A note from the (unknown) transcriber:

No mere transcription can give the true flavor of the original printing of The Eye of Argon. It was mimeographed with stencils cut on an Elite manual typewriter. Many letters were so faint as to be barely readable, others were overstruck, and some that were to be removed never got painted out with correction fluid. Usually, only one space separated sentences, while paragraphs were separated by a blank line and were indented ten spaces. Many words were grotesquely hyphenated. And there were illustrations -- I cannot do them justice in mere words, but they were a match for the text. These are the major losses of this version (#02) of TEoA.

Otherwise, all effort has been made to retain the full and correct text, preserving even mis-spellings and dropped spaces. An excellent proofreader has checked it for errors both omitted and committed. What mis-matches remain are mine.

I shall endeavor to keep a copy of the original available for viewing, so it may be appreciated in all its fullness. But as a labor of love for those whose 3rd-generation copies have now suscummed to the bitter vicissitudes of time and entropy, worn away by the ravages of countless re-readings before enthralled audiances, yet who have found that the the heady flavor of its stylistic paragraphs has seeped into their soul and still grips it with a fervid grasp, I dedicate this machine-readable version of the inimitable The Eye of Argon.


                        THE EYE OF ARGON

                          by Jim Theis

     The weather beaten trail wound ahead into the dust racked 
climes of the baren land which dominates large portions of the 
Norgolian empire.  Age worn hoof prints smothered by the sifting 
sands of time shone dully against the dust splattered crust of 
earth.  The tireless sun cast its parching rays of incandescense 
from overhead, half way through its daily revolution.  Small 
rodents scampered about, occupying themselves in the daily 
accomplishments of their dismal lives.  Dust sprayed over three 
heaving mounts in blinding clouds, while they bore the burdonsome 
cargoes of their struggling overseers.
     "Prepare to embrace your creators in the stygian haunts of 
hell, barbarian", gasped the first soldier.
     "Only after you have kissed the fleeting stead of death, 
wretch!" returned Grignr.
     A sweeping blade of flashing steel riveted from the massive 
barbarians hide enameled shield as his rippling right arm thrust 
forth, sending a steel shod blade to the hilt into the soldiers 
vital organs.  The disemboweled mercenary crumpled from his 
saddle and sank to the clouded sward, sprinkling the parched dust 
with crimson droplets of escaping life fluid.
     The enthused barbarian swilveled about, his shock of fiery 
red hair tossing robustly in the humid air currents as he faced 
the attack of the defeated soldier's fellow in arms.
     "Damn you, barbarian" Shrieked the soldier as he observed 
his comrade in death.
     A gleaming scimitar smote a heavy blow against the 
renegade's spiked helmet, bringing a heavy cloud over the 
Ecordian's misting brain.  Shaking off the effects of the 
pounding blow to his head, Grignr brought down his scarlet 
streaked edge against the soldier's crudely forged hauberk, 
clanging harmlessly to the left side of his opponent.  The 
soldier's stead whinnied as he directed the horse back from the 
driving blade of the barbarian.  Grignr leashed his mount forward 
as the hoarsely piercing battle cry of his wilderness bred race 
resounded from his grinding lungs.  A twirling blade bounced 
harmlessly from the mighty thief's buckler as his rolling right 
arm cleft upward, sending a foot of blinding steel ripping 
through the Simarian's exposed gullet.  A gasping gurgle from the 
soldier's writhing mouth as he tumbled to the golden sand at his 
feet, and wormed agonizingly in his death bed.
     Grignr's emerald green orbs glared lustfully at the 
wallowing soldier struggling before his chestnut swirled mount.  
His scowling voice reverberated over the dying form in a tone of 
mocking mirth.  "You city bred dogs should learn not to 
antagonize your better."  Reining his weary mount ahead, grignr 
resumed his journey to the Noregolian city of Gorzam, hoping to 
discover wine, women, and adventure to boil the wild blood 
coarsing through his savage veins.
     The trek to Gorzom was forced upon Grignr when the soldiers 
of Crin were leashed upon him by a faithless concubine he had 
wooed.  His scandalous activities throughout the Simarian city 
had unleashed throngs of havoc and uproar among it's refined 
patricians, leading them to tack a heavy reward over his head.  
He had barely managed to escape through the back entrance of the 
inn he had been guzzling in, as a squad of soldiers tounced upon 
him.  After spilling a spout of blood from the leader of the 
mercenaries as he dismembered one of the officer's arms, he 
retreated to his mount to make his way towards Gorzom, rumoured 
to contain hoards of plunder, and many young wenches for any man 
who has the backbone to wrest them away.

