“The Weird of Ironspell” by John R. Fultz
Illustrations by Alex Sheikman
4. The Jewel and the Giant-King
Yom was a city of magicians.
Of all the kingdoms lying west of the Greyfold Mountains, only Yom boasted that its walls were defended by a legion of sorcerers, or that its wizard-king had slain a dozen ancient wyrms to free the Western Realms of the dragon plague. In the inky depths of night the city’s towers and ziggurats gleamed with all the brilliance of the wizardry that was its claim to fame.
Of all magical arts only the practice of necromancy was banned from the city’s environs, for the people of Yom did not want their dead disturbed. Yet every other manner of sorcery thrived here. Alchemists, adepts, enchanters, conjurors, soothsayers, theosophers, prestidigitators, thaumaturges, and mages wandered its marbled streets and hobnobbed among its hanging gardens. Yom was also home to vast wealth, and the penalty for thievery was death.
So it came to pass that Tumnal the Swift found himself locked in a damp cell, his limbs heavy with enspelled chains, deep in the catacombs below the wizard-king’s palace. Once known in seven realms as the Lord of Thieves, Tumnal was destined to be a footnote in the pages of an executioner’s journal. Although Yom’s penalty for thievery was precise, the bureaucracy of the place was staggering. Through no fault of his own (other than his libidinous nature) Tumnal had been caught and sentenced to death one month ago. But he might linger for years among the rats and roaches of the dungeon until the headsman came with his axe to carry out the sentence.
Tumnal sat alone in his cell, cursing the god of thieves for dooming him to such an ignoble fate. His thin arms and lithe legs were not meant for such heavy fetters, and it nearly exhausted him to rise into a sitting position every day just to eat the flavorless gruel that kept him alive. His long, blonde hair had grown shaggy and his straw-tangled beard gave him the appearance of a crazed hermit. How much longer until he lost his mind in this dark hole? He had no way of telling. He’d broken out of many prison cells before, but never one in Yom, where sorcerers’ metal kept him helpless.
On a certain day as dark and shapeless any other, Tumnal received a visitor. A jangling of keys turned his head toward the cell’s iron door, and the portal opened with a flood of torchlight that stung his eyes. A broad shadow stood in the doorway…a warrior garbed in black and silver. The hilt of a great sword rose above his shoulder, and his hair was black as the dungeon shadows.
“Ah, good headsman,” said Tumnal, forcing a jovial tone. “You’ve come early! Very well then, let’s get on with it…” He struggled to a sitting position, iron links biting into his emaciated limbs. The warrior knelt before the prisoner, face silhouetted by the dancing light from the hall. Twin points of emerald light flickered at Tumnal.
“I am not your executioner,” said the stranger. His voice rang with all the power to send armies rushing toward death. “You are Tumnal, called the Swift?”
“None other. And who might you be?”
“Men call me Ironspell.”
“Ironspell the Avenger…” said the thief. Preposterous that such an illustrious hero would deign to visit him here, and in the depths of his ultimate despair. “I am humbled by your presence, sir.”
Ironspell grinned. “You bear your captivity well, Tumnal. They say you are the greatest thief that ever lived.”
Tumnal smiled. “My reputation precedes me. And…dooms me.”
“Tell me then,” said Ironspell. “How did the Lord of Thieves end up here?”
Tumnal bit his lower lip. “I was betrayed,” he said. “By a woman. It was through no fault of my own, I can assure you. I have never been caught.”
“And yet here you are…”
“As I said…a woman’s scorn may ruin any man. Besides, I won’t be here much longer. I am working on my escape plan even as we speak.” This wasn’t entirely a lie. When the executioner chopped off his head, Tumnal would finally be free of this cell and the cruel world outside.
Ironspell laughed. “I can see that you are. But tell me…what would you give me if I freed you this very day?”
“Anything!” Tumnal said quickly, before he could catch himself. “I’ll give you anything that is in my power. Or if it is not…I will obtain it for you.”
“Have you heard tale of the Demon God’s Eye?”
Tumnal smiled without humor. “The most precious jewel ever known…pried from the skull of the Demon God Moggak when he was slain by the hero Gamakech in the third century. Later stolen by the Giant-King Vorga when his man-eating giants shattered the palace of Gamakech.”
Ironspell nodded. “It lies today in the Hall of Vorga, in the Frozen North, surrounded by an army of savage giants, ice wyrms, and doubtless many other dangers. I want you to help me steal it.”
