturing

what makes this a great genre again.

Nothing lasts forever, however, and more of Mia’s

modern work is taking on a more contemporary angle

while remaining as subliminal as possible. Either

way we’ll still have these lustrous works for some

time.

TM

“I aim to strike a balance between the weird and the elegant, the conceptual

and the aesthetically rhapsodic, between decency and deviancy.”

I


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TROLL | March 2015 | 14 TROLL | March 2015 | 15

Lessons Learnt

This hum that takes me to the doorway

a frame of lightless light

so dense so magical

it tends to be impractical

I care not though

this world is golden grey

through the fire I go

To another world through another

doorway

yes another one appears as I walk

down this road I know not of

this path I dare not leave

as I travel south into my sleeve

as it warms me coldly

the world lets go of me

This time I face a dragon

a beast of old ways and power

old magic and laughter

yes it laughs when I speak

to it the sound means nothing

I am weak

in its face I become earth

as I transform, I am rebirth

It sends me reeling through the planes

through the magic of misty lanes

down the rabbit run I fall

into tiny spaces crawl

again and again I speak

but it hears me not

it does not care

or perhaps it sends me because it cares

for me

the image plagues me

a vision of the formless creature

old and grey and gory

preacher

a teacher told me long ago

that I was to become this show

for a dragon thing it matters not

I am lost now

time forgot

TM


TROLL | March 2015 | 16 TROLL | March 2015 | 17

The Kill Sessions : No. 1

A Dream of Death

A face gazes at Isaac from the fog.

‘Yes,’ says Isaac, ‘I know.’

The face fades, dissipates into nothing.

‘This is what we are,’ he murmurs to himself. ‘This

is what we do. We will not change. We cannot change,

for nothing changes.’

He pulled out the crest and gazed at it, a snake,

coiled into a shape akin to a cross, devouring its tail,

a symbol of eternity, pierced through by blades.

‘Is it beginning?’ asks a small voice at his side.

Isaac offers a rare smile to the girl beside him. Her

time was not yet come, though he had dreamed that

one day it would.

‘Of course it is, Lace.’ he said. ‘Everything ends

and begins anew, with nary a space in our breaths to

tell the difference.’

‘I dream and all is unmade, then remade when I

wake. This is the shape of eternity – of mortal infinities,

repeated endlessly.’

Night was falling, which meant only a deeper

darkness in the rift, but Isaac’s eyes easily pierced the

gloom. The sky is tainted a sickly grey-green, and the

air is rife with mist and magic. A man’s face materializes

from the mist – a heavy-set man, whose cheeks

are lined with scars. There is a pale and deathly fire in

his eyes, flames in which innocence burned. A shadow

follows him through the fog, the portly man, his

pockets filled with gems stained with blood.

A whisper seems to follow him.

Tell me what you think.

The portly man looked back, as though sensing

that he is being followed, or perhaps simply feeling

out of place, he in his fine clothes, among the fearful

and the desperate.

Tell me what you feel.

He turns and shrieks, as a pale man with eyes like

midnight pools appears before him.

‘Tell me what you see.’

The pale man touches a single finger to his forehead,

and his eyes seem to glow – pinpoint lights of

distant stars in the black sky. The man’s panic fades

and he sways as though suddenly placed in a trance.

But it lasts only a moment, and when he shakes himself

awake again, he is alone.

The fall of night does strange things in Dorinstadt.

The Rift pulses with strange magic, and those

who do not train their minds fall prey to strange, but

harmless illusion.

He shivers, feeling unaccountably cold, though

the temperature in Dorinstadt never changes, and

he curses himself for his carelessness. He takes a

deep breath and steadies himself before going on

his business.

The alleyways of the Maze twisted and turned

here, a labyrinth of sewage, vermin and the wreck

of human lives.

This was a place of chains, of gallows and guillotines

without the dignity of executioners. Here,

men simply devoured each other, assuming the role

of predator and prey amongst themselves.

Yet there was some shape given to the endless

night, some governance given to the lawless.

Dorinstadt, the City of Rifts, of wild disorder

has but one sovereign, and his name is Death. In

the furtive furore of whispers and moans, a blade

is drawn, a sound that shatters all other noises to

silence.

A Kill Session has begun.

***

It’s unnatural,’ said Tolin, when he heard of

Isaac’s plan.

Isaac sighed. ‘We’ve had this conversation before,

haven’t we?’

‘No,’ said Tolin.

‘You only dreamed you did.’

Isaac’s eyes narrowed.

‘Okay, fine, you may have mentioned it. Once.

Or Twice. Possibly every time I asked.’

‘I need no alchemy to perform my craft,’ said

Isaac, his voice as soft as ever. ‘What I do is older, a

thing of Contagion and Sympathies.’

‘That’s just it, boy,’ said Tolin, and his face was

deadly serious. ‘No one is supposed to be able to do

what you do. No one except the Master.’

‘Can we not accept that this is the path my master

gave me? Perhaps this is how I was meant to perform

my duty.’

‘It’s unnatural,’ Tolin said, stubbornly.

‘We live in the City of Rifts, where men and

monsters are often indistinct,’ Isaac pointed out.

‘You yourself can bend and shape the perceptions

of the world with the magic borne of the Rift. A talent

given to only a few, yet you say what I do is unnatural?’

‘A talent given to a few,’ said Tolin. ‘Yours, however,

is unique.’

He took a deep breath, then sighed.

The ring on his finger, emblazoned with the guild

crest glittered with a curious light.

‘Listen to me, boy. I have traced the path of a

thousand thousand souls in the service of my master.

The world may change, but the people don’t.

You learn to see familiar souls in time, though

they might forget who they once were.’ He looked

straight at Isaac. ‘Sometimes, though, you find that

something happened that shouldn’t have – a soul

that tumbles through the Rift, to a place it shouldn’t

be. But you know what it is that we do, don’t you?’

Isaac didn’t answer. He didn’t have to.

‘But I’m just an old fool,’ said Tolin. ‘After all, you

were chosen, weren’t you?’ He said the operative

word with a bitter twist of his mouth.

‘Maybe I’m the one who doesn’t understand,’ he

murmured.

‘I showed you how it is that I do it,’ said Isaac.

‘Shall I do so again? To make you feel more at ease?’

‘Sweet Death, no,’ said Tolin, holding both his

hands up. ‘I still have nightmares when you performed

that... what was it? With the glowing eyes

and the creepy voice?’

‘The Act of Contagion,’ said Isaac. ‘And that was

my own voice.’

‘Yes, that. Once was enough for a thousand lifetimes.

And a word of advice, boy – showing someone

that you can prance through their dreams willy-nilly

will never ever put anyone at ease.’

‘I do not prance,’ Isaac said in a mildly offended

tone.

Almost absent-mindedly, he grabbed handful of

different herbs, shoved them into a pouch and held

it out to Isaac. Isaac stared at it, nonplussed.

‘Tolin, I don’t need-’

‘Just take the damn things, will you?’ Tolin said,

muttering to himself.

***

Isaac slid down to the streets below, to where his

companion waited.

‘Smooth,’ she said.

‘When you walk in dreams, your senses are magnified,’

Isaac explained. ‘You become careful of any

sounds you might make. As a result, I can move

quickly and silently, perhaps even moreso than the

more... consummate professionals in our guild.’

He thought of Zeal in that moment, the assassin

who preferred to get his hands dirty and his coat

bloody. He shuddered.

There was one whose dreams he didn’t wish to

venture into again.

‘You could have done it then and there,’ said

Lace. ‘Why didn’t you?’

Isaac pondered the question. The Moment of

Contagion and the Sympathy was a double-edged

blade. It gave him a level of connection to his target

that allowed him to pinpoint his position even if

he wandered to the other side of the Rift. But there

were drawbacks.

A low moan issued in his mind, a groan of sensual

pleasure, followed by grunts and heaving breaths.

Isaac’s lip curled in distaste.

The mark, it seemed, had found his business.

An image filled his mind, of a busty, blonde

woman, her back arched in the throes of passion.

The grunts were coming from himself, rutting

on her like a mindless beast. And Isaac saw it, the

damning, irreparable moment, when the woman’s

eyes met his own, and he saw no affection in them,

just a dead emptiness, a soulless calculation, a duty

that must be done. Isaac saw in her eyes the loathing

she had for him – for this man who used her

body, the loathing she had for herself, who let her

body be used.

And there was suddenly something else, a rage

that grew and grew, blossoming like a sea of red

roses, blinding, till there was a sudden, devastating

moment of impact.

Lost behind the light, Isaac could tell that beyond

it all was a terrifying silence. Only the softest

sounds were heard, most faintly, of flesh being torn

apart.

***

‘I wonder if I am meant to save innocents or simply

punish the guilty,’ said Isaac, lighting a candle in

a room far away from the guild. He stared into the

flickering flame, the light dancing off his black eyes.

Behind him, Lace watched his preparation, looking

from the candle to the strange mirror he hung

over his bed. It had a copper frame sculpted into

the form of strange and monstrous creatures. That

mirror made her feel very nervous. Whenever she

looked away, it seemed as though her reflection’s

gaze took a moment longer to stare at her.

She sat down on his bed, pointedly not looking


TROLL | March 2015 | 18 TROLL | March 2015 | 19

at the mirror.

‘I don’t understand,’ she said. ‘You had the power

to kill that man earlier, didn’t you?’ Her eyes glittered

with envy. ‘I’ve never seen anyone move like

you do.’

Isaac turned to her.

‘One can never know what another man thinks

until you look into their unguarded hearts.’ He

raised his hand. It was tingling with anticipation of

what was to come. ‘If I am to be an executioner, I

must know for certain.’

‘The guild doesn’t seem to require the certainty

you do.’

Isaac sighed. ‘I do not doubt their informants.

But if I am to make the fullest use of this gift, then

I must perceive the truest nature of those I hunt. I

must believe that that is the reason I can do what I

do.’

The tingling sensation was beginning to spread,

and there was a curious jolt of pain this time. He

frowned. Something was different. But he hid his

concern from Lace.

‘It’s time. The Sympathy is strengthening as the

Contagion takes hold. You should leave, now, Lace.’

Lace nodded, though her face was afire with

curiosity. ‘Be careful,’ she said. Then she smiled.

‘Seems strange to have to say that when you’re going

to sleep.’

‘Dreams are deadly places to get lost,’ said Isaac,

smiling at her. ‘If you’re not careful, you end up believing

everything you see, until reality seems but a

drab hallucination instead.’

‘That doesn’t sound so bad,’ said Lace, wistfully.

‘See you soon, Isaac,’ she said, gently closing the

door behind her.

Isaac took a deep breath, then turned to his bedside.

A silver tankard was there, filled with water.

