My name is Stephen Nelson. I have some stories to tell, and some great and talented friends to help me tell them. If you like a strange story, if you enjoy a twisted tale, sit down, stay a while, and listen! Someday soon, we hope to transform our stories into comics which you may purchase, so as to bear happily home to you demented domiciles.

You might not want to let Mom see them, though.

Projects my friends and I are currently conspiring on include my macabre fantasy adventure/comedy Rat's Tooth, Rita Gorgoni's awesome Dark Fantasy tale, Iron Head, and The Children of Pollut Un Roone, a dark fantasy tale written by myself, illustrated by Stefano Cardoselli, and set in the incredible fantasy world of Brom Kah, created by Garrett Adderly!

So please come in, look around, and we hope you enjoy our Stories! Unpleasant Dreams!

Thanks go out to lots of folks, including Alex Johns, who designed the logo you see above for me!

Friday, July 16, 2010

All about Rat's Tooth

“Ok, Quoth the storyteller…Get this..."
Long ago and far away and at the end of time, there is a magnificent city, a city of silver and gold. And also sewage. Of high towers polished and shining like glass in the sun. Of narrow, crowded, twisting streets and deep, stinking tunnels where the light of the sun never falls. Of magnificent palaces blazing with jewels, mantled in deep, shaded gardens where weird beasts prowl. Also of wide expanses of decaying ruins, inhabited by the hordes of the starving, and the plague-smitten. Now, this city is (or was) ruled by a council of mighty sorcerers, wizards who were something more than men, having somewhat of the divine in them. It was the power of these sorcerers that kept the peace amoung the city’s countless guilds, unions, cults, gangs and petty warlords. For this task, (and also to protect themselves from one another) the sorcerers gathered to themselves bands of devoted followers. To ensure their utmost loyalty, these retainers were drawn when very young from amoung the orphans and abandoned urchins of the city’s teeming slums. As children, they were trained to perform various tasks in the service of their masters. The most unpromising were raised to be expert in the various mundane tasks of running the wizards’ households. They became companions and concubines, entertainers, clerks, cooks and gardeners. But the strongest, the quickest, the most clever, aggressive and unique, were singled out and trained to become members of the Fighting Cadres, the fighting elite who did the bloody work of enforcing the wizards’ will throughout the great city. The strongest and toughest were trained as bodyguards and warriors, the most cunning and quick were trained as assassins, burglars and spies, while the wisest and cleverest were trained as sorcerers and scientists, the most powerful cadre of all. The fighting cadres were high in the councils of their masters, and it was they who delivered dread and death to the enemies of the lords of the city, whether in dark, fecal alleys or in boudoirs of silk and gold. They were the agents and the symbols of their Masters’ might; where they walked, the shadow of the Wizards’ greatness fell."

The storyteller shifted and scratched himself, cleared his throat and continued.
Now, my Mistress tells me that she was at this time, in the Fighting Cadre of the City’s mightiest Wizard, one Severus Petrucci. She even has told me that she serves him still, though how, I cannot imagine, for I am about to get to the part of the story where he dies.
As I said, Petrucci was the mightiest of the City’s Wizards, and as his power had waxed, so had his ambition... And he had decided, at last, that it was not fit that a being of his stature should sit merely as an equal in a council of his lessers. My mistress was amoung the fighters who launched Petrucci’s doomed coup against the council. They came within inches of victory, and of overthrowing the other wizards, and installing their master as Autarch over all the Great City. But the Wizards recovered from their initial loss, and pooled their strength, and their Cadres drove Petrucci’s followers, street by street, back to Petrucci’s very palace. There, his Cadres died fighting before his very doors.
Four, only, of Petrucci’s fighting cadres escaped back into the palace. My mistress led them. As Petrucci Immolated himself in a blast of sorcery, they fled, through weird ways and along strange paths and through unmapped worlds to this land. And on the way had many strange adventures.
The storyteller rubbed the smoke of the campfire out of his eyes, sniffed, spat and continued.
“Now I am a fighting man in the cadre of my mistress, Silky, for here in Land’s End, she has built for herself a new Cadre of her own, and rules the docks of the city from her marble fortress. And I am one of her own…and where I walk, her shadow falls.”

These were the four followers of Severus Petrucci who survived the rebellion in the Golden city, and fled to Land’s End.

