Book 2 excerpt
Later Rudolph smoked in moonlight as the mysterious ruins of the City of the Drakon shimmered as if gilded with silver. He smoked as he stood outside of his tent. “If I don’t give you permission to cross my threshold then you cannot enter!”
“Who are you talking to?” a voice asked in the darkness.
“You my dear fellow” Rudolph said he suddenly realized he was not alone! A dark silhouette stood before him in the moonlight!
“How do you know who I am?” the dark silhouette asked.
“Well! Your lack of skull is a dead giveaway!” Rudolph said as he backed into his tent. “And the decided stench is another! I do not give you permission to enter! Go haunt your mother who is your murderer! Or else hack up that swine Schikanleren!” Rudolph throw down the canvas door stumbled into his tent as he frantically rushed to find any silver. But he had tossed all of his silver into that inner sanctum of the accurst tomb! Rudolph hastily lit his safety lantern and held it up! The canvas door was still! Rudolph gasped and then hung the lantern to fully illuminate his tent to scare away his terrors! Only to see the Son of Stheno sitting blandly on his canvas chair!
The hideous Draugr was perfectly blandly polite despite being a moldering mass of blue bones garbed in the moldering remains of Ancient Early Bronze Age armor and only held together by bronze chains and bronze wire. Minus the long ago rotted away leather skirt of course! Rudolph stared in horror as rotten greenish black flesh grew around the bluish bones until a putrid black corpse glowed faintly blueish in the light of the safety lantern. The Undead Draugr sat blandly in the camp chair as if a charming guest instead of a gruesome corpse. Only the surreal double axe head which substituted for a skull marred the effect!
“Don’t you miss your skull?” Rudolph said dazed as he dropped down to the edge of his tent camp bed.
“Oh no!” the putrid Draugr replied blandly as he held up his skull in one hand. “I brought it along you see!”
“Oh isn’t that nice” Rudolph replied dazed as the stench filled his tent. Instinctively he reached over to the wounded dog asleep on his bed. But the Great Dane was unconscious under the balm of morphine. “Should I cry out for Loschek? For anyone?” Rudolph asked his soul as the putrid Draugr blandly held up its severed skull to survey the novel modern tent. “I did not give you permission to cross the threshold” Rudolph added as he fumbled for his old silver watch which was the only silver he had on him.
“I am not a Romanian Vampire” the Ancient Draugr replied.
“So you don’t flinch at the sight of silver?” Rudolph held up his silver watch. The Draugr only shrugged. “What is that?”
“A silver watch” Rudolph said.
“What is silver? What is a watch?” the putrid Draugr asked.
“Early Bronze Age! Pre-silver! At least as far as you are concerned! What about iron? Do you fear iron?” Rudolph reached over to his steel gun and waved it at the Draugr. The Draugr flinched.
“That is the strange grey sand that is drawn toward lodestone! It is found in the land I rule! But I don’t…… like it! Put it away!”
Rudolph held the gun firmly in his hand. “I did not ask you into my tent! Please leave!”
The putrid Draugr stayed seated on the canvas chair as it held its severed skull crowned with a moldering diadem high up to converse with Rudolph. The stone knife imbedded in one eye socket formed an ironical touch. The terrible stench filled the tent along with a very slight blueish smoke as the black and rotting carcass glowed with a very slight blueish light. “Howl! Howl! May I call you Howl? I suddenly felt so consumed with loneliness my dear Howl!”
“How do you know my name! Of course! You followed us right up and out of that damn meandering tunnel from that accurst tomb didn’t you? So silver does not stop you! Chalk up one paranormal anomaly for you!” Rudolph held the steel revolver firmly in his hand. “But this is iron! Magical iron! Called steel! I hope you are impressed! And my magical iron trumps your moldering bronze! And my weapon trumps your moldering weapons!”
The Draugr sat blandly in the canvas chair as it held the severed skull which nodded. It appeared to be a ‘Mexican standoff’.