He murmured something under his breath, stirring

the contents with his index finger. Strange shapes

took form in the swirling waters, drawn forth by the

words he muttered.

He sighed then, ceasing the chant, then raised

the tankard, draining it.

He unhitched his daggers from his belt and his

body, laying them around the edges of his bed.

He produced a pouch from his robes, and gently

began to empty its contents on the floor surrounding

his bed – a thin layer of salt, a measure of protection

against intrusions into his own mind.

He took a deep breath, then lay down on his bed.

One breath in, one out.

Something heavy seemed to settle on his chest.

He didn’t open his eyes. He knew that would be

dangerous.

The second breath in, the second breath out.

Something rattled the hinges of his door. Shadows

about in the hallway were visible beneath the

crack, strange shapes that didn’t belong to men.

Isaac’s eyes remained closed. The dreamworld

was merging with his mind – the limbo states were

folding themselves into his reality. Acknowledging

what lay beyond the door would make them real,

and deadly.

When the third breath came, he was conscious,

but asleep.

***

Isaac’s eyes fluttered open in a barren landscape,

an area of black, jagged rocks cut into strange

shapes by unknown sculptors. The sky above was

a roil of light, pale green, swirling around an empty

darkness. Several moons of varying sizes hung in

the sky. They seemed almost perilously close.

Isaac stood atop a cliff, a piece of rock that floated

in the air, and above his head was the ground.

Below him, his target stirred, standing up, looking

around.

‘What’s going on, here?’ the man asked. His

shape seemed to distort as he spoke, twisting wildly,

as though his form was struggling to remain bound

in human form. Isaac’s eyes narrowed. He had heard

of this – when a man was made monstrous by his

own deeds, it tended to reflect, here where the soul’s

mask tended to slip off all too easily.

‘Do you not recognize your own mind?’ said

Isaac.

The man turned in every direction except the

right one. Isaac helped him. He closed his eyes.

When the man turned around again, Isaac was

there. He cried out in shock and fell backwards.

‘I have seen the dreams of men, exploring the

ruins of lost civilizations. I have seen cities, battlefields,

mountains and oceans, all the things that

are trapped within the desires of men, crystallized

as safe spaces beyond the veil.’ He looked up, at

the looming moons and the floating islands in the

heavens, at the vast darkness at the center of the sky.

‘Few indeed are the dreams as twisted as this.’

‘You buy your cheap pleasures, sating your base

nature on the bodies of boys and girls in the Maze.

But if they make the mistake of looking at you

wrong, of not pretending that they love you...’

Isaac’s dagger glinted in the unnatural light as he

approached.

‘I have felt the layers of pain reverberating in this

place. Dark are the dreams of the poor and the lost,

made darker by their fear of you. You devour and

destroy, as though it is your right.’

The mark seemed to recognize Isaac’s intent, his

eyes widening, and face growing very pale. ‘And so

you’re here to judge my life? What gives you the

right?’

‘No,’ said Isaac, his voice just barely above a

whisper. ‘I am no arbiter of men’s fates. The Judge

is my master, the Jury your victims. I am just the

executioner.’

‘And who are you to hold that right, if I live or

die?’ said the man, seeming to regain some of his

courage. ‘Who are you to decide if what I do is right

or wrong?’ He wrung his hands, looking up at the

sky. ‘Look at that. Are you telling me that that isn’t

our reality?’ He did not point at the moons or the

swirling lights. He pointed at the empty, devouring

darkness. ‘I’m not alone,’ he said. ‘I know there are

others who feel as I do. This mad place we call Dorinstadt

is cursed. You call me twisted? This place

made me what I am!’

Isaac blinked.

‘No,’ he said, whispering into the man’s ear from

behind him. ‘You made yourself this way. If this is

perdition, you have brought it on yourself.’

The man flinched away from Isaac. The pleas

died in his throat as he looked into the eyes of Isaac.

He found no remorse there, not a hint of mercy.

And then the final piece of the puzzle clicked into

place, as the man’s face bore horrific fangs like that

of a shark. The facade of humanity died as he realized

there was no escape, and suddenly the sound of

tearing flesh beneath the blossoming red pain made

terrifying sense to Isaac.

‘You’ve shown your true form at last,’ said Isaac.

The Devourer leapt at him, an inhuman roar

echoing in the becalmed stillness. Isaac did not

have to move very much to avoid him. The Devourer

turned again to him, striking out wildly. Isaac

nonchalantly avoided the wild strikes, sidestepping

each clumsy strike.

Between one flailing blow and the next, Isaac

ducked in close, and with a lightning-quick strike,

thrust his dagger into the devourer’s throat.

The creature’s body shuddered and it gurgled,

choking on blood and a length of steel. Then it went

very still.

The Devourer sagged, then collapsed as Isaac

pushed the body off his blade.

‘Find peace,’ he said softly, simply.

The world around him began to shudder. Reality

– or the semblance of it that existed here – began

to crumble as the mind of the Devourer gave way

to the empty stillness of death. The air before him

twisted, like the distortions of heat rising from the

ground. Beneath him, the jagged black rock began

to flicker, the twisted claws of earth rising from the

ground beginning disintegrate into sand. The world

was collapsing, veering into that same empty stillness

- ‘No,’ said Isaac softly, raising his hand to sky.

The world around him shook ever more, for just a

moment, then grew still, silent, acknowledging a

new master.

‘I claim this land as my own,’ he said, staring up

at the darkness in the sky. ‘I claim sovereignty here,

in the name of the Guild,’ he said, then he added,

softly, ‘for myself as well.’ He looked upon the Devourer,

as the dream began to devour his form. His

body turned black, then was scattered into ash by a

sudden gust of wind. Isaac knew that in the waking

world, a body would be found, with its throat torn

out.


TROLL | March 2015 | 20 TROLL | March 2015 | 21

There would be questions without answers, an

investigation that would lead nowhere.

More importantly, there would be quiet nights

in the Maze again, and dreams made free from pain

and fear, at least for a little while. He had doubts, now

and then, about his gift, about the role he played as

a Shadow of Death. But every time he did his duty,

he felt the dreams around him soften, as the minds

of those he touched through his deeds knew peace

again. And he did not forget the last look of despair

in the devourer’s eyes before the end. In death, there

was release. In death, there was peace.

He murmured a final benediction, praying that

Life and Death would be merciful, and that this soul

would return, renewed in innocence.

‘You’ve done well,’ a whisper echoed all around

him. A sudden chill spread up his spine.

Isaac didn’t have to turn to know who it was.

‘Thank you,’ he said, simply. ‘But I feel that this is

only the beginning.’

There was no answer, and Isaac knew he was

alone again.

That was confirmation enough. There was more

to come, and he would play his part.

The Kill Sessions were just beginning.

The Kill Sessions : No. 2

The Wolf

Six bodies walk into a room lit up with nothing

but shadow and quiet. They move in silently, with a

grace known only to dreams of death. The hour is

still and the purpose of this visit remains unknown

for a few moments. The city throws its waste to

this place, to this building, and these six are here

to empty the world of its debauchery, its filth and

carnage. There are many faces in the room, all busy

with trivial tastes and matters of the ignorant. The

blissful unknowing they are, these men and women.

They are all alarmed at the sudden appearance

of these six fierce personas. A moment is lost to

time as the air draws a breath, a mere second before

the first sword strikes true. Death and broken

bones bless the floor and an affectionate sting flows

down a pale cheek, a gift from the first victim.

Blood rolls thickly from under the floorboards.

There is only dark

dealing this night as second after second is met

with another corpse thrown to the floor. Dark magic

hums low and spreads to all corners of the main

hall. The work is almost done as the walls begin to

crumble, feeding the city with death and dust. A

women speaks to nullify questions of doubt: ‘This

is what we do. We are what we are, and we will not

change. We cannot change.” These phantoms have

been sent by a shadow… the Master himself. This

creature is not the being we would have imagined

it to be. No, it is Death incarnate, a being of old

power. Truth beckons daily for answers from the

Guild, a reason for the bodies littered all over the

floor. The purpose here is to cleanse, and Death is

just, according to the universe. To the Master, these

sessions of murder and bitterness are the manifestation

of Truth and Justice. All manner of evil and

dark conscience are removed from this plane, either

by Death’s hand, or by that of the followers. The

Guild, as they are called, act out the Master’s will

without protest, without qualm or query. They are

the weapons, the swords of a Duellist lost in a war

within himself. The night turns to quiet as we gaze

upon Dorinstadt, our home away from home. She

is our bashful muse who waits wearily for us to entomb

her, in ash and sullen fumes of torment. This

is how the night unfurls.

These are the Kill Sessions.

***

The city was cold, a little more than usual on this

particular night. There was not a soul to be found

wandering the street. No one would dare be out after

dark, at least not on this night, for tonight was

different. There was a still breeze that had the scent

of initiation on it, and blood would be spilt inevitably.

There were a few new Guild members and they

would have to prove themselves on this darkened

eve. It was the way of the Master, the way of life in

Dorinstadt, our fiendish city of dreams. Luckily,

there were only two Initiates this night, and so the

criminals and alley cats of the city streets would be

spared quite a bit of pain, although one of these Initiates,

a boy of seventeen years had other plans.

“Watch it Lupin, those herbs are not of the

friendly variety,” said Tolin, the Guild Alchemist.

“You’re lucky to have me as your Mentor, especially

tonight. I believe that if it were anyone else,

they’d be clearing your body off the street within the

next hour! In fact, you’re-’

“Alright old man, I get it. I should be honoured

and such to have you as my wise and powerful Mentor,

I get it. Doesn’t mean you have to give me an

earful all the time, I’m not entirely unskilled you

know.” Lupin broke off and couldn’t help laughing

at Tolin who was beside himself with anger and

shock. Tolin continued as Lupin ended another

bout of chuckling.

“Are you done Master Lupin? Good. Now listen

to me you little scamp, you would do well to show

me some respect. Remember the herbs over there,

the ones you’re still trying to steal from me, if they

were to be handled without care they would twist

your innards remarkably. Oh you naïve little angel!

If only you knew the power they possessed within

their little black selves, they would send you to the

Master in the blink of an eye. Do you understand,

child?”

Tolin paused for a moment to gather himself

then began to mumble under his breath. He put his

hands together in a prayer-like manner and continued

to chant cryptically with a sound barely leaving

his mouth. Upon separating them, a thread of green

light was found in-between. He began to move his

hands in a swirling motion, and the thread of light

was seen distorting into all manner of shapes and

sizes.

He continued to weave the magic with his hands

as Lupin looked on in amazement.

“Do you see this, young one?” Tolin asked Lupin

with a darkened look upon his face.

“Can you understand now why the Master has

chosen me, and only me to be your teacher in this

life?”

Lupin was mesmerized with the light within

his Mentor’s hands. It was as if they had removed

him from this world and placed him into another

plane of existence, a plane of warmth and energy

unknown to all mankind.

