Vol 7 Issue 1

 

The Thalion background novels
by Richard Karsmakers

 

 

Like many of you probably know (if you've read some of the volume 5 issues of ST NEWS, that is), I have worked with the German software company Thalion for a while - from October 1989 to April 1991, to be more precise. In that time, I have written a number of background novels that I would not like to withhold from you even though copyright law might. That's why I have featured some of them here, in this hidden article.

I have included all background novels that I have ever written for Thalion here, with the exception of the Dragonflight one (which was almost 100 KB and which I might feature in ST NEWS volume 7 issue 2 in another hidden article). Note to Jurie: Don't tell anyone.

 

The background novel for The Chambers of Shaolin - written for Thalion software on September 15th 1989.


Some of you might find the names being somewhat like those of Hang Foy Soozooki. Well, you're right.

Hang Foy Qua looked up at the entrance doors towering high before and above him. The icy wind coming from the mountains seemed to pierce right through his clothes, transforming his body into a trembling, defenceless victim of cold. He felt like his bones were frozen and could easily imagine that his blood was now hardly getting transported at all as it went thicker and thicker in his veins that seemed as though aching at the touch of ice. Gathering courage, he knocked on the door as loud as he could. In spite of the tremendous power still left in his body though it had been drained by freeze and fatigue, the doors seemed to absorb the knocks and turn them into soft sounds of wooden whisper that could barely be heard above the sounds of the icy gale. Despite the savage cold that seemed to gnaw at his limbs, he started to sweat. It instantly froze on his skin. The doors belonged to the Pagoda of Knowledge, which was supposed to have been built many centuries ago amidst the desolate mountains of Tibet. The legend told that the wisest men of the world lived there; in the Pagoda of Knowledge the answers to all questions answerable were held. Nobody knew exactly where is was - and many of the people who knew had gone there and never returned, paying with their life for the answer to their questions or the granting of their wish. Hang Foy Qua had every reason in the world to go there: His village, a nice little town near the Japanese sea by the name of Queping, was being tormented by men of the emperor. His trials to resist them had resulted in Leia Sing, his younger sister, being kidnapped. If he would ever resist again, they had told him, he would get her back: In several parts. He had set out to find the Pagoda months earlier, and was glad he had finally succeeded in finding it.

Ages seemed to pass while he waited for someone or something to react to his knocking; ages in which the cold seemed to gain terrain on his body, and in which he knew more and more parts of his limbs and body were frostbitten into numbness. Then, without as much as a sound, the doors opened slowly. Hang Foy blinked his eyes as warm light seemed to pour out from the entrance. In it stood the dark silhouette of a man wearing a robe, leaning difficultly on a thin staff. Instinctively, Hang Foy knew: This was one of the Mandarins of the Pagoda of Knowledge. The old Mandarin stood in silence, stroking his light grey moustache which hung down along his cheeks, reaching the lower parts of his neck. He didn't seem to be bothered by the immense cold that had immediately enveloped his body after he had opened the massive doors - indeed, his clothes nor his thin white hair didn't seem even as much as to waver in the terrifying storm. His eyes narrowed to a gaze like suspicion as he looked at the man standing in front of him. The old Mandarin didn't open his mouth, nor did any sounds arise. Yet in Hang Foy's brain he formed a simple telepathical question: "What do you want?" Hang Foy opened his mouth and replied: "Help." The old Mandarin hushed him, telepathically sending another message: "Speech is like a man's mother in law - dispensable. Do not speak. Think. I will receive." While Hang Foy thought to sense what he considered to be a telepathical chuckle, the old Mandarin turned around and signalled him to come in. Since he was chilled to the very marrow of his bone, he didn't hesitate and stumbled in. The doors mysteriously closed behind him - nobody touching them. The second they closed shut, they effectively kept out the cold and he felt as though in an instant every vein in his body was defrosted, as though even the very marrow of his bones was taken into a warm caress. For several seconds, he experienced this feeling he could not possibly describe. When the peculiar feeling wore off, he felt comfortably warm. He took off his coat.

