TROLL Magazine Issue II (April 2015)


Issue two is here, featuring our personal tribute to Terry Pratchett, more Kill Sessions and an in depth (p)review of The Witcher 3. Get your fix now!









“I respect these old ways

- the ways of the Earth,

the moon and stars.

I cannot however

wander this world

aimlessly, searching for

The Hunt,

wondering what they

want from me. No.

I will call to them daily,

across the

snowy plains and

across the realms of my








Grant | Smuts

creative director

Gerald | Dhunrajah

features editor

Gabriel | Francis

art editor

Christopher | Maclean


Grant | Smuts

Gerald | Dhunrajah

Gabriel | Francis

Logan | De Mink


Christopher | Maclean

Ernest | De Wet

cover artist

Jayce’ Janse | van Rensburg

commission him at


website & social media

Facebook | Troll Magazine

Twitter | @TrollMagazine


6 Editor’s Note

7 The Armoury

Gae Bolg

9 Feature

The Wild Hunt

15/56 The Kill


Volume Two

24 Gaming

The Witcher 3



31 Feature




34 Feature



Father of


36 Troll’s Top Ten

Villains of


43 Tabbard Lark

& The Gilded

Blade: Part II

51 Trolls Choice

The Lord of the


The Return of

the King

55 The Spellbook

Ash Rune

63 The Bestiary


{Revisit one of the most


endearing and iconic fantasy

films of all time.}

The Lord of the Rings:

The Return of the King.




editor ’ s



Here we are, issue two.

And suddenly we find that the magazine is

more than just a thing we do for fun now...

We want it to mean something.

As you’ll notice, we’re bigger and better

than before, and rather more colorful

too. We were pleasantly surprised by the

amount of love our debut issue received.

Flawed though it was, we still look at it

fondly, and we’re extremely happy with the

response we got. So, once again,thank you!

But, as you can see, we’re far from finished.

Troll Magazine has an enthusiastic team,

and we’re all still filled with stories and awesome

artworks to share with. Once again we

return to the gloom of Dorinstadt, where

the agents of Death battle against Life in an

endless conflict.

Once again, the Tale of Tabbard Lark

continues, with the hero as reluctant as

ever. And this time, we accompany these

stories with the artworks of our very own

Christopher Maclean and Ernest De Wet,

who deserve a special mention for the sheer

volume of art they produced for this issue.

We’re getting closer to the kind of work

that we want to produce on a monthly basis,

so that we can create a high-quality magazine

that’s great to read, great to look at,

and which is, above all, free.

What we tried to do was not just create

worlds of fantasy for ourselves. We wanted

to create a space for you too. So if you enjoyed

this magazine, tell your friends about

us, spread the word. Tell them there’s a

place for them, too.

Rally beneath our flag. The revolution has



The armourY

g a e b o l g

Level: 50

Class: Weapon-Master

Strength: 24

Dexterity: 60

Cunning: 35

Intelligence: 30

One of the most badass and goriest weapons

in any mythology, the Gae Bolg had alternate

translations that meant “Belly Spear”

or the more practically descriptively named

“Notched Spear”.

By far, however, the best translation of the

name Gae Bolg has to be “The Spear of Mortal

Pain”. “Death Spear” is another personal

favourite, though it’s a little on the nose, isn’t


The Gae Bolg was made from the bone of

a beast called the Coinchenn, a sea monster

that was killed by another, rather more monstrous

thing called a Curruid. (Irish Mythology

really nails it with awesome names).

This epic-level “Oh My God Spear”

could only be equipped by prestige-classed

weapon-masters, due to its remarkably high

requirements just to use the damn thing.

Without truly understanding the secret of using

it, however, the spear is no different from

any other of its kind.

Now, in the hands of a true master, one

who understands the lore of the spear, gets to

unlock it’s true horrifying technique and the

reason for its ominous name:

“The Gae Bolg had to be made ready for

use on a stream and cast from the fork of the

toes. It entered a man’s body with a single




like a javelin, then opened into thirty

barbs. Only by cutting away the flesh could it

be taken from that man’s body.”

-The Book of Leinster

Let’s break that down a little. This “Water-

Element-Instant-Hell-Murder Spear” had to

be dipped in water for it to wake up.

Give it a moment.

The “Holy Shit Spear” would then proceed

to branch out inside the opponent’s

body and leave such a tangled mess that the

murderous spear had to be surgically removed


That explains the “Spear of Mortal Pain”

translation doesn’t it?!


The spear was wielded by the Irish Eddy

Gordo, Cuchulainn, who made a habit of

kicking man-eating hounds in the face and

defeating armies single-handedly. The spear

was granted to him by the warrior Scathach

who taught him the spear’s secret Horrible

Evisceration technique.

It was prophesied that Cuchulainn’s deeds

would win him fame, but that his life would be

a short one. In retrospect, when you routinely

decide to take on and kill hundreds of men

by yourself, you’re gonna be known as an

out-and-out badass. It’s also very probable

that that kind of lifestyle doesn’t yield many


There is no doubt that the Gae Bolg was

a legendary weapon, and that its wielder was

awesome enough to wield it. While spears

are not used as often as swords in heroes,

the Gae Bolg has seen its fair share of use in

popular culture, having made an appearance

in countless fantasy video games, and quite

a few references in literature by writers who

like their Irish Mythology.

- TM





Words | Gabriel Francis

Art| Gabriel Francis



When I was a child, of seven

or eight (I forget since it was a

lifetime ago), I felt a calling, a

craving, for a land of snow and

storms. This land was beautiful,

bold and filled with all the

magic one could ever dream

of. So, one day, I went there. I

went to this land of souls and

snow, a world unknown and yet

so familiar. I was reborn in this

place, I felt the earth course

through my veins, my blood

was made white and grey. This

place… It was, and could only

be Norway. I had found another

home, and a place where

I could hide myself from the

irritations I had felt. It was a

sanctuary for me; a shield for

all the nothingness I saw in

everyone and everything, all

that was “normal,” everything

that was common to me. No,

I lived here, for a time, in my

mind. I found my power there.

I had laid my eyes upon a love

I would never be free of.

“He who fights with monsters

should look to it that he himself

does not become a monster,

because when you gaze long

into an abyss the abyss also

gazes into you.”

I knew not of the eyes that

stared deep into my mind, my

heart and soul. The many eyes

that would haunt me eternally.

The Wild Hunt had found me,

interested, adventurous and

unafraid. I was destined to

either ride with them, or die

fighting their ever watchful

gaze. Now, across the lands

and oceans of the world I feel

their arrows, their swords,

their axes, their Hunt. Their

eyes would pierce my flesh

as if to undo my very being.

Why was I called there, to that

sacred and silvery land all those

years ago? Why could I not

see? What powers were granted

to me during that time?

Years have passed, time has

grown and my mind no longer

wanders on its own. There

are flashes of green, of grey

and blue that streak across the

night sky, and across my mind.

The green is the earth and the

trees that I know, yet coupled

with the blue it is also the maelstrom

upon which the Hunters


TROLL | 10 TROLL | 11

Aurora Borealis is beauty

incarnate, though its shades

of blue and green are not only

our scared earth interacting

with the stars and the rest of

the heavens, no. These different

hues also bear omens of


A mere mention of these

ancient myths and legends

would bring disfavour from

the cosmos, at least according

to those that know the

old ways. I respect these old

ways, the ways of the earth,

the moon and stars. I cannot

however wander this world

aimlessly, searching for The

Hunt, wondering what it is

they want from me. No, I call

to them daily, across the snowy

plains and across the realm of


To dream is to live in another

world for a time. This

world is real, though intangible,

to some. They would

say that your dreams are just

dreams. They would say that

the worlds within a dream do

not exist, except within the

unconscious, sleeping mind.

I would strongly disagree. I

have dreamt of The Hunt. Not

even a year has passed since

that night. Not a moment is

drained from the hourglass

when I do not think of The

Wild Hunt. My mind finds no

rest in this world, nor in that


I am a fisherman. It is a

common trade in the lands to

the North. My village is small,

but self-sufficient. We live, we

die, we perpetuate the cycle of

this world. It is evening and I

linger near the fishing boats,

looking up at the stars. The

greenish tides that flow within

the night sky, they are calm

this night. Flashes of blue, red

streaks cut the darkness and

the heavens begin to bleed with

colours never seen before. The

Wild Hunt, Åsgårdsreien, has

come and I am without breath.

The village bursts into an uproar,

the women scream and

the men cry to the old gods.

Swords and spear are no use


The Hunt searches for something

unknown. I wondered to

myself if they would ever find

it. I run blindly through the

village as flames and



{“As I look up at the

spectral army above, with

no fear in my heart or in

my eyes, I see the Hunter

leading the charge lay his

eyes upon me.”}

smoke burn my eyes and

flesh, flames and smoke

that are unnatural at heart

and which spring from the air

unexpectedly. The men who

dare look up at their attackers

are swiftly cut down or set

ablaze by the spectral fires.

Hope has died along with this

village. All that remains now

are questions. What brings

this indescribable horror to

this world, and from where?

But why run, why cry out

in fear for death when it is

inevitable? As I look up at

the spectral army above, with

no fear in my heart or in my

eyes, I see the Hunter leading

the charge lay his eyes upon

me. His helm glistens with

blood and energy, his armour

drenched in light; his unliving

steed charges furiously upon a

cosmic force and leaves a fiery

trail in its wake. The Hunt

rides lower to the ground now,

he reaches out to me and as

soon as my arm is wrenched

up by his deathly grip my eyes

erupt into flames of blue and I

am swept away into a world

unknown, a world I wished

for unknowingly all throughout

my life.

I see my village fall to ashes,

the people wailing in tongues

now unknown to me. There

are few who know the legends,

few who understand

the true power and mystery of

the ancient world. Those few

kneel down with what is left

of their families, not praying

to the ancients, not cowering

in fear. They kneel down in

respect for the power of The

Hunt. These star-touched few

are thus spared a cataclysmic

death, or perhaps an eternity

of undeath. I have feared

neither of these things… I lived

for life and life itself. And yet,

now, soaring up high into

the painted night, I find myself

with a purpose: to find a

purpose, an Eternal Hunt for

reason and wonder. Now, I

find myself to be free.

So ends my dream, though

many would call it a nightmare.

Not two months after

this vision, I found myself

right where it all began. I was

in the mystical plains and portals

of the North. Norway, my

home away from everywhere.

A place to escape to when

I would find myself lost. A

world that lies deep within my

mind, so that I may journey

there when I am cold, when

I am afraid. I did not see it

then, when I was a child, The

Wild Hunt. I did not see the

Aurora Borealis, the colours

that would paint the night sky

for me. I was too young to see

it, too new to this world to

understand what it meant. But

it stayed with me, deep within

my soul; it lingered there until

I was ready. About 20 years

later and I am still looking for

the answers. I still journey

into my mind sometimes to

find the reason for it all. What

was it that they wanted, what

was it that they saw in me?

Gabriel Francis was on assignment

in Hamna, Norway.

We would also like to smoke

whatever they’re selling up


- TM

TROLL | 12 TROLL | 13



The Ashen Heart

What happens when we fall to dust

beneath that place we all know dearly

what happens when we live

and when we lie to ourselves

when the shadows creep in clearly

what echoes lie under the rock

the aerthen plot we know too well

the giant-borne, they serve our lot

to bring us further into shock

these words lie deep within our blood

deep down where magik finds a home

a place where all is twisted ruin

and we ourselves are without bone

when we all drift beneath the ash

to under sky and throne of colde

when dragons fly with wings of gold

to whisper dreams of death untold

the truth about the matter stays

we fade to times of troubled days

to forests dark and dungeons bolde

to hellish keep

and druidic fold

o guide me down this weary path

down rabbit hole und sweetest thought

I follow true the ways of wonder

through wisdom caged and memory


to know this world is truly bright

as birds would linger into light

to flow from dreams to quiet streets

and travel onwards into night

we find ourselves in motion now

at place where we must live as one

as trees of olde devour sun

and breathe in life to eden’s brow

drink with me o fabled folk

and fly with me to crimson lair

where we must struggle to regain

all that once was living fair

TROLL | 14 TROLL | 15







Written by | Grant Smuts

Art | Christopher Maclean

TROLL | 16 TROLL | 17

The chants, the prayers, the hymns they sang, they

echo endlessly in his memories; he is stooped beneath the

weight of their old and heavy songs. He stands at their

graves, hearing the wind whisper their will into his soul.

“Justice will be served.” Endless is the litany, eternal is

the duty. And the man himself? What burns within his

own heart? What is it that drives him on? There is no

answer for now. He stares, unblinking, at their graves.

He’s quiet, behind the noise.

The child was screaming.

The thin, scrawny man hit her again. But this didn’t

silence her, it only made her scream louder.

‘Toft! Keep her quiet,’ said a thin girl with dark hair

nearby. ‘She’ll bring the guard down on us! Or worse...’

she looked around nervously, as though waiting for that

‘worse’ to pop out of the shadows then and there.

‘Shut it, Ria! I’m trying!’ he said.

Somewhere out of sight, there was the ring of steel

on steel – a fight had broken out, not too far away.

‘Where is Abel?’ Ria asked, wringing her hands. ‘Is

that him fighting? It’s all going wrong, wrong, wrong!’

she wailed. Tears were streaming down her face.

The alleyway was a ruckus, a mixture of the child’s

screams and Toft’s struggling grunts.

He was pulling her to what seemed like a dead-end in

the alleyway.

But then, in a lull between the screams and the

sounds of the struggle, a low and deep sound emanated

from the dead-end. It was an inhuman thing, a groan

that seemed to come from the very stones at their feet. It

was a quiet, terrible thing, the sound that seems to trigger

the most basic of men’s fears. There was something

primal and hollow and hungry about it, and it quickened

in both Ria and Toft the desire to flee, to get as far away

as they possibly could from this place where the earth

itself moaned.

The mist was thick about them. It was the only thing

that given them the boldness to do what they had done,

but now it felt like things were unraveling. There was

a patch of darkness, somehow visible even in the mist,

a darkness that invited and repulsed all at once, with

shapes that had no shape that could be grasped and

understood with the human eye.

Prod and pull, the shaping of an instinctive Nothing.

Something being without quite daring to be. Terror at

the edges of the imagination.

Something was almost alive at the end of it, a place


that was and was not a place, but a living thing as


And it was hungry.

The man was struggling. The child, given strength

borne of desperation, kicked him in the shin and he

yelped in surprise and pain. Letting go.

‘No!’ Ria screamed, as the child broke free and ran.

‘Get her!’ she yelled, and she sounded wild, frenzied.

Toft, swearing at both Ria and the child, pulled

himself up and rushed after her. But then he stopped.

Everything had grown quiet. The fighting had stopped

suddenly, and in its place there was a silence so thick

that it felt like a lover’s embrace.

Then there was a loud, heavy thud, a short yelp, and

the sound of a body hitting the ground.

A moment later, a tall figure walked towards them

from the mist. He was tall and had the muscle of a man

who had spent his life fighting. His eyes were dark,

and his hair was darker, and his cheek bore a crescentshaped

scar beneath one eye. In one hand, he carried a

spear, the tip of which was coated in blood.