“This is why I am your Mentor.” Tolin whispered,

before warping the thread one last time and sending

it into the air around him.

The air was tense and hummed with a low energy.

The after effects of the spell lingered on for a

few moments after Tolin had ended the spell. Lupin

glanced around the room confused and with a

child-like look in his eye. He had seen first-hand the

power of his mentor - only a taste however, he was

sure of this.

“I guess it’ll take me a few years before I get to

pull something like that off, am I right?” Asked

Lupin.

“If it is in your nature to use the energies of

magic in this world, then perhaps I shall teach you

a thing or two before I leave this plane and join the

Master. Although, I sense your skill with the blade

and all things concealed are more prominent in

your lifeblood.” Tolin broke off and reached inside

his pocket, before continuing.

“Here, take this. One day when the time is right,

it will call out to you and your path will be made

clear.”

Lupin took the small metal ball from Tolin and

began to study its surface.

“Where did you get this, it’s like no metal I have

ever seen before. And what’s with the runes engraved

all over it, am I supposed to-” Lupin was interrupted

by a swift smack across his left cheek.

“Boy! I told you that when the time is right, it

will call out to you and all will be revealed. Would

you kindly cease your questioning and get on with

your task! The night draws closer and the city is rife

with activity tonight. I am sure your mark will be

well aware of your plans, so you had best get a move

on!”

Lupin stared at his mentor and smiled, tossed

the ball in the air and caught it in his back pocket.

He then left with a wave and without a word.

***

The evening had settled down upon the now

weary Dorinstadt. The day had been long and warm

and the people were quite fed up with the chores

of the day. Alleyways, side streets and dark corners

were what made this city the death-trap it was

known to be. This city was the hub of the world,

no, it was the world. There were stories of people

leaving the city limits and venturing to all manner

of otherworldly domains. Dorinstadt was the border,

the last bastion before way gates and portals to

all manner of strange and treacherous places began

sprouting up around the countryside. Some of these

mystic distortions could even be seen from the tallest

parts of the city. There was no fear however; for

Dorinstadt had never been attacked in its entire history…

or at least if it was, there was no record of it.

Lupin wondered the streets a bit before he decided

to start his Session. He thought that if tonight

would be the night of his first kill, or his untimely

death, he’d take in the sights a little. The Warrens, a

mass of unlevelled and densely populated alleyways


TROLL | March 2015 | 22 TROLL | March 2015 | 23

was where he found himself, completely by accident

of course. He looked up and found a familiar

face, all the way up in a Watchtower.

“Hey Twitch, didn’t take you for a scout, all the

way up in your own little heaven. How’s the weather

up there?”

“Lupin! How ya doin’ cutie, I haven’t seen your

darlin’ face in nearly 2 hours. What brings you to

this old place? The Warrens are a bit too dangerous

for a rookie like you. I mean these alleyways will kill

ya if you ain’t careful enough, little boy.”

“Well, it’s my first Session tonight, and Tolin gave

me an earful earlier about ‘how careful’ I should be,

as well as a whole mess of other useless yammerings.

How was he when you were still his apprentice,

I mean, I’m sure he was lighter with you and

your sister, right?”

Twitch responded in her usual way, an erratic

facial twitch pattern that would make you cringe,

before disappearing into a red puff of energy.

“Well, you know, he was a bit of a drag sometimes,

but he’s only got the best of intentions for ya,”

said Twitch, reappearing behind Lupin with a silent

tumble.

“You shouldn’t deviate too much though or he’ll

turn ya insides into acid, or worse. Trust me, i’ve

seen it. He’s a good Master, and remarkably different

to all the others. Sarah and I took a lot of wisdom

from all them lessons with the old man. We were

just kids when the Guild took us in, and I think we

were lucky to find someone like Tolin to watch over

us. Don’t worry too much about it kid, besides, the

things I’ve heard about your combat tricks, baby

you’ll be a Master in no time.”

“I hope so, I can’t take much more of his arrogant

persona, it’s ridiculous,” said Lupin.

“I should get going though, I need to kill some-”

“Oh shush now little boy, i’m not supposed to

know nothin’ remember. It’s your mark, not mine,”

said Twitch before disappearing again.

Lupin paused briefly while the red hues dissipated,

then heard a loud crash followed by Twitch

yelling at some of the Warren locals. He smiled and

started off into the night, which had just settled

upon Dorinstadt.

***

Not five minutes had gone by before Lupin had

found his mark. The location was not that far from

his encounter with Twitch, but the neighbourhood

may as well have been on another plane. Dorinstadt

held many secrets, and the districts were all

worlds apart. This particular one however, was the

strangest. Lupin had never been to the Downers yet,

but he knew well enough to stay on his toes.

“Death take me, they said nothing of this awful

stench. Tolin you bastard, what is this?”

Lupin gathered himself and pushed through a

thicket of brambleweed which had surprisingly

claimed a large portion of the street. The Downers

was a mess of ruined buildings and vegetation unlike

anyone had ever seen. Vines and twisting trees

sprouted everywhere. It was as if a forest lay hidden

beneath the streets.

“Ok Lupin, your target is a girl of about fourteen

years. A demon true that has killed six children and

two men already.”

Lupin continued to brief himself as he searched

the area. His resolve was being tested here tonight.

So he decided to distract himself with all the information,

sights and sounds he could find.

“The living avoid this place because of her. It is

strange that a large portion of the in-city hunting

takes place in this, forest, if it can be called that. All

manner of creatures, birds and the people have begun

to fear this putrid hellhole of a district! Words

forsake me, I’m sure she’s not the only reason to

avoid this pit.” He broke off as family of rats scurried

past him.

“She wonders the streets of the Downers stalking

anything alive. Which means there’s a good chance

of her creeping up behind me right about now.”

He took a breath and spun around in time to

avoid a dart aimed at his neck. Lupin had planned

this, using himself as bait to lure out his mark. It

was risky, but he had felt her presence earlier and

had continued the ruse to bring her to a secluded

spot.

His opponent was of a fair complexion, had

short hair and was slightly smaller than him. The

most noticeable feature was not the scars on her

arms, nor the ragged clothing that barely covered

her body. No, these details paled in comparison to

that of her eyes, the eyes of a raven. They were cold,

blackened orbs that fought furiously and broke

through all his defences with ease.

“You will die here child. Your light will fade like

those that came before...” said the girl.

Lupin rose up to speak but was interrupted again.

“Do not stand there and believe that you can kill

me boy. I know why you are here, I know what

Tolin watches the brash young assassin.

I


TROLL | March 2015 | 24 TROLL | March 2015 | 25

you would do. Death has sent you to claim me,

but i shall send you back to him and then I shall be

free.” The girl let her words go and started towards

Lupin.

“Oh good, you’re done, I was wondering if Iwould

get a word in before we begin. You’re my first mark,

my entry into the Guild. Tonight is my first Session

and I’ll be damned if I let a tainted little whelp like

you take my future away from me. I know I don’t

fit the description but i’m sort of a big deal back in

the Halls of Combat. You do know the Halls right?”

Lupin shrugged, before sending her a smile.

“Look, I know what you are, and what you’ve

done. In my book, those bodies you’ve left to the

ruins here are reason enough for me to end you. Do

you understand what you’re doing here?” asked Lupin,

before removing his blade.

The Girl let out a quiet chuckle, dull and powerful

enough to paralyze everything in the Downers,

but quiet enough to belong to that of an innocent

child.

“I know what I am, and I am well aware of my

actions in this vacant part of the city but it was not

always so. There was a time when I was beautiful,

full of life. I was a queen once, when this city was

young.” She stared at Lupin, as his mind wondered

into oblivion. She continued.

“This city is not what it appears to be. It is cursed,

or perhaps we are cursed, and this city is our eternal

damnation. All I know is that we are doomed,

you and I, and everyone. Forced to live out an entire

lifetime and then, at the end, we are sent screaming

back into our minds to feel it all again.”

Their eyes were locked now, in a cosmic embrace

felt only by those that had crafted it, Life and Death.

“You see it now, don’t you Lupin, you know what

I speak of.” the girl whispered into his ear, she was

beside him.

“I think so, but it does not excuse what you have

done to those children, and to this place.”

Lupin slipped into an altered state. He crouched

down, angling himself for attack. His heart was racing

and his mind lost to the words of The Queen. He

thought of twisting the blade a little, in a way that

would leave her alive, but still be powerful enough

to bring her back from her own hell. He pondered

on all the questions he had for the world, and why

this night was not the first time he had encountered

a being such as The Queen. All this took place within

time itself. His body twisted from the

from the power he felt, before he wound himself

up, closed his eyes and sprung forth at her side with

his blade before him.

“You die now, My Queen, not because I wish

your end, but because I have to kill you this night.

You are, a stepping stone, a leaf on the path I must

travel. Go now and leave this place to me. This ruin,

these vines, will be my home away from the Guild,

although I may have to, change, a few things. I shall

remember our words, and our little dance in the

darkness of the Downers.”

Lupin stared into her eyes as the darkness lifted.

They were green, much like the vines in this district

once resembled. Her body lay there in the dirt,

torn and in tatters after his blade had cleansed it of

the corruption. The ground shuddered, and opened

up as if to welcome her back into its arms. Vines

reached out from the chasm that had now formed

and dragged her body down into the cold dark.

“Farewell my Queen.” The boy said, before the

chasm sealed shut, never to re-open.

His night had come to an untimely end, for he

wished to converse more with his Queen before she

had to leave. He had found a comfort in her eyes,

as dark as they were. Lupin believed there were still

many lessons to be learnt from her, and he thought

it tragic that she had to be killed, despite her monstrous

form. This was his life now, and he was reluctant

to take the hand stretched out to him. Yet

he had to.

“Welcome.” said a voice in the dark.

Lupin spun around and readied himself, with his

blade held out before him, but there was no one to

be seen.

Almost immediately he knew who it was, and

he knew what it meant. What alarmed him was the

nature of the voice that had greeted him, the opposite

of what he had expected. He calmed himself,

sheathed the blade that had brought him through

his first Session, and let out a hearty sigh.

“Thanks, I think.”

TM

- The Kill Sessions will continue in Issue 2 of Troll

Magazine.

introducing

top

ten

magazine’s

fantasy

role playing

videogames!


