The Apotheosis of Osirantinous in Further Tales of Cthulhu Invictus

Golden Goblin Press has published the second of their Cthulhu Invictus anthologies, tying into their Call of Cthulhu RPG line of the same name, which pits investigators against the denizens of the outer dark in ancient Roman Times.

Further Tales of Cthulhu Invictus - Digital Format

Further Tales of Cthulhu Invictus marks the return of my talisman salesman and occult expert Damis of Nineveh and his compatriot Modus Macula, who appeared in the previous volume.

In this outing, The Apotheosis of Osirantinous The Reborn and Everlasting, Damis and Macula are part of Hadrian’s imperial train as he tours the Egyptian province with Empress Sabina and his lover, Antinous when the Emperor’s growing melancholy take a strange, dark turn, particularly in regards to his obeisance to his increasingly influential Brynthian concubine.

Damis, readers might remember, was the student and traveling companion of the near legendary ancient wonderworker Apollonius of Tyana, who famously healed the sick and announced the death of an emperor as it happened thousands of miles away in the years immediately following the time of Christ.  At this point in his career, Modius Macula is a Praetorian in the direct service of Hadrian.

When Damis notices Hadrian’s favorite Antinous consume the offering meant for a god at a festival, and the Emperor puts out a call to the sorcerers of Egypt for a demonstration of the lethality of Egyptian magic, the old philosopher begins to suspect the machinations of the Old Ones in the steady rise in influene of Hadrian’s lover and calls on Modius to help confirm his suspicions.

Marble_Busts_of_Hadrian_&_Antinous,_from_Rome,_Roman_Empire,_British_Museum_(16679053956).jpgHadrian may be my favorite Roman Emperor. He toured his own frontiers extensively and was a supremely devout (or superstitious) man, which of course, makes for a fertile ground for storytelling. The romance of the sireless Emperor and his concubine Antinous has been ficitonalized many times over, and is irresistable for its mysterious end in the Nile River. Much of this story is inspired by the ancient accounts of Hadrian’s tour, including the demonstration of the Egyptian sorcerer which kicks the story off.

In this excerpt, Damis’ investigation leads deep into the necropolis of Tuna el-Gebel outside Hermopolis, where he hopes to consult the hieroglyphs in the tombs of the priests of Thoth….

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Macula bribed one of the tomb guards to grant them access into the catacombs. By torchlight they passed into the dark, mummy crowded tunnels beneath the necropolis. At least it was cool.

2010-11-01-14-49-03-7-at-tuna-el-gebel-priests-placed-a-votive-animal-iDamis led with purpose, though Macula could not fathom how he knew where he was going.  The Assyrian said nothing, and Macula, not wanting to spoil whatever internal navigation he was working from, followed quietly. The torch made the shadows in which the dead reposed shift and move so that he laid his hand superstitiously on the hilt of his gladius. His heart beat so behind his breastplate that he was half surprised he didn’t hear it banging like a smith’s hammer. He imagined the rooting of tomb rats as the scrape of linen wrapped feet and the stir of old bones.

As they passed deeper in, the character of the silent tenants shifted dramatically. No longer human, they found themselves navigating passages cluttered with mummified birds and diminutive caskets with animal faces painted upon them.

“Baboons,” Damis said, pointing to one, as if he had heard Macula’s thought. “And ibis. Sacred to Thoth. We are near. There! Lend me your light.”

They moved to a dead-end corridor. Damis squinted at a series of faded pictograms on the wall.

Macula could make nothing of the words, but saw a serpentine arrangement of yellow globes emerging from the river, as a barge bearing eight figures lifting a mummy with a scarab beetle for a head sailed toward it.

Damis studied the wall and its glyphs for some time.

“Can you read these marks?” Macula asked, his own voice startling in the silence of the crypt. He could usually pick out a few words among the symbols, but these were gibberish to him.

“These are R’lyehian glyphs. There are the gods of Egypt as they are now,” Damis intoned, “and there are the gods that came before the benben mound rose from the primordial waters of Nun, and the ibis egg which contained Ra and his light chased back the darkness. On those dark waters the Khemenu sailed,” he finished, tapping the barge with his finger.

“The what?”

357px-Nun_Raises_the_Sun

“Immensely powerful, primal deities, pictured here with Apep the serpent of chaos,” he said, indicating the snaky coil of circles in the river. “Once revered as creator gods here in Hermopolis, now they are mostly forgotten by all but the initiated. Ra superseded their influence. Apolonious taught me that always they have sought to return, to pull down our world and drown it in the black waters. There was once, in the time of Nephren-Ka, and may yet be, a nefarious cult of the Khemenu, known as the Possi of Khepri, the god of the morning sun, an aspect of Ra.”

“The sun is revered as good, right?” Macula said, squinting at the wall.