The old Mandarin was now a bit ahead of him, and he hastened to catch up with him as they disappeared into a small house to the right of the doors. "Welcome to my humble abode," the Mandarin thought to Hang Foy as they both sat down on the ground, "Please make yourself comfortable and accept a bowl of my fine herbal tea." "Thank you," Hang Foy thought back, now getting the hang of it (and liking it). He gladly accepted the warm bowl filled with nicely scenting herbal tea and drank it with relish. When he had relaxed himself a bit, he felt as though the old Mandarin was probing his brain, as if tiny tentacles were scanning his grey coils for good or evil intent. When he felt the probing was done, the old Mandarin spoke again telepathically. "I see you're a good person. How can I be of any help to you?" Hang Foy wondered why the old Mandarin helped him just like that - without even having asked in return for money, gifts, or even his life which he would gladly have shed for the sake of Leia Sing. The old man seemed to sense the thoughts, and said: "Good persons are like a warm cup of herbal tea - indispensable." Again, Hang Foy could have sworn to sense some telepathical chuckling. "Thank you. You are too good to me," Hang Foy said. He explained how his village was being harrassed by men of the emperor, and how he had tried to resist this by fighting them or trying to outwit them in one way or another. He had been very successful, and that was perhaps the reason why the emperor's men had decided to get to him and had kidnapped his sister so assure he would be silent in the future. How they had misjudged Hang Foy! The very morning he discovered his sister's room ravaged and her bed empty, he swore an oath to find her and rescue her. Even if it would mean having to go to the emperor himself and kill him, he would gladly do so if only his sister was to be safe henceforth. "I swear I will not be merciful to those who inflicted this harm upon her," Hang Foy ended, "so help me Buddha!" The old Mandarin had listened carefully, and looked grieved at the hearing of so much unhappiness. Especially since Hang Foy had not spoken and only thought of everything, the old Mandarin had seen far more than Hang Foy could have possibly intended. He had seen Queping lying on the shores of the Japanese sea, Leia Sing's face, the evil performed by the emperor's men, and many of Queping's residents working on the Great Wall that the emperor wanted built to protect his empire from savage invasions from the north of the land. From inside his robe, he took out a small gem - it seemed like an emerald, but its green glimmer was a bright as that of a diamond. "This is the Thoughtstone," the old Mandarin began, "solution to many questions we may not or cannot answer." He held it aloft and closed his eyes. A weird kind of hum became audible, and several moments later the old Mandarin started to float upward, until he seemed to hover steadily at about an arm's length above the ground. The Thoughtstone started to shine even more, and then dimmed into dark green like an abyss. Before them, a picture formed itself in the air. The old Mandarin held his eyes closed tightly, and sweat was forming on his brows as he appeared to be concentrating heavily. The picture became very clear, and it appeared as though several scenes were depicted rapidly behind each other. Hang Foy saw himself struggling to resist a rising tide, defending a bridge aflame, ward off enemies attacking him with sticks and axes, and jumping on various rising and sinking poles. He saw the Forbidden City, the Pagoda of Fear, and formidable opponents to defeat. He saw his sister struggling for survival in deep dungeons under the emperor's Pagoda. He saw all this in what may have been but half a minute. Then, the pictures faded away into the air and the old Mandarin gently floated down back to the ground. The Thoughtstone assumed its familiar shining again. But just before the Mandarin opened his eyes again, it seemed as though someone else, someone invisible or someone appearing in the leftover of one of the visages, shouted something through the room in a dark and threatening voice. "Shao-Lin!" it cried, after which it echoed away quickly. When the Mandarin finally opened his eyes, Hang Foy could see they were filled with dread and fear. "Shao-Lin," the old Mandarin thought, "The Chambers of Shao-Lin. Why did it have to come to this?" Hang Foy could barely refrain from speaking aloud, or even crying out telepathically. "What are you speaking of, old man? What are these Chambers of Shao-Lin?" The old Mandarin seemed hesitant to answer and sighed deeply. "An old legend says," the Mandarin thought, "that the emperor can be overthrown and all his evil reversed if someone completes a particular hazardous quest. Nobody has done that ever, and even all the Mandarins in this Pagoda of Knowledge know nothing more about it than that which you have just seen in vision. All that is known is that someone has to conquer the Chambers of Shao-Lin and fight several fierce opponents." He silenced for several moments that seemed like ages to Hang Foy. "If you should complete this quest," the Mandarin continued, "all of the world will be happy again - and your sister will return to Queping." Hang Foy didn't need long to think about it. Though he wasn't a particular hero, the life of his sister Leia Sing meant everything to him. "I'll do it," he said aloud, "just tell me where those chambers might be and I'll give it my best try."

 

A background novel for The Seven Gates of Jambala by Thalion software - written on September 4th 1989.


A long time ago, a mystic world of wizardry and magic existed - in which thinking and handling was only controlled by power together with the mind. This tale tells something about this world, and lets us meet some of its inhabitants.