TROLL | March 2015 | 26 TROLL | March 2015 | 27

10

9 8

7

The Elder Scrolls VI: Oblivion (2006)

Let us start this list off by addressing the large

world-eating dragon under the carpet. Skyrim

is a great fantasy epic, combining snippets of action

hack and slash with morsels of role playing

goodness. Sprinkle with some crazy dragons and

awkward shouts and you get a blockbuster entrant

into the Elder Scrolls world, one that brought new

fans to the franchise. That, however, was its fatal

flaw and the main reason why it fails to make this

list. Great fantasy role playing epics need to be uncompromising,

compelling buckets of magic and

lore, one that forces you to dunk your head in and

drown in the goodness. By trying to be all things to

all men, Skyrim watered down the character creation,

the magic, the weapons and the storyline to

mainstream levels, disappointing fantasy hacks

and leaving the door open on this list to the real

jewel in Bethesda’s crown, Oblivion. As an escaped

convict set on finding the heir to a vacated throne,

you are launched into a world of almost ridiculous

scale that frequently leaves you overwhelmed. Lore

abounds you, with your race, sex and horoscope

playing a part in how you navigate the world. As

you battle through Cyrodil Oblivion assaults you

with spells, potions, weapons and enchantments

galore allowing you to level yourself up in seven

major areas and flipping ten minor areas until you

finally fight Mehrunes Dagon at the gates of Oblivion.

The thickly wrought story, obscenely well crafted

world and the multitude of areas in which you

can enrich your character puts it on our list. The

clumsy combat system, odd anatomical rendering

and Bethesda trade mark cut and paste dungeons

keep it at tenth. It should be known that Oblivion

also hit you with the dragon god first, playa.

Icewind Dale (2000)

There once was a game studio known as Black

Isle, whom in the years stretching from the late

nineties to the early two thousands, produced

a range of games that would come to define this

genre. This was one such game.Written by R.A Salvatore

but not featuring Drizzt or any of the Companions,

this entertaining sojourn to the Forgotten

Realms was backed up by the second edition

of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules, with

real time pausable combat that mimicked the turn

based glory of earlier titles with the added speed

of computer controlled dice rolls. With a party of

six you wade through the mysterious, demonic

happenings in the lands of Icewind Dale, Faerun’s

wildly cold northern regions. The game rewards

smart character creation by allowing extra levelling

options for the right character-race and charactersex

selections. The game moves in well thought out

chapters, with lovely appendages such as spells and

artefacts that appear in the books, as well as plot

twists that shock you in a satisfyingly good way.

The graphics haven’t aged spectacularly and the

pathfinding is headbuttingly bad, but the brilliant

musical score and the endless hordes of enemies

that attack at anytime never gets boring. There will

come a dusky, snowed evening in Icewind Dale

when your party has stumbled into a ravine, in formation

and nuanced in their levels when a horde of

undead, werewolves, goblins and frost giants will

attack. You will pause the fight at the right time,

command your frozen paladins, thieves and mages

expertly and unleash coordinated hell at the push

of a spacebar with Jeremy Soule’s orchestra reaching

a crescendo in the background. It will be beautiful.

Then your PC will crash because Windows.

Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magic

Obscura (2001)

One of two games on this list that blurs the line

of what is considered true fantasy, Arcanum: Of

Steamworks and Magic Obscura was a turn-based

role player that laced Tolkienism with steampunk,

giving you half-elves raining out of crashing zeppelins.

Oh the half-humanity! This blending of classic

genres can make the game slightly less engaging

to those looking for a full fat fantasy smorgasbord,

although having an Orc wielding a Tesla rail-gun

against an Elven mage is quite fun. As Arcanum

hails from the fantasy role playing Golden Age,

you’ll find a linear but fantastic story that developers

Troika claimed had nothing to do with Lord of

the Rings but has still has your character return a

ring to its source. Where the game shines is with

its many classes and races, and the way these factors

are woven into a fictional world that really

mirrors our own. Classism and racism toward less

“pure” races will drastically effect the way the game

is played, especially as silver tonged and well liked

characters can wile their way out of fights with extra

dialogue options. The pace of the game does

drag, as does the combat systems (as the game offers

you three: turn based, real time and faster real

time) and the user interface takes up too much

screen space. The graphics can pixellate and the

colour palette is almost sixteen bit, but in blending

science and magic, racism and classism and many

hours of open-ended quests with a lot of good tasting

story means Arcanum gets its spot on this list.

Fable (2004)

Whatever your thoughts are on the hilarious

over-hyping of the game by Peter Molyneux Fable

morally aligns itself onto this list in seventh by attempting

to revolutionise the RPG. The early two

thousands produced some great but two dimensional

role playing games that resided exclusively

on PC but with the Xbox Microsoft wanted to

barge its way into the domination of the console

world by bringing eye-busting fantasy role playing

to your television- and Fable was tasked with

doing just that. Naturally Microsoft threw bucket

loads of money at the project, heralding the beginning

of Big Gaming. Set in the world of Albion,

where nouns are good enough to be names, the

Hero of Oakvale must grow up to avenge his dead

family who actually aren’t dead until they’re killed

by the villain, or you. As such the game’s main

quest is thankfully short, so that you can get back

to the fun. Fable ran with the idea of modelling

all the intricacies of an entire world into a game,

so there are functioning economies, social orders

and hierarchies that hinge on your actions, good

or bad. The good or bad alignment is a major crux

in the detailed world, influencing everything in it

from people’s reactions toward the player to the

propensity and manner of making money. There

are swords and spells but the real fun of the game

is to dispense with the asininity of good morality

and dominate the world with aggressive savagery,

literally rotting the world around you as you grow

horns and radiate evil. Unlike the Elder Scrolls series,

Fable manages to get its citizens to exalt or fear

you along a realistic arc, meaning they will eventually

stop cowing in fear and become your slaves.

Lovely.


TROLL | March 2015 | 28 TROLL | March 2015 | 29

6 5 4 3

Neverwinter Nights (2002)

Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014)

Diablo (1996)

Planescape: Torment (1999)

For number six we revisit the Forgotten Realms

in this underrated but immensely influential classic.

BioWare was the studio tasked with working

alongside iconoclasts Black Isle in the production

of the earlier Forgotten Realms hits, and as the

studio that would come to resurrect the lost art of

the fantasy role player in modern times, BioWare

wanted more creative control of the process. Naturally

Black Isle disagreed, and the companies parted

for good on the production of the next Dungeons

& Dragons video game, Neverwinter Nights.

If Black Isle was missed it surely did not seem so as

BioWare pulled together a masterpiece, debuting

the Aurora three dimensional engine that would

underpin role playing royalty such as Star Wars:

Knights of the Old Republic and (albeit highly juiced

up) the table top throwback Dragon Age: Origins.

Backed by new Third Edition rules that pushed the

Forgotten Realms lore as close to pencil and paper

action as possible, the game blew it out of the park

with a dark, luscious score by veteran Jeremy Soule

and an original thumper of a story by Drew Karpyshyn.

As the Wailing Death sweeps Neverwinter,

you must navigate the shadows filled with undead,

zealots and cultish assassins as you search for the

cure, and the steep evil behind the plague. It is the

characters that make the game, non-playables that

evoke genuine feelings from you as they conduct

their machinations. With its beautiful spell animations

and smooth turn based combat the game

moves along compellingly. But that wasn’t the only

trick of this pony. Neverwinter Nights (1991-1997)

was the first example of a massive multiplayer online

role playing game, and the 2002 reboot relaid

the foundations for World of Warcraft.

Twelve years after Neverwinter Nights BioWare

shows why it holds the throne as the number one

role playing gaming studio, bringing the Dragon

Age franchise into the next generation of gaming.

You already know the thick lore, the beautiful

graphics and the smoothest iteration of hack and

slash based combat so far. But it is BioWare’s uncompromising

attitude toward the genre that enshrines

this game onto this list; if you don’t know

the lore from the previous two instalments, Dragon

Age: Origins and the panned Dragon Age II, you

were on your own. If you create a rubbish character

out of newb naiveté you are punished quickly,

so you either restart the game or put it down for

good. These tiny, odd elements hark back to the old

days of role players, only now they’re freshened up

in sixty frames per second and full high definition,

with all the beautiful trappings of modern gaming:

great sound, outstanding graphics and humungous

scale. The sheer size of Dragon Age: Inquisition will

leave you awestruck, and as you progress through

the meandering early quests and settle into the

meat of the main quest, you can’t help but feel satisfied

that BioWare has given you a value for money

classic. It’s not without its foibles: Some platforms

might find the game glitchy, but the endless support

patches from BioWare will remedy that. The “tactical”

isometric view from the second instalment

returns, and while it comes into criticism from the

younger gamers, old hacks can’t help but smile at

the nostalgia. This game plays like your mom’s best

homemade lasagne tastes, and as the flavours of

a compelling religious-based story and the great

magic models mix in your mouth you can be sure

that the future of the fantasy RPG is looking good.

Time to plunge headfirst from Sanctuary all the

way into Hell as that other role playing franchise

slots into fourth place with the debut of all debuts.

The Blizzard series started brilliantly, and follwed

with a strong sequel before stabbing all loyal gamers

in the back with Diablo III. Despite not having

as many classes as the Forgotten Realms titles or the

AD&D rules to back the game up, Diablo writhed

its way into our hearts by having a great story and

being able to scare the very mana out of you. At

times the moody colours, music and frightful array

of hell based decor could leave you a bit pallid, and

that’s before the swathes of undead creatures attacked

you. The masses of enemies would become

a series trademark, as would the subtle changes to

the gameplay each class made. The range of powerful

spells only available to the sorcerer would

vindicate the low hit points you started out with,

as would the warrior’s weapons as he developed

a grater resistance to magic. These factors might

seem commonplace these days but back in the

nineties, Diablo was where you saw it first. The star

of the show was a modelling system that manipulated

what monsters you faced, meaning you could

play the game three times and not face the same

monster twice. The story, while short, is still well

written as you and your party arrive in the murky

town of Tristram, before dungeon crawling after

dungeon crawling all the way down to the gates of

hell itself, liberating chained ghosts and smashing

soul stones into your forehead. This game was layered,

and fresh, which made it ludicrously addictive

in a manner that the sequels could never match;

and the raft of evolutionary aspects it brought to

the genre plants it firmly at number four.

How supreme must your confidence be to create

a game whereby violence is discouraged in favour

of stimulated philosophical discussion? Black Isle

showed it had the cojones the size of overripe grapefruits

when they decided to drop the supremely

engrossing Planescape: Torment, the one fantasy

role player that enslaves itself to its story. BioWare’s

Infinity engine does service here in the second collaborative

effort between themselves and Black Isle,

as well as the first edition of the Advanced Dungeons

& Dragons ruleset, so it looks good and plays

smoothly. Based in the obscure Forgotten Realms

world of the Planescape the player takes control

of The Nameless One, an immortal being who has

lived countless lives but has no recollection thereof.