“The doctrine of the Possi was bawut – abomination,” said Damis. “Khepri is but the name they used to hide their evil god, a priestly servant of Apep, whose true name brings ill-fortune. Khepri is the scarab-headed god of becoming, of rebirth. The scarab rolls its eggs in dung, you see. They hatch within and eat their way out.”

“So what?” Macula was getting annoyed at all this esoteric nonsense.

“Some believe that all of life is a sphere floating in the waters of oblivion. The Possi taught that our world is the dung ball rolled by Khepri around the Khemenu from which they may be induced to emerge and devour the world, remaking this reality as they please. Their dawn, our dusk.”

“You believe this?” Macula said.

“It may be that Antinous believes it,” said Damis. “And Hadrian. The Possi seek to pervert the death of Osiris. Their purpose is to prepare a candidate for a certain time when the stars are right, as they will be this evening. They will perform a ritual to open the floodgates and release the waters of Nun into the Nile itself. They believe that immersing their candidate in those waters will transform him into their god.”

“You think Antinous is one of them?”

“He is a foreigner, and has the Emperor’s heart in his hands. His rise in favor could be well timed.”

“Hadrian saved him on the lion hunt only a week ago. Why kill him?”

“Perhaps in order to spare him for his true destiny. Poor Hadrian believes his young madman will give his youth to extend his lover’s life for the glory of Rome,” said Damis sadly, averting his eyes. “In reality, he seeks the end of all things.”

Even if none of this mystic palaver proved true, it was troubling for Macula to think of the sway Antinous had over the Emperor, playing upon his lust and superstition. If he had convinced Hadrian he was some kind of god in the making, what else might he convince him to do? Maybe he intended to get Hadrian to declare him his heir. Then, in a way, the fears of Damis would be truly realized. Rome undone.  Another Caligula ruling the earth.

Macula was no assassin, but a potential threat to the Empire was another matter. Antinous would have to be removed. Personally, he was surprised Sabina hadn’t poisoned the young cinaedus long ago.

Then he heard murmuring from somewhere in the blackness of the catacombs behind them.

“Someone’s there!” Macula hissed.

“Listen!” Damis urged, holding up his hand.

They heard a voice intoning strange words that made Macula’s neck hairs rise. Then there was a scrabbling as of many somethings coming down the tunnel. He remembered Damis’ dream, and half expected to see a carpet of scarabs come flowing out of the dark.

He drew his sword.

Beside him. Damis produced something from his robe, a kind of waxen snake candle, covered in green glyphs. Its tongue was a forked wick.

“Whatever happens, Macula,” Damis said, holding the snake up to the torch till it ignited and began to drip wax like venom, “you must find the source of that spell and slay the utterer.”

“What are you doing?”

He took Macula’s sword by the blade and dripped wax on the flat three times.

“Counterspell. You will be able to fight with this.”

Then he began muttering his own incantations as the effigy gradually melted in his hand.

Macula turned toward the voice and advanced, fighting panic as though he were facing wild tribesmen on the frontier again.

A horde of diminutive things attacked him in the dark as he stepped from the torchlight. He hewed right and left, hacking a path for himself. Twig-like claws raked at his legs and scurried up his back. Sharp somethings pricked at the bare points between his cuirass and arms. No scent of blood met his nostrils as he slashed and stabbed. None flecked his arms, only puffs of dust and the faint sweet scent of natron. Something on his shoulder stabbed at his ear and seizing it, he flung it against the tunnel wall, hearing it break into tinkling pieces. His unseen attackers made no outcry.

The murmuring grew steadily louder as the light of Damis’ torch diminished behind him.

Finally, having slashed his way through a knot of invisible nightmares, the chanting of the sorcerer ceased. Macula heard the flap of sandals on the stone ahead and ran.

He reached out at the sound of huffing breath and was rewarded with a fistful of linen. Finding the wearer, he threw him down and stabbed, feeling the comforting sensation of yielding flesh and spurting blood, the rattle of a dying man.

Far back, he heard the muttering of Damis, and called for him.

After a few moments Damis’ torch lit the passage. He found he was straddling the corpse of a bald priest with a scarab on his inner wrist.

“Pachrates’ apprentice,” Macula gasped.

“If he’s a priest of Thoth, I am the messiah foretold by the Jews,” said Damis.

Macula’s attention was drawn to the niches in the walls of the tunnel, recognizing the area packed with mummified animals through which they’d passed. The recesses were all empty. Feeling something prick his leg, Macula plucked the dry beak of an ibis from his cingulum militarae.