And on his shoulder, he carried the unconscious

body of the girl that had escaped Toft.

‘Abel!’ Toft and Ria said, together.

‘I’m sorry,’ said Toft. ‘She got away.’

Abel looked at him long and hard. Then his expression

softened. ‘This has been hard on all three of us,’

he said. ‘I understand if you didn’t try too hard to keep


‘That’s -’ Toft began his denial, but his voice died in

his throat. He shook his head. There were no words.

‘This is the last,’ Abel promised. ‘After this, we leave

this wretched hive of a city behind us.’

‘Was it alright to come here, Abel?’ Toft asked. ‘I

mean... did we make the right choice?’

Abel didn’t answer for a long time. The three walked

to the end of the alleyway, where the hungry darkness

lay. It seemed to sense their offering, and the black

tendrils of the almost-shapes reached out to them. Abel

leveled his spear at it, keeping it at bay.

‘No,’ he said at last. ‘This was not right, and it was

never good. And perhaps we should’ve killed ourselves

instead of accepting servitude. No debt was worth the

sins we committed.’

He closed his eyes.

‘But we followed this path. Walked it together,

bound our fates in it.’ He opened his eyes then, and they

were clear. Lifeless, sad, but clear. Silently he dropped

the child into the darkness, and the shadow hungrily devoured

her, pulling her into whatever living pit existed


within this accursed Dorinstadt.

‘And what I begin, I finish.’ He said softly.

Ria looked into the darkness, frightened.

Toft looked sick.

Abel turned from the shadow, disgust etched into his


‘Come. Let us tell the seeress our debt is paid.’


Dorinstadt was silent.

In the endless quickenings between light and darkness,

the many voices, the murmurs of the city all faded

into a singular stillness – the calm breaths of sleep.

Zeal placed the saucer-like cup down on his table

having drained the warm spirit-wine in a single draught,

turned the saucer three times, counter-clockwise, and

offered a prayer to the darkness. He remembered,

remembered a hand brushing his forearm, gentle. But

when he opened his eyes, he was alone.

He was always alone. He sighed. He knew that the

truth was that the souls he sought for would have no

memory of what came before. He knew what he was

getting into all those years ago. They all did. Yet the

gentlest memories are often the cruelest, are they not?

He issued another sigh, deeper and heavier than the one

before it. It fell to the floor, like a lump of lead.

He had tracked the targets to this area, the Maze, and

he had taken residence in one of the many abandoned

hovels here, places that had no locked doors, and thus

no false sense of security that people needed to sleep at

night. Zeal had made it into a temporary dwelling – that

is to say, he had placed a small stool here, and lit it with

a candle, while he himself slept in a sitting position in

the corner of this place, sword tucked in the crook of his


Those with skill need only their own confidence for


It had been days since he had news of his prey, however,

and he had feared that they might have escaped the

city, already.

Now, however, his senses, honed by many years of experience,

told him that this was the night when his prey

would reveal itself.

He checked his belt and loaded two hand-crossbows.

Shadows flickered past the window, and, swiftly,

silently, he blew the candle out, grabbed his cowled

long-coat and wandered into the quiet, lonesome night.

He whispered his creed to himself, of pure soul, pure

mind and balance preserved.

A Kill Session had begun.


The three huddled together before the fire. On the

other side of it, a woman was standing, staring into the

flames. Her eyes were ocean-green and icy cold, and

a strange rune that resembled a crooked wing was on

her brow. She was beautiful, though the coldness in her

demeanour made that beauty distant.

She was a seeress, a woman gifted to stare into the very

heart of entropy.

‘Are we safe here?’ asked Ria. In the firelight, she

seemed even younger, the light emphasising the smoothness

of her cheeks.

The seeress laughed. ‘Safe? I should think not,’ her

eyes twinkled. ‘But you are in less danger here, certainly.’

‘Not good,’ said Toft, shivering, weasel-faced, with

eyes that darted in every direction, flinching at every

shadow. ‘Feels like something’s walking on my grave


‘In a city like this, I wouldn’t be surprised,’ said the

seeress with a throaty chuckle.

Abel stood up. His spear was leaning against the wall

nearby, a simple thing with a blade of cold iron, blessed

by a priest. That spear had saved all their lives more

times than they could remember, and Abel, a student of

the western martial lords, was skilled in its use.

Only he knew its true nature. Or so he thought, mused

the seeress, a wry smile playing on her lips.

‘We understood the dangers,’ he said, and his voice

was deep and thick. ‘And we chose you over the others.’

The seeress smiled. ‘Of course. Who would not

choose light over darkness? Since the moment you

walked into this city, you knew that the shadows were to

be feared, did you not? Yes, you best of all men, should

understand what lies in the darkness, Abel.’

Abel grimaced.

‘Is this one last twist of the knife?’ Abel sighed. ‘Say

what you wish, viperous woman. Our business together

is concluded today.’

The seeress smiled, and for a moment, she resembled

the appellation Abel proffered as an insult.

‘Toft and Ria will not survive for long without you,’ she

said, looking straight into Abel’s eyes. ‘

‘And you are not long for this world. Have you forgotten

your brother’s madness? What was it that caused you

to flee to this place?’

‘He is not my keeper,’ said Abel, softly.

TROLL | 18 TROLL | 19

‘I reserve the right to seek my own destiny, whatsoever

it might be.’

‘Of course, the prince who would be a pauper,’ she

said, with a mocking bow. ‘Such pride it was that drove

you from wealth and influence, under the lofty guise of

‘destiny’. But ultimately, you have accomplished nothing,

and your companions, less than nothing.’

Toft and Ria glanced at each other, then away. If they

were stung by her comments, they were too afraid to

show it.

For a moment, Abel looked as though he would strike

her – something that would have been a very dire mistake,

he knew – but the pride that she spoke of, the pride

that had driven him from his father’s house was all but

broken now.

‘We’re leaving this city. Tonight,’ he said, speaking

between clenched teeth, not taking his eyes off the seeress.

‘Perhaps,’ she said, and there was a cruel light in her



Zeal looked down from his perch, a statue of a nameless

god of kindness, perched over a church.

This was just another lie, albeit a comfortable one.

The deities of this city were far more primal than some

gentle lie of kindness. He had seen them, the giants, and

the aspects of life and death, and wondered often at the

games of control they played.

Yet he was a pawn game, and the knowledge twisted

the corner of his lip into a self-mocking smile.

What would happen if a pawn reached the other side

of the board? If feints and counterstrikes finally brought

about an end to that which was eternal?

The city is a babel of sound and filth, the mutters and

squalid stench answering the strange, shrill litany of the

winds, made lethargic in purpose and direction by the

strange landscape that surrounded Dorinstadt. Long

ago, this city was a softer picture, a project of the brighteyed

artist and the idealist architect, who saw within the

entropy of the Rift some forgotten pattern of order, yet

they, in the end, were consumed and forgotten by the

strange cycles of the city. There was a lawlessness here,

brought about by the very nature of the endless rhythms

of Death and rebirth, a lawlessness that spawned from its

very simplicity. There was something colossal and primal

about the only certainties within this orphaned world,

before which the many laws and rules of men eventually

stuttered into a muted silence.

Zeal knew that it was in the very nature of humanity,


when its law and its enforcers prove unequal to their own

tasks, to descend into a half-ape savagery and feast upon

their own morals, a form of ethical cannibalism, simplifying

their forms and mores until survival – forever the

basis of savage and feral instinct- becomes the culture of

men rendered primitive by their now listless and unambitious


And yet, something remained, some noble thing of

note persisted in the endless transience of the Rift.

He followed that noble thing, nameless though it was,

through the drifting night, through the edges of silence.

A cruel wind was blowing, and a shadow passed by


He watched them from the darkness, and though an

opportunity presented itself, he decided that it was important

that he addressed another matter first.

An old enemy was nearby.


The seeress sighed, shifting her shawl away from the

flames as she gazed into the dancing lights. Strange

shapes danced about in them. She saw ravens taking

flight, and a wolf, stalking unseen prey. The wolf then

became a lion... slowly creeping towards a woman, sitting

before a fire. She closed her eyes.

‘I had a feeling it would be you,’ she said, as a the edge

of a blade rested on her collarbone. ‘You’ve always been

very good at rooting us out.’

‘The stench in this place was all too familiar. When the

wind turned, following you was easy.’

‘And what now? Will you kill me, as you did before?’

She held out her hands. ‘As you can see, all it did was

slow our advance,’ she smiled over her shoulder.

Zeal’s face was pale, but his features were hard, and

his eyes were like flint. The seeress’s confidence wilted

a little at that expression. There was something unfaltering

within him.

‘The Shadows have slowly been overwhelmed by the

light,’ she said, turning away from him. ‘In the end, you

will all be consumed by what we represent. I know of

you and your creed. But even that will fade to nothingness

in time. Life and Death, in an endless struggle,

each trying to throttle each other. So close at times that

it seems an embrace. What value do meaningless creeds

serve in the face of this eternal conflict? You will forget

when you fall, as others have fallen and forgotten. You’ve

seen it, havent you? The reincarnates have almost no

knowledge of what came before, no clue of the struggles

and the revivals. One day, you will stand before your

enemy without really understanding why.’


‘You’re asking if I care?’ Zeal asked, and his voice

was hard. ‘I am a Shadow of Death. That title bears the

weight of conscience, and the weight of duty. To think

that we obsess over every life we live and every life we

take, is folly. There is duty in the blades we carry, duty

that transcends the transfiguration of our inconstant

forms. But you are an agent of life, random and volatile.

Yet ‘Life’ is stagnant. A voracious parasite, cloaking its

appetite with righteousness. Only death remains pure,

untainted by the pain that brought it forth. We have a

purpose, ingrained into our souls, even if our minds and

bodies forget. And it is for that purpose that you will find

that we always oppose you.’

‘We?’ asked the seeress, pointedly. ‘As I recall, all

those who shared your creed have passed away. How

does it feel, knowing that all your friends have failed.

How does it feel, knowing that you’re the only one left?’

Rage boiled in Zeal at these words, and there was the

tell-tale hiss of a blade being drawn. The seeress didn’t

flinch, to her credit.

‘Today, you will live,’ he said and his voice was like a

blade, wrapped in silk. ‘A privilege that will not last.’

Then, suddenly, he was gone.

The seeress let out her breath, a long and tremulous

sigh that made her entire frame shudder with released


Zeal. The man was a troubling one, filled with silences,

wrapped in whispered riddles, and the man who most

came into conflict with her and her agents. She knew

where he was headed now.

She stared into the remains of the fire, into the dying

embers before her. And the dying light brought back the

vision she had.

Her back arched and she threw her head back, mouth

open in a soundless scream.

She saw a dark cloud, hovering over the city. It was

silent as the void, and to know it was to know terror. It

drifted above the city with a serpentine grace, and its

gaze caused madness and despair wherever it fell. Those

it came near took their own lives rather than endure its

demonic presence. She saw streets drenched in blood,

and bodies piled in horrific bonfires, not out of war, but

in dedication to some foul and aberrant god.

She saw all these things as she wandered through the

streets of this place... but when the vision ended, she saw

people smiling and laughing instead, going about their

business as though hell itself was not with them.

Something had infected the city, and it was sickening.

No doubt they felt it, at some instinctive level. But

humans, being what they are will not think on troubling

things they cannot articulate.

The Darkening of Dorinstadt would come, while Life

and Death were fiercely entangled. And nothing and no

one could stop it.


Zeal marked the point where the city gave way to the

wild. The Rift seemed to answer the expanse of Dorinstadt

with a land that was indomitably savage, eternally

resistant to breaking and bridling, and the ordered world

that men insisted upon was countered by a place of

eternal unmaking. The Brambles were technically a part

of the city, but it was a wild, untamed part, buffered from

civilization by gardens that eventually broke the illusion

of order the deeper one went. Man and nature were eternally

at war, and the Brambles marked a border between

where men knew mastery and knew what it meant to be

mastered. The wilderness claimed a corner of man’s conquest

– choking it, corroding it – until a barbarous reclamation

was complete. Rubble marked man’s failures like

tombstones. To Zeal, it seemed indicative of what Life

and Death, that eternal ebb and flow, were truly capable

of when they worked in unconscious unison.

He dove into the winds, his body finding the paths

through the city, so familiar in his years of doing what he

was doing tonight.


Abel and the others stopped as a billowing shadow

dropped down before them. They had made it to the

edges of the gardens; the wild, untameable Brambles lay

beyond, a labyrinthine tangle of verdant life, a forest,

wherein lost souls may lose themselves even further.

The shadow straightened into the form of a man. He

was pale beneath his hood, and strange armor lay across

his shoulder and his waist. He was garbed, entirely, in

black, and the fuliginous cloak drifted in the wind like a

twisting piece of midnight. Two curved blades were in

his hands, glittering, held crossed over his chest.

‘And what do you want?’ Abel demanded. The shadow

before them made no answer, no sound.

A closer observation showed that his eyes were closed.

He seemed to be praying.

Abel’s gaze was hard, but he quelled the fear that this

man who appeared like the manifestation of darkness

itself was the punishment for their sins.

Toft licked his lips nervously. ‘I get the feeling he isn’t

going to let us pass.’

Abel had the same feeling, and he stepped forward,

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putting himself between his friends and this shadow.

‘I’ll take him,’ he said, hefting the Spear of Adam and

levelling it at their foe. ‘When I do, take the opening and

run past.’

Ria clutched at his arm. ‘You can’t fight him,’ she

breathed, looking at the silent shadow. Apart from his

cloak, he remained completely motionless.

‘Let’s just run,’ she said, gripping him tightly.

‘I agree with Ria. We know you’re good, Abel but...’

His voice trailed off, looking at Zeal. ‘There’s something

frightening about that one.’

Abel approached Zeal.

‘Who are you?’ Abel demanded. ‘What do you want?’

‘Justice, for a child’s death,’ said Zeal, and his voice

was like the north wind. ‘Her light was lost today.’

Abel’s eyes went wide.

‘And before that, another and another. Lights flicker

in the madness of Dorinstadt, raging for a moment, then

going dark. They will come again, bound as they are in

this wild eternity. And yet... something hinders them.

A madness and a hunger deeper than what the eye can

see. Death moves about the city, billowing and dark.

Yet the world is not as it should be.’ Zeal unsheathed his

daggers. The cold steel glinted beneath the moon. ‘In

the distant past, a great soul stared into the essence of

justice. But whatever came of it? Perhaps all that remains

of justice is the obliteration of imbalance.’

His eyes smouldered in the dark, promising death.

‘An assassin, dispensing justice?’ Abel grinned.

‘You’re as bad as I am, shadow.’

Zeal smiled. ‘I never killed a child.’

Abel smile became a snarl and he charged in, spear-tip

leading. Zeal barely moved in his side-step. Abel noticed

that at some point, he had sheathed his blades. Something

else was in his hand now, though he was moving

too fast to understand its shape.