                               -2-

     Arriving after dusk in Gorzom,grignr descended down a dismal 
alley, reining his horse before a beaten tavern.  The redhaired 
giant strode into the dimly lit hostelry reeking of foul odors, 
and cheap wine.  The air was heavy with chocking fumes spewing 
from smolderingtorches encased within theden's earthen packed 
walls.  Tables were clustered with groups of drunken thieves, and 
cutthroats, tossing dice, or making love to willing prostitutes.
     Eyeing a slender female crouched alone at a nearby bench, 
Grignr advanced wishing to wholesomely occupy his time.  The 
flickering torches cast weird shafts of luminescence dancing over 
the half naked harlot of his choice, her stringy orchid twines of 
hair swaying gracefully over the lithe opaque nose, as she raised 
a half drained mug to her pale red lips.
     Glancing upward, the alluring complexion noted the stalwart 
giant as he rapidly approached.  A faint glimmer sparked from the 
pair of deep blue ovals of the amorous female as she motioned 
toward Grignr, enticing him to join her.  The barbarian seated 
himself upon a stool at the wenches side, exposing his body, 
naked save for a loin cloth brandishing a long steel broad sword, 
an iron spiraled battle helmet, and a thick leather sandals, to 
her unobstructed view.
     "Thou hast need to occupy your time, barbarian",questioned 
the female?
     "Only if something worth offering is within my reach." 
Stated Grignr,as his hands crept to embrace the tempting female, 
who welcomed them with open willingness.
     "From where do you come barbarian, and by what are you 
called?" Gasped the complying wench, as Grignr smothered her lips 
with the blazing touch of his flaming mouth.
     The engrossed titan ignored the queries of the inquisitive 
female, pulling her towards him and crushing her sagging nipples 
to his yearning chest.  Without struggle she gave in, winding her 
soft arms around the harshly bronzedhide of Grignr corded 
shoulder blades, as his calloused hands caressed her firm 
protruding busts.
     "You make love well wench," Admitted Grignr as he reached 
for the vessel of potent wine his charge had been quaffing.
     A flying foot caught the mug Grignr had taken hold of, 
sending its blood red contents sloshing over a flickering 
crescent; leashing tongues of bright orange flame to the foot 
trodden floor.
     "Remove yourself Sirrah, the wench belongs to me;" Blabbered 
a drunken soldier, too far consumed by the influences of his 
virile brew to take note of the superior size of his adversary.
     Grignr lithly bounded from the startled female, his face lit 
up to an ashen red ferocity, and eyes locked in a searing feral 
blaze toward the swaying soldier.
     "To hell with you, braggard!" Bellowed the angered Ecordian, 
as he hefted his finely honed broad sword.
     The staggering soldier clumsily reached towards the pommel 
of his dangling sword, but before his hands ever touched the 
oaken hilt a silvered flash was slicing the heavy air.  The thews 
of the savages lashing right arm bulged from the glistening 
bronzed hide as his blade bit deeply into the soldiers neck, 
loping off the confused head of his senseless tormentor.
     With a nauseating thud the severed oval toppled to the 
floor, as the segregated torso of Grignr's bovine antagonist 
swayed, then collapsed in a pool of swirled crimson.
     In the confusion the soldier's fellows confronted Grignr 
with unsheathed cutlasses, directed toward the latters scowling 
make-up.
     "The slut should have picked his quarry more carefully!" 
Roared the victor in a mocking baritone growl, as he wiped his 
dripping blade on the prostrate form, and returned it to its 
scabbard.
     "The fool should have shown more prudence, however you shall 
rue your actions while rotting in the pits." Stated one of the 
sprawled soldier's comrades.
     Grignr's hand began to remove his blade from its leather 
housing, but retarded the motion in face of the blades waving 
before his face.
     "Dismiss your hand from the hilt, barbarbian, or you shall 
find a foot of steel sheathed in your gizzard."
     Grignr weighed his position observing his plight, where-upon 
he took the soldier's advice as the only logical choice.  To 
attempt to hack his way from his present predicament could only 
warrant certain death.  He was of no mind to bring upon his own 
demise if an alternate path presented itself.  The will to 
necessitate his life forced him to yield to the superior force in 
hopes of a moment of carlessness later upon the part of his 
captors in which he could effect a more plausible means of 
escape.
     "You may steady your arms, I will go without a struggle."
     "Your decision is a wise one, yet perhaps you would have 
been better off had you forced death," the soldier's mouth 
wrinkled to a sadistic grin of knowing mirth as he prodded his 
prisoner on with his sword point.
     After an indiscriminate period of marching through slinking 
alleyways and dim moonlighted streets the procession confronted a
massive seraglio.  The palace area was surrounded by an iron 
grating, with a lush garden upon all sides.
     The group was admitted through the gilded gateway and Grignr 
was ledalong a stone pathway bordered by plush vegitation 
lustfully enhanced by the moon's shimmering rays.  Upon reaching 
the palace the group was granted entrance, and after several 
minutes of explanation, led through several winding corridors to 
a richly draped chamber.
     Confronting the group was a short stocky man seated upona 
golden throne.  Tapestries of richly draped regal blue silk 
covered all walls of the chamber, while the steps leading to the 
throne were plated with sparkling white ivory.  The man upon the 
throne had a naked wench seated at each of his arms, and a 
trusted advisor seated in back of him.  At each cornwr of the 
chamber a guard stood at attention, with upraised pikes supported 
in their hands, golden chainmail adorning their torso's and 
barred helmets emitting scarlet plumes enshrouding their heads.  
The man rose from his throne to the dias surrounding it.  His 
plush turquois robe dangled loosely from his chuncky frame.
     The soldiers surrounding Grignr fell to their knees with 
heads bowed to the stone masonry of the floor in fearful dignity 
to their sovereign, leige.
     "Explain the purpose of this intrusion upon my chateau!"
     "Your sirenity, resplendent in noble grandeur, we have 
brought this yokel before you (the soldier gestured toward 
Grignr) for the redress or your all knowing wisdon in judgement 
regarding his fate."
     "Down on your knees, lout, and pay proper homage to your 
sovereign!" commanded the pudgy noble of Grignr.
     "By the surly beard of Mrifk, Grignr kneels to no man!" 
scowled the massive barbarian.
     "You dare to deal this blasphemous act to me!  You are 
indeed brave stranger, yet your valor smacks of foolishness."
     "I find you to be the only fool, sitting upon your pompous 
throne, enhancing the rolling flabs of your belly in the midst of 
your elaborate luxuryand ..."  The soldier standing at Grignr's 
side smote him heavily in the face with the flat of his sword, 
cutting short the harsh words and knocking his battered helmet to 
the masonry with an echo-ing clang.
     The paunchy noble's sagging round face flushed suddenly 
pale, then pastily lit up to a lustrous cherry red radiance.  His 
lips trembled with malicious rage, while emitting a muffled 
sibilant gibberish.  His sagging flabs rolled like a tub of upset 
jelly, then compressed as he sucked in his gut in an attempt to 
conceal his softness.
     The prince regained his statue, then spoke to the soldiers 
surrounding Grignr, his face conforming to an ugly expression of 
sadistic humor.
     "Take this uncouth heathen to the vault of misery, and be 
sure that his agonies are long and drawn out before death can 
release him."
     "As you wish sire, your command shall be heeded 
immediately," answered the soldier on the right of Grignr as he 
stared into the barbarians seemingly unaffected face.     
     The advisor seated in the back of the noble slowly rose and 
advanced to the side of his master, motioning the wenches seated 
at his sides to remove themselves.  He lowered his head and 
whispered to the noble.
     "Eminence, the punishment you have decreed will cause much 
misery to this scum, yet it will last only a short time, then 
release him to a land beyond the sufferings of the human body.  
Why not mellow him in one of the subterranean vaults for a few 
days, then send him to life labor in one of your buried mines.  
To one such as he, a life spent in the confinement of the stygian 
pits will be an infinitely more appropiate and lasting torture."
     The noble cupped his drooping double chin in the folds of 
his briming palm, meditating for a moment upon the rationality of 
the councilor's word's, then raised his shaggy brown eyebrows and 
turned toward the advisor, eyes aglow.
     "...As always Agafnd, you speak with great wisdom.  Your 
words ring of great knowledge concerning the nature of one such 
as he ," sayeth , the king.  The noble turned toward the prisoner 
with a noticable shimmer reflecting in his frog-like eyes, and 
his lips contorting to a greasy grin.  "I have decided to void my 
previous decree.  The prisoner shall be removed to one of the 
palaces underground vaults.  There he shall stay until I have 
decided that he has sufficiently simmered, whereupon he is to be 
allowed to spend the remainder of his days at labor in one of my 
mines."
     Upon hearing this, Grignr realized that his fate would be 
far less merciful than death to one such as he, who is used to 
roaming the countryside at will.  A life of confinement would be 
more than his body and mind could stand up to.  This type of life 
would be immeasurably worse than death.
     "I shall never understand the ways if your twisted 
civilization.  I simply defend my honor and am condemned to life 
confinement, by a pig who sits on his royal ass wooing whores, 
and knows nothing of the affairs of the land he imagines to 
rule!" Lectures Grignr ?
     "Enough of this!  Away with the slut before I loose my 
control!"
     Seeing the peril of his position, Grignr searched for an 
opening.  Crushing prudence to the sward, he plowed into the 
soldier at his left arm taking hold of his sword, and bounding to 
the dias supporting the prince before the startled guards could 
regain their composure.  Agafnd leaped Grignr and his sire, but 
found a sword blade permeating the length of his ribs before he 
could loosed his weapon.
     The councilor slumped to his knees as Grignr slid his 
crimsoned blade from Agfnd's rib cage.  The fat prince stood 
undulating  in insurmountable fear before the edge of the fiery 
maned comet, his flabs of jellied blubber pulsating to and fro in 
ripples of flowing terror.
     "Where is your wisdom and power now, your magjesty?" Growled 
Grignr.
     The prince went rigid as Grignr discerned him glazing over 
his shoulder.  He swlived to note the cause of the noble's 
attention, raised his sword over his head, and prepared to leash 
a vicious downward cleft, but fell short as the haft of a steel 
rimed pike clashed against his unguarded skull.  Then blackness 
and solitude.  Silence enshrouding and ever peaceful reind 
supreme.
     "Before me, sirrah!  Before me as always! Ha, Ha Ha, 
Haaaa...", nobly cackled.