Tumnal laughed despite himself. An impossible task, he wanted to say. But he did not. “Free me…” he said instead. “And the Demon God’s Eye is as good as yours.”
“Give me your word,” said Ironspell. “Swear by Liryon, God of Truth.”
“I swear it! By all the gods!”
Ironspell spoke a single word of sorcery, and the chains about Tumnal fell into piles of rust. Tumnal sneezed, raising himself from the damp cell, and stood on uncertain legs. At his full height, the top of his head fell just short of Ironspell’s chin. “I thank you,” he said, dusting his hands. “Of course I will need a small commission to get myself in order…”
Ironspell dropped a pouch full of gold into Tumnal’s hand. The thief bowed and followed him blinking out of the dungeon. He did not ask what great task Ironspell had performed for Yom’s wizard-king to earn his freedom. It did not matter. Now he was Lord of Thieves once again, and with an impossible heist to plan. What more could he ask for? Except a massive meal, a hot bath, some clean garments, and a friendly harlot to massage his muscles. The gold in his hand should be more than enough for all that.
The next morning, fully shaved and scrubbed, his filthy prison rags were replaced by a tunic and hose of dark silk and black leather. He carried several keen daggers on his person and a long-bladed rapier at his hip. A jaunty hat bearing the white plume of freedom completed his ensemble. He spoke with Ironspell over a breakfast of steak and peacock eggs in the dining hall of the Griffon’s Wing Inn. The warrior’s black mail-shirt was trimmed with silver, his mane held back by a headband of beaten gold.
“The journey begins tomorrow,” said Ironspell. “I’ve assembled mounts, furs, and provisions at the northern gate.”
Tumnal shook his head. His yellow hair was trimmed short and wetted with fragrant oils, his unkempt beard only an unpleasant memory. “There are certain…things…we’ll need for this endeavor,” he said.
Ironspell looked at him and grunted. The Avenger’s handsome face was sun-browned and wolf-lean. A broad scar, the remnant of some terrible battle, ran about his neck like a faded tattoo. His fine silver blade lay propped against the table in a scabbard of jeweled steel. “I have already stocked our necessaries. There must be no delay.”
Tumnal smiled, leaned toward him and spoke in an urgent whisper. “Would you rush into battle without your blade? We are attempting a legendary feat…we’ll be lucky if we survive at all. In order to maximize our chances of success–and staying alive–there are certain items I must obtain. Each one is essential. Luckily, we are in the City of Magicians, so everything I require is within quick reach.”
Ironspell quaffed red wine from a crystal goblet. “Make a list and I will purchase what you need.”
Tumnal shook his head. The patrons of the Griffon, mostly middle-class merchants and well-to-do craftsmen, eyed them suspiciously. As hulking warrior and well-dressed dandy, they made quite a pair. “These things will not be offered at any price,” he whispered. “Nevertheless, I shall obtain them. Give me one more night.”
Ironspell grumbled and lowered his own voice to a basso rasp. “You’re going to steal from sorcerers again? You know the danger…”
“Intimately,” said Tumnal. “But you came to me because I am the best. Trust me.”
Ironspell frowned and drank down the rest of his wine. “All right,” he said. “But no women.”
Tumnal nodded. He had learned that lesson only too well.
That night Tumnal snuck into three glassy towers, a walled mansion, and a serpent-infested armory. With no distraught girlfriend to betray him, his efforts met with their customary success, and the sorcerers whose properties he pilfered would not discover their losses for several days. By then he would be well on his way into the Frozen North.
They departed early the next morning, riding in a direction no other travelers dared to go. Ironspell spoke little, and Tumnal was so glad to be free that he did not press the warrior. His few attempts at verifying certain legends regarding Ironspell’s exploits were met with gruff nods or grumbled affirmatives. He learned to leave the warrior alone in his silence as they rode their packed horses into the frosty hills. The pine forests of Yom dwindled before a rolling tundra. There was no road here, but Ironspell followed a route somewhere in his mind’s eye. At night they camped about a warm fire and Ironspell slept lightly, hand on the hilt of his sword.
On the fifth day glaciers loomed on the horizon like the walls of an ice-carved city.
“What did you steal from the wizards of Yom that was so crucial to our task?” Ironspell asked from beneath the hood of his fur cloak. For five days he had kept his curiosity to himself.
Tumnal took forth a goat-skin bag with a heavy, clinking contents. He handed the bag to Ironspell. The warrior looked inside at a collection of flasks and bottles made of brass, tin, and padded crystal.