A deafening silence ruled the old master's room. It seemed almost palpable, and his student, Arbolan, didn't really know whether he felt comfortable or not - whether his rather inexplicable feelings where those of anxiety or relaxation. "Something big is going to happen," the old master had said when he had lifted Arbolan off his stool in the library earlier that day, "and I want you to be there to witness it. Never before have you been able to learn as much as you will be able to learn now. Come." The look in his tutor's eyes had been promising, and Arbolan thought he noticed a shimmer of light he had not seen there ever before - the way in which the old man had beckoned had also been quite different from the times he had been beckoned earlier. With remarkable speed, the old master had preceded Arbolan from the city library to a dungeon-like room in the cellar of the wizard's house, several miles outside the city limits. Normally, this room used to be securely locked but now the door was ajar as they arrived, and a deep orange light could be seen to come from beyond it. He refrained from asking questions, feeling instinctively that they would be answered at a later time during that day anyway. The room seemed vaulted, as though it was but the corridor to an even more obscure room further down. Cobwebs hung down the arched ceiling, of which some stroked along his face and the magician's as they walked. Sounds of water dripping from the curves were clearly audible, and the dancing shadows caused by several flickering candles and torches made the dungeon appear ghostly. Arbolan had seen mystic things in his career as a student of the old master, and he had read about things even worse - but this beat it all. As his eyes grew used to the dim light, he carefully observed the things standing in the room and hanging on its rough stone walls. There were several shelves clung to them, on which small pots and jars stood. Most of them were covered by thick layers of dust, but ofttimes the labels stating the contents were still discernible - there were jars containing lizard tails, spider eggs, bat wings and fox eyes, whereas the pots mostly contained powders that could cure (and, indeed, cause) various illnesses. Largest part of the dungeon was dedicated to a black cauldron; a large pot presumably made of iron that was on four sides surrounded by candles that hesitantly threw their light on it. Although Arbolan didn't see a fire or any such thing burning under the pot, the liquid in it still seemed to be boiling. The fumes that arose from it reminded him of his younger hangover days, and he had some initial trouble breathing as the scent seemed to grasp his lungs like if a spirit was trying to prevent the foul air from ever leaving his body again. The wizard told him to sit down and be silent. Far too near to the cauldron, as far as Arbolan was concerned. He was beginning to understand why the people considered wizard to be a rather weird profession, and why the magician's house was built outside the city limits. "What's..." Arbolan asked, but with an obvious move of his hand the old master signalled his student to remain silent and to keep his seat. The look in the magician's eyes sent shivers down Arbolan's spine. It was the you-know-what-happens-if-you-don't-listen-look. And, indeed, Arbolan knew what was going to happen if he didn't indeed keep his mouth shut and if he didn't indeed remain seated on the small wooden stool he was placed upon - even though this happened to be located so near to that awfully smelly kettle.

To become a wizard, one had to be a pupil at a well known magician's for twelve years in a row. And after having successfully gone through that, one had to take an exam, so to say - one had to conquer the complex labyrinth of Jambala with the cities lying in there. Only few returned from this mysterious and seemingly dangerous labyrinth, and none of those who had eventually returned from it were liable to speak of it - as though a sacred oath prevented them from doing so. Performing this task was even far beyond the capabilities of most accomplished students, let alone for someone like himself - who had only been tought the basics of magic in the few years he had been tought by the old master. It would mean sure death, yet there was still hope for him, might he end up to do something that would cause the wrath of his tutor to be unleashed upon him - which would surely make him undertake this quest at a somewhat preliminary date: The magic wand. There were ancient legends being told of this wand. In the days before his age - and probably even before that of the old master - there was an omnipotent magician that got his considerable power from a magic stick wrought by even older races of mankind that were the purest incarnation of wizardry themselves. Some way or another - not even the legends care to tell exactly how, why and when - this race became extinct and the magic wand they had created was lost for many centuries. Around that time, a simple carpenter roamed the forests around his native place and quite simply found it in the innards of a cave - how the magic wand got there, the legend again fails to explain. He became Linmer the Magic One - even up to know the most powerful wizard ever to have lived on the whole of the earth. He was no bad wizard, and even though he by far surpassed the other magicians in the guild, he still agreed to perform the regular exam all wizards had to undertake. He agreed to conquer the labyrinth and the cities of Jambala. Even though nobody questioned his power and abilities, he was never heard of again. He might have been the most powerful wizard ever to have lived on the whole of the earth - but he had been so only for a very short time. The legend now tells that his magic wand, broken in seven pieces, was scattered within the labyrinth. He who would be able to retrieve the individual pieces and put them correctly together to form the whole magic wand again, would be given unimaginable powers - powers that would greatly enlarge his chances of surviving, and indeed leaving the labyrinth. Only with the help of the magic wand, a relatively inexperienced student like Arbolan would be able to successfully complete the task in the more than likely event that the old master would cast him in the labyrinth on the aforemeant preliminary date. For Arbolan knew himself. He was always eager to learn, but also eager to talk and intervene. More than once, he had imperilled his life and that of his tutor by striving to "improve" spells or potions; and last time the old master had told him that "next time.....you'll know what happens!". The decisive look in the old man's eyes was unmistakable. This was no bluff. The old man meant it. Every hair of his long grey beard radiated with anger; every square millimetre of his pupils radiated with anger. His skin had become very red. He had meant it, all right. Arbolan knew himself, and therefore he aimed to be very careful - especially today, now "something big was going to happen". He was also kind of inquisitive to what his tutor referred to as "big". He had never called changing lead into gold "big", and not even turning frogs into beautiful fair-haired princesses and worthy courageous princes (this varied according to their original sex).

