“The Fall of Leuyoldedd” by Travis Lyon

Excalibur, by Alan Rabinowitz

Author’s note: This translation of “The Fall of Leuyoldedd”, also known as “The Second Coming of Skell’aenthid”, represents only parts five, six, and seven of the full tale. The other parts have never been found.

“How could I possibly say ‘no’ to the Queen’s Champion?”

In response, Sir Leuyoldedd put on his well-known, woman-swooning smile, but said no more. The old man had, after all, spoken true — he could not refuse Sir Leuyoldedd, the Queen’s Champion, not if he wanted his business to continue to thrive. A slight to Leuyoldedd was as good as a slight to the Queen herself. And though refusal of a man like Leuyoldedd was by no means treason, word of such denial would spread quickly. The small crowd already gathering around the two would see to that. People wouldn’t trust a man who didn’t trust the Queen’s Champion. Sir Kape Leuyoldedd: not just the Queen’s Champion; the People’s Champion. Leuyoldedd maintained his smile as he held out the sword.

“Look at this,” the old man said. “Nitre’d good, she is.” His bony fingers scratched at the calcified deposits layered over the old blade, dislodging a few flecks onto his rickety table. “A sight shabby fer the likes of you, sir, but nothing a good rasping won’t fix. But a fine eye for sword craft you have, sir; I do believe her blade is still keen!”

The small crowd around Leuyoldedd and the scrutineer leaned in to get a better look, ever cautious not to jostle the brown-haired Champion.

“Strip her, then!” Leuyoldedd called, for the crowd’s benefit as much as the old timer’s. “Let’s see what fine lines she has beneath her modest shell!” Sure enough, Leuyoldedd heard the intended sighs from the women and emboldened chuckles from the men.

The scrutineer grabbed his rasp and began scraping away at the steel. While he worked, much speculative talk arose from the surrounding crowd. As usual, Sir Leuyoldedd listened carefully. He knew that, in response to his own inclusion of the ‘common folk’ in his daily activities, they reciprocated by letting him eavesdrop on theirs. Despite the people’s humble lifestyles, the Queen’s Champion found their conversations to be anything but common.

“It will be a beautiful thing, just like the Sir Champion,” a young lady to Leuyoldedd’s left said. Without looking, Leuyoldedd knew the woman’s gaze alighted on his muscular body and chiseled face.

“It’s a magical cutlass,” someone to Leuyoldedd’s right offered.

“Aye,” agreed another man. “Surely it will resemble Angeliodedd’s Foil itself!” Grunts of agreement sounded from other members of the crowd.

“A fitting blade, Angeliodedd’s would be,” another woman commented, “for Sir Champion’s quest! A sign from the Gods, it is!” Leuyoldedd let the woman rave on, not wanting to break her hopes by telling her she was jumping a great distance to reach her conclusions. Besides, the fallacy of the woman’s claim would have been evident to a child. Angeliodedd’s Foil would have to be twice the size of Leuyoldedd’s simple find to accommodate the Great One’s most massive arms. Nonetheless, the fantastic gossip continued.

“Yes,” said an elderly gentleman, “’tis a harbinger of Good Fortune, afore Sir Leuyoldedd’s trip to the Unnamed Lands! The right blade to battle the Krakens with! Just like Cranmeyer!”

“Cranmeyer died, you old fool! Sir Leuyoldedd will succeed!”

So they were on that again, were they? Leuyoldedd wasn’t surprised, but he had hoped his find would draw their attention away from his forthcoming expedition. He never liked to think about his journeys before he undertook them, but the people didn’t know that. To them, Leuyoldedd was fearless, and no talk of sea monsters and world’s end would faze him. He understood their confidence in him; ‘Sir Kape Leuyoldedd, the Queen’s Champion’ represented a greatness most of them would never achieve. And as such a great man, Leuyoldedd had to indulge them their misguided notions of his fearlessness, rather than educate them to the truth. It was the paradox of being extraordinary, and a duty Leuyoldedd graciously accepted. Thankfully, the scrutineer was nearly finished with his rasping, and so Leuyoldedd could put an end to the people’s speculation.