Abel understood his movements, and swung the butt

end around, forcing Zeal to duck below the whirling

weapon. Abel set the spear again and launched into a

barrage of thrusts that forced Zeal backwards, ending

the combination with a spinning attack. Zeal sprang

back on his hands and flipped backwards to avoid the


Somewhere in the middle, there were two distinctive

blasts of air – a mechanical thunk echoed twice. But Abel

had no idea what happened. When Zeal settled himself

again, he looked up. There was a glimmer of triumph in

his eyes.

Abel smiled, growing confident. He looked back.

‘You two, run!’

But Ria had fallen. Abel blinked. Toft was leaning over


her, before he too fell over.

‘What?’ asked Abel, not understanding what he was


He turned to face Zeal, and the blood drained from his

face. Two hand-crossbows, one in each hand.

Zeal dropped the crossbows, and drew his blades


Abel yelled in inarticulate rage, lunging forward with

more speed than ever, fury pushing him to new heights.

Zeal twisted away from the lunge, though it seemed he

turned too slow. The spear burst through his flesh, even

in his evasion. And Abel roared in triumph. He would

save his friends. They would still flee this city. Only this

man stood before them, this would-be judge of their

deeds. And now he was broken, and they were free.

Zeal leaned on the spear, looking wounded. His hood

hid his face.

‘Foolish assassin, offering your life for your justice,’

Abel spat.

‘Of course not,’ said Zeal, and his voice was strong.

‘I’ll offer yours.’

Abel’s eyes widened. Zeal had intentionally taken the

lunge, moving just enough to avoid serious damage, and

quickly wrapping his cloak around it so that it seemed

like the attack had lodged the spear in his side. Just as

he cursed his opponent’s brilliant tactic, Zeal twisted

the cloak away, wrenching Abel off balance, sending him

stumbling forward, while Zeal’s blade flashed once.

Abel stumbled on for a few more steps. The Spear of

Adam clattered to the ground.

And a moment later, Abel did too.

Zeal looked back, at Adam, and offered a small prayer

for a worthy opponent. He looked back at Toft and Ria.

Abel would not have been able to save them. The first

bolt had taken Ria in the heart. The second had taken

Toft in the gut. Toft moaned in pain, in agony, clawing at

the ground in fetal position, scratching until his fingers


‘Into shadow,’ Zeal said, looking down at Toft with

genuine pity.

Zeal’s blade flashed again, and the moaning and

scratching stopped.

‘Into silence,’ he said, finishing the quick benediction.

He raised his eyes up to the sky, and felt death’s presence

brushing against his skin. He raised his hands in

welcome, drawing her near.

It hovered at the edge of things, a vast silence that

was almost palpable. The Spear of Adam rattled on the

ground nearby. Of course, Z eal thought. An artifact of

such power could not be left behind. But still he waited,

wondering. Something drifted above him,



just out of reach, and he cast his gaze up, wondering if

he had stepped closer to the ideal. If dispensing the justice

here had brought some measure of rest to those he

carried with him. He remembered their voices, speaking

a creed again and again.

Death was equitable and all-accepting. His companions

were gone, but their voices resounded in his mind,

in his soul. Was that Death’s gift? Or was it a curse, for

failing them so completely? For a moment, the shadow

touched his face, a reward for claiming vengeance for

the weak. He shivered then was alone again. Quiet,

behind all the noise.

Gently, he picked up the Spear of Adam, looking, for

a moment, at its fine craftsmanship. Things like this

reminded him only of wills and dreams, of legacies. He

sighed, resolving to visit the graves of his companions,

of those who once fought at his side.

He did not return to the Guild that night.

But those who passed the cemetery saw a shadow

standing before seven unmarked graves, arms folded in

silent vigil.

They saw his cloak billowing from sunrise to sunset.

Not once did he move, seemingly as still as stone. None

dared to approach him. But if they had, they would have

seen his eyes closed. But those who observed closely

would see how his eyelids seemed to dance.

He was silent, forever silent.

Faith and memory burned inside him, an unspoken

litany of mantras, whispered endlessly.

- TM

{“Foolish assassin, offering

your life for your justice,’

Abel spat.

‘Of course not,’ said Zeal,

and his voice was strong. ‘I’ll

offer yours.


TROLL | 22 TROLL | 23






its one of the

most anticipated fantasy role

playing games of 2015.

we’re hoping it doesn’t suck.

Logan | de Mink

Gabriel | Francis

What is The Witcher?

We begin with Geralt, a legendary monster hunter

from a large and powerful group of warriors and

monster investigators. These individuals were all

suited to the task of purging the world of the creatures

that plague it. In a land of savagery, intrigue

and war, the Witchers, as they are named, had found

themselves caught in the machinations of a plot to

control the world. This would no doubt have been

a horrible cliché, if our itinerant protagonist lacked

his sharp wit, startling silver-haired appearance and

his penchant for ‘liaising’ with most of the women

he encounters and thus, we have our hero, a fearless

warrior schooled in the arts of both monster slaying

and survival, in a world where these skills are gravely


The Books

The Last Wish is an easy-to-read book that

Our Hero, (whose persuasion seems of the

nevertheless doesn’t pull any punches on the

anti-heroic slant), stems from the great mind

nature of men and monsters.

of one Andrzej Sapkowski, an author of Polish

A particularly memorable exchange has

origin. The first of his books was named The

someone asking Geralt about the profession

Last Wish, and was a small collection of short

of the witcher, asking if its true that one sword

stories that some would deem to be Geralt’s

is for men and the other for monsters – something

that would make those who played the

greatest adventures, or perhaps misadventures.

The book uses the framing story narrative

– telling a story within a story – to create a

ognition. But Sapkowski, with the acerbic wit

games before reading the book smile in rec-

powerfully written piece, tying together seven

that he displays throughout the novel, reveals

that ‘gameplay mechanics’ don’t quite apply to

stories that are Geralt’s memories as he heals

philosophies. Geralt observes his swords and

his wounds in a temple.

why he uses them, reflecting that those he has

used them on has always deserved it, men or

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And so, he quietly replies,

‘They’re both for monsters.’

These books resulted in one of the greatest

RPG series known to the gaming world.

The Witcher 1

Running on Bioware’s Aurora Engine, we

have the physical make-up for what would be

The Witcher. CD Projeckt RED adopted it,

and, though it was primarily a mulitiplayer

engine, they attuned it to what they needed to

vivify Geralt’s world. This engine allowed for

a more expansive environment, allowing the

developers to craft



every single aspect of the game world with a

great deal of intricacy Most engines of the time

forced developers to reuse environmental elements,

which inadvertently detracted from the

player’s immersion. This was a no-no as immersion

is what gamers drool over, aside from Triss

and her er, spellcasting.

There were a few minor problems however,

namely a host of little annoying bugs with clipping

and the like. Some gamers would refer to these

bugs as major problems, though most of the time

they provided humour when it was needed most.

For instance, Triss and Geralt’s love/hate/frolick

relationship would often pale in comparison to the

apparent triangle of love that his silvery hair

shared with his swords and armour.

In laymen’s, boring terms, Geralt’s hair would

constantly fuse with his weapons or armour and

just glitch out frantically. This was funny, in an

‘Oh good lord they need to fix that’ kind of way.

Fighting style is purely about preference (as

it should be) you can either use the fast ‘Fragile

Speedster’ attacks that as we know are quick yet

yield little damage or opt for a more devastating

‘Mighty Glacier’ approach that the slow attacks

bring. Alternatively you have the option of

crowd-control attacks that come in handy when

surrounded but are fairly wasteful in one-on-one


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The replay value is immense; offering at least 3

different playthroughs. Showing the value in the

time delayed decision-consequence mechanic. In

terms of length, the story and side-quests make for

an immersive experience, with the average time

clocking in at about 50-60 hours; considering the

three playthroughs, that’s about 170-180 hours

game time- so again, worth whatever you pay for it

at the time of writing (2015).

However, the control-scheme has not aged

well; the controls seem clunky and while they

might have been ground-breaking at the time,

the modern gamer is much too spoiled right now

to appreciate the controls fully. Entering combat

mode, while not entirely new (even at the time),

feels unnecessary and adds to the clunkiness.

Also, the game’s hitboxes needed quite a bit

of fixing – a rather crippling problem in many

games with a big combat component. Although

you can tell where you were supposed to have hit,

it doesn’t feel as if that’s where you’ve actually hit

ie: press hit button -> looks like your sword has

connected with an arm or possibly the face -> the

neck of your foe starts spurting blood or the rib

area of said foe spurts blood. That said, it’s still

rather better than quite a few games where obviously

hitting the opponent has yielded no damage

due to the developers not fixing the hitboxes.

Also, lip syncing issues are so last year. One

might wish explain this away by pointing to

the game’s age, but a look at the year before it





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out, 2008, makes us fly face-first through the

windshield in the direction of GTA IV so like

Geralt’s hair, it’s a grey area.

The morality offered in the game – a big point

in the modern gaming world, where it is almost a

secondary mechanic in RPGs that further enhance

the experience – is what popularized the Witcher

and its successor titles. Despite its High-Fantasy

setting, the atmosphere is grim and decidedly

real-world-ish. Very few options in this game are

black-and-white. Players are often forced to make

choices that have several shades of grey – a reflection

of real life choices, with pros and cons in

every direction you take.

The Witcher 2: Assassins and Kings Enhanced Edition

I love this game. I just thought I would begin

with that little bit of information, don’t tell the

Innkeeper. From beginning to the bitter end one

is drawn completely into the storyline. This is

thanks to the many contributing factors which allowed

for immersion on a scale that is indeed rare

these days.

There is a slight inkling that there is something

strange holding this game back, a little something

that is out of place as you move through the

regions of enigmatic Rivia. This little something is

undoubtedly the hardware it runs on, which limits

its potential greatly. Most issues you might encounter

can be derived from a struggling console,

which would be our dear Xbox 360 - the scale is

not as immense as it could be when compared to

the original PC version. Transitioning into new

areas for starters; load screens are added to certain

doorways, characters appear confused as to where

they’re supposed to be in the world and of course

our serious friend Lag sneaks up when you least

expect it. All of this tends to pull away from the

immersion you felt moments before, and at times

it leaves you weary as you trudge (or quick-roll)

through the beautifully rendered environment.

Flora of all varieties glisten in the sunlight

and flow freely as you stare out at the horizon.

The foreground and background both flex their

muscles in equal measure, for dramatic effect of

course, and all is as it should be in the lands of

Geralt, our White Wolf. And while this beauty is

coupled with solid control, you just wish the experience

would last just a little longer. Sadly,

the campaign, with side quests, pulls in around

10 -15 hours. This of course depends on how

much time you spend dawdling in a semi-linear

environment, gaping at the awe inspiring visuals

and the occasional courtesan. One is afforded

the opportunity to do so when taken through the

three chapters that make up the game, each chapter

providing you with a map of its areas that you

are free to explore at your leisure.

These ‘side quests’ that are offered to you in

each chapter range from the mundane to the truly

brilliant, as it is with most games these days. The

replay value of the game is quite solid with at the

very least two playthroughs needed in order to

experience all the content on offer. As with most

RPG-esque offers on the market, the multiplayer

element is pretty much non-existent, or put in just

for the hell of it, so a few return visits are required

if you wish to get your full wallet’s worth.

Again though, in case you stared vacantly into

the eyes of Triss and all her magical prowess, I

love this game. Whatever price you are forced

to pay for The Witcher 2, it is well worth it. The

voice acting is exceptional, the story, engrossing,

and the world magical and interestingly filled with

nuanced and well-developed characters, adapted

from Sapkowski’s works. Par for the course for a

game with such a big budget, perhaps, but none

the less a refined product and well worth your time

in THIS world.

The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt

There’s a peculiar phrase that one can use to

describe the trailers and gameplay footage we’ve

seen of the Witcher 3 so far. The first part of that

phrase is a word: ‘Bad’. But don’t let that mislead

you, because the second part is ‘Ass’. Ostensibly,

two rather negative words, but funnily enough

when you put them together, you get a positive

assessment: The Witcher 3 looks BADASS.

The usage of two swords for the two enemy

types as a part of this game that I really love. It is

still unique to this series (thank goodness) and

provides some fresh magical air to the surroundings

of our current RPG world. Switching between

these two swords can be a bit iffy at times in both

the second and the first renditions of the game,

and while this seems to have been dealt with in



the Third, I hope and pray they smoothed it out

even more. And so we wait.

The growth, in terms of gameplay, from the

first Witcher game to the Third has been truly

wondrous. The multiple finishers – something

that was polished in the second game – makes a

return, and we come to grips, again, with the masterful

swordplay or magic of Geralt as he carves

a bloody swathe through his enemies. I always

find it hilarious when you do this, as there are still

enemies left who insist on clumsily trying to finish

you off. Really? You’re attacking Geralt voluntarily?!

The character models and environment (even

on consoles) has improved in leaps and bounds,

as we expect of games made for the now-current

generation of consoles, the PS4 and Xbox One.

Hopefully the rather awkward nature of the controls

in the previous installment will be as polished

as the graphics seem to be. Story-wise, I think we

can expect another masterpiece. The very title,

‘The Wild Hunt’, evokes imagery of ancient folk

myth, prevalent across Northern, Western and

Central Europe. The fundamental premise in

all instances is the same: a phantasmal, spectral

group of huntsmen with the accoutrements of

hunting, with horses and hounds in mad pursuit

across the skies or along the ground. The

hunter may be an unidentified lost soul, a deity

or spirit of either gender, or may be a historical

or legendary figure like Theodoric the Great, the

Danish king Valdemar Atterdag, the Welsh psychopomp

Gwynn ap Nudd or the Germanic Odin.

In all cases, the Wild Hunt is usually a prelude to

some catastrophe, or at the very least it usually

presages the death of whoever witnesses it.

With the Wild Hunt prevalent in so many

traditions, it’ll be interesting to see which one the

Witcher 3 leans towards, or if it will be a blend

of many traditions to create a new, original take

on it. And how does Geralt figure in it? Does the

Wild Hunt mark him for death? Or does it betoken

a greater catastrophe?

I am almost desperate for the The Wild Hunt

to be released so that I may lock myself away with

it and not return until I have a lost all my hair and

developed a split personality. Such is the life of

a gamer when a treasure like this manifests itself

before us.

- TM

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Words | Grant Smuts

Art| Chris Maclean

When people say “The Silmarillion” they usually

think “the prequel to The Hobbit and The Lord of

the Rings”. While that’s a functional description,

it’s not entirely accurate. It’s best to look at it as

“A Brief History of Middle-Earth”. Now, a great

deal of unmitigated awesome happens right at the

beginning of the book, including the spinning out

of Arda (the world) from the music of a god (Eru Illuvatar

for the curious, who may have been based on

the Judeo-Christian God, considering Tolkien was

a practising Catholic), and how that creator then

breathed life into lesser deities, the Valar. The eldest

of these named Melkor, who tried to create his

own music and failed, eventually became Morgoth.

For an idea of Morgoth, think Sauron but ten times

worse and far more powerful.