Maggots squirmed in the rotting muck inside the Draugr’s empty eye socket as yet more maggots quivered around the still embedded stone blade driven through one eye hole. The moldering teeth grinned their skeleton grin. More greenish black and throughly putrid flesh grew around the skeleton’s moldering bones as if spidery cobwebs of rot. One rotten hand, the one not holding the rotten skull, spun the massive gold signet ring around one bony finger as if by some long ago unconscious habit. The massive gold signet ring was too large and too heavy. It was designed to awe and intimidate rather than fit comfortably on the hand. “I suddenly felt so amazingly lonely” the rotting Draugr explained to the terrified Rudolph. “So I followed you as memories of life flowed back into my hollowness. I suddenly simply could not endure being absolutely alone with myself!”
“You have a charming new roommate!” Rudolph replied. “An automaton Drakon dragon!”
“Is that the large cat I felt scurrying around me?” the rotting Draugr replied blandly. “I did not invite it into my palace!”
“Actually it did not invite you into its inner sanctum” Rudolph replied as his pale face flinched in fear while the hand holding the steel gun shook. “You invited yourself into the Drakon’s lair!”
“I did wonder why my palace suddenly seemed so small and dark” the Draugr replied blandly as bony fingers spun that massive and oversized gold signet ring around and around one bony finger with unconscious gestures as if a worrywart.
“Your palace has been for some time a small and dark place” Rudolph said. “A stony womb of a tomb! Your tomb! For you have been dead four thousand years!”
“Really? Well that does explain the lack of attendants and luxuries such as I am accustomed to!” the rotting Draugr replied blandly. “My power to dominate and rule has moldered into dust. My pomp and circumstances have crumbled away! And my infinite regalia of riches have shrunk down to a mere mockery of majesty! And my golden royalty has withered down to the symbols of my personal loftiness! And my throne appears to be reduced to a bronze chest containing this year’s taxes seized from my cowering subjects! And without an audience to awe and overwhelm, and fawning sycophants to cower, and servants to terrorize, and peasants to dominate, and soldiers to command, what use are my symbols of royalty and majesty? To be alone my dear Howl suddenly seems so very frightening!”
“At least you should have been left a polished metal mirror so you could admire yourself forever! And that tax chest must be mightily uncomfortable for your bony rump!” Rudolph replied as he pointed his steel gun at the Draugr. “Being a narcissist, the modern Vienna word just coined to describe you, your overwhelming ego is not enough if there is no one to dominate and terrorize or else to admire and adore you! Would an iron bullet kill you? Again?”
“Am I dead?” the rotting Draugr asked, quite surprised.
“Yes and no. And I suppose not. You have no rotting heart to pierce” Rudolph replied. “But the bullet is iron! And your blood baths have stopped indicated by the state of your stinking corruption! Like all Draugrs, your parasitic absorption of other people’s pranic energy, be it by adoration or terror or sadism or tyranny or else simply the blood of human sacrifices, is too crude to do much more than delay death indefinitely without giving the counterfeit of life. You must have quite an ego being a narcissist to think lingering as a Draugr is preferable to a dignified exit to the next life. And you must be remarkably afraid of dying to be willing to linger as a moldering corpse in a stony tomb. A kingdom and a palace reduced to a tomb!
Frankly, your terror overwhelms your common sense. If I cannot live life to the fullest then I would not compromise for such a moldering parody of life as you have settled for. To live forever! A rotting corpse! Eternally dying! Your world shrunken to a stony tomb! No! Let me put you out of your mercy my dear Draugr. Let me shot you with a iron bullet from this magical iron weapon I am holding in my hand. They shoot horses don’t they? You really do need to be put out of your misery! Or our misery! One or the other!”
“For some reason I don’t like this ‘iron’” the Draugr replied slightly uneasily. I ruled a land of Bronze and Gold and Tin! I became a great warlord for my control of Bronze and Gold and Tin! For I conquered people welding only stone and soft copper! For without Tin can there be Bronze? And without Bronze can there be weapons? And without Bronze can there be triumph and domination? And I control the monopoly of Tin for Bronze for Weapons! And everyone showers Gold down upon me to buy the humdrum needful thing to made Power bestowing Bronze!