Arbolan watched carefully as the old master took some ingredients off the shelves and cast them all in the fluid that was zealously boiling in the cauldron. The fumes became instantly dark, yet seemed to vanish quicker now. Arbolan now saw that they were sucked into an exhaust pipe located at the far end of the vaulted chamber. The horrible scent also seemed to lift, and with relief the young pupil breathed the fresher air deep in his lungs. At least, he needn't be afraid of fainting now anymore. He stood up from his small wooden stool, trying to get a better look of what the old master was doing, who had now taken a big book with faded yellow and light brown pages clad with dust and written on in a kind of writing Arbolan only recognised a few basic words of. The old wizard didn't actually read them; his eyes were closed as if meditating, deep in thought. Arbolan leaned over and got a clear look of the page. Some of the words he recognised concerned "cauldrons", "potions", "ingredients" and "dust". Though, of course, this didn't clarify much even to a student of the mysterious science of magic. The old master opened his eyes now and turned over a few pages. Dust fell off the paper, that seemed to be brittle and ancient. Arbolan for a moment had to take care not to sneeze - doing that would probably cause the book to evaporate into thousands of little fragments that even the old master's magic would not be able to put back together again. Lucky for the young student, he succeeded in withdrawing the urge. He was quite considerably relieved at that - since sneezing had no doubt made sure he would have ended up in the labyrinth of Jambala before he would have been able to say "Arfle Barfle Goob!?". He sat back, and transferred his weight to a sturdy-looking wooden lever on the wall. Which he probably should better not have done, for in spite of its rusted hinged and sturdy looks, it gave way with quite a remarkable ease that stunned him witless. Neither Arbolan nor the old master could tell precisely what happened then, as the vaulted room was instantaneously transmuted into something that was as black as anything could possibly be black - in purest and deepest darkness imaginable. It was as if the candles and torches had all gone out in that same instant without any obvious cause - which they probably had. He could sense nothing except for cursing in some ancient tongue in which he only now and again recognised his own name. The cursing grew dim and distant as Arbolan lost consciousness.

Arbolan awoke after what seemed to him like seconds later - but which could easily have been minutes, hours, or even days. The angry words of his old tutor, even though he had not been able to understand any of them, echoed literally through his head as he regained full consciousness again. After the dark veil had seemed to dissolve itself before his eyes, the only thing he could become aware of was a thick wall before him - not unlike the walls of his tutor's dungeon he had been in, but even older and more grey. In that wall was a small door with iron ornaments on it. It opened - autonomous, so it seemed, and next thing he felt was that he was being sucked into whatever was behind its dark opening by powers unknown to him. Even before he truly knew what had happened, he was on the other side of the old grey wall. The door had closed behind him. Hermetically. Although Arbolan didn't quite know what had happened to him, he kind of guessed what had become of him, and how people generally named the place he was in now...The Seven Gates of Jambala.

 

The background novel for a game by Thalion software called A Prehistoric Tale. Although the actual game was to be released more than a year later, this novel was already written in December 1989.


When he regained consciousness, the timetraveller shook his head and moaned. He immediately felt a mindsmashing headache, throbbing through his head as if it wanted the very bones of his skull to burst at every single heart's beat. He once more swore never ever to do it again. As his senses focused on the sights and sounds around him, he noticed that he was indeed teleported (and even warped) to the era he was supposed to be teleported (and indeed warped) to: The Jurassic era, a massive 150 million years ago - there were ferns as high as three-storey flats, and all kinds of flowers that were to die out at the end of the Cretaceous era, about 65 million years ago. So this was where the Interstellar Palaeobiological Regeneration Associations wanted him to work for some time to come. The timetraveller shook his head again, and blinked his eyes. There was also a rather enormous specimen of extinct reptile standing directly in front of him, but this he did not notice until it opened its fangs and the sun reflected on some terrifying rows of flashy white teeth - with spots of bloody red on them as well, so the timetraveller was somewhat startled to notice. A large piece of dripping wet meat - presumably its tongue - was licking them in what could only be described as quite a menacing way. The timetraveller was about to swear that he would never do it again when the rather enormous specimen of extinct reptile (further to be referred to as Allosaurus) decided it had seen enough of this pathetic human and knew only one way to rid itself of such a minor irritation: Eating it. A rather tasteless word that had something to do with used food passed the timetraveller's lips as he noticed the obviously foul intent of the giant reptile. The timetraveller immediately grasped that it was of no avail to try and convince Mr. Hungry Allosaurus of the disgusting taste of his flesh. He pushed a couple of buttons on his portable time machine. "See you in ten minutes' time!" he said before pressing a purple button labelled "red".