Anyway after much to-do, we come upon the

elves and how Morgoth’s plots against them has become

an utterly personal affair, as the elves were the

first children of the creator’s will, and thus the ones

he most wished to destroy. After eons of being an

absolute asshole to them, there came from the elves

an entity so over-the-top crazy that Morgoth finally

met his match, and committed deeds so momentous

that there has been none to equal them in the history

of Middle Earth.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the crazy-awesome

bastard, Feanor.

Feanor was a Noldorin elf (the same kind as

Galadriel) born to Miriel in the first age, and it was

said that his spirit was so turbulent and so powerful

that Miriel died in the process of giving birth to

him. The word “foreshadowing” seems applicable

here – the very act of such a powerful spirit drawing

his first breaths in the world took away the life of his

own mother. It was a sign of greatness and sorrow

to come, and he would have both, in plenty.

Feanor soon distinguished himself from his

brothers (who were each magnificent warriors and

artists in their own right, among the greatest of the

elves), and he set himself above them in terms of

skill at arms and craftsmanship. He was the one who

created the titular Silmarils, after all – gems which

contained the light of the Two Trees of Valinor –

the symbol of the world’s beauty that was eventually

destroyed by the malice of Morgoth and Ungoliant

(a massive omnivorous spider-demon born of outer

darkness, because why the hell not?)



Unfortunately, after he had crafted the Silmarils,

which was lauded far and wide as the greatest work

of craftsmanship ever, Feanor began to lose it a

little. Knowing the treasure for what it was, he grew

fearful and paranoid that it might be taken from

him, and eventually stopped throwing ‘come look at

my swag’ parties, trusting only his sons to see them.

Eventually, after the Two Trees were destroyed

(eaten by Ungoliant, no less), he was asked by the

leader of the Valar, Manwe (think Zeus, but less of a

jackass) if he might proffer the light of the Silmarils

to heal Valinor. Feanor, who by now had grown

paranoid and fearful of losing his treasures, refused.

Strongly. As in he decided to declare war.

Feanor decided to go to war with the gods. All of

them. And Morgoth too, because Morgoth had this

thing about trying to destroy all the elves.

Now the gods of Valinor were powerful, but

gentle, so they didn’t get too upset about Feanor

being a bit of a asshole about the whole Silmaril affair...

but they looked on in horror when Feanor and

his elves caused a genocide for him. Feanor and his

Noldor elves essentially destroyed the Teleri elves

who tried to oppose Feanor’s prideful march... an

act that won him infamy and became known as the


Eventually Feanor’s pride became his undoing.

With the elves split between those who were fanatically

loyal to him, and those who saw in him a warning

for how destructive they might become, Feanor

eventually found himself on the battlefield against

Morgoth and his minions with greatly reduced


In time, it was only Feanor standing against the

dark legions, while the reinforcement of his sons’

armies were still many days away.

I’d like to make this part very clear:

In the Third Age, the forces of evil used goblins,

orcs and Uruk-hai for the bulk of his armies. Here

and there they used attack trolls, but that was about

as big as they got.

In the First and Second Age, Morgoth led an

army of balrogs. Balrogs. Those enormous demons,

made of shadow and flame, wielding whips, axes

and swords of fire. He also had a mighty lieutenant,

whose name you may recognize as Sauron.

Now... do you remember that scene in the Lord

of the Rings when Gandalf fought a Balrog on

the Bridge of Khazad-dum? And how that fight

basically ended as a tie? The Balrog dead, and Gandalf

dying of his wounds moments later?

Feanor faced an army of them. Alone.

And here’s the kicker – they couldn’t kill him.

In what I can only assume was a display of the most

ridiculous swordsmanship ever, Feanor managed to

defend himself from an army of fire demons.

It took the chief balrog – a being named

Gothmog, who was apparently as powerful as Sauron

himself, to really take the fight to Feanor. And

even that duel ended as a tie.

In time, Feanor’s reinforcements arrived, and

Morgoth’s host left the field, and the sons of Feanor

found their father, lying broken on the field.

But he still wasn’t dead. In spite of facing an

army of balrogs and going toe-to-toe with the balrog

equivalent of Sauron, Feanor still drew breath.

And good grief, he used his last breath to great

effect – essentially granting his will to his sons, that

they each continue to be as badass and as much of

an asshole as he was, swearing war on Morgoth unto

the end of all things.

Eventually(!), Feanor died of his wounds. But

even as his flesh yielded to death, his spirit remained

as fierce as he was at birth, and it tore from

his body in a burst of fire. Nothing remained of

Feanor but ashes, and I daresay, that whatsoever

the origin of the term is in our world, I like to think

that in Middle-Earth, the origin of the phrase “go

out in a blaze of glory” was a reference to Feanor’s

truly epic death – a fitting end to an epic life, most

of which he spent telling everyone and everything

around him, that yes, he is that damn good.

- TM


Do you remember,

do you remember?

Strangers arrive

and push the old

into the cracks

of history

slipping important pieces

of parchment, just out of reach

of our indelicate grasp

into a dreamworld of perhapses

Old friends gather sighs

in the places of golden memories

until it blows like a gale

that brings about the salted

rain of reminiscences

Do you remember, do you remember?

We are charged with guilt

for the lonely and the silent,

who have faded from

these hazy mists,

never to speak again.

Sparrows land in the spaces

where the spiders lurk,

careful not to be entangled

in the silken webs,

lest the hunter becomes the hunted.

Do you remember, do you remember?

I have buried the words

of the false prophet

in the dirt

where they belong,

Untethered Frailty!

A man stands on the shored

places of a grief that passes

at the sound his beloved’s voice

filled with the naked longing

to touch the sky and spread

with shivering hands his love

upon the velvet dream of night.

In this half-forgotten thought

of joy’s true frailty

We remember,

we remember.

TROLL | 32 TROLL | 33



The Father of Discworld

Words | Grant Smuts

Art | Ernest De Wet

“I mean,” Ipslore demanded, bitterly. “What is

there in life worth living for?”

Death thought about it.

“CATS,” he said eventually. “CATS ARE


March saw the passing of a giant. Terry Pratchett,

father of the ever-popular Discworld series, author of

over 60 books in his lifetime and one of the true alltime

greats of fantasy died on March 12th 2015.

In truth, I myself was in a state of shock.

After sifting through the internet to ensure that no,

this was not a hoax, no this was not a cheap publicity

stunt, that yes, the beloved author, Terry Pratchett had

passed away, I immediately began writing something

for him.

After about fifteen minutes and a few sentences in

his honor, though, I was stumped. How does one pay

tribute to a life that inspired thousands and enthralled

millions? Here at Troll magazine, we fledgling fantasy

writers feel very small indeed when we think of the

scope of the accomplishments of a man like Terry

Pratchett. I figured

TROLL | 34 TROLL | 35

that the word ‘tribute’ can’t really apply to what we do

here. Tributes are in the province of those who knew him

and loved him best, his friends and family.Yet perhaps

some small measure is ours as well, the nascent authorsto-be

whom he helped to inspire to aspire to the craft of

writing, and of writing fantasy.

Out of every fantasy writer in the world – and one might

go so far as to say any writer of any genre – no one has had

the capacity to make his reader laugh at the world and at

themselves quite like Terry Pratchett could. Through the

world of his invention, the fantastic, tongue-in-cheek, yet

somehow eminent and

respectable Discworld, Terry Pratchett mastered

analogy and not-so-subtle jabs at our own world. It

was rare to find a book where you didn’t find something

that brought a chuckle on every other page,

yet he managed to cover everything from abstract

philosophy to world-scale politics and basic human

nature, usually in anecdotal little aphorisms or

humorous exchanges.

Terry Pratchett had what few true writers have,

which is the ‘knack’ for putting things well. Every

book he wrote yielded a series of instantly quotable

phrases, humorous anecdotes and maxims which

applied both in and out of context. That’s something

most writers do maybe in one or two books in their

lifetime. Terry Pratchett? Pick a Discworld novel.

Any Discworld novel.

Terry Pratchett mastered the parody, taking the

whole genre of fantasy and forcing it to take itself a

little less seriously, and, once he did that, he expanded

his target from merely the genre to just about

every aspect of human life. He was able to pinpoint

the little stupid everyday things we do and make us

laugh at ourselves as we recognized ourselves as offenders

in his work. His ability to do all this while still

adhering to the standard plot and characterisation of

writing is what made him a true master.

Each story he writes has its lesson and it has its

laugh, and he was capable of everything, from the

epic quest “Thief of Time”, to a more philosophical

question of humanity “Feet of Clay”, and he did

it with his inimitable wit and wisdom. He made me

wish, on occasion, that I had written what he had

written, that I had had the wit and the skill to put

things the way he did – no doubt a sentiment shared

by many aspiring writers. But the decision to continue

as we are, mindful of our inspirations, is the truest

honor we can give.

And while I don’t doubt that – the nature of

commercialism being what it is – that there will soon

be a writer billed as “The New/Next Terry Pratchett”

- and maybe there will even be writers who will

continue writing Discworld novels in order to further

Terry Pratchett’s vision.

But make no mistake about it:

There was only one Terry Pratchett.

And may he rest in peace.

- TM










Words | Gerald Dhunrajah

Joffrey Baratheon

The Song of Ice and Fire series of books, and subsequent

breast saturated HBO series Game of Thrones are

laden with villains, both adult and child. In fact you’d be

hard pressed to find a hero who isn’t mortally ignorant,

prepubescent or dead and for that, George R.R Martin, we

salute you. Heroes suck. One dimensionality sucks. Characters

have to be more than just copy and paste tropes

of Tolkien’s hard work and Martin lands the proverbial

beheading sword sweetly on the nape of the neck of the

tired trope of heroism. He might as well have killed that

ponytailed elitist prick Terry Goodkind with that swing.

God, we would have loved that. Can that be a show? We’d

totally watch that show. Anyway Westeros overflows with

evil villainly, be it shamans, pedo-bodyguards, fratricide,

horse-lords with a penchant for seven-year old backdoor

action, incestous royals and a fricken’ mountain that

rides. And yet, rising to the top like a swollen corpse floating

in a sewer we find Joffrey Baratheon, the teenage boy

whose death the world cheered, and cheered loudly. The

son of the once great, now obese and dead Robert Baratheon,

Joffrey gets the throne after some scheming between

houses Baratheon and Lannister results in Robert marrying

Cersei who after a while, has her husband lying heaving

and poisoned on a table. The rule of this “teen-king”

was cruel, and petulant. Many of the characters we’d been

rooting for up until this point go through ridiculous torture,

some are killed and the story arcs and twists under

Joffrey as if it were being minutely cut by white hot blades.

He’s everything a villain should be, a pure antithesis of

Frodo Baggins. And so, when he eventually is betrayed

and dies much like his father (and so saves the fallen damsel

Sansa from a lifetime of witty putdowns and sexual

molestation/frustration) we cheered and hooted, like a

fantasy version of Bin Laden’s death. Because that is how

a true villain dies, with a round of applause for his killer.




You’d assume that the prime evil of one of the iconoclasts

of fantasy, The Lord of the Rings, would be higher

up this list. But you’d be wrong. Sauron clocks in at a

lowly ninth due to his impotence. What?! The Dark Lord

can’t get an erection?! Well, uh, let me explain. Throughout

our journeys in Middle Earth, from The Hobbit right

through to The Return of the King, Sauron struggles to attain

a physical form. He has a lot of allies of course, the

orcs, the Ring wraiths, Saruman and so on. Many powerful

entities in Middle Earth align with him and that is how he

gets and amplifies his power. They rarely bend to his will

however, and he doesn’t rule with an iron fist. Everyone

who fights for Sauron does so of their own volition under

the promise of prosperity under his regime. And yet, he

is defeated by a halfling and his fat friend. He does place

the entirety of Middle Earth under the prospect of oppression

but come on, really? He only wants to occupy some

land. His motivations seem no different to one of a real

life NATO plotting a war in the Artic for oil, for example.

His followers clearly don’t believe that they’re supremely

evil: their position of being evil comes simply from being

‘the other’ to the elves, hobbits and men. We never really

learn Sauron’s motivations from the mouth of the uh, eye

himself, only Gandalf’s propagandandic versions thereof

and he is hardly an impartial party. In terms of universal

morality this battle between good and evil is no different

than a simplistic war of territory. What if, under Sauron,

Middle Earth grew into immense prosperity because the

Dark Lord’s expansionist macroeconomic policy was superior

to the Elves isolationist one? Sauron is no doubt

still a worthy adversary, although his One Ring is actually

pants when compared to other artefacts, but he qualifies a

lowly ninth due to not being able to physically dominate

his chosen theatre. Sucks to be him right now.

TROLL | 36 TROLL | 37




8 7


Artemis Entreri

6 5


Pronounced “Dra-kool-ah,” the world’s second

favourite vampire was either an eccentric,

cannibalistic Romanian lord holed up in a castle

in real life or an eccentric, cannibalistic Romanian

vampire holed up in a castle in the pages of fantasy.

Whatever your opinions of Bram Stoker are,

Vladimir the Impaler slash Count Dracula started

our beloved trope of a sun hating, collar popping

and garlic averting vampire that just wants to be

loved when not battling his insane bloodlust.

Over the years he evolved via endless additions

to the canon, whether the canon wanted it or not.

He became the first vampire, the last vampire, the

everything vampire. What hasn’t changed was the

dichotomy between the human count and his savage

side that felt like a more sophisticated take on

Jekyll and Hyde. The human aspect of Dracula was

either cowardly or Machiavellian as he wove his

manner of seducing the fine women of Transylvania

in order to feed, while keeping his animalistic

side in check. The vampire side was a complete

mentalist, being capable of shape shifting into a

variety of dark and nocturnal beasts, the most famous

and also least threatening of which being

the bat. He was the originator of the “embrace

your evil” school of villainy, and would come to be

ripped off eternally (looking at you Edward Cullen).

He would eventually be slain by his mortal

nemesis Van Helsing, famously ruined by Hugh

Jackman in 2005.

A R.A Salvatore invention, Artemis Entreri aka

the undead horse-riding yin to Drizzt Do’Urden’s

yang skulks into seventh place for his earlier appearances

in Drizzt’s books as opposed to his

turn to anti-hero and annoying title as beige elf or

whatever in his later Servant of the Shard series.

The assassin became known for his completely

elegant understanding of universal morality, not

for his assassination skills because he surprisingly

does very little of that in his books. Aristotle

once mused that you are what you repeatedly do,

so therefore Entreri must surely be a frown. His

lust for power, his linking with Creshenibon and

his ability to go toe to toe with the best fighter in

the Forgotten Realms are textbook villain attributes.

It was the way Salvatore wrote him however

that endeared him most to fans. Here was a human

that could not be defeated by Drizzt, and likewise

could not defeat Drizzt while sprouting platitudes

and cool moves. His earlier do whatever it takes

to beat Drizzt attitude was peak Entreri, loosely

defined as hubris sprinkled with Vegeta. His later

turn as Drzzt’s buddy was not so great, nor his

pairing with another drow, Jarlaxle, who despite

Salvatore’s best efforts was not Drizzt’s amoral

twin. Also, despite his many brooding facial expressions,

Entreri never gets any unlike his nemesis

Drizzt who taps the Companion ass of Cattie

Brie. Get a nice shirt, ditch the Shard and get out

and meet some women, Artemis. Turn that frown

upside down.

