Welcome to the Flaming Faggot

Callovia is called "the boundless empire" yet you have managed to find its northern border - a notorious roadhouse deep within the Madrasan Marches on the edge of the wilds of Llanvirnesse. The sign above the door reads "Flaming Faggot," which would suggest a cozy, homey inn with fresh biscuits served at teatime if not for the severed troll heads mounted on pikes at the gate.

As you cross the threshold the raucous din quiets momentarily as all eyes dart to the door and calloused hands drop instinctively to well-worn sword hilts. The threat, instantly assessed, is dismissed and roadhouse patrons go about their business hardly missing a beat.

Grim, hard-eyed men huddle around tables in close conversation thick with conspiracy; caravan guards gamble away their earnings; Caemric rangers sit close to the fireplace cooking the damp of the Black Annis from their clothes as they warm their innards with Red Dragon Ale; minstrels play and buxom wenches dance for the pleasure of men who pay them little attention - until they need a companion to warm their bed.

As you approach the bar, a huge, bald barman with a greatsword slung across his back slides a mug of freshly-pulled ale towards you, its frothy head dripping over the rim.

"Pull up a seat, lad," he says, "and let me tell you a tale of high adventure."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Epic Thursday!

1980 drew to a close with the release of issue #4 of Epic Illustrated while I suffered the disappointing sting of  high school's unrealized potential.  That's okay, by this time I was spending all my time playing D&D anyway.

Cover by Michael W. Kaluta
Jim Starlin's excellent serial, Metamorphosis Odyssey continues as Lord Aknaton and the guerilla fighter,Vanth, travel to the world of Delloran, a nuclear wasteland devastated by the Zygoteans in ages past.  The planet's sole inhabitant is an artificial man named Joenis Soule, whom Aknaton charged to safeguard the location of a powerful Orsirosian weapon, the Infinity Horn.

Soule, who has been guarding the key for 100,000 years, is weary of his duties and is more than happy to surrender it to Aknaton.  But after so long on Delloran, Soule has little interest in leaving and so declines Vanth's offer to take him with them and, instead opts for retirement.

In part two of The Dreaming City, Elric returns to Imrryr, in advance of the invasion, to retrieve his beloved Cymoril if he can, but finds, instead that the usurper Yyrkoon has placed her in an enchanted slumber that will kill her and send her soul into the deepest Hell should anyone attempt to wake her.

While in Cymoril's chamber, Elric is confronted by Yyrkoon who commands his soldiers to take Elric alive.  Elric slays the first few soldiers with Stormbringer, pledging their blood and souls to his demonic patron, Arioch, in exchange for aid.

Arioch manifests as an amorphous horror, slaying Yyrkoon's men and sucking out their souls, giving Elric time to escape and return to his fleet to prepare for the invasion of Immryr five days hence.

In the penultimate installment of Almuric, Esau Cairn and Altha are ambushed and captured, on their way back to Koth, by men of rival Thugra, led by Logar the Bonecrusher, a renegade Kothan who hates Cairn.  They are taken to Thugra where Cairn's tortures are interrupted by the invasion of a huge host of winged Yagas.  Esau and Altha are once again captured, this time by the Yagas, and are carried away to far off Yugga, the black city, stronghold of the Yaggas.

Cairn is brought before the Yasmeena, Queen of the Yaggas, who desires the pale-skined hairless barbarian.

Cairn's response, however, is characteristically blunt.

Esau makes good his inevitable escape, then captures a pursuing Yaga and forces him to carry Cairn away from Yagg into the blue mazes of the northwest.

These three serial chapters comprise the bulk of the issue, but there are a few short filler pieces as well, including a short story, Sleeping Dogs, by Harlan Ellison.

One of the fun things about reading old magazines is looking at the advertisements from days gone by.  One of the frequent advertisers in Epic is Brut cologne, whose message is short and simple: "Today's your Brut day."  We are also invited to "create a Champale moment with someone you like," and the ads for TDK cassette tapes are fantastically quaint by today's standards, but they were on the cutting-edge audio recording in these days.

Finally there is one ad, in particular that brings back memories: Ares Magazine, published by SPI.

I was never a regular buyer of Ares although I did pick up the occasional one.  The idea of including a complete game in each issue was really neat, but I think that might also have been the main reason I didn't buy it more often - I still haven't played all of the games I bought in the '80's, so there comes time when there is little point in having more.  Nonetheless, I do recall finding Ares hard to resist and I probably still would today.


Shane Mangus said...

Epic Illustrated was a fun mag. I wish I still had my comic collection from high school. It would be nice to be able to pull these out and reread them now. Thanks for taking us down memory lane with these posts.

Sean Robson said...

I'm having a great time doing it. I regret losing so many of my old games, that I would love to peruse again.