Ten minutes later.

The timetraveller noticed that his headache had virtually vanished when he opened his eyes again, a mere second after pressing the purple button labelled "red". He saw the world what it looked like 150 million years minus 10 minutes ago, and had to admit that it hadn't particularly improved much to his liking. But, just like he had hoped, the enormous specimen of extinct reptile (sometimes also referred to as "Allosaurus") had decided not to think long about the mysterious vanishing that had just taken place and had wandered off again. A positively deafening sound of what could not be interpreted for anything else rather than some mega-amplified and giga-boosted earthquake sounds roared through the trees, and Cronos' attention was instantly drawn to an enormous specimen of extinct reptile (sometimes also referred to as "Allosaurus") that was experiencing some quite violent spasms behind a couple of ferns. It was balancing at the edge of a gap in the ground that had definitely not been there a mere 10 minutes ago. And it was getting bigger as mere more seconds passed. He blinked his eyes in disbelief. Was his job that urgent? The somewhat outdated specimen of extinct reptile (which is indeed sometimes also referred to as "Allosaurus") disappeared into the gap, making some awesome sounds of terror. The sound of the mega-amplified and giga-boosted earthquake all of a sudden ceased, and the timetraveller was even more than a bit shocked to notice that the Allosaurus had truly vanished (and indeed died). Holy macaroni! The seismic activity in this region was surely not to be fooled with - the guys at the Interstellar Palaeobiological Regeneration Association were just in the nick of time to send him over to teleport these dinosaurs to a safer place. And if he didn't do something really soon, the dinosaurs would all die out...even before these giant animals would have had the decency to take care of some more or less intelligent mammalian offspring from which men would eventually evolve! He felt his strength already growing slightly weaker...

 

Background story for Wings of Death - written in June 1990.


As the dust cleared around him, Sagyr felt something like trepidation grow on him. He was startled when he sensed this; what had become of the fearless sorcerer he has always been? Nearly all light seemed to have been cut off from its source, and his castle dining room was now enveloped in a dark grey that almost neared black. He felt instinctively that Xandrilia, the wicked witch of the west, had now disappeared from the spot where she had been up to the moment that all this dust and flashes of fire had occurred. What had she done? Had he beaten her or scared her off, or had she done something horrible to him that he was yet to discoverer? He sharpened his ears, but all he could hear was a slightly regular appearance of a quite unintelligibly high sound that he hadn't heard during his entire existence. The high sounds became more regular, urging Sagyr to halt instinctively. Before him, some of the scarce light illuminated something that surely seemed like nothing else but a mirror. Sagyr went nearer. The mirror was soiled by the dust, but what he could distinguish in the image nonetheless made the very blood freeze in his veins. He saw a bat - indeed, one of those black flying things with razor sharp white teeth, enormously large ears, infeasibly effective sonar-aided hearing and an instinctive craving for fresh red fluid out of virgin's necks. So that was where the unintelligibly high sounds had come from. A curse rolled off his tongue. Why had he been so stupid as to assume that he could face Xandrilia? Since times long gone by, she had always been jealous of his immense wealth and sheer magical power - and she had more than once sworn to bereave him of it. So when she had asked admittance to his castle earlier that morning, he had considered himself powerful enough to withstand whatever would happen - and he had lowered the drawbridge. He should never have done that. Once she got in, she had not only done some rather aggressive interior redecorating, but she had also changed him into a bloomin' bat. He wondered how he could ever get back his human shape again, only to be interfered in his thoughts by lots of unintelligibly high sounds. There was no way he was ever going to find the right spell in his many books - even if he could find and open the right book, it was to be doubted if his bad sight would help him out. And his infeasibly effective sonar-aided hearing would probably not help much in that department, either. So there was no other choice but to find back Xandrilia and force the spell out of her - which would be pretty tough given his current state of power. But, as counsel usually comes with time, he decided to head for Xandrilia's bewitched empire. Chances were big that he would run into some kind of spell or another; maybe it would not change him back into his old human shape again, but it would surely assist him to be more powerful in the end - when he would have to beat Xandrilia for once and for all. His wings bore him to a door that was standing ajar, revealing the bewitched rooms of his own castle. His road to victory would not be easy, but at least he had his wings. Wings of Death.

 

Background novel for the game Enchanted Land - written in June 1990. Nic (programmer of the game and member of TCB) deserves credit for the name of the protagonist.