Silky the scout: Silky was purchased by a rich government official when still very young, for use as a concubine. She did not care much for the destiny that had been chosen for her, and stabbed her master with a kitchen knife the first time he tried to have his way with his new purchase. This earned her arrest by the city fuzz, and a sentence to being torn apart by lions and monsters in the arena. While she was waiting in jail for her sentence to be carried out, Severus Petrucci arrived, sweeping the jails for potential recruits for his cadres. He adopted her, and trained her in his fighting cadres as an archer and a scout. For Silky, Petrucci is (or was) family: The only being that ever helped her or gave her a home, or treated her with respect. She remains fanatically loyal to his memory, even after his death, and it is this need to maintain a link to him that drives her to try to shepard the other three oddball survivors of the cadre through their weird adventures. Silky is a slender, pretty girl with delicate features, pointed ears, and a hard, tough expression. (and a nice bottom.) She normally gathers her hair up into an impressively tall, powder blue Mohawk, but when she doesn’t have the time or pomade to maintain this elaborate and impractical ‘do, it hangs down around her shoulders. Her costume is a black leather outfit and a metal mask. The protection is heavier on the left side of her outfit, because she turns that side toward her enemy when she shoots. Silky is very much the leader of the group.

Ravvin the Ratboy- Like a sort of ghetto Tarzan, or a gutter Moses, Ravvin the Ratboy was abandoned and cast adrift in the city stormdrain while still an infant, and swept down into the sewer, where he was found By a tribe of sewer rats. The rats raised Ravvin as one of their own. He grew up flea bitten, acne scarred, scrawny and generally disgusting, but to the rats, his human size and strength was impressive. He became their great champion and battled the stray cats and dogs and other rat tribes which terrorized them. One day, Ravvin’s foster Rat mother died. Ravvin, saddened, decided to seek his fortunein the mysterious upper world. He left the sewers and was almost immmediately apprehended by the police who found him, and, not knowing for sure what the hell he was, or what to do with him, beat him up and threw him in jail, just to be safe. Petrucci eventually came along, seeking recruits for his cadres, and adopted Ravvin. Ravvin’s great skill in slinking and sneaking and worming in and out of tight places cut him out nicely for a career in Petrucci’s cadre, where he was trained as a spy and an assassin. Ravvin is somewhat short and wiry. There is something rat-like about his face, especially his teeth. He has a thatch of mangy grey hair on top of his head, and wears rags. Just rags. He has a rotting burlap sack which he guards with his life. In the sack he keeps a number of repellant keepsakes…rotten potatoes, fishbones, and less identifiable bits of garbage which he calls food. He also has a cat skull in there. This is a trophy, taken from one of his vanquished enemies back in his sewer days. Ravvin often talks to the cat skull, and it seems to talk back to him, but we are never sure if it is actually talking, or if Ravvin is just crazy.

Ravvin’s other possessions are a rusty knife he calls “Sharpie”, and a mouldy rusty meat cleaver he finds in about issue #4. This Meat Cleaver is called RAT”S TOOTH, and it is possessed by a demon of the same name. The Demon tries to get control of Ravvin by promising Ravvin unlimited earthly power if Ravvin will agree to serve it…(sort of like Tolkien’s ring or Moorcock’s Elric’s Stormbringer) but Ravvin grew up in the sewer and has essentially no ambition besides being left alone to eat the bits of tasty garbage he keeps in his wonderful sack, so the demon is constantly frustrated in its attempts to get Ravvin to do something to improve their shared situation. The Demon in the Cleaver and the cat skull in the sack do not get along, and argueand bicker constantly as they each try to influence the rather indifferent Ravvin.