“What are they?”
“Liquid sorceries,” said Tumnal, taking back the bag. He stashed it carefully in one of his saddlebags.
“Nothing else?” asked Ironspell.
Tumnal unsheathed his rapier and showed Ironspell the green-purple substance smeared along the blade’s honed edges.
“My friend, this isn’t some daft apothecary’s work,” said Tumnal. “My blades are treated with the venom of the gorgon. Even giants’ blood will curdle at its touch.” He smiled, ignoring Ironspell’s grunt of disapproval. The Avenger didn’t approve of poison. Most true warriors did not…too proud. Tumnal was no warrior. “Lastly, there’s this…”
Tumnal pulled forth a length of golden rope thin as a piece of straw.
“Woven from the hair of Clytemna of Cobalt, whose power was a legend among the sorcerers.”
Ironspell asked no more questions.
Another few days of increasing cold, and the icy ramparts of the glacier rose before them to blot out the sun. Leaving the horses behind, they shouldered their packs and began the ascent. Tumnal pulled forth the Cobalt Rope and spoke to it in the tender voice of a lover. The line shot forth into the air, finding somewhere far above a projection of stone or ice and wrapping itself tightly about the protuberance.
“See?” he said to Ironspell. “Now we climb.”
The enchanted rope made scaling the glacier both safer and faster than Ironspell had expected. In a few hours they stood atop the southernmost lip of the ice field, looking north across a vast, frigid plain of whiteness. Tumnal pulled an extra fur-lined cloak from his pack and wrapped it about his shoulders. He cursed the cold.
“How far to the Giant-King’s hall?” he asked.
Ironspell pointed north. Tumnal strained his eyes against the sun-bright plain. In the far distance a collection of brilliant spires rose above the fogs of the pristine field…the Ice Palace of Vorga.
“What are the chances it’s warmer inside?” asked Tumnal. But Ironspell did not answer. They walked across the ice until the sun set, then Ironspell built a small green fire with a casual word of sorcery. Tumnal warmed himself, rubbing his hands, while Ironspell sipped from a flask of liquor.
“Never have I known a warrior who also studies sorcery,” Tumnal said, chewing on a piece of dried beef. “You are unique among men, Ironspell.”
Ironspell offered him a drink. “My mother was a witch,” he mumbled, and would say no more.
Three more days they walked across the ice fields, and the palace grew tall before them. The wind blew terrible and chill, bringing heavy snow. At sunrise on the fourth day, the great gates of the ice palace opened, and a party of helmed giants came striding forth, armed with hunting spears. Ironspell and Tumnal hid behind an outcropping of frozen rock as the group thundered by. Ice cracked when their massive legs stamped the ground.
Each of the giants was twice the height of a tall man, their white skin exposed to the cold. Their spears were taller than they were, tipped with iron blades, and they wore enormous broadswords on wide belts of seal-skin. Ice and frost hung in their beards, and their breath did not turn to vapor when they exhaled, for their bodies were colder than the snow itself. The hunters soon passed, and Ironspell signalled Tumnal to run across the last expanse of open ice toward the slowly closing gates.
“Wait!” said Tumnal. “If we enter now they’ll have us for dinner!”
Ironspell drew his silver sword, and Tumnal stared at the red runes along its blade. It bore a subtle glow, and seemed to radiate warmth amid the terrible cold. “I fear no giant,” said Ironspell. “But they will soon learn to fear Runesblood.”
“Why fight if we don’t have to?” said Tumnal. “You’re thinking like a warrior. You must learn to think like a thief.” He took from his pack a brass vial and uncorked its malodorous contents. “Here, take a good swig of this.”
“Why did you bring me along if you won’t listen to my advice?” asked Tumnal. “Drink! It’s not poison, you have my word.”
Ironspell drank the bittersweet concoction. It tasted of rotten cabbage and night-blooming jasmine. Tumnal took the flask from him and finished it.
“I feel no wizardry,” said Ironspell. Then he blinked as Tumnal began fading from sight. In the next second the thief was entirely gone.
“Tumnal…” he whispered.
“I’m here,” said Tumnal, though Ironspell could not see him. “We have drank an Elixir of the Unseen. You can’t see me, and I can’t see you. More importantly, the giants will see neither of us.”
Ironspell nodded, though Tumnal could not see this. “Clever thief,” he whispered.