                               -3-

     Consciousness returned to Grignr in stygmatic pools as his 
mind gradually cleared of the cobwebs cluttering its inner 
recesses, yet the stygian cloud of charcoal ebony remained.  An 
incompatible shield of blackness, enhanced by the bleak abscense 
of sound.
     Grignr's muddled brain reeled from the shock of the blow he 
had recieved to the base of his skull.  The events leading to his 
predicament were slow to filter back to him.  He dickered with 
the notion that he was dead and had descended or sunk, however it 
may be, to the shadowed land beyond the the aperature of the 
grave, but rejected this hypothesis when his memory sifted back 
within his grips.  This was not the land of the dead, it was 
something infinitely more precarious than anything the grave 
could offer.  Death promised an infinity of peace, not the finite 
misery of an inactive life of confined torture, forever concealed 
from the life bearing shafts of the beloved rising sun.  The orb 
that had been before taken for granted, yet now cherished above 
all else.  To be forever refused further glimpses of the snow 
capped summits of the land of his birth, never again to witness 
the thrill of plundering unexplored lands beyond the crest of a 
bleeding horizon, and perhaps worst of all the denial to ever 
again encompass the lustful excitement of caressing the naked 
curves of the body of a trim yound wench.
     This was indeed one of the buried chasms of Hell concealed 
within the inner depths of the palace's despised interior.  A 
fearful ebony chamber devised to drive to the brinks of insanity 
the minds of the unfortunately condemned, through the inapt 
solitude of a limbo of listless dreary silence.

                             -3 1/2-

     A tightly rung elliptical circle or torches cast their 
wavering shafts prancing morbidly over the smooth surface of a 
rectangular, ridged alter.  Expertly chisled forms of grotesque 
gargoyles graced the oblique rim protruberating the length of the 
grim orifice of death, staring forever ahead into nothingness in 
complete ignorance of the bloody rites enacted in their 
prescence.  Brown flaking stains decorated the golden surface of 
the ridge surrounding the alter, which banked to a small slit at 
the lower right hand corner of the altar.  The slit stood above a 
crudely pounded pail which had several silver meshed chalices 
hanging at its sides.  Dangling at the rimof golden mallet, the 
handle of which was engraved with images of twisted faces and 
groved at its far end with slots designed for a snug hand grip.  
The head of the mallet was slightly larger than a clenched fist 
and shaped into a smooth oval mass.
     Encircling the marble altar was a congregation of leering 
shamen.  Eerie chants of a bygone age, originating unknown eons 
before the memory of man, were being uttered from the buried 
recesses of the acolytes' deep lings.  Orange paint was smeared 
in generous globules over the tops of thw Priests' wrinkled 
shaven scalps, while golden rings projected from the lobes of 
their pink ears.  Ornate robes of lusciour purple satin enclosed 
their bulging torsos, attached around their waists with silvered 
silk lashes latched with ebony buckles in the shape of morose 
mis-shaped skulls.  Dangling around their necks were oval 
fashoned medalions held by thin gold chains, featuring in their 
centers blood red rubys which resembled crimson fetish eyeballs.  
Cushoning their bare feet were plush red felt slippers with 
pointed golden spikes projecting from their tips.
     Situated in front of the altar, and directly adjacent to the 
copper pail was a massive jade idol; a misshaped, hideous bust of 
the shamens' pagan diety.  The shimmering green idol was placed 
in a sitting posture on an ornately carved golden throne raised 
upon a round, dvory plated dias; it bulging arms and webbed hands 
resting on the padded arms of the seat.  Its head was entwined in 
golden snake-like coils hanging over its oblong ears, which 
tappered off to thin hollow points.  Its nose was a bulging 
triangular mass, sunken in at its sides with tow gaping nostrils.  
Dramatic beneath the nostrils was a twisted, shaggy lipped mouth, 
giving the impression of a slovering sadistic grimace.
     At the foot of the heathen diety a slender, pale faced 
female, naked but for a golden, jeweled harness enshrouding her 
huge outcropping breasts, supporting long silver laces which 
extended to her thigh, stood before the pearl white field with 
noticable shivers traveling up and down the length of her 
exquisitely molded body.  Her delicate lips trembled beneath soft 
narrow hands as she attemped to conceal herself from the piercing 
stare of the ambivalent idol.
     Glaring directly down towards her was the stoney, cycloptic 
face of the bloated diety.  Gaping from its single obling socket 
was scintillating, many fauceted scarlet emerald, a brilliant gem 
seeming to possess a life all of its own.  A priceless gleaming 
stone, capable of domineering the wealth of conquering 
empires...the eye of Argon.

                               -4-     

     All knowledge of measuring time had escaped Grignr.  When a 
person is deprived of the sun, moon, and stars, he looses all 
conception of time as he had previously understood it.  It seemed 
as if years had passed if time were being measured by terms of 
misery and mental anguish, yet he estimated that his stay had 
only been a few days in length.  He has slept three times and had 
been fed five times since his awakening in the crypt.  However, 
when the actions of the body are restricted its needs are also 
affected.  The need for nourishmnet and slumber are directly 
proportional to the functions the body has performed, meaning 
that when free and active Grignr may become hungry every six 
hours and witness the desire for sleep every fifteen hours, 
whereas in his present condition he may encounter the need for 
food every ten hours, and the want for rest every twenty hours.  
All methods he had before depended upon were extinct in the 
dismal pit.  Hence, he may have been imprisoned for ten minutes 
or ten years, he did not know, resulting in a disheartened 
emotion deep within his being.
     The food, if you can honor the moldering lumps of fetid mush 
to that extent, was born to him by two guards who opened a portal 
at the top of his enclosure and shoved it to him in wooden bowls, 
retrieving the food and water bowels from his previous meal at 
the same time, after which they threw back the bolts on the iron 
latch and returned to their other duties.  Since deprived of all 
other means of nourishment, Grignr was impelled to eat the 
tainted slop in order to ward off the paings of starvation, 
though as he stuffed it into his mouth with his filthy fingers 
and struggled to force it down his throat, he imagined it was 
that which had been spurned by the hounds stationed at various 
segments of the palace.
     There was little in the baren vault that could occupy his 
body or mind.  He had paced out the length and width of the 
enclosure time and time again and tested every granite slab which 
consisted the walls of the prison in hopes of finding a hidden 
passage to freedom, all of which was to no avail other than to 
keep him busy and distract his mind from wandering to thoughts of 
what he believed was his future.  He had memorized the number of 
strides from one end to the other of the cell, and knew the exact 
number of slabs which made up the bleak dungeon.  Numorous 
schemes were introduced and alternately discarded in turn as they 
succored to unravel to him no means of escape which stood the 
slightest chance of sucess.
     Anguish continued to mount as his means of occupation were 
rapidly exhausted.  Suddenly without no tive, he wasrouted from 
his contemplations as he detected a faint scratching sound at the 
end of the crypt opposite him.  The sound seemed to be caused by 
something trying to scrape away at the grantite blocks the floor 
of the enclosure consisted of, the sandy scratching of something 
like an animal's claws.
     Grignr gradually groped his way to the other end of the 
vault carefully feeling his way along with his hands ahead of 
him.  When a few inches from the wall, a loud, penetrating 
squeal, and the scampering of small padded feet reverberated from 
the walls of the roughly hewn chamber.
     Grignr threw his hands up to shield his face, and flung 
himself backwards upon his buttocks.  A fuzzy form bounded to his 
hairy chest, burying its talons in his flesh while gnashing 
toward his throat with its grinding white teeth;its sour, fetid 
breath scortching the sqirming barbarians dilating nostrils.  
Grignr grappled with the lashing flexor muscles of the repugnant 
body of a garganuan brownhided rat, striving to hold its razor 
teeth from his juicy jugular, as its beady grey organs of sight 
glazed into the flaring emeralds of its prey.
     Taking hold of the rodent around its lean, growling stomach 
with both hands Grignr pried it from his crimson rent breast, 
removing small patches of flayed flesh from his chest in the 
motion between the squalid black claws of the starving beast.  
Holding the rodent at arms length, he cupped his righthand over 
its frothing face, contrcting his fingers into a vice-like fist 
over the quivering head.  Retaining his grips on the rat, grignr 
flexed his outstretched arms while slowly twisting his right hand 
clockwise and his left hand counter clockwise motion.  The rodent 
let out a tortured squall, drawing scarlet as it violently dug 
its foam flecked fangs into the barbarians sweating palm, causing 
his face to contort to an ugly grimace as he cursed beneath his 
braeth.
     With a loud crack the rodents head parted from its squirming 
torso, sending out a sprinking shower of crimson gore, and 
trailing a slimy string of disjointed vertebrae, snapped trachea, 
esophagus, and jugular, disjointed hyoid bone, morose purpled 
stretched hide, and blood seared muscles.
     Flinging the broken body to the floor, Grignr shook his 
blood streaked hands and wiped them against his thigh until dry, 
then wiped the blood that had showered his face and from his 
eyes.  Again sitting himself upon the jagged floor, he prepared 
to once more revamp his glum meditations.  He told himself that 
as long as he still breathed the gust of life through his lungs, 
hope was not lost; he told himself this, but found it hard to 
comprehend in his gloomy surroundings.  Yet he was still alive, 
his bulging sinews at their peak of marvel, his struggling mind 
floating in a miral of impressed excellence of thought.  Plot 
after plot sifted through his mind in energetic contemplations. 
     Then it hit him.  Minutes may have passed in silent thought 
or days, he could not tell, but he stumbled at last upon a plan 
that he considered as holding a slight margin of plausibility.  
He might die in the attempt, but he knew he would not submit 
without a final bloody struggle.  It was not a foolproof plan, 
yet it built up a store of renewed vortexed energy in his 
overwroughtsoul, though he might perish in the execution of the 
escape, he would still be escaping the life of infinite torture 
in store forhim.  Either way he would still cheat the gloating 
prince of the succored revenge his sadistic mind craved so 
dearly.
     The guards would soon come to bear him off to the prince's 
buried mines of dread, giving him the sought after opportunity to 
execute his newly formulated plan.  Groping his way along the 
rough floor Grignr finally found his tool in a pool of congealed 
gore; the carcass of the decapitated rodent; the tool that the 
very filth he had been sentenced too, spawned.  When the time 
came for action he would have to be prepared, so he set himself 
to rending the sticky hulk in grim silence, searching by the 
touch of his fingertips for the lever to freedom.
     