“Ah, you are near to done, I see.” Leuyoldedd spoke above the murmur of the throng. “Tell us,” he continued, sweeping his arms out to encompass his adoring attendants, “to what blade shall the Hydrae lose their heads?”

The crowd gave a hardy cheer, but the old man did not raise his eyes from the sword.

“Well?”

“It’s a most… unremarkable find, my lord, if I may beg your pardon for saying so.” The scrutineer’s eyes belied his words as he hurried his appraisal along. “I don’t imagine my lord would want such an antiquated piece; why I could take it off your hands….”

“Hold right there,” Leuyoldedd said, clapping his big hand down on the tiny table. “Explain yourself, good man.” Leuyoldedd looked at the sword, as did the rest of the crowd. It was anything but unremarkable.

“Well, I, uh…” the old man stammered to the expectant audience, “I don’t know where to begin, sir.”

“Begin with the obvious,” Leuyoldedd prodded. “Explain to me this red blade here.”

“That. Well, it’s been… blood quenched, sir.”

The scrutineer cringed as a collective gasp escaped the crowd.

“Explain,” Leuyoldedd urged. He appreciated the old man’s discretion, but he needed the facts.

“Well,” the old man said, “quenching is when you…”

“I know what quenching is!” Leuyoldedd snapped, unable to keep his temper in check. Never mind what the crowd thought about his manners; the sword in front of Leuyoldedd presented a much graver problem.

“Who would do such a thing?” Leuyoldedd asked the scrutineer. Leuyoldedd remembered hearing stories about blood quenching as a young military man, but they had never been anything more than that. Now and here, Leuyoldedd needed the old man to voice those fantastic ‘facts’ before he did. There was no civility in a Queen’s Champion speaking of fell rumors, let alone being the bearer of baleful omens.

“These glyphs here,” the scrutineer pointed to a worn group of spiral etchings carved into the sword’s cross guard, “they’re Hyr Haerchubaid. They name her too: ‘Skell’aenthid, the SteelMantis,’ it says.”

Sir Leuyoldedd felt the ground vibrate as several women in the crowd fainted at that name’s mention. Leuyoldedd waited for the scrutineer to go on.

“Surely, my liege knows the, uh… tale… of Skell’aenthid, the SteelMantis?” The old man made the sign of Good Fortune over the sword, quoting: “‘Forged with the blood of ten Grand Dragons, she mates with her foes and devours them.’ Hyr Haerchubaid legend claims the wielder of the SteelMantis,” again, the sign, “acquires the power of the foes he strikes down with her, through the sword itself. But not without a price. The wielder of Skell’aenthid is driven mad by her, and will worship her like a Goddess. Even in death, she corrupts the bearer’s very soul. ‘Tis said the only way him who holds her can be free from her wiles is by giving her back that which he was lent. Said the only way to do that’s by killing himself with SteelMantis itself; feed her back the wielder’s borrowed power. Double edged, she is, and I don’t speak of her honing.”

Leuyoldedd let the silence hang above the crowd for a while. All eyes turned to him expectantly. “Boogey-Boogey!” he suddenly shouted, and women screamed all about. Leuyoldedd bent over with laughter, and soon the rest of the crowd joined in with him, even the startled women. “Nonsense,” Leuyoldedd confided, “some rogue’s idea of a clever ruse, that sword is. Were she really Skell’aenthid, well then, I would already be doomed. So would you, good sir,” Leuyoldedd said, nodding at the scrutineer. “For we both held her in hand. But I certainly feel no madness, do you? Lest you count putting stock in such fables in the first place!” Leuyoldedd’s unwaveringly charismatic logic appealed to both the scrutineer and the onlookers. His well-intentioned nay-saying quelled the spectators’ fears, and the Champion’s broad shoulders met with the people’s good-natured slapping as he held the sword aloft.

“But I still think this blade an omen,” Leuyoldedd continued, “a good one. For fearless shall I bear it as I lead the way southward, across the churning waters of the Ogopian Sea, to the Unnamed Lands beyond, and to our people’s prosperity in riches unimaginable!”

This time, the crowd’s cheer was deafening.

* * *

“Sir! The nestman’s spotted another breech, a quarter mile off starboard!”