Japanese fantasy, or J-fantasy if you’re too lazy

to say “apenese,” is a beautiful singularity in our

world of dragons and trolls. The Japanese don’t

feel the need to be bound by our restrictive tropes

when crafting their fantasy worlds. Instead they

respond artistically to the unique restrictions

that come with being a Japanese citizen, such as

the profound corporate culture that pervades the

country. So it was and is that in the Final Fantasy

universe the chief villain is a corporation headed

by a demon slash dude who wants to be a god

called Sephiroth who would fight to the death a

lone environmentally conscious crusader with the

biggest sword ever conceived. Seriously, its like

a fold-up table with a hilt. Being a Japanese video

game, Final Fantasy throws some up unique concepts,

like the facets of Sephiroth’s past that deal

with gods in his bloodline, and a somewhat crazy

scheme to summon a meteorite deity to hit the

planet so that he may consume the lifestream (a

Japanese version of the Force) and assume planetary

control. Everything else he does to foil Cloud

Strife seems to be weighted perfectly, because

Strife is more of an aside to the achievement of his

quest, not the crux. As such he has an ambivalence

toward aggression that makes his violent streaks

all the more savoury, and fifteen years ago was

quite refreshing for a villain. It also rounded his

motivations quite nicely, and that’s a good thing.

Who am I kidding? He’s on this list for his hair.


He Who Shall Not Be Named, or HWSNBN for

short, otherwise also known as He Who Cannot

Wear a Nose Ring is probably the most famous

villain on this list, due in part to the ridiculous

success of Harry Potter. In terms of the scale of

his villainy I could never understand how he could

be that bad if he was defeated by three virgins

but I digress. Voldemort Latin-gibberishes his

way onto fifth on this list for his pure dedication

to villainy. Remember, this grown-ass man had

to look other grown-ass men in the eye and plot

to murder a ten year old boy. I suppose there’s a

problem with your grand scheme of world domination

when the only foil to your plan is someone

who still wets the bed but you have to hand it to

He Who Wears Robes But Is Not A Judge: He

stuck with it, endlessly planning, stalking and attempting

to murder the boy throughout his teenage

years, while simultaneously ruining Harry’s

chances of finger-blasting any of the gifted girls

at his school behind the prefabs or busting out of

Hermoine’s friend zone. Still he provided many a

child with a glimpse of true evil, but more than that

he wrought Harry Potter across the coals, shaping

a protagonist wonderfully and nearly destroying

his nemesis in a display of villainous dedication

unrivalled by most. Nearly. Because he was defeated.

By virgins. Experiamus hymenus!

TROLL | 38 TROLL | 39




Judas Iscariot

Jon Irenicus

This is the second issue that features this character.

Kiss my ass. You can’t have a list of villains

and not include this soul-stealing, shape-shifting,

Rapture of the Father-casting madman. That

would be like ordering a pizza and choosing to

omit poppadoms. You never omit poppadoms.

It’s actually illegal to omit poppadoms from your

pizza in Luxembourg. Did you know that? Anyway

Jonaleth Irenicus was an extremely proficient

elven mage that was excommunicated from Suldanessellar

after he sought forbidden magics to try

in vain and save his dying lover. This excommunication

cost him his immortal elven soul and bent

him into the most iconic fantasy video game villain

that you saw in 2000. He would do anything

to reclaim his immortality, which meant stealing

your divine soul and as such made the game

as brilliant to play as it was. He was well written

most importantly, with his motivations painfully

clear. It became a journey to battle him, a mage

who believed so powerfully in his own cause that

the lines between good and evil were discarded as

meaningless. As we’ve said, the entirety of a villain

is defined as his or her motivation for antagonising

the hero. Irenicus’s tragedy was pungent,

but executed with enough grace that you felt sorry

for him while trying desperately to counterspell.

In fact he motivated us so well that it was actually

quite sad when those goblins got him on that cliff

in the Nine Hells. He could also shape shift into a

demon avatar. Can you shape shift into a demon?

4 3

The Creeper

Holy s***, get this green pixellated hissing

thing away from me. For some bizarre reason

Minecraft had a fantasy story written into it recently

and as such this green destroyer of your

hard work, dreams and aspirations qualifies for

this list and charges/hisses its way all up into

third. What’s the intricate backstory, motivation

and tinge of melancholic tragedy of this villain

the Creeper, you ask? Nothing. Nada. Zero. This

thing has no purpose beyond a manic hatred of either

you or your carefully crafted possessions. It

comes purely to destroy you, like a Norse world

eater. A blocky, green penis-shaped world eater.

And it will destroy you. Whether it’s killing you or

charging up and destroying your carefully built,

two-thousand-hour replica of the Tower of Orthanc.

It’s hisses have become synonymous with

heightened heart rates and panic, manifesting in

anxiety attacks and PTSD in some players. Sauron

was bad, but did he ever cause panic attacks?

No. They are very hard to defeat, toying with you

as you desperately try and stab them in the head

whilst trying to save your digital livelihood before

they blow up and take everything with them, like

a violent, green, penis-shaped ex-wife. Never has

a villain caused so much consternation with so

many people in such an equal manner. The consensus

is clear. The Creeper is real. The Creeper

is coming. You cannot run, you cannot hide. The

green penis will end you

TROLL | 40 TROLL | 41

If we’re talking iconic books of fantasy you

can’t go wrong with The Bible. Incest, betrayal,

dragons, swords, sacrifice and awkward teen marriages

into slavery, it was Game of Thrones two

thousand years before Game of Thrones was Game

of Thrones. And while the ridiculous amount of

characters from the mountain that slung (Goliath)

to the hand of the king (Pontius Pilate) and

big nasty (Lucifer) all vie for honourable mention

in this list of crazy villainy, our choice from that

scrolled amalgamation of wine, fish and bread

has to be the guy that sold out the bearded wonder

Jesus Christ, Judas frickin’ Iscariot. An astute

disciple yet overlooked for “attention” by the hirsute

Jesus (do with that what you will) Judas grew

jealous. Jealousy turned to anger, anger turned

to hate, and Judas turned to the damn Romans

who were concerned that the revolution against

the empire had begun to gather steam behind the

robed, bearded and sandalled one. For the sum of

thirty gold pieces Judas sold out the Son of Man to

the Romans of uh, men and had the messiah loped

off for a spot of carpentry based torture/murder

but not before Jesus foresaw his betrayal and

broke bread with the betrayer. Of course Jesus

would go on to resurrect Gandalf-style, but not

before Judas hung himself out of guilt and pain

having betrayed the man he loved (again, do with

that what you will). Judas takes silver on this list

due to committing his crimes despite knowing the

stakes of his betrayal. He killed the revolution. He

killed the son of a god. And he killed his chances

of hitting it with Mary Magdalene. Am I the only

one who finds it supremely ironic that Jesus, son

of a carpenter, dies nailed to a plank of wood?





E.L James

Someone please declare this woman’s birth as a crime

against humanity. I know a lot of you are confused that a

real life woman has made it onto a list of fictional characters,

but lo, E.L James is a villain, a supreme one, for she

attacks literature as a whole - antagonising anyone who

has ever picked up a pen or hit a key. This includes Steve

Hofmeyr. Fifty Shades of Grey started out originally as

Twilight fan fiction, which is odd, as Twilight started out as

fan fiction of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Anyway, James wrote a

tale of titillating sex that featured much bondage and many

tortures of metaphors and similes. I tried “cupping her

sex” in bed the other day and now I have a court date. Either

way Fifty Sharts of Grey continued on to become one

of the best selling books of all time, spawning a ridiculous

film and the worst board game since Islamic State Monopoly,

proving the point that sex, not talent, sells. James’s

success, spawned out of her old ass sexualising someone

else’s woefully crap teen fiction fantasy trilogy, killed the

fire in many fantasy writers, the last true purveyors

of talent. Gone are publishers looking for the next

Trudy Canavan, or Salvatore, or Wolfe. They’re now looking

for the best transcript of a soft core porn film stretched

and brutalised into a work of fiction with characters so

stupidly one dimensional they make you wonder how they

managed to figure out how to double knot a silk tie. Joffrey

was a ruthless tyrant. Sauron sought the destruction of

beauty. Dracula was a slave to savagery. Voldemort wanted

to kill a child and Judas betrayed Christ and yet, E.L James

has done something much, much worse. In her hubris, her

calculation, she has attempted to slaughter meta-fantasy,

the real world where fantasy writers live, by upturning the

skittish publishing industry. She has shown ruthless publishers

that imagination, talent and skills are irrelevant in

the face of sex and money, and thst has probably resulted

in the stillbirths of the next four generations of Drizzts,

Targaryans and Aes Sedai. This is why she is the number

one all time villain of fantasy, and any other genre bar erotica

for that matter. Get this lumpen deformity all the way

out of here.

- TM

TROLL | 42 TROLL | 43

Written by | Gerald Dhunrajah



The demon stirred his new,

mortal wings on the night’s

air, feeling the beautiful channeling

of this plane’s particles

waft along the soft hairs

adorning his body. He stood

wide-stanced on the ramparts

of the elder temple, his hulking

figure straining the loose

clay tiles. Krul lay before the

demon Bal’el, a city as rank as

any sweltering, stinking cavern

in the realm of the incubi.

It did not surprise the demon

that humans should be able to

survive in such a place, as the

hardiness of the ape-species

was well known amongst the

spiritual ones. It evoked the

image of a cockroach on its

back, completely helpless but

undying, steadfastly laying

vermin eggs until hunger finally

killed it before sullied the

soil further with its existence.

Bal’el looked down the length

of his arms, half human as they

were and clenched his clawed

fists. He felt less powerful here,

somehow, despite still being

able to decimate most. Yet this

was a fault he could not continue

to carry, for if the Chancellor

rode against his weakened

self it would be a protracted

battle, one that Bal’el did not

have the time for. This realm

was to be taken swiftly; dominated

before gods and men

could react, and he would need

all his power for that. Bal’el

stormed into the mind of the

useless sap whose body he had

commanded, searching the

contained memories for the

one mistake the imbecile had


The body of the dishonoured

soldier. Bal’el clenched his jaw,

his anger rising. The fool had

left the body in the streets, assuming

that it would be buried

in the cemetery soil and thus

cementing a link to the world

beneath. It must still be above

the ground, or worse, about

to be burnt in a ceremony of

cremation that would render

the demon permanently

weakened on this plane. Bal’el

climbed down slowly from

ledge, dropping the last few

feet to the ground yet flaring

his grotesque wings so that

he landed with consummate

silence and grace. He stalked

into the temple, his frame filling

the corridor completely, his

wings scraping the walls. The

hall opened up before him, and

if the room was dark from the

nighttime it became darker still

as the creature stalked into it,

looking for his appendage, his

golden muse. The blade lay on

the floor next to ripped shards

of cloth, the lustre of the gold

seeming to attract the smallest

wisps of light to it. The demon

bent to pick it up, wrapping

fingers around the grip one

by one, savouring the ice-cold

feel of the metal. The hands of

demons do not sweat, as such

there was no need for leather

or wood or any other affront to

the balance of the blade. Bal’el

held it in his right hand straight

out in front of him, getting

used to the weight of the sword

in the hands of this mongrel

body, letting the sword dictate

the flow of the slashes as he

swung. The scabbard lay a few

feet away, but the leather strap

that held it in place would not

be able to swing over his back

anymore due to his wings. He

gritted his teeth before flexing

and sliding the blade into the

thick flesh on the wing, just

under the arm. A sliver of black

blood seeped out, matting the

thin hair of the wing as a natural

scabbard formed around

the golden blade. The demon

would need to find the location

of the body of Gorn Dearth,

and quickly as one such as him

could not remain undetected

for long. He ran for the ramparts

again, flaring his wings as

soon as he was free of the corridors

and taking to the sky. The

thin air of the mountains made

him work hard to gain altitude

but as he turned his demonic

gaze onto the spires of Krul he

felt the thicker air beneath him,

so he flew just atop it, his thick

wings allowing the grotesque

creature to glide his way to the


The demon was hard to see

against the dark night, and as

the moon was its usual thin self

tonight the beleaguered souls

of Krul had no idea what

was beset on them as they

went about their debauchery.

Bal’el’s mouth began to water,

in a manner he had never felt

before. A human reaction that

coupled itself to arousal, his

arousal, at the blood he may

soon devour. He dipped his

form amongst the spires of

the city, looking for the lone

wanderer that would surrender

to him. Only the people of Krul

were dirtier than its streets,

and in the corners of the slumming

residences Bal’el spotted

a hunched crone, walking slowly

against a rough wall. The

lustrous winds blew down from

the mountains and under his

tautened, stretched wings. He

dove down beneath the streams

of air and toward the soon to be

eviscerated woman. He landed

delicately in front of her,

blending immaculately with

the shadows around him. The

crone, head bowed and swaying

to the rhythms of the bottle

walked straight into his chest.

Her eyes rose slowly, widening

at the sight of the half human

monstrosity, her fear taking

a full minute to overcome her

drunkenness. Bal’el curled his

hand slowly around her throat

with his claws pressing into

her old, spotted flesh. A stench

began to rise from the woman

as her faeces seeped into her

clothes. The smell underwrote

the terror with rancidity.

‘Human,’ the demon sneered

with a rough accent.

‘Where is your dead?’

The woman had seen too

much in her years to let her

mind cloud with shock, and

despite the tight grasp on her

throat she mouthed off what

she could.

‘The… graveyard,’ she managed.

Bal’el growled under his

breath and gripped tighter,

confusing her honest answer

with petulance.

‘No! Before you bury them!’

The poor woman gagged

against his grip.

‘The infirmary, my lord’ she


‘Or the sanctuary of Javiin.’

The demon’s thoughts suddenly

snapped back to that

night Dearth’s body lay in

front of him. He remembered

the strangeness of the energy

around the departing soul, the

way his magic seemed to take

longer than usual to work on

a victim. It may have been that

Dearth belonged at one stage

in a useless life to that cult. If

so, his body would be there,

awaiting cremation.

‘Where is this sanctuary?’

‘It’s the second tallest spire

amongst the rest. You… you

can’t miss it.’

Bal’el smiled through the human’s


‘And now, human, what shall

be done with you?’ He pulled

her closer to him, smelling the

wine and vomit on her breath,

the staleness of her clothes

and the pungent sweat. She

was filthy. Her one eye had its

retina torn through making the

iris a less colourful slate grey

instead of tired blue. Those

eyes seemed transfixed on him,

waiting for him to do something

to her. A perverse excitement

hung in the air.

‘Shall I take your life?’

‘If you must,’ she whimpered

softly. ‘Just make it quick.’

Bal’el laughed gruffly, awkwardly.

‘I find your pragmatism refreshing,

and insulting.’