It is your task to restore his vision of his past by

slinking around the artfully absurd multiverse’s

planes sitting slack-jawed at your desk as the scope

of his past actions become painfully clear. As far

as games go, Planescape: Torment does a fantastic

job of turning a screw inside your head. The more

The Nameless One remembers, the more powerful

he becomes, and the twists this game throws up as

you engage with zombies, tieflings, devils, succubi

and transcendent gods are just spectacular. Your

floating skull companion, Morte, is a joy to watch

and interact with, a character as nuanced as your

own.When Planescape: Torment was launched it

tanked commercially, as people used to the clicky,

simplistic fun of Diablo struggled to get their heads

around the game’s cerebral nature and aversion to

violence. What was and probably always will be the

most well written role player faded softly into obscurity,

eventually becoming a sleeper cult classic

after it was patched by ardent fanatics of the planes.


TROLL | March 2015 | 30 TROLL | March 2015 | 31

World of Warcraft (2005)

Would it be remiss to not highlight

that the highest grossing video game

of all time is also a fantasy role player,

albeit a MMORPG? With over ten and

a half billion dollars banked World of

Warcraft is the gaming equivalent of

striking oil for Blizzard Entertainment,

and while its immense mainstream

appeal leaves most hardcore

fantasy gamers with a throat full of

bile, not acknowledging its contributions

to our beloved genre is just

churlish. I doubt even Blizzard could

anticipate how successful ditching the

real time strategy and taking their Alliance

versus the Horde battle online

would be, but while the initial years

had lovely story lines that would make

any fan of Blizzard’s old work smile

fiendishly, the latter years have been

a bit, well, cheesy. The amount of

apostrophes being used in the names

of characters and towns these days

have reached epidemic levels, as well

as the Arcanum-aping recent updates

that has a fantasy rich world stumbling

drunkenly toward science fiction.

While its hard not to find oneself

verbally abused by a pimpled, obese

seventeen year old American rank in

virginity, the party-based aspects of

the game are still quite fun and that’s

due to Blizzard’s Rob Pardo flipping

the traditional role playing skills development

structure from one that

caters purely to combat and individual

character advancement to one

that promotes a social online growth.

So you’d have your character advance

their skills in fishing, or healing, or

blacksmithing rather than just melee

or magic, to promote to your pimpled

teammates from the Philippines and

Arizona that there’s value in keeping

you on the team. Blizzard’s experience

in resource based real time strategy

games meant

that this concept was developed

well before it migrated onto

the role playing scene, and World

of Warcraft’s ability to create a

wildly successful fantasy based

online biosphere has given the

franchise staying power. Now lets

talk about how it sold itself out

to the mainstream. In World of

Warcraft death carries no great

penalties: one simply respawns,

and as Planescaoe: Torment has

shown us, one does not simply

respawn. There must be penalties

or the very essence of role playing,

considered character creation,

will fall away as you just barge

on throughout the game getting

killed by everything as you advance

a very broadly considered

character. Where’s the stakes?

Your health regenerates, you never

lose skill and worst of all, you

can gain experience points faster

to “catch up with your friends.”

Blergh. As Francis Bacon once

said: “There is no beauty that

hath not some strangeness about

its proportions,” and while World

of Warcraft stinks up the list with

its unbridled greedy pandering to

the masses, it is still a lore-rich,

good looking platter of fun that

one hundred million players can’t

all be wrong about.

2

Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of

Amn (2000)

This is was the sweet spot when BioWare

and Black Isle came together on the same

page, with the same goals and blew the competition

away. Lead designer James Ohlen

crafted a game of beauty, integrating the

Infinity engine with the second edition of

the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons ruleset

and the Forgotten Realms campaign. Set in

Faerun, but in the country of Amn, Baldur’s

Gate II: Shadows of Amn follows on from

BioWare’s earlier effort Baldur’s Gate and

its expansion, Tales of the Sword Coast, and

once again deals with the children of Bhaal

in a riveting saga that ebbs and flows in all

directions, becoming one of the first truly

epic open world gamWes in history. Waking

up in a rank dungeon, lying in a cage

and beset by amnesia, your created character

meets Jon Irenicus, voiced with perfect

gravity by David Warner who combines the

pure evil of a serial killer with the hubris

and ambition of a zealot. As a character he

is exceptionally well rounded: tinged with

tragedy, ruthless and fully absolved of the

need to justify his actions, and it doesn’t help

that he is one of the most powerful wizards

in all of Forgotten Realms lore. His story

is as well developed as yours, arcing from

the psychotic to the highly tragic, firstly by

stealing you and your sister’s divine souls in

order to restore his stripped immortal soul,

and secondly by trying to right the wrongs

of his pained past the only way he knows

how, with bloodshed. Your quest to stop

him is a quest that takes you on a fantastic

journey of beautifully designed levels, from

the teeming city of Athkatla to the legendary

Underdark, the Astral plane, the elven

forests of Suldanessellar and the many intricate

dungeons, crypts and strongholds

that span Amn. With over three hundred

hours of gameplay it would take a player,

playing five hours a day, two damn months

to complete.

It is a massive game, with minute

details layered over everything.

There’s dragons, vampires, werewolves

and politicians as well as

Forgotten Realms royalty in Drizzt

Do’Urden and Jarlaxle. The class

system is as good as you’ll ever see,

with kits forming subclasses that

tweak your game experience in fundamental

ways. There are over three

hundred spells, and a fantastic combat

system, using BioWare’s best shot

at the time of a pausable real time

model. The musical score by Michael

Hoenig is a willing compliment to

the game, and with some eye popping

spell animations it’s hard not to

smirk with nostalgia. It is not perfect

though, with pathfinding and frame

rates requiring adjusting in the configurator

to get the smoothest experience,

as well as some loading times

taking too long if you hadn’t installed

the full game and partially ran it off

the CD-ROM. But this game is much

more than the sum of its parts. It creates

moments that become nostalgic

memories in your mind, like swashbuckling

through the mind flayers

lair with Minsc as soft rain starts to

fall on a late Saturday afternoon. Like

standing toe to toe with Irenicus in

the asylum, or debating semantics

and your life with a dragon in a dark

crypt, or holding a sword to Saemon

Havarian’s betraying throat. When

you finally battle Jon Irenicus for the

last time late on a Friday night, it will

strike you that this was more than

just a just a video game, it was one of

the best fantasy experiences you will

ever have. It’s to fantasy gaming what

Lord of the Rings was to fantasy books

and that is the highest praise indeed

for our number one all time fantasy

role playing game.

TM

1


TROLL | March 2015 | 32 TROLL | March 2015 | 33

The Spellbook

Magic Missile

Lore:

School:

Difficulty:

Resistable:

Damage:

Dungeons & Dragons

Destruction/Offence

Caster Level 1/ Novice

Yes

1d4+1 (Force)

A bolt of pure energy is emitted from

the caster’s fingertips. It strikes a target

automatically, with multiple missiles

launched, dependent on the level

of the mage’s learning.

The spell is notable for being simple

to learn yet, also for displaying the

truest aspect of evoking magic – that

of transmuting raw energy, manipulating

and condensing it into a tangible

form. When wielded as a weapon,

it strikes as light concussive impacts.

It is relatively weak at first, but as the

mage improves his knowledge and

aptitude, the number of missiles increase,

and even light concussive impacts

can become devastating at high

numbers. There are several spells that

follow on this principle, and indeed.

Advancements in the field of this, the

simplest form of energy manipulation,

gave birth to the more powerful

Missile Storm spells.

Indeed, the spell is considered so

simple that requires little concentration

by the mage casting it, and is

considered still a valuable tool in the

evoker’s arsenal, even if he has access

to its more potent Missile Storm variants.

Dear apprentice,

I commend you on undertaking this

journey to understand the First Spells,

the essence of magic, and the very

fabrics of the mulitverses you frequent.

Let us begin.

Ah, Magic Missile. One of the basic

attack spells, and one of the most famous.

It is also, I have come to realize,

one of the most basic emanations

of the immaterial plane. It’s as though

a mage has dipped his hand into its

very essence and drew it out into the

real world. It is as basic as a throwing

knife. It’s accuracy, however, is perhaps

its most vital clue – without fail,

it strikes its target – drawn, no doubt,

by the energy inherent in all living

things. Though relatively weak, it can,

in the hands of a capable mage, feel like

a dozen punches to the face. I find it

amusing to have novices test it out on

each other.

Although many cantrips and lesser

incantations are used by mages before

this spell is ever cast, the manipulation

of energy from one form into another

is the truest test of the mage. It is safe

to say that those who cast this spell has

begun their journey to power in earnest.

- Caradan Volte


TROLL | March 2015 | 34 TROLL | March 2015 | 35

The ancient city of Krul had cobbled streets that

blood, bile and desperation had stained into a deep

obsidian over the eternal years that the massive city

had besmirched the countryside. Overflowing sewage

made the road itself glint when the rare moonlight

kissed the surfaces, but the streets remained

faint. Windows were either layered in dirt or boarded

up. The walls of the rank brothels, packed taverns

and deserted run down garrisons were stacked with

sharp edged bricks forged out of the ground bone of

the once great stone golems, the streets themselves

a dire pastiche of the more majestic and intricate

cities far to the East. Spires tried to reach the stars,

laughably falling short as the decay and mould ate

fastidiously at their foundations, making them arch

precariously over the bustling scum of the realms

beneath them, masking the light of the pale moon

with long swathes of infinite dark. Moans of fake

ecstasy filtered into the brisk night air, infused with

the occasional scream of genuine fear and the bitter

laughter of a drained populace, souls long forgotten

in this fringe hell. A rancid moisture hung

amongst the cold air, making the burly man who

walked hunched over in the street pull his cloak

tighter about himself, the frayed stitching making

his neck itch.

The high walls alongside seemed to stretch

themselves upwards endlessly, and as he moved

through the moist air as quickly as his tired body

could allow he saw the faintest of menacing shifts

in the shadows ahead. He slowed his step, fumbling

under his cloak for the pock-marked, rusty dagger

on his waist, his wiry muscles tensing in one last

throw of hyper vigilance. A masked figure stepped

into his path, blocking his way forward. He could

barely recognise much about this figure, only that

it was slightly thinner than him and a head shorter

with a thick, long blade resting in its right hand.

The burly man stepped back quickly and pulled

his dagger out, grimacing through a thick beard.

‘Get out of my way, knave, you’ll find no loose

coin here.’

His voice was thick, and it wore authority well.

The mark of a former soldier. The blade that hung

loosely behind the masked figure’s leg rose into

prominence, refracting the slivers of pale moonlight

with a lustre not seen on common swords. It

was then, as the masked man stepped forward that

the soldier saw the gold, gilded blade. The dagger in

the veteran’s hand quivered, his tired eyes darting

from the beautiful blade to the dragon-skull

and he knew he would not leave there alive.

The masked man’s voice sounded as gruff as a decaying

corpse being dragged on loose gravel.