“Let’s go quickly,” Tumnal said. “The sorcery in our bellies will eventually expire. Try not to piss…”
They raced across the ice and slipped in between the massive gates just before they closed. A vast, domed entry hall stretched before them. Emerald luminescence lit the hall. Its walls were gleaming ice sheets stretched between pillars of green marble. Several giants milled about, sharpening swords or axes, or polishing mammoth skulls, while others slumbered on piles of furs. A white wolf ran up to the invisible duo, sniffing. Ironspell raised his sword.
“Don’t kill it,” Tumnal whispered. “They’ll know we’re here.”
Ironspell held back the wolf’s snarling muzzle with the tip of his blade, until one of the giants marched over and dragged the beast away, muttering in giant-speech about the strange behaviors of such pets. Unseen and as quiet as possible, Ironspell and Tumnal made their way through the towering corridors and icy galleries of the Giant-King’s palace. They saw much inexplicable giant behavior and avoided many yapping and pawing creatures that lived among the frozen ones. Once an ice wyrm fifty feet long slithered between them, flicking its blue tongue like a dancing flame. They crossed a deep gorge on a bridge of sculpted ice, and heard mournful leviathans moaning in the gulf below.
Finally the pair came into the Grand Hall of Vorga the Giant-King. There the monarch (who was nearly twice as tall as any of his subjects) sat on a throne built of ice and marble like his palace. A harem of lean giantesses danced for his pleasure in the watery glow of refracted sunlight, while a band of giant drummers beat a primal cadence. Warriors stood along the viridian walls in full armor, his majesty’s personal guard. A trio of snow tigers lay at his feet, chained by iron collars to the base of the throne.
Scattered about the king’s dais lay the trophies of his conquests: heaps of gold coins plundered from human kingdoms, piles of jewels in all the hues of the rainbow, the silver shields and steel-blue blades of devoured heroes, strands of black pearls, chests of iron and wood overflowing with jewelry and nuggets of precious metals. King Vorga laughed among the obscene splendor. His booming voice echoed between the mighty pillars and brought little showers of snow and ice from the vaulted ceiling.
“Somewhere in that vast pile of wealth lies the Demon God’s Eye,” whispered Ironspell. “Now the time for secrecy is done.”
Tumnal caught his breath. Such a hoard of gold and jewels had existed only in his most avaricious dreams, or so he thought. He bit his lower lip. “Wait,” he whispered. “Let me search first. I may find it, and we can be gone from here without any bloodshed.”
“Very well,” said Ironspell. “Be quick about it. The giant’s entertainment won’t last much longer.”
As they approached the throne and its pile of treasures, one of the snow tigers raised its head and the other two followed suit. They purred low and deep in their throats, sniffing at the invisible intruders. Their yellow eyes saw nothing, but like the wolf earlier they smelled human flesh.
“Find it,” Ironspell said to Tumnal. “It’s up to you.” He walked gingerly toward the three tigers, directly between the enormous sandaled feet of the Giant-King. Above, the monarch’s laughter boomed out, and he clapped his gigantic hands to the beat of the drums. Ironspell was prepared to slit the throat of each chained beast before the king could notice. But as he drew nearer, the tigers ceased their growling. They sniffed and licked at his hands, as if recognizing a kindred spirit…a lost brother. Ironspell remembered the tiger who swore an oath before him on the day he had claimed his inheritance. Theirs was a noble species.
While he petted the white tigers between the Giant-King’s knees, Tumnal moved carefully among the vast pile of wealth, helping himself to the choicest of jewels and coins along the way. He filled his five belt pouches full of priceless booty before he uncovered an iron-bound chest bearing the eagle crest of doomed Gamakech. He opened its lid just a bit, and a crimson glow poured forth. Peering through this refracted fire, he looked upon the greatest jewel the world had ever known. The Demon God’s Eye was a faceted ruby twice as large as a man’s head–a mere bauble to the Giant-King. Stifling a moan of awe, Tumnal closed the chest and considered how best to remove the jewel from the rest of the hoard.
The scream of a giantess broke the King’s reverie. The dancers and drummers stopped, and she pointed toward the foot of the icy throne. Looking down, Vorga saw now the dim form of a small, black-furred warrior playing with his tigers. The warrior looked up to return his gaze and became more solid, a vision conjured from the frosty air. The great king blinked in confusion, and icicles fell from his beard, shattering against the seat of his throne. Then the little man with hair like raven feathers drew forth a silver blade, and the king growled, a sound like ninety lions roaring. He reached for the great axe that lay near his seat.