The demon struck across her

face with his free hand, slashing

it open in four streaks, his

claws kissing lovely bone for

a few fleeting moments. The

crone grunted in pain as the

blow struck, her head bouncing

around in his grip.

‘I will bleed you slowly.’ A

fire of pure evil burned in his


The blood that gushed from

her face gave him pause however,

when he saw that it was

darker, thicker and sicker

than normal mortal blood. The

crone saw his face change, and

smiled a loose-toothed smile at

him and with a soft giggle, said:

‘What’s wrong my lord? Not

pure enough for you?’

She cackled again.

‘I’ve walked these streets a

long time. It’s not just my essence

you will taste but many of

the men and women that

TROLL | 44 TROLL | 45



live here.’

The stench of faeces still lingered,

and as Bal’el looked the

sponge of vermin over he felt

a roiling disgust in his gullet.

The demon let her throat go,

before stepping back and taking

to the sky, the flapping of

his wings thundering into her

inner ear. The crone sunk to

her knees, a pool of filth seeping

onto the ground. Holding

her face tightly she looked up

at the soaring silhouette.

‘Coward.’ she mouthed



Tabbard Lark despised the

vein of religion that wound

itself around the weak mind of

the apostle in front of him. The

sanctuary of Jahviin was not an

accommodating place to noninitiates

of the cult, and less

so to those of the Chancellor’s

employ that seemed to always

want to interfere and undermine

the works of the cult.

Tabbard was not one seeking

to undermine anything, but

he was in the Chancellor’s

employ, and that fact seemed

inescapable to the velvet robed

young man trying to keep him

out of the building.

‘I cannot let you in, Inquisitor.

The Supremacist has called

for a closed rank.’

‘A closed rank? Are you lot

afraid of something?’

The young boy strained to

look up at Lark from under the

steeple of his oversized robe.

‘Yes. We’re afraid of those

that want to intercede doubt

amongst us. We’re afraid of a

lewd Chancellor that refuses

to see our way of life as owning

a modicum of legitimacy.

We’re also quite afraid of the

Chancellor’s interfering hand

sullying the purity of our pyres,

as we seek to ease the passing

of one of our dear sons.’

Lark snorted a laugh.

‘Goodman, I knew Gorn

Dearth for many lecherous

years. I can tell you that which

is sullying your fires has nothing

to do with us.’ Lark fumbled

around his cloak for his


‘In fact, Gorn was quite

partial to indulging in a bit of

boundary testing with some of

the younger men around the

slums district. A habit,’

Lark looked past the doorman

into the hallway behind,

teeming to the walls in young

and old men alike.

‘Festered here, perhaps? I am

impartial of course, a man of

liberal morals but I am at pains

to remind you that the Chancellor

has an egregious set of

laws against these… indulgences.’

The glare of the doorman

was drenched equally in hate

and fear, so he stepped back

across his doorway and tried to

slam the heavy steel door in the

inquisitor’s face. Lark stepped

forward hand used his shoulder

to block the door’s path with a

mild thump, before thumbing

his godsroot further into his

pipe’s chamber. With a simple

incantation he lit the pipe in

a deliberate gesture of both

convenience and intimidation.

He inhaled deeply, keeping

his eyes trained on the young

apostle. The use of magic had

already left the boy aware that

Lark was not a common slave

to the Chancellor, and when

the Inquisitor subtly began to

thicken the air in the throat of

the doorman, incanting as he

breathed out smoke and slowly

suffocating him, the message

passed the realm of clarity and

into the word of obviousness.

‘I am not a man that gets

turned away at doors,’ Lark


The boy began to gasp and

claw at his throat.

‘I would speak to a cleric, if

you don’t mind.’

The doorman nodded, and

Lark released the spell before

smiling broadly and stepping

into the doorway.

‘May I smoke inside?’

The doorman came in and

led Lark through the hallway,

along to a marbled staircase

that spiralled up. The robed

men stopped their steepled

prayers to watch the infidel

walk in their hallowed midst.

Lark continued to puff on the

exquisite godsroot, letting his

eyes wander over the details of

the sanctuary while his mind

mulled over the spices Bosworth

laced his roots with. The

doorman led Lark up the stairs

into a quieter hallway lined

with doors. At the end there

was another spiral staircase

but Lark and the doorman

stopped before that, turning

to one of the doors. The doorman

rapped the knocker three


‘Are the pyres ready?’ Asked

a gruff voice from behind the


‘No, Master Ephrain.’

‘I told you not to bother me

until we were to perform the


‘We have a visitor.’

A moment passed before the

door swung open in anger. A

fat man, his cleric robes undone,

his nude form dangling

briefly under his gut. His face

was red, his rage evident, his

intent to punish.

‘You were told to close

ranks!’ He began, before he

saw Tabbard Lark behind the

doorman, puffing his pipe with

a bemused look on his face.


The fat cleric pulled his robes

around himself.

‘I had no idea the Chancellor

had sent someone.’

‘Have we met before?’ Lark


‘We haven’t,’ the Ephrain


Lark pushed the doorman

aside before taking a step


‘Then you will address me by

my office.’

‘Of course Inquisitor,’

Ephrain sharpened his demeanour.

‘What can I do for the Chancellor?’

Lark smiled and stepped

passed into the chambers.

Ephrain showed the doorman

off and closed the door, letting

the smells of roasted beef and

stale masturbation settle in

the room. The room was lit by

small candles strewn across the

shelves and tables, the bed was

ruffled and all the furniture had

an oily sheen on it from overuse

and a lack of fresh air. Lark

felt disgusted. Regardless he

turned to his business.

‘Master Ephrain. You are

aware of the mystic parameters

of Gorn Dearth’s death, correct?’

The cleric swallowed.

‘Well, yes, if you’re referring

to the taking of his heart.’

‘I am. Certain mages have

intimated to me that a rift between

worlds opened recently.

Did you feel it?’

‘The Supremacist made us

aware that he felt something


‘Do you know what passed


‘I’d wager a demon of some

sort,’ Ephrain coughed.

‘Although, it wouldn’t be


Lark looked at him. ‘Not




‘Well,’ Ephrain smiled childishly,

enjoying the sound of his

own voice.

‘In my limited knowledge of

these things I would imagine

the body would have to be buried

to cement the spell’s completion

cycle, by linking the

worlds earth to earth. Dearth is

still above ground, so…’

‘The spell is incomplete.’

Lark puffed on his pipe, mulling

the possibilities.

‘What form would-’

Suddenly there was the crack

and shatter of a large window

breaking. A loud set of screams

ripped through the sanctuary,

and something snarled in the

floors above. The sounds of a

fierce fight began to echo in

the hallways. Lark looked to

the cleric.

‘Take me to the pyre room!’

Ephrain’s eyes were wide,

but he nodded, spinning on his

heels and hurrying out of the

room. Lark followed as they

ran towards the staircase, running

up into the next hallway

and along it to the next staircase.

This marble hallway had

large windows on the left and

doors on the right, with one of

the windows missing. Massive

stalactites of glass lay on the

floor along with the blood of

whatever flew through it. They

ran past and up the next set of

stairs, passing slain Jahviin

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acolytes and guards alike,

towards the top floor where the

pyre room would be. As they

reached the next bloody hallway,

they saw him, eviscerating

his way to the burning room

at the end of the hall. Lark saw

the hulking demon, saw the

black fur and the taut wings,

the long claws and the beautiful

golden blade flashing over and

under as limbs, guts and heads

fell to the floor, and he swore

under his breath, a fear gripping

his heels.


Lark put his pipe amongst

the folds of his coat and turned

to run away, but came face

to face with Ephrain. The fat

man looked to his face, searching

Lark’s eyes, the Inquisitor’s

eyes, for guidance. Lark

knew he would have to do

something, or risk the loss of

respect for his position. He

would either have to face the

demon now, or face the hordes

of Krul’s scum later. Word

traveled fast on these broken


‘That demon cannot reach

that room. Unleash what you

have.’ Lark said, trying to mask

his trepidation.

Ephrain looked pale.

‘We don’t have much.’

Lark shook his head and

walked relunctantly to the

slaughter, watching, analysing.

He drew his scimitar from his

hip in his left hand and called

ice to the air as he thickened

it into a spear in his right,

incanting softly, grasping the

weapons tightly. He broke

into a reluctant run. He saw

the last two acolytes try and

stand against Bal’el. He felt the

blood under his shoes, the cold

from the summoned spear in

his bones. Bal’el brought his

sword down on the last acolyte,

splitting his head open. Lark

threw the spear before leaping

and thrusting his scimitar

into the demon as he wrenched

his sword free. The spear did

not penetrate as much as Lark

had hoped, only the tips piercing

the sinewy half human’s

flesh. The scimitar hadn’t been

sharpened in years, so it slid

awkwardly along the demon

skin until it bit and gouged out

a chunk from the abdomen.

Bal’el roared and turned with

a violent swing of his left arm

that knocked the Inquisitor

across his chest and sent him

flying onto his back, the blunt

blade skittering across the

marbled floor. The demon eyed

his latest assailant squarely,

a flame of rage burning in his


‘So. You seek your death, human?.’

Bal’el spoke thickly.

Lark got to his feet, streaks

of the fallen’s blood lacing into

his cloak.

‘Bal’el. I thought your cult

was dead.’

The demon laughed deeply.

‘I am so much more than my

cult, human.’

‘No incubus is more than his


Lark knew his next spell

would come to define his future.

Fear tightened her grasp

and he felt his bowels loosen


‘You’re all just slaves to the

vanity of being worshipped.’

The humour of conversation

disappeared from the demon’s

face as he brought his sword

up. Lark clenched his fists and

began to whisper the words of

a spell.

‘I am here to take your

world.’ Said the hulking beast.

Bal’el lurched forward with

the golden blade as Lark released

his spell, concentrating

sound energy into the walls and

up into the roof. Large slabs

of marble cracked free and fell

in front of him, crushing into

the floor with plumes of dust

clouding out of the friction.

Lark moved back and waited

for the dust to settle, retrieving

his scimitar as he inched backwards.

When the air cleared

Bal’el was no where to be

seen. Ephrain came running

up behind Lark as the inquisitor

walked slowly forward. He

squeezed around the collapsed

marble and into the pyre room.

The wrapped body of Gorn

Death was gone, as was the

steel lid of the chimney. A fresh

breeze blew in from the night

sky, wafting against the sweat

on Lark’s face. He sheathed his

blade and reached under his

cloak for his pipe, turning to

face Ephrain as he lit it.

‘Well at least we now know

what it was that came through

the rift.’

The cleric gulped.

‘May Jahviin cradle us all.’

Lark smiled wryly through

the smoke.


The body of Gorn Dearth

hit the soil hard. Bal’el landed

awkwardly a few feet away, feeling

the pain of having fought

the many human insects at the

sanctuary and that one human

who grossly inflated his sense

of importance by using his

infantile magic to meddle in

the workings of demons. The

wound Lark had inflicted on

him was still seeping blackened

blood onto the soil, dripping

his strength rhythmically away

from him.

Lark. That infernal worm was

at it again.

Bal’el snorted in disgust as

he knelt and began to dig a

grave deep enough to house

the body permanently, the

moist soil embedding itself

under his claws and in between

his fingers. The inquisitor

never knew when to back off.

Amongst the incubus race he

was well known as having no

allegiance, nor any corruptible

moral stance that meant he

could be bought. He hated his

Chancellor, yet remained loyal

to him. He hated the gods, yet

never preached against them.

He had no hate for the demons.

Yet almost without fail he was

there, standing his thin frame

in between them and their successes.

He only had love for the

powdered intimate workings of

a fat whore and smoking hallucinogenic

plants. A man that

did not value power and wealth,

nor was a slave to lust was uselessly

incorruptible and highly

uncommon. The anomaly Lark,

it seemed, was going to resume

his perennial role as the thorn

in the demon’s side. Bal’el dug

with unrelenting pace until

he felt the soil harden under

his hands. The demon stood

and walked to the wrapped

body, his claws tearing at the

embalming cloth, ripping the

long strands loose. Eventually

the familiar dead face of Dearth

presented itself, a sickly bluish

hue feathering the edges

of a pale, decomposing face.

The stench of sulphur was so

severe it reminded Bal’el of the

lair of the most revered incubus,

the one who lives many

worlds away, the one engaged

in eternal war. He grabbed

the body by the leg and pulled

it toward the grave. He could

feel the slight throbbing pain

in his head that told him he

had to work faster, so as he

dropped the body into the hole

he leaned against the mound

of soil to push as much as he

could onto the body. He got

back onto his knees and began

to shovel. The bloated skin of

the dead man compressed under

the weight of the soil, and

a rancid stream of air hissed

out toward the hastily working

demon. The soil slowly

covered the body entirely from

head to toe, leaving a mound

in the earth the indicated the

displaced soil. Bal’el stamped

on it to level as much of it out

as he could in the hopes that

the body would remain undiscovered.

As it was high in the

forested mountains surrounding

Krul there was almost no

chance of some ranger party

discovering it as it was a few

leagues where the paths in

the mountains stopped. Lark

would try to find the body,

Bal’el knew, but even the hardened

inquisitor would take far

too long to find it here. Once

Dearth’s body settled beneath

the soil and the first essences of

rot seeped out, the air began

to thrum softly.

The demon stood still for a

while, waiting. He touched

the blood-matted fur on his

abdomen where he had been

struck, feeling gingerly for

the wound. Instead there was

none, just the taut skin in its

place. The scrapes on his body

were gone, as was the slight

throbbing headache. He could

feel the strength in his muscles

amplify, but beyond that he felt

his magic tingle on his fingers

again, the arcs of his spells

TROLL | 48 TROLL | 49



whispering across his nerves.

His vision seemed sharper and

the air tasted sweeter. He was

complete. Somehow he had

expected the completing of the

summoning ritual to be more

dramatic, more eventful. Yet

that it seemed so soft, so subtle

was refreshing to Bal’el.

The sky had lightened while

he worked, and he saw the sky

bleed red as the sun begun

to rise. He had his strength

back, his magic charged and

his skin could not be pierced.

This world was his now, and he

would begin his assault on the

winds of this new day. Bal’el

lifted from the ground with

consummate ease, taking to

sky with speed and grace.

The humans will know savage

death, he resolved, starting

with the head of their fabled

inquisitor on a pike.

…to be continued in Tabbard

Lark and the Gilded Blade,

Part III.

- TM

{troll’s choice}

The Lord of the Rings:

The Return of the King

Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellan, Elijah Wood, Liv Tyler, Andy Serkis

Director: Peter Jackson

Studio: New Line Cinema

Running Time: 238 Minutes

TROLL | 50 TROLL | 51


I have a confession to make: I never watched the Lord

of the Rings Trilogy as a child, and as a teenager the collected

tomes sat unread on my shelf and mildewed over

time as the rainwater from the Cape winters leaked its

way onto the pages of Tolkien’s great. That changed last

year, as I was handed the extended edition trilogy and

told to sit down and watch it. And so I did, and my god

did I destroy my eyes looking at a television for twelve

hours straight. I now have to wear bifocals.