Pick up Further Tales of Cthulhu Invictus here –

https://www.goldengoblinpress.com/store/#!/Further-Tales-of-Cthulhu-Invictus—Digital-Format/p/116311624

 

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Published in: on October 31, 2018 at 10:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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Heroes Of Red Hook Kickstarter Is Live

redhook

Golden Goblin Press, whose anthologies Tales Of Cthulhu Invictus and Tales of The Caribbean published my Lovecraftian stories The Unrepeatables and Gods of The Grim Nation respectively, have a brand new book coming out, Heroes of Red Hook – a very worthy project conceived by owner and editor Oscar Rios as a response to the unfortunate racism inherent in HP Lovecraft’s works and co-edited by Brian Sammons.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/golden-goblin-press/heroes-of-red-hook

I’ve approached the Mythos from a non-Anglo Saxon perspective a couple times in the past, with Crawlin’ Chaos Blues and Gods of The Grim Nation, so I jumped at the chance to be a part of a book like this, as did the following writers:

Glynn Owen Barrass

Juliana Quartaroli

Sam Gafford

Cody Goodfellow

Scott R. Jones

Vincent Kovar

Penelope Love

Tom Lynch

William Meikle

Christine Morgan

Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire

Pete Rawlik

Paula R. Stiles

Sam Stone

Tim Waggoner

Mercedes M. Yardley

My entry, Beyond The Black Arcade, is a prequel to my previous Zora Neale Hurston story Gods Of The Grim Nation, and an indirect sequel to Lovecraft’s own The Call of Cthulhu. Zora, gathering folklore on hoodoo for her New York benefactress, submits to the tutelage of a famed New Orleans conjure man, who, as part of her initiation, takes her deep into the bayou to redress a wrong unwittingly perpetrated by Inspector Legrasse’s raid on a backwoods cult of Cthulhu in 1908. They discover an Indian father whose son has been abducted by winged creatures, who have born the boy to a strange, luminescent lake back in the swamp.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

Luke Turner was an old, dark man with a Berber’s face and one blown out eye. I knew he was the genuine article because he was the only one of the five hoodoo doctors I had met to cuss me outright for a tourist rather than bob his head and call me ‘Miz Hurston’ when I floated the promise of recompense their way.

Doc Turner was an old hand at turning away the curious. He called me names Godmother Mason would blush to hear, and quoted me a rube’s price for tuition. I finally remarked that I wasn’t even sure he was on the level, and if he was truly her nephew, tell me something about Marie Leveau I didn’t already know, before I wasted my good money on another rounder with a deck of marked cards and a pair of writin’ slates.

Pride got the better of him then, and he stopped snarling and got up on his hind legs to howl.

“To know the Queen, you must know Hoodoo.”

“I know Hoodoo,” I lied. I knew some things. I knew about Goofer dust, and Conquerer Root, and I knew the ghosts of convicted murderers wandered blind because of the executioner’s hood.

He laughed lowly.

“You do not, but I will tell you.  God made the world we know with powerful words in six days and then rested. We live still on the seventh, waiting for Him to wake again. How many times the sun chase the moon, and always man look high and deep for them precious words and find none, until Moses. He was taught just ten, and them ten little words was enough to tear a nation out the side of Egypt.  But the Burning Bush would have blasted Moses to soot if he hadn’t been taught by Jethro, who knew the way of the Old One; the way of true Hoodoo.”

“The Old One?”

He leaned forward, and in the hazy light through the window, I saw something glitter on his finger. When he saw my eyes move to it, he covered one hand with the other and held my eyes.

“There was a snake in a hole right under the Lord’s footrest. The snake taught Jethro’s folks down in the deep blue places of the earth, and Jethro taught Moses. It put fire in his mind, clouds in his words; the words of making and unmaking. Lots of men, they can order things around. Moses could make.”

“Is this the snake got us booted from the Garden of Eden?” I asked.

“Not booted,” said Doc Turner with a thin, patient smile. “Freed. What’s a garden to a wildflower lookin’ down from a hill, but a prison?”

“So the Old One taught Moses the words, is the Devil?”

“Some call him Damballah. In the old times, Set. He is the godfather of man. He is Yig. He is my guide.”

“Will Yig guide me too?” I asked.

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I’m proud of this one and happy to be working with Oscar and Brian again. The story features some references not just to Lovecraft, but to my all-time favorite writer Robert E. Howard as well.

As mentioned, it’s also a return to writing Zora Neale Hurston in the role of a Lovecraftian protagonist. She’s a character I’m fast falling in love with writing, and one of the stretch goals of the kickstarter is a novella-length story featuring her, called King Yeller. In it, Zora is hired by the Federal Theater Project in New York City as a drama coach for up and coming young director Orson Welles’ all-black production of Macbeth. Except Welles, in typical upstart fashion, decides a quarter of the way through rehearsals that the cast will instead enact a production of a very rare and obscure play, The King In Yellow, which has just been provided to him by a mysterious benefactor….