“Damn it!” Leuyoldedd snapped, slicing through the tip of the nearest barbed tentacle, “can you not handle it by yourselves?” The writhing appendage retreated back into the frothing waters, giving the Queen’s Champion a moment to catch his breath. He turned to the crewman and noticed the look of dejection on the man’s face. “I’m sorry,” Leuyoldedd apologized, “I didn’t mean to be so harsh. But I need for you men to think for yourselves in these times of crisis. That is what I hired you for.”

“Yes, sir,” the crewman replied, “I was only acting on orders, sir.”

“I know, and I apologize for not thinking before I spoke.” Leuyoldedd wiped the sweat from his forehead and the black gore from the handle of Skell’aenthid. “Have you heard anything from the other ships?”

“Not yet, sir,” the crewman reported, “but I’m sure we’ll know of their whereabouts soon.”

Sir Leuyoldedd cursed under his breath. The missing ships, in combination with the recent Sealander attacks, had begun to spark rumors amongst the other boats and their crews. Leuyoldedd needed those two absent crafts, and he hoped, albeit pessimistically, that they were merely lagging. Those two ships carried the majority of their lumber, and though Leuyoldedd had taken the precaution of not ‘putting all his coins in one chest’, fate had taken it upon herself to relieve him of his wooden cargo nonetheless. Leuyoldedd massaged his throbbing temples.

“Please, Sir Leuyoldedd, take a rest,” the sailor said. “You’ve been up and about for two days whole! Your eyes be redder’n Ra’Sun’s setting face! Let me take your place — I’ll send word to the other ships, and you’ll see just how good a deal you got us for! We’ll have these Sealander nasties away in no time, we will.”

The Queen’s Champion dismissed the notion of sleep with a weary wave of his hand. Leuyoldedd knew he couldn’t sleep. Not because he wasn’t tired. And not because of skepticism towards his crew’s competence, either. It was because of the nightmares that had begun visiting him a week out to sea. The crewman noticed Leuyoldedd’s shudder, and averted his eyes to the deck.

Leuyoldedd did his best to re-raise the man’s pinions of confidence in the Queen’s Champion, but inwardly Kape knew his charisma’s effectiveness was waning, in both his and his crew’s eyes. Nonetheless, Leuyoldedd tried, saying: “Think you my thirst for these sea-denizens’ blood is so easily slaked? Two Ra’Sun’s is but half as long as I should like to fight! Tell the captain I said as much. Have him relay to the other four ships: ‘Full ahead.’ These sea beasts are but a patch we shall circumvent in no time.”

The crewman saluted and spun on his toe, set on delivering the message. Part of the message, at least; Leuyoldedd held no illusion that his optimism would have been ill-received, had the crewman not already been aware of that fact. Yet despite Leuyoldedd’s despair at his men’s wavering faith in him, he was glad to be alone for the moment. True, each minute away from their gossip marked the ascent of another knot in his fathom-rope of popularity, but Leuyoldedd was beginning not to care. He knew that type of thinking was a mistake and could lead to mutiny, but the Queen’s Champion could no longer siphon from the reserves of his resolve as he once had.

Using SteelMantis as a crutch, the Queen’s Champion hobbled away from the ship’s poop rail. Leuyoldedd brooked no reproach towards dulling Skell’aenthid’s edge; she never needed sharpening, not even after hacking though the barnacle-riddled tentacles of six sea monsters. That phenomenon explained her keen edge, even after the untold years she spent gathering lime in the Caverns of Cywyddfbroest, where Leuyoldedd found her. The phenomenon garnered the seamen’s attention as well. Leuyoldedd thought the ten months between Skell’aenthid’s discovery and his current voyage had been ample time for any lingering rumors about the sword’s cursedness to die, but he was wrong. At least one old salt had kept the tale afloat, and now every sailor had his or her opinion about it, to whisper to their nearest mate as soon as Leuyoldedd passed out of earshot.

With the tip of her blade, Leuyoldedd used SteelMantis to lever some unfortunate sailor’s dismembered forearm from the nearby binnacle box, clearing a spot for himself to sit. Even through that brief contact with the severed arm, Leuyoldedd imagined he could hear Skell’aenthid, slurping up the man’s essence and beckoning the Sir Champion to get up, to feed her more carnage. A sizable portion of Leuyoldedd’s conscience wanted to obey.

