One of the goals of SPFBO is to give a chance to self-published authors to get more exposure. This year I’m taking part in the competition with my own team. You can keep updated on our progress and all of our content on my SPFBO 5 page!
Tales from the Asylum is a new feature I came up with for SPFBO. I wanted to create a unique opportunity for the authors to show off their story telling skills by taking their characters and putting them in an asylum room to see how they would deal with the situation. A lot can happen in a closed space…
J.B. Allen has been a fan of dungeons, dragons and all things “fantasy” long before his beheading of Demogorgon at the tender age of eleven and well before it was considered “cool” to be a nerd. He remains an avid fantasy roleplayer to this day, and can still be heard boasting, “I never fudged a dice roll that didn’t need it.” That same affection for swords and sorcery soon fueled a passion for storytelling, mainly about flawed characters in search of redemption, complicated magic, and the darkness of the soul. He reveals, “When writing about the horror of war and mankind’s propensity for violence, I believe it is important to be purposeful, not gratuitous in its detail, and the very recording of it should be brutally honest, haunting, and if possible, beautiful in its delivery.” Allen rules his house with an iron (albeit arthritic) fist and a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. He is the husband of a maiden warrior, and the father of a fair elf queen and a forest gnome, living in the wilds of southeast Michigan. He was a sergeant in U.S. Army, serving as an airborne infantryman and has been a police officer for twenty years as a road patrol officer, SWAT team member, and crisis negotiator, which he credits for helping him to dwell deep within the mind of a warrior. He is yet to win the lottery but has recently been celebrated for his revival of the saying, “Willy Nilly”.
Braygar shielded his eyes north, admiring for a moment the thin scarlet accent of a descending sun behind jagged rock protrusions surrounding Gythdom Valley. The dwarf cleared his throat, abandoning the last weapon he possessed, having lodged it between two ribs of an already dying Argothian knight. He spat in the human’s uncaged face with pink saliva then turned away, toward smoke from a burning wagon sifting past as if it were in a hurry to be somewhere else. The smoke continued to swirl, causing his eyes to burn like alcohol on wounded flesh.
“Agonni?! Captain?!” he howled, losing the deepness of his voice to the crackling of bodies and wood around him. The wounded lieutenant tripped forward in the direction he had last seen Agonni, tearing through the smothering blackness with open hands until the curtain of smoke lifted. Braygar found himself standing before the valley as it dipped slightly, then rose sharp on both sides into the mountain range known as Sharp Tooth. His eyes darted frantically left to right before spilling upon Gythdom’s altered terrain. His lips pursed tightly before sagging at the edges.
Every crevice, corner and subtle change in topography was cluttered with the remains of something, someone. Husband, son and brother. Gythdom Valley, which was well known for its soft, silvery rock formations, had been painted now in black, sunbaked blood, and floating ash. Plumes of smoke rose and drifted symmetrically eastward with the wind, while the dead, both dwarf and human, lay strewn about the valley in piles of flesh and metal. The bellows of the dying hummed in unison between his ears and throughout the valley like a horn of surrender blown between lamenting lips. There was something about the acoustics of the valley which seemed to launch the cries of the dying up the mountain and beyond the pillowed clouds.
Braygar had not heard the clangs of weapon on weapon for some time, so he stood instead, listening for the warble or flutter of a bird that would not come. He inhaled through his teeth, crouching down before the lifeless body of a dwarf clad in muddied steel armor. Braygar placed his gloved hand upon the chest of his captain, Agonni Grimweller, upon the drab green, blood-soaked cloak with soft tan embroidery on the chest.
“Eyes to War.” he whispered before the world went suddenly dark.
Braygar pondered upon the distant memory from his suffocating cell, unable to inhale without his bony shoulders pressing tightly against narrow walls slick with body oils and sea salt. He rested his naked back against the cold dampness of the stone, meticulously kneading the swollen fingers of his left hand with the hope feeling would come back to them. But the dwarf knew better. He had lost feeling in most of his fingers several days ago, the use of his legs some time before that. This blackness has fed upon my eyes so long that I no longer remember what it looks like to reach for something. he thought.