But some of my more traitorous subjects tried to smelt this iron into crafty if ugly weapons which could slay Bronze and therefore slay me! Substituting an uglier magic for my superior magic! They plotted mutiny! And insurrection! And rebellion! Thinking they could out maneuver my power and foil my domination by trumping my monopoly of Bronze weapons which gird my power and supremacy! And no matter how much I tyrannize and terrorize them, the miserable creatures keep plotting! Like rats! To nibble at my authority and unravel my majesty!”
“The Revolution of the proletariat! Marx was right after all!” Rudolph replied as he aimed his steel gun at the Draugr. “I never thought Marx and I would agree on anything! But we both agree about what should be done with you! Viva the Revolution! Did I say I hold magical iron called steel? Why don’t you just exit life as nature intended my dear Draugr? You are dead! Die! Don’t prolong it! Your stench is so overpowering! Why pollute the living with your vile carcass?”
“So I am dead? Am I dead? Who slew me?” the rotting Draugr asked, quite amazed at the novel idea he was dead.
“Your mother Stheno slew you! Her stone knife is still embedded in your right eye socket!” Rudolph retorted as he held the gun pointed at the rotting Draugr. “I could try to shoot you and see if iron would effect you! Even if you are dead! And at the very least the sound would bring people to help me! So why can’t I shoot you? Why can’t I scream? What is stopping me? Something is stopping me? What is stopping me? Why can’t I pull the trigger?”
“But why my dear Howl?” the Draugr replied blandly as the bony fingers of the hand not holding its severed skull spun that oversized gold signet ring around and around and around one bony finger. “I am so….. very….. lonely. Such as I sometimes felt when alone in my palace! After all of the pomp and circumstances ended for the night! And the cowering lackeys fled! And the craven attendants decamped! And the cringing maids bolted! And the bodyguard marched away to warm homes and hearths and lovers who were not me! And I laid alone on my bed waiting for HER to come. Have you ever felt thus my dear Howl? Lonely? Desperately lonely?”
“Yes and no” Rudolph replied. “Spanish Etiquette is cold and lonely and my parents do not love me. I sleep on a cold and narrow camp cot in cold and lonely barracks far from friends or a loving sister or nanny or tutor. But there are my dogs to comfort me. But Maximilian is wounded and numbed by morphine or else he would be tearing you to pieces to protect me! And alas! And you are such a stinky bundle of rotting bones you would probably give him indigestion!”
The rotting Draugr chuckled. “You really don’t fear me at all do you? It is novel! Everyone fears me! Everyone is in awe of me! Wherever I go everyone cowers and quivers in awe and terror of me! Except HER of course! And during the day it is all quite amusing! To be feared! To be hated! But at night I would feel so unexpectedly lonely sometimes …… as I waited on my bed for HER to arrive. My loving ……Mother!”
“Being the Son of Stheno must have had its drawbacks!” Rudolph said as he kept the steel gun aimed at the Draugr. “Do you even have a name other than ‘Son of Stheno’?”
The Draugr flinched. “I …..don’t……remember!”
“I also have a dreadfully suffocating mother” Rudolph said. “Fortunately she choose to smother another called Valerie instead of me! Do you remember your father?”
The rotting Draugr flinched. “SHE killed him after he impregnated her with the Seed of Me! SHE smothered him in their bed! As SHE straddled his chest! His pillow over his face! SHE raised me alone! I was HER polished metal mirror alter ego! We shared co-joined thrones! We shared co-joined lives! HER womb was the size of the world! But I could never escape it! And then HER stony womb shrunk to the size of this cloth room! And the world became dark again!”
“The stony womb was your stony tomb wherein you and your motherly murderer were entombed” Rudolph told the Draugr. “So you don’t remember being murdered by Stheno?”