The sun set over Damiran in a haze of pink and purple. It cast an eldritch gleam on the lengthening shadows of the forest, seeming to envelop the land in something that could only contain peace and harmony. This may once upon a time have been true, but even long before the memories of the most ancient elders begun it had been enchanted by an evil power of formidably dimensions - at that time, peace and harmony had probably altogether disappeared from the land like a troll would from the sun. Ever since that time, now and again a Damiranian would escape to the neighbouring countries, bringing with him wild tales and ill tidings of evil, black magic and chaos; tales of an evil sorcerer - who had destroyed the land's Heart of Lore. Old scriptures spoke of Damiran's Heart of Lore as its main source of prosperity, law and order. It had kept ill away from the land, and had indeed been of major influence on the well-being of all the people who had dwelled there. Damiran's monarchs of old had thus cherished this heart as if it had been an invaluable treasure - which indeed it had. Yet in Lumthorn, a forest on one of the outer edges of the land, a sorcerer called Plogthor had lived who wasn't content with anything. He had noticed that people didn't come to him any more when they had needed something magical do be done - they had rather visited the king who wielded the Heart of Lore instead. In his forest hut, he had concocted evil plans and dark potions that he wanted to use to render Damiran's Heart of Lore useless forever.

It had been a dark day in the history of Damiran when the sorcerer arrived at the gates of Traskor, the land's capital. Behind him, a large box wrapped in black had floated on what must have been an invisible field of power. A sense of doom had radiated from his eyes when he had ordered the guards to escort him to the king's castle. The inhabitants of the city had looked at Plogthor with awe as he strode by, wearing his ominous dark blue robe. They had whispered among each other, not even daring to point at this mysterious black box. When the sorcerer and his escort had arrived at the castle, the drawbridge had been lowered - upon which Plogthor, followed by his mysterious floating box, had entered. That night, a huge explosion had shuddered the city of Traskor. Fire had burst forth from the king's castle and had viciously hurled bolts of white lightning into the night sky which it had seemed to tear apart in a tremendously huge cacophony of thunderous roars and blackest of fumes. Nobody had known much of what had happened that dark night, but it had been the start of a bad epoch for Damiran. The Heart of Lore, so it turned out later, had been destroyed and its magical potency had diffused over all the land in countless fragments, impossible ever to regain and assemble back into what had once been Damiran's main source of prosperity, law and order.

Or had it?

The most ancient of elders had looked ghostly in the light of the candles and the odd torch that had shone upon the lined image of his face. An eerie silence had filled the room as he had opened his eyes and had prepared to speak. "We are gathered here tonight to send forth a mission of help," he had spoken with a voice that had seemed to be worn with centuries of sorrow and grief, "a mission of help to our neighbour country, Damiran." He had looked around him, and his gaze had settled on an older wizard by the name of Kurgan. As if he had sensed the gaze, Kurgan had looked up without speaking, swallowing something. The most ancient of elders had continued: "Too many people suffer the acid reign of Plogthor, known to us as the Despiser, and it is our sworn duty to help the Damiranians to get rid of the yoke which now rests heavy upon their writhing shoulders." A low mutter of agreement passed through the ranks of the other elders present in the room. "I have selected Kurgan, our wisest and most experienced wizard, to attempt the quest of trying to regain the parts of Damiran's Heart of Lore. Only the gods know if he will succeed in fulfilling this formidable task. Only he can bend the fate of Damiran's doom." Kurgan had looked up, proud of the fact that the most ancient of elders had considered him worthy of this mission.

And now the time had come.

He looked at the setting sun and felt a peculiar kind of nausea shatter a feeling of what might have been joy at the beholding of such a beautiful sight. For a moment, he hesitated. Without looking back, he crossed the border to The Enchanted Land.

 

The background novel for a Thalion game (a simulation) called Australian Pioneers - written at the end of January 1991. The end of it is really serious, because it is actually a simulation that cannot all be witty and stuff (you know).


700 - somewhere off the east coast of a vast, unknown continent.

"Land ahead! Land ahead!"

The wind blew firmly through captain TorbÝrn's hair when he went on deck to see what the shipmate's yelling was all about. The mere concept of land at this location was, to say the least, improbable. He looked rather impressive with his horned helmet, especially against the sun that was setting in the distance. "Leave it be," he commanded, "looks too deserted. No women to rape or towns to plunder. These reefs also look a bit too dodgy to try. Head due east!"

"Aye, sir!"

1557 - somewhere very, very far off the aforementioned continent, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

"But, sir...Captain Drake, sir...aren't we supposed to..."

"Shut up, nonworthy excuse for a sailor, or I'll have you beheaded," the captain growled, "I don't care what the English government told me to do, you hear?"