Ironspell saw Tumnal clearly now across the treasure-pile. The elixir’s power had faded, but the thief held a heavy chest over his head with a foolish grin. Ironspell smiled. Then the great axe of Vorga came screaming against the floor, raising a shower of gold and jewels. Ironspell staggered backward, trying to keep his footing in a pile of slippery coins. Mighty Vorga stood and roared again as he raised the axe for a second blow.
Ironspell leaped from the weapon’s downward arc, and Runesblood sliced a gash in the Giant-King’s shin. Vorga howled in pain, and warriors rushed to his aid. Ironspell could no longer see Tumnal; the thief at least had the good sense to hide.
Ironspell sidestepped a flying spear, which scattered coins and ice chips into the air as it bit into the floor. He leapt high and sliced off the head of a giant guard. The snow tigers growled and tore against their chains, gnawing at the Giant-King’s ankles. Ironspell ran between the king’s feet again, and Runesblood clove apart the chains that held the animals. Each pale beast leapt toward an advancing warrior; their sudden liberty allowed the tigers to tear their captors to shreds. They fought for Ironspell as if he were one of their own.
The Giant-King’s fist fell like a boulder against the treasure heap, and its force knocked Ironspell flat. The king’s foot rose to stamp him into pulp, and would have succeeded had he not rolled out of the way and sliced off the king’s biggest toe. Again, Vorga howled, and stalactites of green ice fell from the ceiling, a jagged rain of shards.
Where was Tumnal? He’d better not lose hold of the Eye…
Ironspell leapt and stabbed at the Giant-King’s chest, hoping to pierce his heart. But Vorga was swift despite his great bulk. His monstrous hand grabbed Ironspell about the middle, clutching him like a child’s doll in a vicelike grip. Ironspell drove Runesblood deep into the Giant-King’s wrist, but Vorga pulled out the weapon and threw it across the hall like a troublesome thorn. He raised Ironspell now to the level of his craggy face. His breath was the cold of the northern wind scouring ancient glaciers, and it stunk of raw meat. His eyes gleamed like dull sapphires. He cursed at the little warrior in his fist, and opened his fanged maw.
Ironspell struggled against the immovable fingers, but he was caught fast. The Giant-King would bite his head off at the shoulders. In his straining panic, he could think of no spell that might help him. His sorcery was proof mainly against the dead, or undead, and Vorga was very much alive.
As his head neared the king’s massive incisors, Ironspell noticed a glittering filament looped about Vorga’s tree-thick neck. It did not match in any way the great chains of silver and jade that hung upon the Giant-King’s bare chest, festooned as they were with human skulls. Vorga’s great eyes went wide, and his simian jaws refused to close. For an instant Ironspell dangled in a final gust of putrid breath. Then Vorga toppled forward, thundering face-down into his own massed treasures. The palace walls trembled, and Ironspell leapt free of the meaty fingers before the giant’s hand slammed against the floor.
Tumnal stood now upon the Giant-King’s back, directly between the shoulder blades. The Cobalt Rope was wrapped about his left fist, its other end wound about Vorga’s massive neck. The thief’s rapier lay driven to its hilt in Vorga’s body, piercing his great heart from behind. The venom of the gorgon had fast done its job. Even now the king’s snowy flesh hardened into grey stone. The golden rope slid from about the dead giant’s neck and curled itself around Tumnal’s arm like a friendly serpent.
A wailing guard, having slain the last of the tigers, jabbed his spear at Ironspell. The warrior evaded its oversized point. He opened his fist to receive the hilt of the spinning Runesblood. As he slew the last two sentinels, leaping to slash their throats, a third giant rushed into the hall brandishing a great stone hammer. Tumnal downed the contents of a flask he’d been saving and leapt into the giant’s path as it raised the mallet high for a killing blow. The thief spit a gout of swirling orange flames upon his attacker. The burning giant dropped his hammer, rolled across the floor and howled.
“I’ve got it,” Tumnal said, belching black smoke.
“Time to leave,” said Ironspell.
Tumnal tossed him the flask, motioning for him to drink it down. “Dragon’s Rum…”
Ironspell quaffed the throat-searing fluid. Sour and metallic on his tongue. A boiling heat in his belly, ready to be purged.
Fleeing giantesses spread word of the human intruders, but it did not matter. The giant-killers raced through the palace spitting blast after blast of magical flame before them. Every giant that crossed their path fled in terror from the hungry fires or died screaming in the most horrible way imaginable to their kind.