Peter Jackson rarely gets it right, but did he ever with

this gripping, enveloping saga about some hobbits and

the eye in the sky bent on destroying Middle Earth. With

the Lord of the Rings it always seemed that the director

felt like he was placed via blood pact into the audience’s

debt and so he strove to satisfy every section of

the viewer base, whether you were a fan of strong writing

or powerful acting or insane shots of elves fighting orcs.

Each film in the trilogy had a purpose: The Fellowship

of the Ring made us love the world and get to know the

stakes of the quest. The Two Towers had to show us just

how bad the violence of the war could be, and what The

Return of the King gave us was the final word in storytelling.

We got more hobbit on hobbit love, some human on

human hate, more human on elf loving, some ghost army

compassion, some cave-dwelling deformed hobbit thing

treachery and Gandalf on a damn horse fighting the orcs

in the tight streets of Minas Tirith. Each storyline arced

to completion in such a methodical way that Jackson

gave us five endings, four more than any human bladder

can ever manage. Couple that with the extended director’s

cut edition and you’re sitting down for four hours.

Guess you’d better get a haemorrhoid cushion with that

blu-ray player. It all seems worth it however to finally see

Frodo and Gollum (and the cruel, fat hobbit Samwise

Gamjee) wrestle above the fires of Mount Doom, all to

destroy a ring that seemingly does nothing but make you

speak to yourself in the third person and eat raw fish.

It’s not perfect. The Men in the Mountain do seem

to appear very conveniently, as does Faramir’s romance

with Theoden’s daughter. And why does it only take

looking into a palantir for Sauron to reveal his plan?

While we’re in Isengard, lets talk about the death of that

other White Wizard, Saruman.

TROLL | 52 TROLL | 53


Saruman seems to allow himself to be stabbed far too

easily by someone with rickets. Why, having created the

Uruk’hai was he incapable of looking behind himself

is beyond me. But you can’t fault anything else. The

performances of Mortensen and Serkis are weighted

perfect;y. The battles are so epic, the computer animations

crisp. Howard Shore’s score is iconic by now, as

is some of the sweeping shots that just seemed to pan

forever. They also kept Elrond to a minimum in this film,

which is always a plus.

As a fantasy film there is no comparison to it besides

the other films in the trilogy. I suppose you could dust

off the Dungeons & Dragons film of the late nineties that

starred Marlon Wayons, but you could also stab yourself

in the heart or sniff anthrax powder if we’re listing absolutely

stupid things to do. Fantasy cinema before Peter

Jackson was always done with a heavy tongue in cheek

attitude. In a way the Lord of the Rings films tempered

the childishness of the genre with the beheadings and

extreme impalings, romance and horror and as such

paved the cinematic way for today’s Game of Thrones

and upcoming Warcraft films. And while Hollywood

has been sleeping on the Forgotten Realms franchise I

wouldn’t bet against there being a Crystal Shard series

of films in the pipeline, starring Ryan Gosling in darkelfface

as a brooding, tortured, chain-smoking, motorcycling

and casual-sex-having gritty Drizzt (probably).

The Tolkien Society however, decided that the films

were lacking in story with respect to the books, but to

those of us who have to earn a living in realtime and

don’t have twelve centuries/a hyperbolic time chamber

to sit through endless rhythmic prose describing a leaf,

the films pretty much rock. The Return of the King may

not have had the magical innocence of the Fellowship of

the Ring, or the all-out crazy battles of The Two Towers

but if you ask any hardened Ringophile what film comes

out on top, the answer is inevitably the gritty third. It resolved

every storyline elegantly while making the filmic

universe of Middle Earth look as epic as possible for

one last, tragically beautiful time and that is why it’s this

month’s Troll’s Choice.

- TM



The Spellbook

Ash Rune

Lore: The Elder Scrolls

Difficulty: Caster Level 75/Expert

School: Alteration

Resistable: Yes (Immunity: Dragons)

Damage: N/A (Base)


The spell caster lays a rune upon the ground, that

when disturbed unleashes a cloud of dragon’s ash that

solidifies, immobilises and temporarily petrifies all

within a twenty foot radius. Those effected by the rune

cannot be attacked nor touched and as such can suffer

no damage for thirty seconds. This spell can be cast

quickly, on the move and therefore can buy the fleeing

mage a precious few seconds with which to escape

whomever assails him.

The spell is resistible, however, to those with a strong

disposition toward resisting the manipulation of their

immediate environment. There are enchantments, wearable

and drinkable, that can also lessen the impact of the

rune. However the magical skill required to resist this

spell is quite high and usually beyond the limited magical

capacity of the club footed oaf that the mage usually

finds himself pursued by.

Ash Rune is a development of the simple incantation

Ash Shell that would cloak a single individual that failed

to resist. While entirely useful the spell was intrinsically

basic and required a very steady hand in casting especially

when being on the move. The rune was the natural

development of the singular spell and has become a

worthy addition to any mage’s spell book.

Ah yes the study of runes. It is the truest indication

of the mage’s intellect - the study of ancient and forbidden

symbols that are, in truth, the transcriptions of the

essences of the words of power. Ash Rune is a powerful

tool in the mage’s arsenal, drawing forth the volcanic

breath of dragons. It’s quite a sight, the enemy steps onto

the rune and suddenly they’re a pillar of stone! Temporary

instant fossilization is a rare punishment, assuming

one survives you will be coughing ash for weeks.

- Caradan Volte

TROLL | 54 TROLL | 55





Words | Gabriel Francis

Art |Ernest De Wet &

Christopher Maclean

TROLL | 56 TROLL | 57

Tolin mused on the folds of his past, sitting alone in a

dark wood, the place where his existence had begun. His

memories were scarred, recalling only the years after his

eighth cycle on this plane. On a whim, he brought a pale

green light to dance in his hands. The spark of power

coursing through his body and mind trapped him in an

awakened state. This sudden surge of energy quickened

his mind. He remembers. He remembers the days before

the truth, when all was murk and mist and dreams of

things that came before. The runes upon his chest, the

markings that had been there since before he could remember

them. The ever-present smile on his face fades a

bit, as memories of the first lights come to him. He closes

his eyes, but cannot keep the visions away, not anymore.

A child, cautiously scrambling about in the undergrowth,

watching and waiting for the next discovery. A

small body skulking about the woodland outskirts of

mighty Dorinstadt, waiting in frightful anticipation to

catch a glimpse of another creature such as himself. The

memories come thick and fast. He remembers...

Dorinstadt was quiet. Although unlike most other

days of still mornings and lifeless whispers, this time

it was shrouded in a veil of silence. All the districts of

the city had been bathed in a dense fog that had rolled

up from Lake Reshna, a vast expanse of water that was

more akin to an ocean than a lake. These days were rare

in the history of this ancient city. There were few people

out in the streets, aside from the average thug, various

guild scouts and the odd vendor brave enough to face

the eerie fog. The Lake District however, was always

busy. There was always something happening on its

streets or in one of its Great Halls. A great many festivals

had been held along the riverbanks or in the Silver

Courtyard, an enormous plaza where the first man had

arrived, so many ages ago.

With all this activity in the most beautiful part of

our City, and with all these festivals and events, came a

slew of age-old troubles relating to crime or the common

pickpocket. And thus it was proclaimed that there

would be a City Guard. A powerful force within the

city that would be honourable and just. These men and

women were no mere rabble and were quite proficient

in dealing with most issues, and their presence was

therefore frowned upon by all those belonging to the

underbelly in the darker parts of the city. They were

however welcomed during times of chaos with more

than just an open arm, so an inevitable yet uneasy truce

was quickly formed with the shadow and light of mighty

Dorinstadt. Today, on a mysterious fog-borne day, our

City Guard had been tasked with a sweep of the entire


Lake District. This would be no easy task considering a

certain Runeborn had his first Session to complete.

“Tolin, hand me that blade,” said a gruff voice in the


The Guild’s weaponsmith was educating a new recruit

in the ways of the dagger and the sword. Ways that

have been mastered for generations within the Guilds of

Life and Death. This recruit though, stubborn and blind

with boredom, preferred the company of his magic, vials

and fists to those of blades and blood spilling. He was a

brawler, of sorts.

“I have heard of your gifts, Tolin. Your prowess in

basic hand-to-hand combat and your stout, resilient

form. They say that you are a user of nature, and all of its

properties. That your ‘gifts’, as they have been named,

are innate, and that they have been since you were but a

child. Is any of this true?”

Tolin stared blankly at his new Mentor, and

scratched his chin for a moment as if to summon a decent

response. He answered.

“Well, Master Daevon, I am proficient in the ways of

the earth and its matter, I would say. My mother, was a

herbalist, and had a keen understanding of the world we

live in. I would watch her study our world and assimilate

all that it was into her very being. So, naturally I picked

up a few things.” Tolin smiled awkwardly.

“What of your father? Had he an effect on your,

abilities? And remember, you betray yourself when

you lie, or when you seek to embellish the truth. Speak


Daevon handed a short blade to Tolin, to try and

strip his mind of its walls and protections.

“Master Daevon, I did not mean...”

“Drop the ‘master’ bit Tolin,” Daevon interjected.

“There is only one Master, and she loathes that title

as much as I. My name is my name, and I am your Mentor,

nothing less and nothing more. I am here to set you

on your path and that is the end of it. Do you understand?”

“Yes, I understand.”

Tolin studied the blade carefully. It was different to

most swords he had encountered as it was straight, and

edged on one side only. The hilt was silver-grey, and

was made of a metal he had not seen before. He ran his

hands over the blade, taking in its form and the earthen

properties that were not visible initially. The sword was

crafted with the sole purpose of taking life, and this

alarmed him.

It is a blade for killing,” said Daevon

“That is all you need to know about it. Now speak

before I lose my interest.”


“My father was the mountains of my birthplace. The

rolling hills, caverns and cliff faces of Shengall, the

Stone Realm. The oldest, tallest trees that you could

find in The Great Wood. Even if I did not see him, he

would always be there to watch over me. Even if I knew

not his whereabouts, for days on end, he was there, in

the eyes of my mother. She would speak of him as if he

were The Rift itself. A manifestation of all the magik and

power in all the planes. I knew him only as Kultarr, or


Tolin broke off and gazed into the stillness of the


Daevon stared at the young man in amazement, for

he knew who Tolin spoke of, this Kultarr. He also knew

that a ‘man’ was the incorrect description befitting such

a being. Despite what he knew of Tolin’s legendary

father, he said nothing. It would alter the course of the

young man’s path in a way most threatening to all that

was Dorinstadt. So he left it to the winds.

“Very well young one, you have sated my curiosity,

for a little while. Now go, and prepare for your Session.

It is your first, and this entire city is well aware of what

that entails. Go forth, and be welcomed into the folds of

Death and all her majesty.”


Tolin strolled into the district as if he were the lord

of all the realms. He moved at a pace known only to the

select few that lived in this strange and unblemished

part of the city. The rich, or ‘unfettered’, as they were

known in certain circles were all found within this Lake

District. Tolin smirked at the thought of having his first

Session here amongst the beautiful and the powerless.

He viewed them as powerless for all they sought out in

the world was comfort and class, nothing more. The

people of this district chose a life of no influence upon

Dorinstadt or its surroundings, and yet, their inaction

would prove fatal when they would least expect it.

Perhaps they had power then, if not over themselves,

or their fate within The Rift. This intrigued him, as he

moved on through the streets.

There were stalls of finery and fruits littered all about

the streets. Granted there were far less than what could

be found at the Markets, but it was still a fair amount.

These served as an amusement to the fairer folk of the

Lake District, who often viewed themselves to be above

all others in Dorinstadt. Gardens, parks and many other

quaint amusements were to be found as well, all to serve

the kinder and more happier sort, living here. A roving

circus troupe and the odd jester would enthral many a

local maiden with his antics. More often than not these

two were lovers, and the affair would no doubt end in

bloodshed so as to avoid a co-mingling of class and culture.

Such was life in all this brightness, an area so out

of place it bordered on the delusional.

Change had found its way in however. In the brimming

form of a district-wide crime sweep. The City

Guard were hard at work ‘serving’ their masters and

eradicating all that would pose a threat to this beauteous

region. In the past things would have moved along

swiftly and without error since the local populace would

have been well aware of the happenings, and there

wouldn’t be an ominous gloom resting over the city.

Today was different, much different. The day had just

passed it’s middle mark and already blood had begun to

flow down into the riverbanks.

An upstart Guild of thieves and cutthroats had tried

to unsettle a nearby barracks. With this bold move they

had hoped to maintain a foothold in this particular part

of the district. Their hope was misled. Unfortunately,

and also most tragically for a certain young assassin,

a favoured contact of the Guild had been a part of this

local squabble, and he had met with a rather unsightly

end. Bovar, who was to be Tolin’s guide and spotter for

his first Session, had lost his head, quite literally, in a

little scuffle with a veteran guardsman. This in turn had

now left Tolin all alone in his first mission for Death. He

was unaware of this for the moment however, but was

soon to find out how frustrating Dorinstadt could be for

a virgin assassin.

The blinding fog made this day just a little bit harder

for all within the city. The Lake District was not the only

district to suffer great loss in flesh and blood. There

were skirmishes erupting all over. All that could benefit

from low visibility had reacted in ways known only to

humankind and its greed. The rich folk had planned a

Day of Games to be held in the main courtyard, and they

would suffer the most for this whimsical error in judgement.

This was another reason for Tolin’s presence here.

He was here to perform a ‘cleansing’ of his own. The

Mark he had been given was that of Mantra, one of the

four on Dorinstadt’s ruling council. He was chosen for

his abilities, and he had a knack for rooting out most

uncommon occurrences or suspicious behaviour. The

Master knew this would be helpful when he eventually

faced his foe. The runes in his flesh had gifted him with

unnatural senses and reflexes. Coupled with his ability

to beat the truth out of anyone with either his fists or

his magic, he would no doubt become a powerful force

within the Guild.

TROLL | 58 TROLL | 59

Provided he survived his first Session.

The day was caught in a ripple of The Rift in that

all the ‘fairy’ folk of the Lake District were out in their

full force, strutting about as if they were made of light

in its purest form. Despite all the madness that had

come to their streets, they moved about as if they were

untouched, oblivious to the slaughter and mayhem that

materialised around them. It felt as if this dreamlike

day had been planned by the stars themselves, and the

lunacy of it all brought an impish smile to Tolin’s face.

He knew the fragility of Life and how easily these people

could fall from their podiums. He knew his purpose

here, and now, in this blur of chaos and deathly revelry.

He tensed up and proposed an unnatural swagger to

the people around him as he drifted down the lanes in

search of his contact, and then his mark.


Evening had settled upon the district, and Tolin

found himself agitated by the absence of Bovar. Their

meeting place was relatively untouched by the carnage

of the day, but even so, there was no sign of his elusive

friend. He thought he would continue on though, since

the area of their meet was just a few streets away from

his targets supposed location. This was not a pleasant

moment for him however since he had no real information

or even a proper description of what Mantra

actually looked like. He moved on though, through

the leftover chaos as a leaf would on the winds of time.

