Swords Against Sorcery: Skull Temple of the Brown Men, Part 1

painting found here
Princess Cynndra awoke, cold and sore. Her vision was clouded, but she knew she wasn't in her bed in the royal suite. Her flesh - completely bare - was chilled by the cold outdoors air. Not the heavy, moist morning air of her beloved Tredakia, but dry, frigid, alien air.

She tried to rise, but heavy manacles about her ankles, wrists, and neck kept her from doing more than shifting slightly. The rough, cold stone raking at her pale flesh told her that she was chained to a stone slab of some sort.

She suddenly became aware that she wasn't alone. Man-like figures moved close around her, dark and threatening. Their grunting and bestial language was unfamiliar, but loud and clearly full of anger.

As her vision began to clear, she saw the figures more clearly: ape-like men, brutish, armed and armored with crude implements. They were shoving and shouting at each other. One would occasionally push the others away and make to climb atop her, only to be dragged back into the fray.

Cynndra had no idea where she might be, but it was obvious what these ape-men intended for her. She had no desire to wait for them to finally decide which of them would be first to have his way with her. She began pulling at the rough manacles, hoping to free herself. Fortunately, they were made for thicker appendages, and she was able to pull a hand free. Then the other.

She'd just gotten a foot free when a loud, enraged shout silenced the bickering ape-men. They cleared as a larger ape-man, a jagged scar across his face, shoved his way through the crowd. He leered down at Cynndra, his black eyes filled with lust and fury.

Lacking a better option, Cynndra began to scream.
. . . . .

Var had been wandering the strange, desolate wasteland for several days. Food and water were scarce here; Intelligent life, apparently non-existent.

He was packing his camp supplies at the base of a rocky hill when a woman's cry sounded from above him. He turned his head to look over his shoulder at the hill and listened for a moment.

Another cry. And another.

He turned back to his backpack, slowly finished packing it, then stood and slung it over his shoulder.

Casually, he turned and made his way up the rocky slope.
. . . . .

The big ape-man grabbed Cynndra's fine, golden hair and sniffed at it. He then forced his way onto her despite her struggles to fend him off. Even free of her bonds, she could never have overcome the giant brute. She turned her face away as he leaned in close, snorting hot breath against her cheek.

She stopped screaming and clenched her eyes shut, steeling herself for what she knew would come next.

Suddenly, a shout of alarm went up from the group. Then, another. The brute leaned up and looked around. Cynndra opened her eyes.

The ape-men were shouting and hooting, pointing at the crest of the hill. Cynndra's gaze followed the direction in which they were gesturing.

Through the spreading crowd, she saw a figure standing atop the hill, silhouetted against the rising orange sun. At first, it just stood there, as if a mirage. Then, the figure's right arm moved away from its hip, and the thin line of a long, grim blade became apparent.
. . . . .

Var let the backpack slip from his shoulder and drop to the ground as he slowly approached the pack of ravening brutes. His blade hung from his slackened right arm as he continued forward. The blade's steel almost seemed to be singing as the air moved over it.

The ape-men shouted at the raven-haired warrior, their language unknown but clearly threatening.

Var continued to steadily approach them, his face like stone. Then, with a sudden, silent burst of fury, he charged the beasts and leaped into the air. His powerful muscles rippled as he swung up the blade and brought it swiftly back down on the nearest ape-man, cutting it in half, from left shoulder to right hip.

The halves of the beast's body fell away in opposite directions.

Var stepped back from the carcass and crouched into a fighting stance. The other ape-men went silent and backed away.

With a grunt, the large ape-man shoved himself off Cynndra and lumbered toward the swordsman. He pulled a jagged, cleaver-like blade from its place at his side and held it out for Var to see as he bared his teeth and snarled at him.

The brute lifted the blade and swung it down at Var, but in a flash, Var stepped to the side, evading the blow. At nearly the same time, he half-turned and brought his slim blade down on the brute.

The beast's head rolled away. Its black, dead eyes wore a look of complete surprise as it watched its own body fall to the rocks.

The remaining pack of beast men turned to run, then suddenly stopped. They stepped aside as a monstrous member of their race climbed from the lower, westward side of the hill. He snorted derisively at them as he passed and made his way to stand before the swordsman.

The massive ape-man regarded Var with his one good eye - the other was white as milk, dead - as he unstrapped a long, crooked blade from his belt. He hefted the weapon and sneered at Var, then roared and prepared to lunge.

"Vord! Enough!" an authoritative female voice snapped from behind the beast.

The ape-man stopped and dropped his weapon. He fell to one knee as an eight-foot-tall woman approached. The other ape-men followed suit, muttering some sacred chant as the woman passed them.

Var relaxed and stood from his crouch as the woman, a diaphanous white gown covering her lithe, blue-skinned body, came to stand over him.

"Welcome," she said.

[To be continued...]

. . . . .