“Don’t let it get to you,” came a weak voice from behind and to the left.

“What?” Leuyoldedd coughed, breaking from his stupor.

“Don’t let it get to you. The gore, I mean.” Leuyoldedd saw that the speaker was the owner of the limb he had just flipped from the ledge. At least, the man was missing an arm too, as well as all but the topmost portion of his left leg. Leuyoldedd’s look of pity must have been apparent, even to the vacating gaze of the downed sailor, for the man said: “Don’t worry over me. My ship is bound for calmer shores now, she is. But it was a true honor sailing on behalf of the great Sir Leuyoldedd, the Queen’s Champion. Made me daughter proud, it did. Her name’s Somi — a deal like you she is, sir. Strong an’ smart, I mean. Please be sure she gets my wage and will pay?” Leuyoldedd nodded solemnly. The wounded spat blood onto his bearded chin. “Now be a good lad an’ finish me off. Grant me your sword-arm’s mercy.”

Skell’aenthid screamed into Leuyoldedd’s closed fist.

Leuyoldedd wanted to scream too. And weep, and yell, and die. But to do any of those things before granting the sailor his last request was not in the nature of a Queen’s Champion. The Champion’s hand was forced, not by SteelMantis’s sorcery, but by his duty to his people. On the other hand, the man — the strictly human portion of Leuyoldedd’s persona — felt, in no small way, a hatred and envy towards the dying man; hatred for compelling him further into the web of Skell’aenthid’s madness, and envy towards the escape from that madness Leuyoldedd could provide but not yet partake in.

Skell’aentid’s howling decrescendoed as her glistening red body exited the sailor’s ribcage. Leuyoldedd signaled with his free hand, and another sailor hurried over to help remove the fresh corpse.

“I saw what you did,” the rugged woman said. “It was the noble thing. Anyone else on board would want the same.”

Leuyoldedd nodded. Inside his chest, his heart twisted, knowing the truth behind the woman’s words. At that moment, the Queen’s Champion, idol of the less fortunate, would have done close to anything to trade places with the unpolished woman in front of him. But yet again, Leuyoldedd’s duty kept him from doing anything other than staying true to his current course. Duty required him to, in the face of the most trying adversities, stand strong and put his people first. He couldn’t let his crew know he no longer felt capable of bearing the responsibility of their lives. What gave him the right to abandon his men because of his own failures, especially when they needed his leadership the most? Leuyoldedd wanted nothing more than to be rid of SteelMantis. He should have tossed her overboard long ago. Yet, after all the recent problems he had borne witness to, Leuyoldedd was inclined to believe the old scrutineer had been right. Simply dropping the blade over the side of the boat would not be enough to end its curse over him and his crew. Nor could the Champion take his own life and be done with it; not before they reached safety on a distant shore. Only, the further they sailed, the more of a hold Skell’aenthid would claim on both his conscience and his consciousness. Double edged, indeed.

“What is the status of the Keets?” Leuyoldedd asked the woman. “Have any returned yet?”

“Not that I’ve knowledge of,” the sailor replied. “Last I saw, their cages were still empty.”

That news was both good and bad. Leuyoldedd needed the birds, now more than ever. He had to get a report back to the Queen, before he descended too far into disillusionment. Judging by the turmoil of recent events, he may not get another chance. Yet the news of the birds’ absences also represented the possibility that they had been homed in by the missing ships, the targets for which they originally had been loosed.

“Fine,” Leuyoldedd said, “get a man to the signal lamp. Send a message to the Southern Cross. Tell them to have their Keetmaster send a hand of Keets over to our ship. I need to get a message to the Queen immediately.”

The sailor simply stood there, staring at her feet.

“What is it?”

“Sir Champion, the Southern Cross’s Keetmaster fell to the Sealanders, half a candle ago. There’s no one left on her board who knows how to handle the birds.”