                               -5-

     "Up to the altar and be done with it wench;" ordered a 
fidgeting shaman as he gave the female a grim stare accompanied 
by the wrinkling of his lips to a mirthful grin of delight.
     The girl burst into a slow steady whimper, stooping shakily 
to her knees and cringing woefully from the priest with both arms 
wound snake-like around the bulging jade jade shin rising before 
her scantily attired figure.  Her face was redly inflamed from 
the salty flow of tears spouting from her glassy dilated 
eyeballs.
     With short, heavy footfals the priest approached the female, 
his piercing stare never wavering from her quivering young 
countenance.  Halting before the terrified girl he projected his 
arm outward and motioned her to arise with an upward movement of 
his hand.  the girl's whimpering increased slightly and she sunk 
closer to the floor rather than arising.  The flickering torches 
outlined her trim build with a weird ornate glow as it cast a 
ghostly shadow dancing in horrid waves of splendor over smoothly 
worn whiteness of the marble hewn altar.
     The shaman's lips curled back farther, exposing a set of 
blackened, decaying molars which transformed his slovenly grin 
into a wide greasy arc of sadistic mirth and alternately 
interposed into the female a strong sensation of stomach curdling 
nausea.  "Have it as you will female;" gloated the enhanced 
priest as he bent over at the waist, projecting his ape-like arms 
forward, and clasped the female's slender arms with his hairy 
round fists.  With an inward surge of of his biceps he harshly 
jerked the trembling girl to her feet and smothered her salty wet 
cheeks with the moldy touch of his decrepid, dull red lips.
     The vile stench of the Shaman's hot fetid breath over came 
the nauseated female with a deep soul searing sickness, causing 
her to wrench her head backwards and regurgitate a slimy, orange-
white stream of swelling gore over the richly woven purple robe 
of the enthused acolyte.
     The priest's lips trembled with a malicious rage as he 
removed his callous paws from the girl's arms and replaced them 
with tightly around her undulating neck, shaking her violently to 
and fro.
     The girl gasped a tortured groan from her clamped lungs, her 
sea blue eyes bulging forth from damp sockets.  Cocking her right 
foot backwards, she leashed it desperately outwards with the 
strength of a demon possessed, lodging her sandled foot squarely 
between the shaman's testicles.
     The startled priest released his crushing grip, crimping his 
body over at the waist overlooking his recessed belly; wide open 
in a deep chasim.  His face flushed to a rose red shade of 
crimson, eyelids fluttering wide with eyeballs protruding blindly 
outwards from their sockets to their outmost perimeters, while 
his lips quivered wildly about allowing an agonized wallow to 
gust forth as his breath billowed from burning lungs.  His hands 
reached out clutching his urinary gland as his knees wobbled 
rapidly about for a few seconds then buckled, causing the 
ruptured shaman to collapse in an egg huddled mass to the granite 
pavement, rolling helplessly about in his agony.
     The pathetic screeches of the shaman groveling in dejected 
misery upon the hand hewn granite laid pavement, worn smooth by 
countless hours of arduous sweat and toil, a welter of ichor 
oozing through his clenched hands, attracted the purturbed 
attention of his comrades from their foetid ulations.  The 
actions of this this rebellious wench bespoke the creedence of an 
unheard of sacrilige.  Never before in a lost maze of untold eons 
had a chosen one dared to demonstrate such blasphemy in the face 
of the cult's idolic diety.
     The girl cowered in unreasoning terror, helpless in the face 
of the emblazoned acolytes' rage; her orchid tusseled face 
smothered betwixt her bulging bosom as she shut her curled lashed 
tightly hoping to open them and find herself awakening from a 
morbid nightmare.  yet the hand of destiny decreed her no such 
mercy, the antagonized pack of leering shaman converging tensely 
upon her prostrate form were entangled all too lividly in the 
grim web of reality.
     Shuddering from the clamy touch of the shaman as they 
grappled with her supple form, hands wrenching at her slender 
arms and legs in all directions, her bare body being molested in 
the midst of a labyrnth of orange smudges, purpled satin, and 
mangled skulls, shadowed in an eerie crimson glow; her confused 
head reeled then clouded in a mist of enshrouding ebony as she 
lapsed beneath the protective sheet of unconsiousness to a land 
peach and resign.