"But they told us to try and contact the natives of Terra Incognita Australis, sir." the sailor ventured again, "We shouldn't rob those Spanish ships filled with Peruvian treasures instead!"

Obviously, this particular sailor didn't value his head much. A couple of seconds later, after the captain had moved his sword swiftly and suddenly, it fell off.

"Impertinent sod."

1605 - somewhere in utter darkness, quite horribly close to the coast of a vast, virtually unknown continent. CRASH (horrible sound of ship running into something).

"What, in the name of our lord, was that?" a voice swore in Dutch.

"Erm....well....er....land, sir," answered another voice, high up in the crow's nest, sounding as if its owner was barely awake - or, indeed, barely asleep. The first voice, that turned out to belong to the ship's captain by the name of Janszoon, swore once again. Thus, Australia was officially discovered.

1783 - in a prison director's office, somewhere in England.

"Things are getting out of hand, sir!" It was the concerned voice of a prison warden that had spoken this.

"You are right," the prison director replied, "our capacity is getting too small."

"We could," the warden proposed, "write a letter to the government or something."

"Hmm. I guess we could do that," the director now spoke, "as a matter of fact, I will write one immediately."

1788 - deep down in a ship heading for the coast of a vast, largely unknown continent that had in the mean time been named "Australia".

"Bummer," someone said.

"Whaddayasay?" someone else replied.

"Bummer!" the first repeated.

"Yeah, you're surely right there," the other said, "never thought they were gonna send me off to some godforsaken continent only because I stole a loaf of bread."

"Well, at least you stole something," the first said, agitated, "but I am innocent!"

"Sure," the other said in a peculiar way, "sure."

It had more or less been a coincidence that caused the start of the colonisation of Australia. After the discovery of America, English criminals no longer served their sentence in their home land; instead, they were sent to this newly discovered continent. When the American colonies became independent in 1776, it was no longer possible to send the convicts there. At that time, explorers like Cook and Banks had discovered the fertile eastern coasts of Australia, which surely looked very much like the ideal location to replace America with respect to the problem that had but recently arisen regarding these delinquents. On January 18th 1788, the first prisoner ship arrived in Australia. Apart from 717 convicts (amongst which were 188 women), it brought 191 sailors and 18 civil servants. These founded the city of Sydney. Life was harsh; there were no known natural resources, and everybody dependended entirely on convoys from London. As England happened to be primarily occupied by its wars with France, sea voyages were dangerous and thus few. Each year, up to 3000 new convicts were to be sent to this new prison colony, that were put to work under military supervision. Once the convicts had served their sentence, they got appointed small parts of land. As they lacked any experience, however, this plunged them deep into poverty and misery. Only later, the first governor of what then became an official colony introduced more humane legislation. He also built churches, schools, roads and bridges. The most important thing he did, however, was discovering the fact that the Australian soil may not have been right for agriculture, but was of excellent quality for cattle breeding. Especially Merino sheep could be bred excellently, thus fulfilling the enormous demand in England for this fine quality wool, that would eventually lead to Australia producing one third of the total world's wool production. This new wealth now attracted more colonists towards Australia -but now ones without a prison record.

In 1813, colonists conquered the Blue Mountains, thus discovering huge grass lands behind them. The government encouraged this form of colonisation; free colonists got assigned a piece of land as well as a number of prisoners that had to work for them. New South Wales soon became an enormous cattle breeding area that was in the hands of a couple of farmers that owned enormous herds. After the civilian goverment was installed, in 1823, these farmers became know as the "squatters", who eventually colonised the area that was later to be called Queensland. In that time, Australia actually primarily produced wool. All major cities at its coast were occupied exporting this wool, and importing industrial products.

In 1850, gold was found to the south of Sydney. This caused many people to be infected by gold fever, and this gold rush made sure that the number of people that came to Australia increased quickly. Coal, lead, silver and zinc were later found there, too, whereas other sources in South Australia and Victoria were discovered to have supplies of uranium, copper, iron and tin. Agriculture started to bloom later as well, especially after big stretches of land could be irrigated. The dryer areas are used to grow wheat, wheras the others are also used for oat, corn and barley (the latter primarily for beer breweries).

 

The introductory novel for a Thalion game called Ghost Battle - written on February 13th 1991.