No matter, he surmised, shaking his head, there is nothing worth reaching for in this place. His chin dropped, casting his eyes to what might be the floor, stretching the back of his neck until the ligaments began to pull. The dwarf sat quietly alone in the wetness of a stagnant puddle that never dried, curling his nose each time a slight, easterly breeze slipped through small fissures and brought the odor to his nostrils. He stopped himself from reaching out, knowing his fingers would simply find themselves scratching at the salt encrusted wall, inches away. He balled his fist, then brought it close to the waning muscles of his abdomen. “No! I will not do it.” he said, shoving the three middle fingers of his right hand into his dry mouth. The dwarf began to suck, drawing the metallic taste of dried blood, and allowing his tongue to carefully slither around broken fingernails and scabbed fingertips. He tugged his fingers from his mouth, wincing as a jagged tooth caught the scab of his middle finger.
Fresh blood began to tickle the webbing between his fingers, causing him to rub the coagulated syrup into a dark dough. He let it drop between his fingers but could not hear it hit the floor through the rhythmic battering of the migraine, bruising the tissue between his ears. This headache is killing off the last of my memories, he thought, grinding his teeth in an effort to deaden the torment. The enemy will visit me soon, as they do each day. But this rat hole will clog with uneaten food, for I will not have it! They will continue their attempts to woo me with morsels while they skin my brothers alive. I shall not consume a single crumb while the human Knights of Argoth hold this Valley!
The dwarf’s lips bent downward, his sealed eyes becoming suddenly desperate for the shadow of a full tree in early bloom. How long had the night held tightly to these eyes? he asked himself. A wet cough overcame him, causing his shoulders to roll forward and spasm as he fought for air. He paused before drawing air into his struggling lungs, noting a wet rattle. He could not bear another coughing fit, he thought, with his eyes pressed tightly together. He blinked once, then folded his eyes for the last time in anticipation of the end, watching the last of the sand splashing within the hourglass, white, like the contrasting sand of a blue shore. How quickly it falls. I wish to rest a moment in order to catch my breath, I think…
The sentry shuffled from the shadowed hall, through the open metal frame and onto the patchy grass outside. He cast a salute to the Captain who still bore healing flesh upon sun burnt skin. The sentry held a small, black leather satchel with his left hand. He set it lightly to the ground and rubbed his soft hands together. He nodded curtly to the dwarf before speaking.
“Captain Grimweller, sir… I’m sorry. Braygar has passed on.” Agonni’s chest tightened as the news coated his ears like a cold fog. He wanted to strike the young dwarf before him but found himself cold and unwilling to move. The long moment became awkward, causing the young dwarf to speak, “Sir, I can send for the tomb kindlers for the lieutenant if you like.”
Agonni stood a moment longer before answering. “No. I’ll do it.” The young dwarf nodded and turned to walk away, but Agonni’s deep voice caused the young dwarf to stop short. “This wasn’t him, you know?” his eyes met the young dwarf’s. “What you saw for the past month, caring for him. It was not him.” He sighed, slowly wrenching his head right to left. “Braygar was a good warrior and a devoted husband.” The thought suddenly wrecked him that he must notify Braygar’s wife. He continued, “He saved my life no less than three times in the Valley. We were the only survivors of Gythdom Valley, and I will never forget the moment his eyes turned to madness. It was like looking upon the dead. I carried him out when he could no longer walk or speak.”
Agonni’s eyes drifted to a lazy cloud floating low as if it had not the strength to lift itself. He cleared his throat before continuing, “His mind had taken all it could, and I could do nothing for him. Who am I to talk to now?” he asked with downcast pupils searching for a place to move forward.
If you’d like to get in touch, you can find J.B. Allen on social media:
J.B. Allen entered When the Elves Are Gone into SPFBO, which you can check out by clicking on the cover which will lead you to its Amazon page:
You can keep updated on our progress and all of our content on my SPFBO 5 page!
I think this might be the first Tale where the MC is actually mad? Poor Braygar!
Also, JB Allen — as a DM, I am horrified that you fudge dice rolls. For shame!
Hahaha I just read this after a long long time! I can tell you I don’t fudge dice. I put it because the group I game with uses Roll20. I don’t even remember the last time I cast real dice. It’s way more fun when the party sees you fail in anticipation lol. Take care.