‘That rusty dagger is no weapon for a former

Swornguard, commissar,’

The veteran’s eyes widened in recognition.

‘I have come for your heart.’

‘My heart?’

The veteran spat wryly.

‘My heart is as black as they come, Gilded Blade,

so you can tell your priest that there’s no honour

here. He’ll not be raising no holy souls on my blood.’

The veteran raised his dagger, and took his fighting

stance.

‘It may be immaculate, but you will not suffer my

death easily.’

The Guilded Blade chuckled under his mask.

‘Indeed, commissar, indeed.’

The words had scarcely left his lips as he leapt

forward, lashing the sublimely weighted golden

blade across the veteran’s outstretched arm, slicing

through cloth, leather, skin, muscle and bone with

consummate ease. The dagger fell to the ground,

held firmly by stiff hand. A gruff scream attempted

to flee the veteran’s mouth but the Gilded Blade

lashed his studded gauntlet across his face, shattering

teeth and snapping his jaw. Both the veteran

and the Gilded Blade fell to the ground, the assailant

landing with more grace than the stunned veteran,

rolling onto his haunches quickly.

He ran the edge of his blade quickly across his

victim’s neck, severing the thick arteries before he

wrenched open the front of the shocked, dying

man’s clothes. His hairy, scarred and wiry chest rose

and fell rapidly as his soul began diffusing into the

realms beyond, and as the Gilded Blade worked

the body a luscious smell of fresh blood saturated

the air. The gold sword flayed the skin quickly and

neatly, and when the masked assassin laid the sword

broadside down on the bone and smacked it, the

chest cavity snapped open.

Using the blade point the Gilded Blade wrenched

the ribcage apart, cracking thoracic bones with a fanatical

precision. The rapidly beating heart bared

itself, and once he had clipped the connecting arteries

he lifted the fat-laden organ out of the chest and

placed it into a small leather satchel attached at his

side. The assassin then placed his palm just above

the open cavity, and lifted his eyes to the darkness.

His lips moved softly and slowly in banned incantation,

the air around the body thickening and

thrumming as his words danced amongst the

shadow. The flayed, cut skin began folding itself

folding back along its wounds, the ruptured bones

creaking into their original position as the he willed

the arcane to mask his crimes. Beneath the horror

of the cut dragon-skull mask his eyes rolled back

into their sockets, tears of blood running down his

face as he channeled the will of his incubus. As the

skin fell back into place and sewed themselves shut

with loose sinews, he saw that the cuts wouldn’t

heal completely, leaving a dry scar clearly visible

to those who would look. As his full consciousness

returned he bit his bottom lip in frustration. Every

second he remained here was a second closer to

getting himself exposed, and hunted by the Swornguard.

He had no more time to conceal the voracity

of his act. He placed the cloak back in place on the

forsaken, and stood slowly before slinking back into

the shadows.

***

Tabbard Lark’s grizzled head was buried deeply

between two enormous breasts when the door

clanged with the hard knocks of who, he assumed,

were his hammer-fisted colleagues.

‘Lark!’

One of them shouted.

‘We have business on order of the Chancellor!’

Tabbard took one more deep smell of the perfumed

folds of skin, the smells of powdered lotus

and sweat crawling up his nose in wondrous rapture.

He thought about staying in that position,

deathly quiet so that the disturbers of his peace

might hopefully disperse. The door shook violently

with more knocking.

‘Lark! The maiden’s handler told us you were in

here!’

Tabbard pulled himself out of the holy clasp, and

saw the quizzical look on his companion’s round

face. She pushed his thin body off her large person,

reaching for a massive silken robe to cover her naked

form. Tabbard watched the well-fed woman got

up and dress herself, the old bed creaking under the

strain. She pursed her thick lips into a red line, her

blonde locks falling sumptuously amongst the rolls

of her flesh, her areolae as large as the head of a battle

mace. Tabbard shuddered with renewed arousal.

‘You don’t have to go, Rosie,’ He said, his eloquent

flat tone masking his excitement.

‘We may reconvene our most fantastic coupling

once this issue has been-’

The door smashed open, with splinters of wood

flying across the room and the early morning sunlight

seeping through the doorway. Two massive armoured

Swornguard stepped into the room, causing

Rosie to shriek and bolt for a papyrus screen

to hide behind, her thighs still visible as the screen

was woefully too small. The dim light of the room

could not hide the polished white armour the men

wore, nor hide the polished red-hilted longswords

at their hips. Despite the city of Krul being an unrequited

hole, the Swornguard conducted themselves

with the utmost professionalism and cleanliness,

a reminder to the resident vermin that this fringe

city was still under the jurisdiction of a benevolent

Chancellor many leagues away. Tabbard lay naked

as the day he was birthed, his square face buried

under much hair. He reached for a pipe next to his

bed, using a simple incantation to light the pungent,

pleasing crushed godsroot in the barrel. He took a

deep breath of smoke and held it in.

‘Lark,’

One of the guards spoke up, as Tabbard’s face began

to go slightly red.

‘The Chancellor requests you, as the sole inquisitor

left in Krul, attend to a murder in the western

courtyards.’

The guard laid a small rolled parchment at Tabbard’s

bed, despite the fact that the naked man was

now turning blue.

‘Lark!’

Tabbard let out his breath slowly, blowing circles

with the bewitching smoke. He blinked a few times

at the two guards standing in his presence before

reaching for the rolled parchment, undoing the seal

and reading the contents. After a short while he put

the paper down.

‘I see, well we should be on our way.’

Tabbard rolled off the bed and got to his feet,

pulling on his trousers and his white low collar shit,

his boots and his brown suede cloak. He clasped his

sheathed scimitar to his belt, before pulling on his

woollen hat that kept his hair under control. Pinned

on his cloak was a once resplendent moulded silver

clasp of the inquisitor’s eye, a now dulled reminder

of the watchfulness of the Chancellor’s law. Tabbard

reached under his cloak and pulled out some copper

coin that he threw on the bed, mouthing Rosie’s

name as he done so. He indicated to the two Swornguard,

one of whom stepped back a few paces and

began opening a portal. Taking a silver rope from


TROLL | March 2015 | 36 TROLL | March 2015 | 37

his waist belt he began to tie it into an elaborate

shape, whispering as he did so. The tied rope hung

in place, mid air, before expanding slowly, revealing

the western courtyards within it. With one last look

at his fortress of pleasure, Tabbard stepped through

the portal into the western courtyard.

The two Swornguard followed, closing the portal

behind them.

The sky was covered in thick cloud, and the air

carried the wisps of cold with it. Tabbard saw the

Acolytes of Javiin around the corpse a few steps

away, steeped under their velvet hoods, prostrating,

praying and chanting, preparing to take the lost

soul’s body to a holy pyre. Tabbard walked briskly

toward them, feeling in his pockets for his pipe,

stopping his stride when he couldn’t find it and

swearing under his breath when he remembered it

was still at the brothel on the other side of the city.

He pushed the acolytes out of the way when he got

to where the body lay, and the Swornguard pushed

them further back.

‘Looks like he was slain for coin,’

One of them said.

‘Just another night in this wretched town.’

Tabbard looked at the young apostle, before

kneeling at the side of the body. He had known the

man, indeed, the older enforcers of the Chancellor’s

laws knew each other well. He was Gorn Dearth,

shamed former Commissar of the Swornguard, a

once noble man who lost control and taken life not

ordained for death. An old friend of Tabbard’s, one

that Tabbard himself had to put to the lecherous

sword of the Chancellor’s laws. The dagger lay a few

feet away with the hand still attached to its hilt. The

cut to sever the limb was as clean a cut as Tabbard

had ever seen. He was toiling in rage, the dead sullen

eyeballs of his once good friend staring into his

mind, probing, compelling the once gallant inquisitor

to avenge him. Yet he daren’t show his emotion,

not in this city, not in this hell where emotions are

tortured regularly.

He lifted Dearth’s cloak and his loose garments,

and he saw the strange scarring, the incomplete

melding of the wounds. He pressed his fingers onto

the sternum of the dead man, feeling the bone cave

into a hollow, feeling the absence of the most revered

of organs. Tabbard closed his eyes for a minute,

letting his mind run over the endless possibilities

of the harvesting of a non noble heart and the

cut of a sword so divine it could not possibly have

come from the scabbard of a common knave. If

what he suspected was true, then the most vile

of sorcery was afoot, and arcane acts banned by the

Chancellor millennia ago to keep the most harrowing

of incubuses off the mortal plane were being

practiced.

He got up, and turned to the two Swornguard

standing behind him.

‘Indeed, a simple slaying for money, in my opinion.

Write it as such in your reports to the Chancellor.’

***

Heavy footsteps reverberated off the clandestine

walls of the abandoned temple, high in the

cloud-laden mountains that overlooked the wastes

of Krul. Scenes of divine beauty were carved into

the marble, scenes of benevolence and hope. These

walls were defaced, vandalised by the crude hands

of the disenfranchised, the runes carved in the utmost

humility in the face of the gods lay saturated

in piss. The Gilded Blade stalked the passages, the

soft morning light poking through the high windows

and falling gracefully on a temple defiled. The

masked assassin walked into the centre hall, where

an altar stood bereft. Various spell charms lay about

the altar: the rarest of roots, the most succulent of

animal bloods and now, as he lay his satchel on the

stone surface, a heart blackened in dishonour. The

Gilded Blade moved to sit, pulling the ornate scabbard

that held the golden blade off over his neck

and placing it next to him. He unclasped the heavy

cut dragon-skull mask and lifted it off, his leathered

face cherishing the slight breeze carried on the halls

of the temple. Dried blood lined his cheeks, and his

body was sore in places, yet he was pleased for he

was closer to the summoning of the most sublime

incubus, his enabler. The demon Bal’el would bend

to his will, he reassured himself, and as one they

would strangle Krul to their will before taking the

mortal realm by force.

He sat motionless for a while, running his mind

over the procedures for the summoning. He remembered

his training as a young acolyte of Bal’el,

his rapid advancements in necromancy, his astute

understanding of ritual and his methodical executions

of the priests that stood in his way. When he

acquired the Gilded Blade of Bal’el he had to loot

it off his father’s lifeless body, taking his title as the

leader of the cult as well as the essence of the sword

upon himself as an identity. The cult had

worshipped the demon and the sword he had

infused his essence into, yet they feared his presence.

He did not, and for that he deemed his family

of acolytes unworthy. He took their lives in honour

of Bal’el’s return. There was only him left now,

but unlike the weak apostles before him he had the

strength and laced temerity to ensure that horror

would walk these planes again, with him as its master.