Escaping the palace was far faster than infiltrating it had been. Ironspell and Tumnal burned through fortifications of solid ice with their sorcerous breath, carving a direct route to the front gate, which Tumnal belched into a cloud of vapor. They ran onward into unbroken snow, leaving the palace steaming and wailing behind them. For some while they heard the giants bellowing their wrath far behind. Doubtless they would battle among themselves for the title of Giant-King, now that the position was open.
When the pair stopped to rest, they heard a terrific shattering and turned back to watch the palace of ice and marble crumble into glittering shards. It seemed they had incinerated one too many walls or supporting columns in their hasty exit. Or perhaps they only weakened the structure, and it was the booming voices of the giants themselves that brought its roofs and towers crumbling down on their heads. Either way, no giants pursued them.
Ironspell vomited up a smoking mass of blackened mucous, and Tumnal did likewise. The side effects of the Dragon’s Rum were unpleasant, but far better than the inside of a giant’s gullet.
“Nice trick with the rope,” Ironspell said. He held out an open hand.
Without a word Tumnal drew forth the emperor of rubies. He had stashed the great gem in an interior pocket of his fur cloak.
Ironspell held the jewel against the pale sunset, staring into its vermillion depths.
“You can buy yourself a palace to rival Vorga’s with the proceeds from this stone,” said Tumnal.
Ironspell took off his outer cloak and wrapped the great ruby in it.
“I will not sell the jewel,” he said, walking southward. The bitter tang of flames still lingered on the roof of his mouth, but no pain. The taste of sorcery. One of the many miracles of Yom.
Tumnal shook his head, as if shedding water from his hair. “Not selling it? Why go to all this trouble then? You’ve got a kingdom’s worth of wealth right there. Two kingdoms!”
“It is a gift,” said Ironspell. “For Tyara, Princess of Neshma.”
Tumnal stood speechless in the snow. He rushed to catch up with the warrior, walked beside him. “You jest,” he said. “You’re having me on…”
“I love her,” said Ironspell. “I am going to ask her hand in marriage.”
“Gods Below! Why not simply buy her some expensive trinket?”
“It’s not so simple,” Ironspell said. “I offended her mother, the Queen of Neshma, when I was young. Thus I am unwelcome in Neshma’s court, despite the many services I’ve performed…such as saving Tyara from Zheri raiders last season.”
“And how did you offend the Queen of Neshma?”
“By refusing to become one of her knights,” Ironspell said. “But with such a gift as this, all will be forgiven.”
Tumnal laughed. “How can you be sure?”
Ironspell pulled a scroll from his belt pouch; it bore the royal seal of Neshma. “She herself publicly sat me an impossible task: To retrieve the Demon God’s Eye. I have done so. She cannot now refuse me.”
Tumnal shook his head. “A woman,” he said under his breath. “For a woman you did all this…”
“Why so glum, Lord of Thieves?” asked Ironspell. “From the weight carried in your belt I can see you helped yourself to the sweetest of Vorga’s treasures.”
Tumnal shrugged. “I think I’ve earned as much for my services.”
“Indeed,” said Ironspell. Cold winds moaned as they marched toward the glacier’s edge.
Tumnal realized this was as close to a “thank you” as he would get from the Avenger.
A month later two riders entered the walled fortress city of Neshma in the shadow of the Greyfold Mountains, where Tumnal found himself the honored guest at a royal wedding.
Next Week: The Son of Ironspell
About the Author: John R. Fultz lives in the Bay Area, California, but is originally from Kentucky. He keeps a Virtual Sanctuary at: http://johnrfultz.wordpress.com His fiction has appeared in BLACK GATE, WEIRD TALES, and SPACE & TIME magazines, as well as the DAW Books anthology CTHULHU’S REIGN. His graphic novel of epic fantasy, PRIMORDIA, was published by Archaia Comics. He has new stories forthcoming in BLACK GATE, LIGHTSPEED, SPACE & TIME, and the WAY OF THE WIZARD anthology from Prime Books. In a previous life he made his living as a wandering storyteller on the lost continent of Atlantis.
About the Artist: Alex Sheikman is the incredibly talented creator/writer/artist of the samurai-steampunk-western-scifi comic ROBOTIKA, available at www.amazon.com in two fantastic graphic novels. Much more of his amazing artwork can be seen at http://sheikman.blogspot.com He has a brand-new sketchbook full of wonderful illustrations that readers can order directly from his blog site. Go order his books now–you’ll thank me later!