By the look on the woman’s face, Leuyoldedd supposed she’d never expected such vulgarity to pour from the mouth of the Queen’s Champion himself, but it did. Then, Leuyoldedd took note of the woman’s station: she was a sailor and, judging by her looks, had been for quite some time. Surely such cursing should not have affected her so; not even if it had come from the mouth of the Great One himself. No, her shock had to be caused by something else. Suddenly, Leuyoldedd realized what he had been doing.

The Queen’s Champion lifted SteelMantis from the mess of hacked flesh that had once been the dead sailor. There was nothing Leuyoldedd could say to rationalize what he had done.

“I’ll go take care of the Keet situation, sir.” That’s what her lips said, but her eyes said please don’t kill me too, you crazy bastard. Leuyoldedd could not help feeling betrayed as the woman trotted off. With that last lapse, Leuyoldedd had assured his demonic possession in the minds of his men. There was no doubt the sailor’s command relay would include an account of Leuyoldedd’s latest indiscretion; forget about his former mercy killing. In the face of scandal, good deeds always held a secondary importance.

“Look out! It’s coming in!”

The water behind Leuyoldedd erupted. Out from the spume rose on enormous piscine head, complete with splayed fins, and fangs the size of Hatenku swords. It was a Magogodon, the most dreaded creature to ever troll the hadopelagic depths of the ocean. Any rational man would have fled from the abomination, but Leuyoldedd welcomed it.

And so did Skell’aenthid.

Leuyoldedd’s scream of rage turned more heads than the roar of the beast itself. And such was the ferocity of that war cry that, for a fraction of an instant, those who witnessed the confrontation saw genuine fear register in the huge, goggling eyes of the Great Dreadnaught; just before SteelMantis mated with her next foe.

* * *

Leuyoldedd had believed the redness of his eyes was caused by a lack of sleep. But there, on the night-darkened shores of the Unnamed Lands, the Queen’s Champion could see their rosy glow reflected in Skell’aenthid’s maroon blade.

Leuyoldedd stood a ways off from the rest of his men; what few of them had survived their landing. Though it was a day gone, the storm still seemed to taunt them from somewhere out at sea, occasionally washing bits and bodies from the demolished ships up onto the sandy shore. In defiance of the typhoon, the surviving crew had gathered up the tidal offerings that first night, and had managed to start a fire. A fire that had brought to fore a much more immediate threat than the ships’ wreck and their loss of supplies, as well as a name to the previously Unnamed Lands: Hell.

Leuyoldedd looked over at his defeated crew, all twenty-four of them, where they huddled, entrenched behind the sand-covered wall of their fallen comrades. The majority of the survivors were only sailors, not the well-trained soldiers their security in that new-found land was demanding. The men noticed Leuyoldedd’s demonic stare and, after some heated conference, sent one unfortunate emissary over to their once-proud Champion.

“Sir,” the young man said, treading hesitantly up to Leuyoldedd until he was sure he had drawn the Champion’s pink-eyed attention. “Sir, I have to talk to you. Now that the savages seem to have given up for the night, we think — the men and me, I mean — we think you should consider givin’ over that sword.”

“I can’t give you Skell’aenthid,” Leuyoldedd explained, “She won’t let me.”

“Yes you can!” shouted the sailor, abandoning all formalities. Then, remembering his addressee’s insanely dangerous state of mind, the young man backed off a few steps. Leuyoldedd understood the man’s desperation, but could provide no alleviation to it. The crewman continued on a more checked approach: “What I mean, sir, is that me and the men came up with a plan. We know you don’t mean us no harm, sir. It’s that damned… thing you’re carryin’. And believe it or not, sir, most of the men don’t intend you no harm, neither. Them that did agreed to at least stay out of the way, while the rest of us figures out what to do. See, all of us remembers the way you was, sir, and we want that Champion back. We loved that Champion, sir. Still do; every one of us.”

The insane Leuyoldedd couldn’t figure out whether to cut the man down, or fall weeping into his arms. A few other men had seen Leuyoldedd’s passivity, and had worked up enough nerve to stand supportively behind their emissary.

“We can work around the curse,” spoke one of the newcomers. “We’ll just let you lay SteelMantis on a tarpaulin, that way we won’t have to touch her cursed hilt. Then we’ll just cart her off and dump her in the sea, and that’ll be the end of that! You’ll be restored to the Omnipotent One’s good graces, and we can finally vanquish these savages an’ get our treasure!”