Oblivious to the murder and blood present all over the


Tolin came to a stop one of the Great Halls within

the district. He noticed there were strange symbols

carved into the walls and archways. To the unknowing

this would be mere decoration for the building, but he

knew it to be Runes of warding, for they were similar to

those upon his chest. And thus he had come to his mark.

This building was different, larger and more foreboding

than any other within the district. It was the home of the

fabled Mantra, the eldest of the ruling council within the


He marvelled at how easy it was for him to find the

place, or perhaps he was meant to find his way here.

A quick glance around the area for any onlookers or

signs of security set him at ease as there were none to

be found. Tolin paused and listened to the night, which

was still filled with sounds of fighting and the odd death

cry. He regained his focus and moved to scale the wall

on the rear of the complex. This was easily done for an

assassin of the Guild, and even more so for one that has


been in a forest of shadows for most of his life.

That was fun, he thought after landing on a balcony.

I wonder if this is the end of my luck this evening.

Tolin entered a rather large and beautiful bedchamber

and had his elation stolen from him as swiftly as it

had appeared.

“And who do you think yourself to be, that you may

steal into my chambers at the most deathly hour of


Tolin was startled, but held his resolve as he quickly

searched the room for his enigmatic foe.

“Surprised are we,” came the bellowing voice again.

“That I am able to shield myself from your ignorant


Tolin grew pale with anxiety, and responded to the

aggressive questioning.

“Forgive me my lady, I wished not to disturb your

slumber, only to lengthen its hold upon your soul. I may

have been underestimated your prowess with the energies

of this world, but it seems you have done the same,

with me.”

“Oh? Is that so young one? Perhaps you think me

foolish in my understanding of this Rift we find ourselves

in. Perhaps you think I know not of every waking

life, and death, within this sphere of indomitable recurrence.

We are eldest in this wound, and though you play

a part in the future of things, you are currently unworthy

of our time.” The woman broke off with a rumbling


Witht the rumbling of the bedchamber, which Tolin

had believed to be the result of Mantra’s power, he had

found her location within the room. The epicentre of

the quaking resonated from the large chair in one corner

of the room.

“Be calm my lady Mantra, if that is indeed your name

in this sphere,” said Tolin, in his most polite tone.

“Mantra? Yes, that is what they call me here. As for

the term ‘Sphere’, you are most incorrect little one. We

do not find ourselves upon any sphere within the great

void. No young Tolin, this world is not what it appears

to be, but I leave that to your future. I have no business

revealing such things to one such as you. Not yet.”

Tolin, fearing the encounter may turn to violence in

the next few moments, had begun preparing himself.

He crouched down to a comfortable stance, as if to ward

himself from her unnatural voice, and pressed his right

arm to his chest. The Runes surged with power and he

felt himself change.

“You alter yourself in preparation for our little dance

of death,” said Mantra before revealing herself to him.


“What makes you think you can defeat us? The form

before you is no illusion, Runeborn. We are eldest, we

are strongest. These arms will break your existence, and

you will never be reborn.”

Tolin rose up, renewed from the sacred power flowing

through his body. His right arm was now a twisted,

rocky version of its former self, and his eyes were red

with the ancient power of Rune magik.

“As I have said before, my lady, you underestimate

the powers granted to me by the world around us, and

by the Runes upon my chest. These symbols are no

decoration; they breathe life into me from a plane I

do not understand. And yet I welcome them. You may

know of this power, for you are The Binder of Magiks,

but you do not possess the ken of what flows beneath

my flesh.”

Tolin put his left arm to his chest, and it shifted

from that of flesh into that of bark and vine. His fingers

stretched out to the floor and through the building to

the earth below, before retracting into a stump of solid

earth matter. The blood that burst forth from his flesh

had transformed into red blossoms and tiny saplings

upon his forearm. Tolin had become an avatar of sorts,

an avatar of Rune Magik.

“This is what I am, my lady.” Said Tolin to Mantra,

who had been smitten by his brilliant transformation.

“You may be The Binder, but the Magik I have

within me is not of your understanding. There is a

reason for me being here, and not the Master himself. It

was said that I was the only one to counter your power,

and that if I were successful, I would not only make a

mark upon Dorinstadt, but also upon the Rift itself. I am

here to cleanse this place, to free it of the taint you have

sown. Even if you kill me with your unending omnipotence,

my mark will remain upon your corpse, and our


Mantra readied herself in anticipation of the coming

battle, and spoke through Tolin’s form, as if her words

were addressed to his Father.

“What you have accomplished in this world is

unprecedented. You have moulded into being a power

that has never before taken form, and it dwarfs any and

all that will ever find existence in this Rift. Your actions

have already altered the course of this mighty city, and

things are now in motion that cannot be undone. So we

shall test this creature, in the hopes of preparing it for

what’s to come.”

With the ending of her words came a rumbling unknown

to Dorinstadt, and to the Rift itself. Everything

that called this world home, shook with the power of a

thousand Giants.

All forms, both great and small, trembled with the

power of Mantra. The mighty Giantess unleashed all the

magik held within her into the world, and then brought

it all back in to herself within an instant. Her body

brimmed with energy, and Tolin felt it within his mind.

A moment of eternity passed between them.

“Are we ready, my child?” asked Mantra

Tolin answered with a magikal surge of his own as he

started towards her Godlike form.

Both combatants were drawn in light, coloured with

shadow and all the hues of the prismatic world. Mantra

had summoned a globe of Rift energy in one of her right

arms, and had painted Tolin’s legs as the unfortunate

target. He was mindful of this, as he knew his legs to be

a weakness. With a sudden rumbling of his own making,

he put his palms to his chest and as the room began

to shake once more his legs and feet were found to be

stone. Confident of his newly acquired limbs, he started

a lumbering dance towards Mantra, weaving to and fro

with the vines from his arm encircling his form.

The Giantess hurled the globe of energy at his legs,

regardless of their new properties. Tolin paused his advance

and held firm as the globe was deflected off his left

leg and into a nearby armoire, shattering it into infinite

pieces of oblivion.

He darted forwards, to Mantra’s surprise, and

launched a fearsome attack upon her left side. His speed

was near impossible considering his tough and lumbering

appearance, this did not affect Mantra in the slightest

as she phased through him and began pounding his

back with all four of her monstrous arms.

Tolin put his left arm through his chest and back,

now unrecognisable as he pulsed with Rune magik, and

lunged at the Giantess with the vines and all the strength

he could muster. Mantra was caught off guard by this

daring and unexpected attack from her ever-changing

foe, and moved to dodge the attack. To her dismay, the

vines had wrapped around her lower left arm and had

begun to enter her flesh. She tore away just as soon as

Tolin spun about, revealing his now complete and malleable


Her arm was left behind, a bloody mess of Light

magik and bone. Tolin held it in his former left arm,

which had now become his right, then dropped it as

if to cast it from existence. His body had twisted and

changed to be the mirror of his past self. No more was

he flesh and bone, no more did he resemble a man of

Dorinstadt or of any realm within the Rift.

Mantra looked at him before posing a question, to

herself and The Rift as much as to him.

TROLL | 60 TROLL | 61

“What manner of creature are you, Tolin of The

Great Wood?”

He smirked before lunging forward. Once more

the two had become a chaotic storm of magik and

strength. Tolin had increased in size nearly tenfold,

and though he had reached the pinnacle of his physical

form, it seemed as if he continued to grow. He would

never match the size of the Giantess before him, but as

was apparent in the removal of one of her arms, he had

matched her strength.

As the combatants began to match blow for blow in

what seemed to be an unending brawl, Tolin began to

answer Mantra’s question in a near ritualistic chant.

“I am the earth, the trees and the power surging

beneath our eyes.”

He said as he laid a thunderous blow to her right

side, crippling her upper right arm and her control over

Rift magik.

“We are part of the Rift, and it flows around our very

being,” came another chant from his now Rune infused


“But that which we are made of, that which has

brought us forth into this place,” he whispered before

accepting a mighty blow from both of Mantra’s remaining

arms, nearly toppling him.

Recovering, and launching into a slow but powerful

frenzy of blows to her thighs, torso and neck, Tolin

began his final assault upon the now failing, Binder of

Magik. His chant came to an end.

“It flows in the energies of Rune Magik. That is the

Well from which I draw my power. That is what I am,”

Mantra was crouched in a near death position, or

so it seemed. Stripped of the two arms which gave her

power over Rift and Light, left only with Rune and a

mangled Shadow, she looked up at her adversary. Rising

up from the grip of Death, she spoke.

“We are pleased with you, my child. You have

proven yourself more than capable of handling all that is

thrown at you. But I am not dead, yet.”

With her words resonating in his mind, Tolin braced

himself for a final bout. To his dismay, Mantra gripped

her mangled Shadow arm, and tore it off. The room then

took on a sullen gloom, as if darkness had been reborn.

All that was left in her power, was that of Rune Magik.

Seeing that she in fact had no power over Tolin and his

Rune powers, Mantra smiled and moved towards him

slowly, placing her remaining arm across her chest as a

sign of surrender.

“Why?” asked Tolin

“Why do you stop now, when you are eldest in this

Rift, in this city, in this room and in my heart, my lady?


Why do you surrender when you have given me my

greatest challenge? Surely the fight is not over. You

insult me with-“

Tolin was unable to continue as Mantra suddenly

gripped him by the throat, and raised him high into the

air. Her power had not waned, only her hold over three

of the Magiks within their world.

“I leave you now, my child. I leave you now with

power, and pain. You have shown me what it is you represent

in this world. The energy within you, it calls to

me, and what that means is that we are not so different.

All I am left with, is Rune. What you are, is Rune. So my

gift to you, Tolin of The Great Wood, is my understanding.

I do not surrender, no my child, you have bested

me, at least, in this world.”

The room shook once more, there were voices and

colours, suddenly flowing through every window and

doorway. Energies old and new flowed from Mantra’s

arm into his body, mind and soul. Tolin surged with

energy that he had not felt before, energy that altered

the fabric of his very being in The Rift. He felt himself

reborn into a body he did not know, and he welcomed it

like once before.

“What manner of creature are you, Tolin of The

Great Wood?” came a ghostly whisper within his mind,

as he fell to the ground.

Mantra had vanished. The bedchamber was restored

to its original state, as if the cataclysmic battle had

never taken place. Tolin felt cold, on his legs, and on

his arms. They were now covered in Runes he had not

seen before. Mantra’s essence lay trapped within him

now, a memento from their encounter. And also a gift to

him no doubt, as he felt his body surge a final time with

newfound energy.

“I am the earth, the trees and the power surging

beneath our eyes.”

He whispered into the night, as he leapt from the

balcony to the darkened streets below.

There had been many voices and cries in the halls

beneath the bedchamber where he had fought with The

Giantess. They were voices of panic, and gruff guardsmen

rushing to investigate the last rumbling of energy.

Tolin knew he had not dreamt the entire affair, so he

sought to escape the scene.

“And so it is my lady.” He said, as he drifted into the

moonlit district.

The fog that had descended upon Dorinstadt had

miraculously dissipated into the night sky and had paved

the way for a full moon. So in the once darkened streets

of the Lake District, Tolin had found a cryptic moon as

his guide away from his surreal and tumultuous battle



with Mantra. He had sealed his

fate within Dorinstadt. He had made

his mark. The Rift was changed

because of him, and though he had

peace now, for this fragile moment

in time, he knew that only chaos

would follow from his actions.

“And so it is.”

- TM




TROLL | 62 TROLL | 63



Nearly every culture has dragons, despite the fact

that none of them quite agree on what dragons ARE.

Are they merely feral creatures, no better than other

wild beasts, or are they sentient beasts with intellect

that rivals or surpasses that of men?

But as a rule, dragons tend to come in two flavours,

based on Eastern and Western traditions.

Eastern Dragons (known in China as “Long”, and

in Japan as “Tatsu” or the more popular “Ryuu”) come

from different traditions and technically aren’t even

dragons per se; Westerners who encountered their

imagery and stories merely seized on the similarities

they shared with the classic European Dragon. Even

so, there are a multitude of differences:

Western Dragons

- Scaly, reptilian (usually on the outside, anyway),


- They tend to be the size of small houses, and work

their way up from there. Expect movies to take that a

little too far.

- They’re commonly antagonistic to humans. The

more intelligent ones love to manipulate those they

consider lesser beings. Which, to a dragon, means

everything that isn’t a dragon.

- Almost universally breathe fire as a defining trait,

though ice-breathing dragons are also popular. Forgotten

Realms introduces lightning, poison-gas and acid

breathing dragons as well, though, tellingly, the fire

breathing types (Red and Gold Dragons) are still the


- The truly old-fashioned ones kidnap princesses and

hoard treasure.

- Have a variable number of heads and legs. Usually

its one head and six limbs (four legs and two wings).

- Can fly using their unique brand of magic, with or

without wings. If they do have wings, they usually tend

to be bird-like.

- Varying levels of intellect. Before Tolkien, they

tended not to speak. After Tolkien, they’re portrayed as

least at as clever as humans, and frequently far more so.

The degree to how this comes off depends on the skill

of the writer.

- Tend to be long-lived, if not outright stated to be

immortal. However, they usually can be killed.

- The original name – Drakon – comes from the word


TROLL | 64 TROLL | 65

Eastern Dragons (Ryuu/Long)

- Mix-and-match, chimera-like serpents. A shorthand

description of ‘Lion-Snakes’ is usually accurate.

- Can be as small as locusts, to “filling the space

between heaven and earth.” They tend to be able to

change size at will too. The damn thing’s broken.

- They tend to be benevolent. Good thing too. If

you’re stupid enough to provoke one, though, there’s

not a thing in the world that’ll save you.

- They breathe sheng-chi - the essence of life. Some

works equate this to rain, with the presence of a dragon

usually heralded or accompanied by rainfall.

- Instead of hoarding treasure, they make them. They

tend to also hoard wisdom, which they rarely share with


- Most often have only one head and four legs. The

longer the dragon, the more legs it may have, though.

- Were always intelligent, being the guardians of

wisdom. In fact, in stories, they’re usually guiding the

heroes in their teaching. Yes. Eastern Dragons were

like Obi-Wan Kenobi.

- They are often explicitly stated to be godlike beings,

with true enduring immortality.

- The original name -Long- was originally used to

describe Saltwater Crocodiles, explaining their ties to

water (Long was applied specifically to the Saltwater

type, smaller crocodiles were called something else).

Essentially, you can boil it down to Western Dragons

are usually your scale-covered death factories, while

Eastern Dragons are your cool stoned uncles who

occasionally lets you take a sip of wine while you’re


There’s also something of a power difference. Western

dragons are usually portrayed as the pinnacle of

all beasts in any setting, in terms of strength, cunning,

intellect and their capacity for destruction, but they are

hardly invulnerable. The few dragons in any western

setting with true omipotence are few and far between.

Eastern dragons, on the other hand, are essentially

godly beings. What both cultures share in common is

that dragons are vastly powerful and important creatures.

No other mythological beast has captured the awe

and imagination of the human mind as these epic-level

creatures have.

- TM



Issue two

Copyright April 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.

TROLL | 66

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