As the midday sun touched the nape of his neck

through the high windows, the Gilded Blade stood

and turned to the dark altar. He placed an ornate

bowl in the centre of the runes engraved on the

stone surface, before filling it to the brim with the

old animal blood lying in a sealed bottle at the foot

of the altar. Adding his selected aromatic crushed

roots he began to call out the perverse words, offering

his mortal soul as the anchor for the demonic

portal. The air stirred around him, lifting the caked

dust off the floors and bending the seeping sunlight

around the chanting man. The Gilded Blade lifted

the harvested heart out of the satchel, and as he

raised his voice he dropped it into the stirring concoction.

The organ began to dissolve as the liquid

turned itself over, bubbling thickly and resembling

dark quicksilver. The man lifted his head to the skies,

his eyes involuntarily rolling back into his skull. His

words came faster, spit flying from his lips as his jaw

moved frenetically. Tears of his blood began to seep

from his eyes, his muscles straining against his skin,

the air thickening to the point of being unbreathable.

He grasped the roiling bowl and brought it

to his lips, drinking vociferously. Gulp after gulp

he forced it down, opening his gullet to the will of

Bal’el. Suddenly the hall went silent, the dust falling

to the floor and the air thinning out. The Gilded

Blade keeled over, gasping for air that was finally

soft enough to breathe. As the blood leaking from

his eyes began to seep upward, back into his ducts,

his muscles relaxed and he dropped the bowl. The

assassin’s body began to swell. His veins began to

thicken, his clothes stretching over the bulges in his

skin. His vascular form stumbled away from the altar,

fingering as a blind man for the scabbard with

the golden blade. He pulled the sword and ripped

open his tunic, slicing madly at the skin over the

bulges. As the light skin separated a black, sinewy

flesh burst through, covered in the fine fur usually

associated with a horse. He lifted the blade to the

hulking, spasming tumours on his back, slicing his

skin so that grotesque wings could break free,

spreading themselves feet across. He fell to his

knees, breathing deeply, relishing the new feel of his

liberated body, waiting for the spirit of Bal’el to take

residence in the caverns of his mind. When the demon

came it was overwhelming, shutting out the

entirety of his being. He spasmed violently on the

floor of the defiled temple, and he saw it all.

The Chancellor lying impaled atop his crooked

steeple, his flowing blood not worth the soil it violated.

The bowed heads of the mundane, the millions

of mortals living out their lives, their soles tied

in service to him. They would have their first borns

slaughtered in his honour, willingly. Bal’el would

demand it, as their new gatekeeper. In their lust for

a simple life they would surrender themselves to

him, in exchange for his protection from a threat he

would manufacture. He would rebuild this plane, a

new civilisation on a new plane, built on the backs

of the filthy mortal for the enjoyment of the incubus.

The Gilded Blade lay upon the cold floor, his

newly conjoined body now still and resting, harnessing

its demonic potential.

***

Tabbard rapped his fingers on the cold, blue steel

door in front of him. The brass rivets knocked into

the door to hold the thick steel plate to its frames

were dulled with time and the wizard’s guild engravings

on the door were filled with dirt to the point

of being almost unreadable. A frigid breeze blew

through the narrow street, getting into his coat and

robbing his warmth. He knocked again, harshly.

Rushed hands sounded behind the door, unclasping

loud chains before the locks ground undone

and the door swung open laboriously. A thin,

hairless wizard squinted through his eyeglasses

at the Inquisitor, his old hand resting on the door

latch. A botched grin squirmed across his mouth.

‘Tabbard!’

He exclaimed, happily.

Tabbard returned his lopsided grin with a wide

smile of his own.

‘Bosworth! Still managing with the heavy door I

see. It’s not good for your joints.’

‘I can assure you that I remain in good health,

my good man.’

‘May I come in? The wind is rustling my coat.’

Bosworth stepped aside quickly,


TROLL | March 2015 | 38 TROLL | March 2015 | 39

his long green robes gliding along his stone

floors.

‘Of course. Come inside.’

Tabbard moved past him into the elaborate but

run down wizard’s quarters that was lit only by a

large fire burning crisply in an ornate hearth. The

walls held shelves that stretched infinitely into the

high ceilings, their dark stained oakwood holding

millennia of ancient scrolls and books. A sorrylooking

step ladder rested against the wall, looking

for all the world as if it were planning the death of

its owner. A set of leather chairs sat on a frayed carpet,

with a marble plinth between them. Tabbard

sat in one chair, letting the supple old leather envelop

him. The aged wizard groaned under his breath

as he struggled to close the door against it’s rusty

hinges.

Bosworth walked over, moving silently in that

unnerving manner that all wizards do.

‘May I interest you in some wine?’

‘Of course,’ replied Tabbard.

‘And some of your special godsroot, if you don’t

mind.’

Bosworth moved to sit in the opposite chair, letting

his right finger lift slightly as he summoned a

silver tray from the rooms beyond the lounge. A

moment later a levitating tray holding the wine,

godsroot, two glasses and two pipes came in on the

air, gliding onto the plinth between them with the

lightest touch.

Bosworth poured the sweet mulled wine, while

Tabbard reached for the pipes. The chopped godsroot

had a magnificently pungent smell, with small

obsidian crystals growing on the dried leaves. A

smoker’s delight. Tabbard stuffed the leaves in tightly,

and handed a pipe to Bosworth.

‘So,’ Bosworth said, as they lit up, bellowing thick

smoke together.

‘Is this purely a social visit?’

The smoke burned the corners of Tabbard’s

lungs.

‘Unfortunately no. You’re aware that our old

friend Gorn was killed last night?’

‘I felt his spirit part, yes.’

‘Well, his heart was harvested as well.’

Bosworth raised his brow.

‘So that was what it was.’

Tabbard blew rings into the warming air.

‘You knew of it?’

‘Not particularly that his heart was taken.

But I did feel the remnants of a perverse presence

crossing into our plane earlier this morning.

So we know why his heart was taken.’

‘A dark summoning.’

‘Yes, or a willed demonic possession.’

Tabbard lifted the wine to his lips, savouring the

sweet taste against the dryness the burning root had

left in his mouth.

‘A banned act, undoubtedly.’

‘Indeed,’ replied Bosworth.

‘No commoner would be permitted to orchestrate

a summoning.’

Tabbard looked over at his contemporary, his

face tightened in deep thought.

‘These incubuses, these demons that have

breached the Chancellor’s seals, how would one unsummon

them?’

‘Well, one would notify the Chancellor, who

would ride with my superiors to challenge the demon.’

Bosworth mused, before noticing the leaking

exasperation on Tabbard’s face.

‘But you want to exorcise this creature without

notifying the Chancellor, obviously.’

Tabbard nodded.

‘This is not a time for bureaucracy, Bosworth. By

the time the Chancellor is notified and his magus

advisors formulate a plan this demon might take

more lives. We haven’t the time.’

Bosworth took at his pipe again, deeply considering.

‘This exorcism will take many wizards and a lot

of magic, Tabbard.’

‘Let me worry on that. Just find the spells that

we could use to open the seals and I will take care

of the rest.’

Bosworth nodded.

‘All right. But I am at pains to say that if you find

yourself grossly incapable of completing the exorcism

you should let me know so that I may implore

the Chancellor and my guild to intervene.’

‘I won’t be operating the spells.’

Bosworth looked at his friend, startled.

‘Who did you have in mind?’

‘You.’

The wizard shifted in his seat uncomfortably.

‘Absolutely not, Tabbard! I’m not standing aft of

a demon!’

‘Neither am I!’

The two men stared at each other.

‘Think of the people of this city, Bosworth! You

hold their lives in your hands!’

‘These people? These people make insidious remarks

about me, Tabbard! Let them rot!’

A silence hung amongst the men as they regarded

each other.

‘We’ll discuss this later, Bosworth. But I’m quite

sure you will come to regard your heroic side soon

enough.’ Tabbard began to get up.

‘That is as disingenuous as I’ve ever heard you.’

Tabbard turned to face him.

‘I’m going to need those spells from you.’

‘Well, I would need to know which demon was

summoned. That you would have to find out.’

‘Where to start?’

Bosworth shrugged.

‘Demons of this severity usually reveal themselves

out of bloodlust. So you can wait it out until it

exposes itself. Or ask around the Acolytes of Javiin,

as they’re always up to date with magi criminal.’

The inquisitor nodded, before turning on his

heels and heading to the door.

‘I’m taking this pipe.’

‘What happened to yours?’

‘I lost it with the Plump Rose.’

Tabbard stopped at the half open steel door, turning

to face Bosworth with a face of utmost severity,

a brow set in steel and the smoking pipe hovering

just above his lips.

‘Bosworth,’

He said, gravely.

‘If you ever glean the chance to play horsey with

a portly harlot, I suggest you grasp the opportunity.’

Tabbard Lark stepped out into the cold air.

…to be continued in Tabbard Lark and the

Gilded Blade, Part II.

TM


TROLL | March 2015 | 40 TROLL | March 2015 | 41

The King of the Loam and Moss

Come then, mortals, to my land

and see what you left behind,

the dolmens, the cairns and undying trees,

in this land that I forged from my mind.

Look upon this seamless world,

with saplings and white flowers

beyond the gates of twisted ivy,

at the roots of ivory towers.

Look upon these beasts again,

in this land you’ve been searching for,

feel the memory of them inside you

and speak their names once more.

Dragons and griffins in the skies above,

dryads and sylphs below;

a manticore prowls in the distance,

and direwolves beneath the moon’s glow.

Dragons and griffins in the skies above,

dryads and sylphs below;

a manticore prowls in the distance,

and direwolves beneath the moon’s glow.

Unicorns skitter nervously,

having drunk from the river at dusk,

while giant boars crash through the brush,

with flaring manes and gleaming tusks.

An abandoned suit of armour,

you’ll also by the wayside see.

Rusted and choked in weeds,

a warning placed there by me.

Do not bring war to this land

Bear your swords and axes with care

For if you stumble with them into a viper’s den

you’’ll find no forgiveness there.

Leave your fires and conflicts behind you,

for if you mean to bring your despair,

you shall be hunted and taken and skinned

So I say this now, beware.

For this is a land, traveler,

with your world entirely at odds.

There’s no betrayal, no ambition here,

only the awe of primordial gods.

Yaendrasse, the old grey tree

is my humility and it is my throne,

I’m bound to it, in life and in death,

and I rule over the plants and the stones.

For I am the Lord of this Glade,

I am the last of the Lost

Once Herald of forgotten deities,

Now King of the Loam and the Moss.

the

bestiary

1: elves


TROLL | March 2015 | 42 TROLL | March 2015 | 43

Elves are many different things to many different

people, but for the most part, you can be

assured of the following:

They tend to specialise in archery and magic.

They tend to be beautiful, slim and athletic.

They are usually long-lived, if not outright

immortal.

Low birth-rates tend to accompany this trait,

to explain why there aren’t billions of them. In

fact, sometimes low birth-rates are an actual plot

point where elves are concerned.