“Don’t you think I’ve tried to be rid of this?” Leuyoldedd bellowed, holding up his white-knuckled grip on the sword’s hilt for the men to see. “The bitch won’t let me go!”

The group mistook Leuyoldedd’s comparatively lucid explanation as an act of hostility, and they rushed him. Their desperation-imbibed numbers surrounded the Queen’s Dishonored Champion on all sides, too close for Skell’aenthid to engage. But, try as they might, they could not loosen Leuyoldedd’s superhuman grip.

Suddenly there was a whistling of air. Men all around began crying out in pain, and the struggle for SteelMantis ceased. Leuyoldedd looked, and saw what brought about the sudden reprieve.

The blue and green feathers of the savages’ arrows jutted from the backs and buttocks of several men. Chipped stone heads tented the fabric of fallen men’s tunics where the arrows had pierced full through their bodies, and more of the long reed shafts were raining in.

Skell’aenthid took note of the carnage too, and Leuyoldedd snapped.

The Mad Champion grabbed SteelMantis’s blade with his free hand and brought the blood-quenched metal to his foaming mouth, biting down on Skell’aenthid’s thick spine. Blood oozed between Leuyoldedd’s fingers where they wrapped around the blade, but the mania seething in the Champion’s mind desensitized the man to everything but it. A sound far beyond any logical description issued from Leuyoldedd’d throat then, and he ran off into the nearby tree line, and band of attacking natives.

It didn’t take long for Leuyoldedd to return, his glowing eyes materializing from the black depths of the tropical forest, redder than ever. To the sailors witnessing Leuyoldedd’s emergence from the woods, SteelMantis’s inanimate body seemed, somehow, bloated.

As Leuyoldedd, the Queen’s Maniac, approached the awestruck crew, the men drew their swords, as if their honest steel could ever protect them from Skell’aenthid’s wrath. Even the fallen fighters appeared to reach for their swords with lifeless hands.

“Listen, while I have a moment,” Leuyoldedd whispered, in a voice that shocked the men into staying their charge. It was the true voice of Sir Kape Leuyoldedd, the Queen’s Champion. “Skell’aenthid’s hunger is deep,” he said, “but I have found her satiation, for the time being. Yet I do not know how long it will last, and so I must be brief. I can hear your hearts, and so I must tell you that I, Sir Leuyoldedd, the Queen’s Champion, love you men. More than you could ever imagine.” Several of the crewmen’s eyes brimmed over with tears upon hearing the sincere, unpolluted words of the man they loved in return.

“It is because of my love for you, and for all mankind, that I must ask you to do what I will. We must not let this scourge of Skell’aenthid spread to others. Not to our people, nor to the savages we have fought on these shores. Not even they are deserving of the curse Skell’aenthid would bring to them, should she be taken into their possession. This noblest of tasks has become our new responsibility, and I need your help to fulfill it.”

SteelMantis stirred from her languidness, and Leuyoldedd bent down, clutching at his head. A few men rushed over to offer their support, but the Queen’s Champion waved them away.

“No, no. I am still here. But we must hurry. No one must know of this sword’s whereabouts, once I have killed myself.” More of the men began to protest, but Leuyoldedd quieted them with an outturned palm. “It is the only way. No one must be able to rediscover this sword and have the chance to do that which, by killing myself now, I hope to leave undone. That is why, with an immeasurably heavy yet convicted heart, I am asking you men to give your lives to me.” Leuyoldedd looked deep into each one of the men’s eyes, saying: “Surrender them to me, the Sir Champion, not that other monster, and your sacrifices will guarantee the lives of those you hold dearest, on that distant shore we call home. Give them to me, and I swear to you, here and now and with all the honor I possess, that it will be so.”

One by one, the men nodded. And there, on that otherwise unremarkable beach, each of the men felt the eyes of the Omnipotent One gaze lovingly upon them, Leuyoldedd included.

The sacrifice began as Leuyoldedd rowed his way out to sea, his tiny skiff rapidly taking on water. One at a time, the shore-bound men fell on their swords, until the last was but an indistinguishable grey lump, lying on the wet sand.