So, if you wanna see the Yeller Sign through Zora’s eyes, be generous to this exciting project. You have till July 25th when the kickstarter ends.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/golden-goblin-press/heroes-of-red-hook

 

What’s Coming In 2016

Happy New Year All. Just a swift post to let you know what to expect from me this year writing-wise.

First off, I’m experimenting with Patreon, so head over to here and check that out. Five bucks a month gets you a brand new never before (or very little) seen short story from me. This month it’s a little story called The Mound Of The Night Panther about the secret history of the mound city of Cahokia and how it was brought down by weird happenings.

Next up will likely be my short novel Perennial, appearing in Emergence, the first of Ragnarok Publications’ new shared world superhero universe, Humanity 2.0. It’s about a man who gains incredible abilities but also has his physical aging process halted at age fourteen. That’s him on the cover, Pan. It features a scenario that is basically Die Hard with a skyscraper full of supervillains.  You can read more about that here. 

pan

At some point early this year I’ll be sharing novel space again with author Willie Meikle in Canadian publisher April Moon Books’ new James Bond pastiche series, Bond: Unknown. Entitled Mindbreaker, this one’s a 1960’s era Lovecraftian mashup with Bond being seconded to an ultra secret branch of the service to chase down the abducted Princess Royal and stop an obscure Corsican cult’s plot to activate a prehistoric weapon. I’m an immense Bond fan, so this is one I’m looking forward to you all reading, as despite the Cthulhu stuff, it’s very much written with Fleming in mind. Were you aware the 16th century mystic philosopher and mathematician John Dee signed his letters to Queen Elizabeth 0-0-7? Ian Fleming was. You will be too…

007dee

I’ll have a few short story appearances scattered throughout the year, in books from Golden Goblin Press and possibly Chaosium, and, if things work out, a new Star Wars story (keep your lightsabers crossed for that).

Then in the last part of the year you’ll see my Arthurian fantasy debut The Knight With Two Swords again from Ragnarok, which is a high fantasy retelling of the story of Balin Le Savage from Mallory and a slew of other sources.

I’ve also dipped my toes back into the screenwriting waters this year, with the hopes of putting out a short film at some point. We’ll see how that goes.

Hasta pronto!

De Horrore Cosmico At Kickstarter

6c586547735714014eda8f29c8cfc9f8_largeGolden Goblin Press is into the final seventeen days of their kickstarter for He Horrore Cosmico, six scenarios the the Cthulhu Invictus game. In their own words:

Long before ivy grew on the walls of Miskatonic University or the Deep Ones first came to Innsmouth, centuries before the mad Arab penned the dreaded Necronomicon, the malevolent powers of the Cthulhu Mythos plagued mankind. During the Age of the Antonines (96 AD–192 AD), when the Roman Empire was at the peak of its power, dark and unknowable forces were at work.  Ancient wizards sought ways to cheat death, explorers stumbled on the remnants of alien civilizations, foul cults practiced unholy rites, and inhuman creatures sought to mix their blood with ours.

Across Rome’s vast empire, a few brave men and women rose up to meet these threats for the greater good of mankind. They carried light into the darkness, dispelling a poisonous taint which grows best in the shadows. With steel and spell and burning torch, these heroic investigators of the ancient world defended their civilization from the fearsome powers of the Cthulhu Mythos. Golden Goblin Press is proud to offer up six of their adventures.

58634b4826cb1310d0efd57fb05efddc_largeOnce GG Press hits the $23,000 stretch goal, they’ll be putting out a companion fiction anthology edited by Brian Sammons and featuring nine stories of Lovecraftian horror set in Roman times to fire the imagination of players and GMs.  The lineup for that book consists of –

Vulcan’s Forge, by William Meikle
To the Fertility of the Empress, by Christine Morgan
A Plague of Wounds, by Konstantine Paradias
Time Devours All, by Pete Rawlik
The Unrepeatables, by Edward M. Erdelac
Signs of the Black Stars, by Penelope Love
Lines in the Sand, by Tom Lynch
The Temple of Iald-T’quthoth, by Lee Clark Zumpe
The Seven Thunders, by Robert M. Price

My tale, The Unrepeatables, is about Damis of Nineveh, the lifelong friend and companion of the renowned mystic and miracle worker Apollonious of Tyana, and an ex-legionnaire insinuating themselves into the estate of a famous charioteer to investigate rumors that he is profaning the secret and sacred Eleusinian Mysteries.

More about the story as the book is funded – which means, hey, if you like Roman history and Cthulhu, go kick Golden Goblin Press a buck or two. They’ve got some really killer swag for backers, including Lovecraftian lare (household god figurines – which feature prominently in The Unrepeatables), custom Roman coins, and more.