The rotting Draugr flinched. Nervy fingers of black rotting flesh nervously spun that massive gold signet ring around and around and around one bony finger. “No. We were in bed together. I was upset about something. So SHE filled my golden cup with a sleeping potion of red poppies. And remember becoming drowsy as SHE reclined beside me, stroking my hair and beard as I became drowsy. Until I started to slip into the twilight sleep between waking and deep sleep. When one feels awake yet is not awake. When one feels awake yet cannot move. When one feels awake yet feels paralyzed.”
“Hypnagogia waking sleep” Rudolph explained.
The rotting Draugr flinched. “And I remember HER sitting on my chest and holding my arms so I could not move. And I could not move. I was awake yet asleep and awake yet dreaming and awake yet paralyzed.
“Hypnagogia waking sleep” Rudolph repeated.
“And suddenly SHE felt so heavy as she straddled my chest! SHE felt so crushingly heavy! As if I could not breathe! And then SHE stared into my eyes as I tried to beg HER to stop suffocating me by crushing my chest. And then SHE pulled out her magical stone dagger and then she…..” The Draugr suddenly stood up! “SHE killed me! I remember now! SHE drove her magical dagger through my….” the bony hand not holding his severed skull felt the stone dagger still embedded in one rotting eye socket. “SHE told me I was invincible! SHE lied! SHE lied!”
“The gift of total invincibility is too dangerous for even a mother to bestow upon her son” Rudolph said as the rotting Draugr quivered before him. “She had to keep something back! Something to hold over you! Something to control you! Something just in case you turned on her! Why did she turn on you anyway?”
The rotting Draugr quivered before Rudolph. “Earlier that day I flirted with a pretty …… boy. What was the point of flirting with pretty girls? SHE only slew them one by one to fill my bath with their life giving blood! But he was such a pretty boy! I thought maybe SHE might let me keep him as ….. a pet……” The rotting Draugr stared at Rudolph. “Would SHE let me keep you as a pet? I would let you kiss me and worship my majesty. I might even let you live for the span of summer….”
“I don’t think Stheno is the type to share” Rudolph replied dryly. “I will shoot you now! Even if the iron bullet can’t kill you the noise will bring rescue!” Then Rudolph shot the rotting Draugr…..
…………as Rudolph woke on the bed. He was sure he was awake! Yet he felt unable to move. He was sure he was awake! But he felt paralyzed. He was sure he was awake! But he suddenly felt such a crushing weight pressing down on his chest. Rudolph gasped for air as he slowly suffocated as something incredibly heavy crushed his chest. So Rudolph opened his eyes to behold the Draugr straddling his chest while hold down his arms so he could not move. So Rudolph tried to scream. Yet he was so paralyzed he could not scream. No matter how hard Rudolph tried to scream, he could not scream!
“It is Hypnagogia. The Waking Sleep” the rotting Draugr explained as he straddled Rudolph’s chest as the severed skull wobbled grotesquely on top of the severed neck bones, the back of the diadem hooked on the spike of the double axe.
“You are suffocating me!” Rudolph whispered. “Please! Please!”
“Why can’t SHE let me keep any pets? Not even pets? Not even brothers or sisters? Not even friends or lovers?” the rotting Draugr whispered as he straddled Rudolph’s chest.
“Please! Please!” Rudolph whispered. “You are suffocating me!”
The rotting Draugr picked up his golden death mask. Then he pressed it over Rudolph’s face and mouth. The flattened and hacked and defaced golden face pressed itself against Rudolph’s face. Then the gold started to suffocate Rudolph. Rudolph turned as blue as the Draugr as Rudolph suffocated……
…… as the wounded Maximilian painfully lunged up onto the camp cot to howl as it bit and shook the unconscious Rudolph fully awake. Rudolph gasped for air and jerked upright as he hugged his wounded dog. “It was a nightmare! A Night Mare riding my chest! I could not wake up Max!….”