Through Leuyoldedd’s eyes, Skell’aenthid bore witness to the bloodletting, and fully awoke from her dormancy.

“There’s nothing left for you here, Black Goddess,” Leuyoldedd growled. “I give you back that which I borrowed!”

Using the last of his free will, Leuyoldedd ran himself through. SteelMantis howled in rage, but Leuyoldedd’s ears were deaf to her calls. He was finally free.

Liberated from the confines of SteelMantis’s enslavement, Leuyoldedd toppled over the side of the skiff. He took Skell’aenthid with him as he sank to the ocean floor, smiling his victorious, charismatic smile the whole way down.

* * *

“Shoo!”

The Ceangull squawked in disapproval, disturbed from it’s scavenging by the swinging oar.

“‘Queee!’ is right!” shouted the boatman, laughing gleefully. He removed his finger from his nose and catapulted the long cord of bloodied snot at the retreating bird. “I’ve got more important things to do!”

The man snatched up one of the rotting fish from the boat’s bottom, and chomped down on it. Coagulated juice from the fish’s decaying eyeball squished out on to the man’s chin, but he didn’t seem to notice. His recently developed facial twitch forced all his concentration on the simple act of chewing. It made the process look more like the fits than the consumption of food.

Frustrated by the difficulty of eating, the man spat the half-masticated glob back into the sea from whence it came, a week prior. The calm ocean rippled in response to the unwanted gift.

It was a most unusual thing, the sea’s placidity. It was as if the Gods themselves were punishing the sailors, or so thought the seafaring men who had been trapped back in the harbor. The boatman knew the truth of the sailors’ words, only the God they referred to was a much darker one than the harbor-men could possibly imagine.

“No time, indeed,” the man muttered to himself, picking up the oars once more. “She’s calling me, she is. From the bottom of the sea, she’s calling. Can’t keep her waiting.”

With that, the scrutineer put his back to the paddles, drawing his tiny craft through the still waters of the Ogopian Sea, inexorably southward. *

About the Author: Travis Lyon was born in Richmond, VA, in 1978 and is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University. His primarily poetic works have been published in such books as The Theater of the Mind and Forms of Poetry, magazines like Games, and compact discs like The Sounds of Poetry. When not writing, he spends time playing with his dog and singing at karaoke clubs.
(c) 2004 Travis Lyon embryo3@adelphia.net

About the Artist: Alan Rabinowitz has been illustrating for over 12 years. His primary art medium is oil paint on masonite or board. On occasion or request he will produce digital illustrations. His work can be found on fantasy and science fiction art-related book covers, games, calendars, advertisements, magazine covers, posters, and more. He generally works in the Publishing, Advertising, and Fantasy Game industries. Alan currently is working on several projects for a few top-tier companies. He has a steady workflow from several consistent clients and is always ready to impress and work for new clients, art directors, and art buyers with his illustrations. Alan started his professional career as an illustrator after graduating Rochester Institute of Technology in 1991 with a BFA in Painting and Illustration. His first job right out of school was for two covers for Marvel Comics’ Conan Magazines. He has since trained under his mentor of six years, John F. Murray, at The School of Visual Arts and the John F. Murray School of Art. He studied a traditional academic approach to Drawing and Painting that can be traced back to Jean Leon Gerome and other 19th Century French Academicians at the Ecole de Beau Arts in France. This training technique is known as the Riley Method, which was taught to John Murray by Frank Riley at The Art Students League of New York. During and after Alan’s training, he has developed a steady working relationship with many of his clients, most of which are top-tier companies in their respective industries. He has illustrated Book Covers, Calendars, Portraits, Advertising, Card Games, Magazine Covers, Interior Illustrations, and more. His work will speak for itself as far as quality, photo-realism, and digital art go. “I have always been inspired by traditional, classical, and academic works of art. I enjoy the ‘intellectual’ painters, especially those of the 19th Century, as well as the Old Masters. I also love creating my own worlds, painting the characters and their environments as I envision them.”
(c) 2004 Alan Rabinowitz http://www.fantasy-illustration.com/

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