                               -6-

     "Take hold of this rope," said the first soldier, "and climb 
out from your pit, slut.  Your presence is requested in another 
far deeper hell hole."
     Grignr slipped his right hand to his thigh, concealing a 
small opaque object beneath the folds of the g-string wrapped 
about his waist.  Brine wells swelled in Grignr's cold, jade 
squinting eyes, which grown accustomed to the gloom of the 
stygian pools of ebony engulfing him, were bedazzled and blinded 
by flickerering radiance cast forth by the second soldiers's 
resin torch.
     Tightly gripped in the second soldier's right hand, opposite 
the intermittent torch, was a large double edged axe, a long 
leather wound oaken handled transfixing the center of the 
weapon's iron head.  Adorning the torso's of both of the sentries 
were thin yet sturdy hauberks, the breatplates of which were 
woven of tightly hemmed twines of reinforced silver braiding.  
Cupping the soldiers' feet were thick leather sandals, wound 
about their shins to two inches below their knees.  Wrapped about 
their waists were wide satin girdles, with slender bladed 
poniards dangling loosely from them, the hilts of which featured 
scarlet encrusted gems.  Resting upon the manes of their heads, 
and reaching midway to their brows were smooth copper morions.  
Spiraling the lower portion of the helmet were short, up-curved 
silver spikes, while a golden hump spired from the top of each 
basinet.  Beneath their chins, wound around their necks, and 
draping their clad shoulders dangled regal purple satin cloaks, 
which flowed midway to the soldiers feet.
     hand over hand, feet braced against the dank walls of the 
enclosure, huge Grignr ascended from the moldering dephs of the 
forlorn abyss.  His swelled limbs, stiff due to the boredom of a 
timeless inactivity, compounded by the musty atmosture and jagged 
granite protuberan against his body, craved for action.  The 
opportunity now presenting itself served the purpose of oiling 
his rusty joints, and honing his dulled senses.
     He braced himself, facing the second soldier.  The sentry's 
stature was was wildly exaggerated in the glare of the flickering 
cresset cuppex in his right fist.  His eyes were wide open in a 
slightly slanted owlish glaze, enhanced in their sinister 
intensity by the hawk-bill curve of his nose andpale yellow pique 
of his cheeks.
     "Place your hands behind your back," said the second soldier 
as he raised his ax over his right shoulder blade and cast it a 
wavering glance.  "We must bind your wrists to parry any attempts 
at escape.  Be sure to make the knot a stout one, Broig, we 
wouldn't want our guest to take leave of our guidance."
     Broig grasped Grignr's left wrist and reached for the 
barbarians's right wrist.  Grignr wrenched his right arm free and 
swilveled to face Broig, reach- beneath his loin cloth with his 
right hand.  The sentry grappled at his girdle for the sheathed 
dagger, but recoiled short of his intentions as Grignr's right 
arm swept to his gorge.  The soldier went limp, his bobbing eyes 
rolling beneath fluttering eyelids, a deep welt across his 
spouting gullet.  Without lingering to observe the result of his 
efforts, Grignr dropped to his knees.  The second soldier's axe 
cleft over Grignr's head in a blze of silvered ferocity, severing 
several scarlet locks from his scalp.  Coming to rest in his 
fellow's stomach, the iron head crashed through mail and flesh 
with splintering force, spilling a pool of crimsoned entrails 
over the granite paving.
     Before the sentry could wrench his axe free from his 
comrade's carcass, he found Grignr's massive hands clasped about 
his throat, choking the life from his clamped lungs.  With a 
zealous grunt, the Ecordian flexed his tightly corded biceps, 
forcing the grim faced soldier to one knee.  The sentry plunged 
his right fist into Grignr's face, digging his grimy nails into 
the barbarians flesh.  Ejaculating a curse through rasping teeth, 
grignr surged the bulk of his weight foreard, bowling the 
beseiged soldier over upon his back.  The sentry's arms collapsed 
to his thigh, shuddering convulsively; his bulging eyes staring 
blindly from a bloated ,cherry red face.
     Rising to his feet, Grignr shook the bllod from his eyes, 
ruffling his surly red mane as a brush fire swaying to the 
nightime breeze.  Stooping over the spr sprawled corpse of the 
first soldier, Grignr retrieved a small white object from a pool 
of congealing gore.  Snorting a gusty billow of mirth, he once 
more concealed th e tiny object beneath his loin cloth; the 
tediously honed pelvis bone of the broken rodent.  Returning his 
attention toward the second soldier, Grignr turned to the task of 
attiring his limbs.  To move about freely through the dim 
recesses of the castle would require the grotesque garb of its 
soldiery.
     Utilizing the silence and stealth aquired in the untamed 
climbs of his childhood, Grignr slink through twisting corridors, 
and winding stairways, lighting his way with the confisticated 
torch of his dispatched guardian.  Knowing where his steps were 
leading to, Grignr meandered aimlessly in search of an exit from 
the chateau's dim confines.  The wild blood coarsing through his 
veins yearned for the undefiled freedom of the livid wilderness 
lands.
     Coming upon a fork in the passage he treaked, voices 
accompanied by clinking footfalls discerned to his sensitive ears 
from the left corridor.  Wishing to avoid contact, Grignr veered 
to the right passageway.  If aquested as to the purpose of his 
presence, his barbarous accent would reveal his identity, being 
that his attire was not that of the castle's mercenary troops.
     In grim silence Grignr treaded down the dingily lit 
corridor; a stalking panther creeping warily along on padded 
feet.  After an interminable period of wandering through the dull 
corridors; no gaps to break the monotony of the cold gray walls, 
Grignr espied a small winding stairway.  Descending the flight of 
arced granite slabs to their posterior, Grignr was confronted by 
a short haalway leading to a tall arched wooden doorway.
     Halting before the teeming portal portal, Grignr restes his 
shaggy head sideways against the barrier.  Detecting no sounds 
from within, he grasped the looped metel handle of the door; his 
arms surging with a tremendous effort of bulging muscles, yet the 
door would not budge.  Retrieving his ax from where he had 
sheathed it beneath his girdle, he hefted it in his mighty hands 
with an apiesed grunt, and wedging one of its blackened edges 
into the crack between the portal and its iron rimed sill.  
Bracing his sandaled right foot against the rougjly hewn wall, 
teeth tightly clenched, Grignr appilevered the oaken haft, 
employing it as a lever whereby to pry open the barrier.  The 
leather wound hilt bending to its utmost limits of endurance, the 
massive portal swung open with a grating of snapped latch and 
rusty iron hinges.
     Glancing about the dust swirled room in the gloomily dancing 
glare of his flickering cresset, Grignr eyed evidences of the 
enclosure being nothing more than a forgotten storeroom.  
Miscellaneous articles required for the maintainance of a castle 
were piled in disorganized heaps at infrequent intervals toward 
the wall opposite the barbarian's piercing stare.  Utilizing 