They live in forests and usually have some sort

of bond with the land and earthen magic.

If they share a setting with dwarves (and they

invariably do), they will be deeply and viciously

racist and antagonistic towards each other.

And of course, the pointy ears. They just

wouldn’t be elves without them. Right?

The ears tend to codify the elves as elves more

than anything else on the list.

Even if everything else on the above list is

missing for whatever reason, elves tend to be

identified as such by virtue of their ears alone.

Being creatures extant in cultures that have

received the limelight in high fantasy – i.e lore

containing Norse and Celtic influences, we have

been introduced to several kinds of elves in the

realm of fantasy.

High Elves

These are the ‘advanced civilisation’ elves, the ones

who are distinctly superior to any humans in the setting

(and who sometimes don’t hesitate to remind

them of it). They live in magical kingdoms, either

within forests, or otherwise isolate from humankind

– and they’re the ones that humans tell stories of to

their children, speaking of a beautiful race in a beautiful

city, in a far-off land.

The most overtly arcane of all the elves, prominent

High Elves are more likely to be powerful sorcerers

(good or evil) than master archers. Expect

these powerful sorcerers to also be the ruling elite of

the High Elves... leaving quite a distance for them to

look down their noses.

These are the elves who are most likely to be the

elitist isolationists, usually imprisoning any humans

who dare to trespass on their lands. They tend to

wield rapiers and spears in addition to their bows,

and usually consider themselves to be the best in

terms of their strengths... which often means disregarding

the strengths of others.

Expect them to be the most likely to speak in an

old elven tongue, usually described as ‘lyrical’ and

‘beautiful’. If a setting contains several variations of

elves, then these are the ones who see other elves

as having lost the way of their high civilisation and

tend to be condescending to them, sometimes even

more so than to humans. Most settings seem to regard

them as the proto-elves, the very best of their

kind, and many writers seem to agree with that assessment.

If they are kind to humans in a setting, it’s usually

in a manner that suggests that they see humans as

stumbling children who need to be guided.

Dark Elves/Drow

Dark Elves have been around since old Norse Mythology,

but most people recognise the Drow from

Forgotten Realms books, more specifically Drizz’t

Do’Urden, the dark elf created by RA Salvatore. What

is interesting about Drizz’t’s character is that RA Salvatore

created him as pretty much a normal, moral

human being who just happened to have dark skin

and pointy ears.

It’s through his eyes that we perceive the cruelties

of the dark elves which are usually reflected elsewhere

in literature and mythology. For the most part,

dark elves tend to resemble High Elves in all but their

philosophy, where they show darwinist or even nihilistic

tendencies. Far more vicious than their fairerskinned

brethren

Dark Elves are usually characterised by their complexions,

which range from grey, to blue to sometimes

charcoal black. Their eyes are usually either red

or pure black, and their hair tends to be white or silvery

in hue.

While they may be as magically adept as High

Elves, and as proficient in archery as Wood-Elves,

Dark Elves are usually the most likely to engage in

actual melee combat, as this tends to accentuate their

viciousness in comparison to their brethren. Expect

them to dual wield bladed weapons, usually curved

or serrated, (further accentuating their brutality) and

to fight with a nimble grace.

Other elves (and indeed just about every other

race they come into contact with) tend to hate them,

fear them or both.


TROLL | March 2015 | 44 TROLL | March 2015 | 45

Wood Elves

Perhaps the most popularly conceptualised version

of elves – these are the ones in tune with nature,

prone to spiritual contemplation and empathy. These

are usually the archer-archetypes, almost never seen

without a bow. Sometimes they usually have an inexplicably

tamed wolf, bear or panther as a companion...

or a ferret or an owl for the slightly less ostentatious.

These are Wood Elves.

To hammer the point home, they tend to wear outfits

consisting primarily of greens and browns.

In contrast to the more arcane High Elves, Wood

Elves tend to have a more druidic or shamanistic approach

to magic, and always, always, always live in

forest-villages with varying degrees of magical concealment

from interlopers – ranging from things as

simple as convoluted trails that lead away from their

homes, to magic that actively bars the paths of any

who come close (usually in the form of trees animated

by magic, visibly magically twisting paths or a

guardian beast or construct, requiring either a magical

password or amulet to proceed). They tend to be

the elves who are most likely to assist human characters,

though they are also prone to delivering lectures

on respecting nature and/or the “natural order”.

Sea Elves

Though the setting may more prominently feature

true merfolk, people tend to take the term Sea Elf a

degree more seriously. Maybe it’s because mermaid

and mer-man sounds a little ridiculous to most people

over the age of thirteen. For these distinguishing

individuals, there are the Sea Elves. They tend to

be no different in practice from Merfolk, occupying

underwater cities, built of coral or natural grottoes.

However, if established from the outset as Sea Elves,

you may expect there to be some history lesson of

how they came to be Sea Elves.

For the most part, you may assume that they were

once High Elves or Dark Elves (Wood Elves would

never leave their forests), who specialised in arcane

magic near oceans to plumb its secrets. Invariably

some ocean god/goddess/demon takes offence at

their endless study and lays a curse on them. Alternatively,

the ocean god/goddess/demon may be worshipped

by this subset of elves and instead reward

them by turning them into more aquatic beings. Expect

them to have a discreet set of gills, have webbing

between their toes and fingers, and have sea-green or

blue hair. They will sometimes also demonstrate the

ability to transform into sea creatures, or to otherwise

tame and befriend them, much like Wood-Elves

would with forest creatures.

Elves in Popular

Culture

J.R.R. Tolkien

Perhaps the first codifiers of what elves were, Tolkien’s

elves (as portrayed in the movie adaptations anyway)

tend to be all the positive attributes of the High

Elves. Immortal, beautiful, graceful, musical, highly

skilled in both art and in war.

However, his written work portrays deep subversions

to what is known about elves, and they are

demonstrated to be as flawed and as circumscribed as

humans at times. His work, the Silmarillion, in particular,

shows elves to be capable of monumentally

screwing up, sometimes even more so than humans

ever could.

Feanor comes to mind. A master artisan, who created

the titular Silmarils, stated to be the greatest of

his race (which also includes Galadriel) and a master

warrior, he was also, to put it in Tolkien’s words,

driven by overmastering pride which caused his own

death and the deaths of countless followers. He was,

to put it in the crudest possible way, a complete and

utter asshole. But there was a certain magnificence to

his character and his ruin that makes his fall a wonder

to behold.

Dungeons and Dragons

For the most part, the Dungeons & Dragons setting

codifies elves by the above tropes, with notable

subversions being the ones who earn stories.

Drizz’t Do’urden is one of the more popular, modern

figures among the elves. Hailing from the muchmaligned

race of Dark Elves, or Drow, who tend to

adhere to just about everything mentioned about

them in their entry above, Drizz’t stands out from

them in being a distinctly moral character. Distinct

from the nihilists and social darwinists of his kin,

Drizz’t stands out in seeking peace and goodness and

friendship. The process of him turning his back on

his kin and then overcoming the stigmas attached to

his dark heritage and finding a place in


TROLL | March 2015 | 46 TROLL | March 2015 | 47

the world is considered the magnum opus of RA

Salvatore.

JK Rowling

While elves have very powerful magic, they are

typically seen as a slave race – in happy servitude no

less (for the most part). Though they are called elves,

they subvert the expectations of them and may be

more accurately thought of as kobolds or brownies,

who they resemble more in appearance, nature and

ability. Then again, what’s in a name?

Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb’s work Elderling introduces a very

High Elf-like race... though it’s a subversion in that

they are also lizard-folk.

Elder Scrolls

Several variations of elf appear in these video

games.

The Altmer were the High Elves, and are usually

seen as the unpleasant, condescending version,

though they do tend to be longer lived and more

naturally gifted with magic. The Bosmer are the traditional

Wood-Elves, while Dunmer, though resembling

dark elves, tend to be no more or less unpleasant

than the next person – certainly less so than the

Altmer.

Dragon Age

Dragon Age subverts quite a lot of what we expect

of elves. City Elves tend to live rather close to humans

and are in fact seen and usually treated as secondclass

citizens. Dalish Elves seem to be more Wood-

Elf who are attempting to return to being High Elves,

seeking to reclaim their lost history and culture. Lore

The naga are essentially sea-elves with their bodies

misshapen into serpentine form. reveals them to have

a history rather akin to Tolkien’s elves.

Before this history is revealed, however, the only

thing that seems to separate them from poverty

stricken humans are their smaller and slighter frames,

and, of course, their extremely visible, pointy ears.

In short, elves are a ubiquitous part of fantasy culture,

appearing in nearly all great works of fantasy in

one form or another. They are usually also ‘the beautiful

other’ – the alien, yet familiar-enough beauty

that we can recognise. Elves usually represent either

a more primal or ascended state (and some iterations

manage to blend the two of them together), and are

generally presented as beings who respect the world

a great deal more than humanity does. They are usually

considered wiser and simpler souls, less driven by

greed and less prone to corruption than men, able to

resist base temptations and evils more than we. This

trend is recurrent in fantasy, dating from Tolkien’s

Lord of the Rings to modern day fantasy writer’s interpretations

of elves. To writers, one can assert that

elves can be seen as the ideal – the standard to which

humanity must rise. It can be argued that they are the

escapist race – the alternative to humanity. The question

is, will humanity ever rise to their level? The next

work of high fantasy will probably not think so... but

who knows?

TM

Warcraft

In Warcraft, all elves are seen to derive from the

Night-Elves, who seem to be a curious blend of Dark-

Elf (in terms of complexion only, though), High-Elf

and Wood-Elf, seeing the forest as sacred and the

source of their high civilization.

There were once High Elves in the setting as well,

before the undead scourge came and nearly eliminated

them. The survivors became the Blood-Elves, who

at times verged perilously close to being Dark Elf in

nature.


TROLL | March 2015 | 48 TROLL | March 2015 | 49

Credits

These are the people that made issue one of

Troll magazine.

Grant Smuts

Author of The Armoury, The Spellbook, The Kill Sessions:

A dream of Death, The King of Loam and Moss

as well as The Bestiary: Elves.

Gabriel Francis

Author of Lessons Learnt and The Kill Sessions: The

Wolf.

Christopher Maclean

Drawer of Excalibur, Tolin and Lupin of The Kill Sessions,

and the High, Dark and Wood Elves featured in

The Bestiary.

Ernest De Wet:

Drawer of Isaac of The Kill Sessions and the Sea Elf

in The Bestiary.

Gerald Dhunrajah

Author of Tabbard Lark & The Gilded Blade: Part

One, Troll Magazine’s Top Ten Fantasy Role Playing

Videogames as well as the editor’s captions for issue

one.

magazine

copyright

2015

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