Two eyes peered at the mercenary annex hired barbarian. They were red in a frightening kind of way, and he had no reason whatsoever to like that. Nor, as a matter of fact, did he have any reason at all to like the entire setting he was in. It was depressingly dark and he was in the middle of an enormous kind of wood. Eerie sounds found ways of echoeing through this wood, and now and again red or green or purple eyes would stare at him conspiciously as if waiting for an opportunity to strike. The worst thing of all was that he had left all his killer gadgets at home. So he didn't have his trustworthy longsword with him, nor his double bladed battle axe. Hell, he didn't even have a common knife of some sort on him. All he had was a book. It was called "Novice Sorcery" by Egidius Leonardo Vira, and on its cover it had a picture of a scarsely dressed female that somehow looked disproportionate to him. "This book", so its previous owner had confided in him before he had shelled out a large amount of gold, "is all one needs to get through any precarious situation relatively unscathed". He had been totally thrilled. He had been extremely excited. He had also wondered what "sorcery" actually meant. While walking through this wood, he had deemed the time fit to leaf through this miraculous new acquisition of his. In the end, he reckoned this might leave him with something to defend himself should any of the ominous owners of those conspiciously staring red or green or purple eyes should decide to strike. He quickly leafed through to a chapter that sounded interesting to him. "Chapter XVIII," he read aloud to himself, "Enchantment of Forest Beings." This was the part where, should this have been in a movie, the soundtrack suddenly starts to go weird, trying to indicate the beholder that something is about to happen that may succeed in getting his pants wet. As the mercenary annex hired barbarian walked on while laboriously studying the book, one of the many pairs of red eyes that had in the mean time appeared got quite awfully much closer, looming up as it were behind him in a positively menacing fashion. It was not before a deep and meaningful growl was uttered by the owner of this particular pair of conspiciously staring eyes that our hero noticed anything.

"Growl."

He looked around and stood face to face with what can not be described to be anything else rather than a particularly nasty kind of monster, that had probably also been the ugly duck of its family. A very big duck, that is, for it towered above him to at least twice his height. "Hmm, interesting," was the first thing to enter the mind of the mercenary annex hired barbarian, thereby taking up all place for itself. It was quickly fighting for cranial dominance, however, with thoughts along the lines of "Oh", "Oh dear", "Crikey" and "Is that my mother calling?". Eventually, one thought managed to remain locked in the barbarian's miserable excuse for brain cells: "Hmmm. Maybe the book explains how to deal with 'big, strikingly ugly ducks that unexpectedly loom up behind you'." He quickly turned to the next page. He was significantly relieved to notice that it beamed towards him with 'Dealing with big, strikingly ugly ducks that unexpectedly loom up behind you' written at its top in big, bold, capital, underlined letters. This discovery cheered him up for a short while - in fact it cheered him up until the precise instant on which the monstrous duck started to breathe directly in his face, instantly drawing his attention back to the severity of the situation at hand. A satisfied grin formed itself around the bill of the big duck. Finally. It feels nice to be appreciated, even when you're fourteen foot tall and very, very ugly. It growled again, just to make its point.

"Growl."

The barbarian quickly scanned through the page. It was conveniently divided in paragraphs, each written with another specific kind of weapon in thought. He skipped the ones headed 'Longsword', 'Double bladed axe', 'Lord of the Rings One-Volume Edition' and some others, quickly reading the one headed 'None of any kind whatsoever'. "In case thou dost not haveth any weapon at thy disposal," that particular paragraph considered proper to mention, "resorteth to magic." Swell. That was just great. Just great. And the monster was getting impatient, too. It growled again, somewhat louder this time.

"Growl."

Resort to magic? That would pose a serious lack of ability to get out of this situation relatively unscathed, for he had utterly and totally flunked all subjects in school that had the tendency of even being distantly related to magic. The monster licked its huge, frightfully yellow bill in quite a revolting way. It was going to end the life of this pitiable human. Even according to the Monster & Violence Convention, it had given its victim more than the lawfully required time that was considered to be sufficient for the the victim to employ some serious reaction - be it aggressive or defensive. The barbarian thought hard. Something of all those lessons in magic must still be present somewhere. Scattered bits of memories flung themselves at him, until finally he had been able to retrieve a long forgotten spell from a dusty drawer somewhere in his brain. "En nu ben je dood!" he yelled with all the power he could manage, nearly finishing off his vocal chords. A strange kind of light was emitted from the barbarian's being. This gently transformed itself into something like fireworks, but bigger and more powerful, of which the flames mercilessly sped towards the vile creature. Before it had time to protest against the fact that magic was not allowed in a fair fight according to the Monsters & Violence Convention, it was totally incinerated. "It's a kind of magic," the barbarian whispered softly in a way that betrayed his Scottish ancestry. Having completely regained his self confidence now he had remembered this powerful spell, he briskly walked on through the forest, merrily singing a tune about a poor lonesome barbarian far away from home.

That's all, folks. More to come in the next issue of ST NEWS (maybe). I will by then also have contacted Eclipse's Marc Rosocha to get permission for the publication of the Eclipse background stories I wrote ("Monster Business" and "Wings of Death II"). Bye.


This text was published in the Atari ST diskmag "ST News" and is used by kind permission of Richard Karsmakers. Source for this article: http://www.st-news.com