Lennard Cromkow- Lennard’s father was an undertaker on the fringes of the Great City, in one of the miserable districts which was constantly battered by waves of plague. Lennard’s experience of life as a small boy was that of one who bears constant witness to the triumph of Death. He made the rounds with his father every day, picking up the bodies of those who had died of plague and of other causes, and hauling them to the burial pits on the edge of the City, far out there where the earth faded away into a twilit nothingness. Sitting in the cart beside his father, Lennard listened to his father’s sermons on life and Death. His father tried to teach him that Death was a great inevitability, a great social equalizer, which no one could escape, and which, as such, no one should be afraid of. Lennard’s mother died of the plague, and his father went on speaking of the great inevitability, the great power in the universe, which could not be denied…DEATH. The horse that drew the family’s cart came down with the plague and died. Lennard and his father dragged the bodies of the dead outside the city by hand. Still Lennard’s father tried to convince him that Death should not be feared, for it was the greatest of all powers in the world…It was the true work and face of God. Lennard’s father caught plague and went to his deathbed, still trying to teach his son to accept and love, not to hate or fear, Death. Severus Petrucci’s Cadre men, combing the plague districts for orphans, found Lennard sitting by his dead father. They took him to Petrucci, who looked at him, saw something in him, and took him into his cadres to train as a sorcerer.
Lennard is completely insane, even further gone and crazier than Ravvin the Ratboy, if that is possible. In his tutelage as a wizard under Petrucci, he has specialized in the necromantic arts, and has come to learn so much of the nature of death, that he believes himself to be an agent of Death on earth, a sort of Grim Reaper sent to do Death’s work. Lennard affects, as much as possible, what he imagines is the appearance of his God, The Reaper. He wears a huge black cloak and hood, from the Saturnine depths of which his wide, white eyes sometimes glare out, startlingly. His weapon is a huge scythe…ridiculously, stupidly huge, but he can be surprisingly swift and skillfull in applying it to his enemies. He wears a huge backpack which is hung about with all sorts of weird bits of gear and equipment…scalpels, a cauldron, little cages containing his zombie rats and bats which he has reanimated, jugs of embalming fluid, formaldehyde, etc. Lennard can reanimate humans, too, and whenever possible, has a zombie or two following him around, which makes it hard for him to get into bars and such. Lennard’s looniness cannot be overstated. He is actually quite handsome, but his appearance is so absurdly over the top macabre, his conversation so obsessed with death, and his person so rank with the stink of putrefaction and formaldehyde that his presence evokes hostility in practically everyone. Lennard and Ravvin DO NOT GET ALONG,

and any one issue of Rat’s Tooth will contain at least one attempt by one to kill the other, sort of like SPY VS SPY, usually at the worst possible tactical moment, and much to Silky’s exasperation.
Sturmsen Sturmgaardsen: On the most remote, icebound fringes of the land of the Great City, there lived a race of pygmy Vikings. Now, I hear some of you folks out there laughing at the phrase “pygmy Viking” like you think it’s funny. But I can assure you, they are not a people to be trifled with. Ever been in hand to hand combat with a pygmy Viking? No, you haven’t. So shut up. It’s not fun. Anyway, fiercely proud and independent, the Little Vikings had long resisted the attempts of the Wizards of the Great City to annex their lands. And successfully so. That is until one night when Storgunn Storallfullson and Friedrich Sturmgaardsen got in a drinking contest. Long after all their booze-bedraggled followers had dragged themselves outside to spew their multicolored agony into the snowdrifts, Storgunn and Friedrich remained stubbornly upright, glaring at each other over their tankards of turnip beer, somehow managing to remain conscious of one another’s presence, and talk at the same time. Closing one eye with his finger so as to be able to focus on Storrallfullson, Sturmgaardsen proposed that they should gather their clans to raid and sack the Golden city of the Wizards. A number of witnesses too weak to drag themselves outside clearly heard the conversation which followed. It consisted mostly of small, violent men falling down and breaking things, and ended irrefutably in the two lords of the pygmy Viking nation swearing eternal brotherhood and also that on the very next day that they would assemble their hosts to attack the city of the wizards.
Imagine their horror when they awoke the next evening to realize what they had done. The mighty city was all but impregnable to their little fleets of dwarf dragon ships, but the blood oath they had made was taken very seriously in their culture, and to go back on it would result in a loss of face and social status which would be worse than the death which surely awaited them beneath the walls of the city of the wizards. Friedrich Sturmgaardsen’s young son, Sturmsen, already highly regarded in his community for having killed several of his playmates, stowed away in one of his father’s ships and was in the disastrous battle, which led to the destruction of every ship in the Little Viking fleet and their crews as well. Only Sturmsen was taken alive by the Cadres who defended the Wizards’ city, and this only after he killed several of them at close quarters. Petrucci naturally recognized the value of such a bersek young fighter, and brought Sturmsen up in his own cadre.
Sturmsen is squat and muscle-bound, and carries an absurdly large hammer, with which he does violence upon the world at large. He worships a collection of Dark and Sullen northern Gods who are pleased most when things are broken and fellows killed for no reason other than to make them happy. He is usually quiet and indifferent to the world around him, but oncve he gets started, he becomes a veritable hurricane of destruction which is hard to stop. In about issue #4, Sturmsen discovers a strange, ornate suit of armor which he wears forever after. The armor is haunted by a destructive spirit which slowly devours him, ultimately, after many many issues, Sturmsen is no more, and the suit of armor crashes empty to the floor, awaiting another occupant.

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