long, bounding strides, Grignr paced his way over to the mounds 
of supplies to discover if any articles of value were contained 
within their midst.
     Detecting a faint clinking sound, Grignr sprawed to his left 
side with the speed of a striking cobra, landing harshly upon his 
back; torch and axe loudly clattering to the floor in a morass of 
sparks and flame.  A elmwoven board leaped from collapsed 
flooring, clashing against the jagged flooring and spewing a 
shower of orange and yellow sparks over Grignr's startled face.  
Rising uneasily to his feet, the half stunned Ecordian glared 
down at the grusome arm of death he had unwittingly sprung.  
"Mrifk!"
     If not for his keen auditory organs and lighting steeled 
reflexes, Grignr would have been groping through the shadowed 
hell-pits of the Grim Reaper.  He had unknowingly stumbled upon 
an ancient, long forgotton booby trap; a mistake which would have 
stunted the perusal of longevity of one less agile.  A mechanism, 
similar in type to that of a minature catapult was concealed 
beneath two collapsable sections of granite flooring.  The arm of 
the device was four feet long, boasting razor like cleats at 
regular intervals along its face with which it was to skewer the 
luckless body of its would be victim.  Grignr had stepped upon a 
concealed catch which relaesed a small metal latch beneath the 
two granite sections, causing them to fall inward, and thereby 
loose the spiked arm of death they precariously held in.
     Partially out of curiosity and partially out of an 
inordinate fear of becoming a pincushion for a possible second 
trap, Grignr plunged his torch into the exposed gap in the floor.  
The floor of a second chamber stood out seven feet below the 
glare.  Tossing his torch through the aperature, Grignr grasped 
the side of an adjoining tile, dropping down.
     Glancing about the room, Grignr discovered that he had 
decended into the palace's mausoleum.  Rectangular stone crypts 
cluttered the floor at evenly placed intervals.  The tops of the 
enclosures were plated with thick layers of virgin gold, while 
the sides were plated with white ivory; at one time sparkling, 
but now grown dingy through the passage of the rays of 
allencompassing mother time.  Featured at the head of each 
sarcophagus in tarnished silver was an expugnisively carved 
likeness of its rotting inhabitant.
     A dingy atmosphere pervaded the air of the chamber; which 
sealed in the enclosure for an unknown period had grown thick and 
stale.  Intermingling with the curdled currents was the repugnant 
stench of slowly moldering flesh, creeping ever slowly but surely 
through minute cracks in the numerous vaults.  Due to the 
embalming of the bodies, their flesh decayed at a much slower 
rate than is normal, yet the nauseous oder was none the less 
repellant.
     Towering over Grignr's head was the trap he released.  The 
mechanism of the miniaturized catapolt was cluttered with mildew 
and cobwebs.  Notwithstanding these relics of antiquity, its 
efficiency remained unimpinged.  To the right of the trap wound a 
short stairway through a recess in the ceiling; a concealed 
entrance leading to the mausoleum for which the catapult had 
obviously been erected as a silent, relentless guardian.
     Climbing up the side of the device, Grignr set to the task 
of resetting its mechanism.  In the e event that a search was 
organized, it would prove well to leave no evidence of his 
presence open to wandering eyes.  Besides, it might even serve to 
dwindle the size of an opposing force.
     Descending from his perch, Grignr was startled by a faintly 
muffled scream of horrified desperation.  His hair prickled 
yawkishly in disorganized clumps along his scalp.  As a cold 
danced along the length of his spinal cord.  No moral/mortal 
barrier, human or otherwise, was capable of arousing the numbing 
sensation of fear inside of Grignr's smoldering soul.  However, 
he was overwrought by the forces of the barbarians' instinctive 
fear of the supernatural.  His mighty thews had always served to 
adequately conquer any tangible foe., but the intangible was 
something distant and terrible.  Dim horrifying tales passed by 
word of mouth over glimmering camp fires and skins of wine had 
more than once served the purpose of chilling the marrowed core 
of his sturdy limbed bones.
     Yet, the scream contained a strangely human quality, unlike 
that which Grignr imagined would come from the lungs of a demon 
or spirit, making Grignr take short nervous strides advancing to 
the sarcophagus from which the sound was issuing.  Clenching his 
teeth in an attempt to steel his jangled nerves, Grignr slid the 
engraved slab from the vault with a sharp rasp of grinding stone.  
Another long drawn cry of terror infested anguish met the 
barbarian, scoring like the shrill piping of a demented banshee; 
piercing the inner fibres of his superstitious brain with 
primitive dread dread and awe.
     Stooping over to espy the tomb's contents, the glittering 
Ecordians nostrills were singed by the scorching aroma of a 
moldering corpse, long shut up and fermenting; the same putrid 
scent which permeated the entire chamber, though multiplied to a 
much more concentrated dosage.  The shriveled, leathery packet of 
crumbling bones and dried flacking flesh offered no resistance, 
but remained in a fixed position of perpetual vigilance, watching 
over its dim abode from hollow gaping sockets.
     The tortured crys were not coming from the tomb but from 
some hidden depth below!  Pulling the reaking corpse from its 
resting place, Grignr tossed it to the floor in a broken, mangled 
heap.  Upon one side of the crypt's bottom was attached a series 
of tiny hinges while running parallel along the opposite side of 
a convex railing like protruberance; laid so as to appear as a 
part of the interior surface of the sarcophagus.
     Raising the slab upon its bronze hinges, long removed from 
the gaze of human eyes, Grignr percieved a scene which caused his 
blood to smolder not unlike bubbling, molten lava.  Directly 
below him a whimpering female lay stretched upon a smooth 
surfaced marble altar.  A pack of grasy faced shamen clustered 
around her in a tight circular formation.  Crouched over the girl 
was a tall, potbellied priest; his face dominated by a 
disgusting, open mouthed grimace of sadistic glee.  Suspended 
from the acolyte's clenched right hand was a carven oval faced 
mallet, which he waved menacingly over the girl's shadowed face; 
an incoherent gibberish flowing from his grinning, thick lipped 
mouth.
     In the face of the amorphos, broad breated female, stretched 
out aluringly before his gaping eyes; the universal whim of 
nature filing a plea of despair inside of his white hot soul; 
Grignr acted in the only manner he could perceive.  Giving vent 
to a hoarse, throat rending battle cry, Grignr plunged into the 
midst of the startled shamen; torch simmering in his left hand 
andax twirling in his right hand.
     A gaunt skull faced priest standing at the far side of the 
altar clutched desperately at his throat, coughing furiously in 
an attempt to catch his breath.  Lurching helplessly to and fro, 
the acolyte pitched headlong against the gleaming base of a 
massive jade idol.  Writhing agonizedly against the hideous 
image, foam flecking his chalk white lips, the priest struggled 
helplessly - - - the victim of an epileptic siezure.
     Startled by the barbarians stunning appearance, the chronic 
fit of their fellow, and the fear that Grignr might be the 
avantgarde of a conquering force dedicated to the cause of 
destroying their degenerated cult, the saman momentarily lost 
their composure.  Giving vent to heedless pandemonium, the 
priests fell easy prey to Grignr's sweeping arc of crimsoned 
death and maiming distruction.
     The acolyte performing the sacrifice took a vicious blow to 
the stomach; hands clutching vitals and severed spinal cord as he 
sprawled over the altar.  The disor anized priests lurched and 
staggered with split skulls, dismembered limbs, and spewing 
entrails before the enraged Ecordian's relentless onslaught.  The 
howles of the maimed and dying reverberated against the walls of 
the tiny chamber; a chorus of hell frought despair; as the 
granite floor ran red with blood.  The entire chamber was 
encompassed in the heat of raw savage butchery as Grignr 
luxuriated in the grips of a primitive, beastly blood lust.
     Presently all went silenet save for the ebbing groans of the 
sinking shaman and Grignr's heaving breath accompanied by several 
gusty curses.  The well had run dry.  No more lambs remained for 
the slaughter.
     The rampaging stead of death having taken of Grignr for the 
moment, left the barbarian free to the exploitation of his other 
perusials.  Towering over his head was the misshaped image of the 
cult's hideous diety - - - Argon.  The fantastic size of the idol 
in consideration of its being of pure jade was enough to cause 
the senses of any man to stagger and reel, yet thus was not the 
case for the behemoth.  he had paid only casual notice to this 
incredible fact, while riviting the whole of his attention upon 
the jewel protruding from the idol's sole socket; its masterfully 
cut faucets emitting blinding rays of hypnotising beauty.  After 
all, a man cannot slink from a heavily guarded palace while 
burdened down by the intense bulk of a squatting statue, 
providing of course that the idol can even be hefted, which in 
fact was beyond the reaches of Grignr's coarsing stamina.  On the 
other hand, the jewel, gigantic as it was, would not present a 
hinderence of any mean concern.
     "Help me ... please ... I can make it well worth your 
while," pleaded a soft, anguish strewn voice wafting over 
Grignr's shoulders as he plucked the dull red emerald from its 
roots.  Turning, Grignr faced the female that had lured him into 
this blood bath, but whom had become all but forgotten in the 
heat of the battle.
     "You"; ejaculated the Ecordian in a pleased tone.  "I though 
that I had seen the last of you at the tavern, but verilly I was 
mistaken." Grignr advanced into the grips of the female's 
entrancing stare, severing the golden chains that held her 
captive upon the altars highly polished face of ornamental 
limestone.
     As Grignr lifted the girl from the altar, her arms wound 
dexterously about his neck; soft and smooth against his harsh 
exterior.  "Art thou pleased that we have chanced to meet once 
again?" Grignr merely voiced an sighed grunt, returning the 
damsels embrace while he smothered her trim, delicate lips 
between the coarsing protrusions of his reeking maw.
     "Let us take leave of this retched chamber." Stated Grignr 
as he placed the female upon her feet.  She swooned a moment, 
causing Grignr to giver her support then regained her stance.  
"Art thou able to find your way through the accursed passages of 
this castle?  Mrifk!  Every one of the corridors of this damned 
place are identical."
     "Aye; I was at one time a slave of prince Agaphim.  His 
clammy touch sent a sour swill through my belly, but my efforts 
reaped a harvest.  I gained the pig's liking whereby he allowed 
me the freedom of the palace.  It was through this means that I 
eventually managed escape at the western gate.  His trust found 
him with a dagger thrust his ribs," the wench stated 
whimsicoracally.
     "What were you doing at the tavern whence I discovered you?" 
asked Grignr as he lifted the female through the opening into the 
mausoleum.
     "I had sought to lay low from the palace's guards as they 
conducted their search for me.  The tavern was seldom frequented 
by the palace guards and my identity was unknown to the common 
soldiers.  It was through the disturbance that you caused that 
the palace guards were attracted to the tavern.  I was dragged 
away shortly after you were escorted to the palace."
     "What are you called by female?"
     "Carthena, daughter of Minkardos, Duke of Barwego, whose 
lands border along the northwestern fringes of Gorzom.  I was 
paid as homage to Agaphim upon his thirty-eighth year," husked 
the femme!
     "And I am called a barbarian!" Grunted Grignr in a disgusted 
tone!
     "Aye!  The ways of our civilization are in many ways warped 
and distorted, but what is your calling," she queried, bustily?
     "Grignr of Ecordia."
     "Ah, I have heard vaguely of Ecordia.  It is the hill 
country to the far east of the Noregolean Empire.  I have also 
heard Agaphim curse your land more than once when his troops were 
routed in the unaccustomed mountains and gorges." Sayeth she.
     "Aye.  My people are not tarnished by petty luxuries and 
baubles.  They remain fierce and unconquerable in their native 
climes."  After reaching the hidden panel at the head of the 
stairway, Grignr was at a loss in regard to its operation.  His 
fiercest heaves were as pebbles against burnished armour!  
Carthena depressed a small symbol included within the elaborate 
design upon the panel whereopen it slowly slid into a cleft in 
the wall.  "How did you come to be the victim of those crazed 
shamen?" Quested Grignr as he escorted Carthena through the piles 
of rummage on the left side of the trap.
     "By Agaphim's orders I was thrust into a secluded cell to 
await his passing of sentence.  By some means, the Priests of 
Argon acquired a set of keys to the cell.  They slew the guard 
placed over me and abducted me to the chamber in which you 
chanced to come upon the scozsctic sacrifice.  Their hell-spawned 
cult demands a sacrifice once every three moons upon its full 
journey through the heavens.  They were startled by your 
unannounced appearance through the fear that you had been sent by 
Agaphim.  The prince would surely have submitted them to the most 
ghastly of tortures if he had ever discovered their 
unfaithfulness to Sargon, his bastard diety.  Many of the 
partakers of the ritual were high nobles and high trustees of the 
inner palace; Agaphim's pittiless wrath would have been 
unparalled."
     "They have no more to fear of Agaphim now!" Bellowed Grignr 
in a deep mirthful tome; a gleeful smirk upon his face.  "I have 
seen that they were delivered from his vengence."
     Engrossed by Carthena's graceful stride and conversation 
Grignr failed to take note of the footfalls rapidly approaching 
behind him.  As he swung aside the arched portal linking the 
chamber with the corridors beyond, a maddened, blood lusting 
screech reverberated from his ear drums.  Seemingly utilizing the 
speed of thought, Grignr swiveled to face his unknown foe.  With 
gaping eyes and widened jaws, Grignr raised his axe above his 
surly mein; but he was too late.

                               -7-

     With wobbling knees and swimming head, the priest that had 
lapsed into an epileptic siezure rose unsteadily to his feet.  
While enacting his choking fit in writhing agony, the shaman was 
overlooked by Grignr.  The barbarian had mistaken the siezure for 
the death throes of the acolyte, allowing the priest to avoid his 
stinging blade.  The sight that met the priests inflamed eyes 
nearly served to sprawl him upon the floor once more.  The 
sacrificial sat it grim, blood splattered silence all around him, 
broken only by the occasional yelps and howles of his maimed and 
butchered fellows.  Above his head rose the hideous idol, its 
empty socket holding the shaman's ifurbished infuriated gaze.  
His eyes turned to a stoney glaze with the realization of the 
pillage and blasphemy.  Due to his high succeptibility following 
the siezure, the priest was transformed into a raving maniac bent 
soley upon reaking vengeance.  With lips curled and quivering, a 
crust of foam dripping from them, the acolyte drew a long, wicked 
looking jewel hilted scimitar from his silver girdle and fled 
through the aperature in the ceiling uttering a faintly 
perceptible ceremonial jibberish.

                             -7 1/2-

     A sweeping scimitar swung towards Grignr's head in a 
shadowed blur of motion.  With Axe raised over his head, Grignr 
prepared to parry the blow, while gaping wideeyed in open mouthed 
perplexity.  Suddenly a sharp snap resounded behind the frothing 
shaman.  The scimitar, halfway through its fatal sweep, dropped 
from a quivering nerveless hand, clattering harmlessly to the 
stoneage.  Cutting his screech short with a bubbling, red mouthed 
gurgle, the lacerated acolyte staggered under the pressure of the 
released spring-board.  After a moment of hopeless struggling, 
the shaman buckled, sprawling face down in a widening pool of 
bllod and entrails, his regal purple robe blending enhancingly 
with the swirling streams of crimson.
     "Mrifk!  I thought I had killed the last of those dogs;" 
muttered Grignr in a half apathetic state.
     "Nay Grignr.  You doubtless grew careless while giving vent 
to your lusts.  But let us not tarry any long lest we over tax 
the fates.  The paths leading to freedom will soon be barred.  
The wretch's crys must certainly have attracted unwanted 
attention," the wench mused.
     "By what direction shall we pursue our flight?"
     "Up that stair and down the corridor a short distance is the 
concealed enterance to a tunnel seldom used by others than the 
prince, and known to few others save the palace's royalty.  It is 
used mainly by the prince when he wishes to take leave of the 
palace in secret.  It is not always in the Prince's best 
interests to leave his chateau in public view.  Even while under 
heavy guard he is often assaulted by hurtling stones and rotting 
fruits.  The commoners have little love for him." lectured the 
nerelady!
     "It is amazing that they would ever have left a pig like him 
become their ruler.  I should imagine that his people would rise 
up and crucify him like the dog he is."
     "Alas, Grignr, it is not as simple as all that.  His 
soldiers are well paid by him.  So long as he keeps their wages 
up they will carry out his damned wished.  The crude impliments 
of the commonfolk would never stand up under an onslaught of 
forged blades and protective armor; they would be going to their 
own slaughter," stated Carthena to a confused, but angered Grignr 
as they topped the stairway.
     "Yet how can they bear to live under such oppression?  I 
would sooner die beneath the sword than live under such a dog's 
command." added Grignr as the pair stalked down the hall in the 
direction opposite that in which Grignr had come.
     "But all men are not of the same mold that you are born of, 
they choose to live as they are so as to save their filthy necks 
from the chopping block." Returned Carthena in a disgusted tone 
as she cast an appiesed glance towards the stalwart figure at her 
side whose left arm was wound dextrously about her slim waist; 
his slowly waning torch casting their images in intermingling 
wisps as it dangled from his left hand.
     Presently Carthena came upon the panel, concealed amonst the 
other granite slabs and discernable only by the burned out 
cresset above it.  "As I push the cresset aside push the panel 
inwards."  Catrhena motioned to the panel she was refering to and 
twisted the cresset in a counterclockwise motion.  Grignr braced 
his right shoulder against the walling, concentrating the force 
of his bulk against it.  The slab gradually swung inward with a 
slight grating sound.  Carthena stooped beneath Grignr's corded 
arms and crawled upon all fours into the passage beyond.  Grignr 
followed after easing the slab back into place.
     Winding before the pair was a dark musty tunnel, exhibiting 
tangled spider webs from it ceiling to wall and an oozing, sickly 
slime running lazily upon its floor.  Hanging from the chipped 
wall upon GrignR's right side was a half mouldered corpse, its 
grey flacking arms held in place by rusted iron manacles.  
Carthena flinched back into Grignr's arms at sight of the leering 
set in an ugly distorted grimmace; staring horribly at her from 
hollow gaping sockets.
     "This alcove must also be used by Agaphim as a torture 
chamber.  I wonder how many of his enemies have disappeared into 
these haunts never to be heard from again," pondered the hulking 
brute.
     "Let us flee before we are also caught within Agaphim's 
ghastly clutches.  The exit from this tunnel cannot be very far 
from here!" Said Carthena with a slight sob to her voice, as she 
sagged in Grignr's encompasing embrace.
     "Aye; It will be best to be finished with this corridor as 
soon as it is possible.  But why do you flinch from the sight of 
death so?  Mrift!  You have seen much death this day without 
exhibiting such emotions."  Exclaimed Grignr as he led her 
trembling form along the dingy confines.
     "---The man hanging from the wall was Doyanta.  He had 
committed the folly of showing affections for me in front of 
Agaphim --- he never meant any harm by his actions!"  At this 
Carthena broke into a slow steady whimpering, chokking her voice 
with gasping sobs.  "There was never anything between us yet 
Agaphim did this to him!  The beast!  May the demons of Hell's 
deepest haunts claw away at his wretched flesh for this merciless 
act!" she prayed.
     "I detect that you felt more for this fellow than you wish 
to let on ... but enough of this, We can talk of such matters 
after we are once more free to do so."  With this Grignr lifted 
the grieved female to her feet and strode onward down the 
corridor, supporting the bulk of her weight with his surging left 
arm.
     Presently a dim light was perceptibly filtering into the 
tunnel, casting a dim reddish hue upon the moldy wall of the 
passage's grim confines.  Carthena had ceased her whimpering and 
partially regained her composure.  "The tunnel's end must be 
nearing.  Rays of sunlight are beginning to seep into ..."
     Grignr clameed his right hand over Carthena's mouth and with 
a slight struggle pulled her over to the shadows at the right 
hand wall of the path, while at the same time thrusting this 
torch beneath an overhanging stone to smother its flickering 
rays.  "Be silent; I can hear footfalls approaching through the 
tunnel;" growled Grignr in a hushed tone.
     "All that you hear are the horses corraled at the far end of 
the tunnel.  That is a further sign that we are nearing our 
goal." She stated!
     "All that you hear is less than I hear!  I heard footsteps 
coming towards us.  Silence yourself that we may find out whom we 
are being brought into contact with.  I doubt that any would have 
thought as yet of searching this passage for us.  The advantage 
of surprize will be upon our side." Grignr warned.
     Carthena cast her eyes downward and ceased any further 
pursuit towards conversation, an irritating habit in which she 
had gained an amazing proficiency.  Two figures came into the 
pairs view, from around a turn in the tunnel.  They were clothed 
in rich luxuriant silks and rambling o on in conversation while 
ignorant of their crouching foes waiting in an ambush ahead.
     "...That barbarian dog is cringing beneath the weight of the 
lash at this moment sire.  He shall cause no more disturbance."
     "Aye, and so it is with any who dare to cross the path of 
Sargon's chosen one." said the 2nd man.
     "But the peasants are showing signs of growing unrest.  They 
complain that they cannot feet their families while burdened with 
your taxes."
     "I shall teach those sluts the meaning of humility!  Order 
an immediate increase upon their taxes.  They dare to question my 
sovereign authority, Ha-a, they shall soon learn what true 
oppression can be.  I will ... "
     A shodowed bulk leapt from behind a jutting promontory as it 
brought down a double edged axe with the spped of a striking 
thought.  One of the nobles sagged lifeless to the ground, skull 
split to the teeth.
     Grignr gasped as he observed the bisected face set in its 
leering death agonies.  It was Agafnd!  The dead mans comrade 
having recovered from his shock drew a jewel encrusted dagger 
from beneath the folds of his robe and lunged toward the 
barbarians back.  Grignr spun at the sound from behind and 
smashed down his crimsoned axe once more.  His antagonist lunged 
howling to a stream of stagnent green water, grasping a spouting 
stump that had once been a wrist.  Grignr raised his axe over his 
head and prepaired to finish the incomplete job, but was detered 
half way through his lunge by a frenzied screech from behind.
     Carthena leapt to the head of the writhing figure, plunging 
a smoldering torch into the agonized face.  The howls increased 
in their horrid intensity, stifled by the sizzling of roasting 
flesh, then died down until the man was reduced to a blubbering 
mass of squirming, insensate flesh.
     Grignr advance to Carthena's side wincing slightly from the 
putrid aroma of charred flesh that rose in a puff of thick white 
smog throughout the chamber.  Carthena reeled slightly, staring 
dasedly downward at her gruesome handywork.  "I had to do it ... 
it was Agaphim ... I had to, " she exclaimed!
     "Sargon should be more carful of his right hand men." Added 
Grignr, a smug grin upon his lips.  "But to hell with Sargon for 
now, the stench is becoming bothersome to me."  With that Grignr 
grasped Carthena around the waist leading her around the bend in 
the cave and into the open.
     A ball of feral red was rising through the mists of the 
eastern horizon, disipating the slinking shadows of the night.  A 
coral stood before the pair, enclosing two grazing mares.  Grignr 
reached into a weighted down leather pouch dangling at his side 
and drew forth the scintillant red emerald he had obtained from 
the bloated idol.  Raising it toward the sun he said, "We shall 
do well with bauble, eh!"
     Carthena gaped at the gem gasping in a terrified manner "The 
eye of Argon, Oh!  Kalla!"  At this the gem gave off a blinding 
glow, then dribbled through Grignr's fingers in a slimy red ooze.  
Grignr stepped back, pushing Carthena behind him.  The droplets 
of slime slowly converged into a pulsating jelly-like mass.  A 
single opening transfixed the blob, forminf into a leechlike maw.
     Then the hideous transgressor of nature flowed towards 
Grignr, a trail of greenish slime lingering behind it.  The 
single gap puckered repeatedly emitting a ghastly sucking sound.
     Grignr spread his legs into a battle stance, steeling his 
quivering thews for a battle royal with a thing he knew not how 
to fight.  Carthena wound her arms about her protectors neck, 
mumbling, "Kill it!  Kill!" While her entire body trembled.
     The thing was almost upon Grignr when he buried his axe into 
the gristly maw.  It passed through the blob and clanged upon the 
ground.  Grignr drew his axe back with a film of yellow-green 
slime clinging to the blade.  The thing was seemingly unaffected.  
Then it started to slooze up his leg.  The hairs upon his nape 
stoode on end from the slimey feel of the things buly, bulk.  The 
Nautous sucking sound became louder, and Grignr felt the blood 
being drawn from his body.  With each hiss of hideous pucker the 
thing increased in size.
     Grignr shook his foot about madly in an attempt to dislodge 
the blob, but it clung like a leech, still feeding upon his 
rapidly draining life fluid.  He grasped with his hands trying to 
rip it off, but only found his hands entangled in a sickly glue-
like substance.  The slimey thing continued its puckering ; now 
having grown the size of Grignr's leg from its vampiric feast.
     Grignr began to reel and stagger under the blob, his chalk 
white face and faltering muscles attesting to the gigantic loss 
of blood.  Carthena slipped from Grignr in a death-like faint, a 
morrow chilling scream upon her red rubish lips.  In final 
desperation Grignr grasped the smoldering torch upon the ground 
and plunged it into the reeking maw of the travestry.  A shudder 
passed through the thing.  Grignr felt the blackness closing upon 
his eyes, but held on with the last ebb of his rapidly waning 
vitality.  He could feel its grip lessoning as a hideous gurgling 
sound erupted from the writhing maw.  The jelly like mass began 
to bubble like a vat of boiling tar as quavers passed up and down 
its entire form.

                     -END OF AVAILABLE COPY-