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Golem Gauntlet

by Simon Christopher Chapman

Artwork © Alan Langford
You awaken slowly. You feel sluggish... and cannot seem to focus. Your eyes do not seem to adjust and sounds are faint. You try to move your body, but it feels... wrong. Awkward. What has happened? You think back. You were having a dream... a strange dream. You remember working in your laboratory, and suddenly felt a stinging sensation in your neck. You became dizzy and everything faded to black.

Then you woke up, but why do you feel this way? Suddenly, you hear a voice nearby. "Will this work?" it asks, in deep but slightly anxious tones. There is a pause and then another voice answers, one which you recognize almost immediately. "Possibly. But you must remember that this is process is unrefined, and must be perfected. It will take time. If we lose a few subjects - particularly this one - then that is no loss."

Daren Tey. There was no mistaking that arrogant voice. You remain motionless and think. A talented but greedy alchemist who sells his services to the highest bidder and hang the consequences. You, however, have always been mindful of the consequences, having had to use your own abilities - acknowledged by all to be greater than Tey's - to counter his rash actions. The attempted pillaging of a mountain village by zombies, the poisoning of Lake Gunn and the creation of the lightning storms above King Antek's forces: all his doing. Fortunately, you were able to undo all these acts and become a hero of the realm, being showered with riches which enabled you continue your research and help your fellow man.

Now, however, you appear to be in a very compromising position. You are at the mercy of a man who has sworn time and again to destroy you. You then realize that what you thought was a dream was in fact real. You have been captured, and to judge by Tey's words are to be used in some kind of horrid experiment. You decide that the best course of action is to lie still and listen, and learn as much as possible about your current predicament. Your hopes, however, are dashed immediately.

"Confused, dear rival? Oh, I know you are awake, so there's no need to pretend. As to what has happened, let me explain. You see, the good Baron here has been funding my Golem research, as he is going to need a few reliable soldiers if he is to usurp the King. Preferably totally obedient, invincible soldiers. But, I've found that the creatures are simply not capable of anything more than rudimentary action. Then, it came to me. Why not use a human mind? The Golems could then be so much more, able to not only fight but anticipate. At first I tried simply grafting living brains and nervous systems onto the host forms, but the peasants always died within moments."

You gurgle angrily at the casual disregard Tey has for human life. He notes this and snickers, patting you on the cheek. You realize you can barely feel his touch and have a horrible suspicion as to what has happened. Tey continues.

"I see you begin to understand. I then decided to abandon vivisection, and adopt more abstract procedures. With some further... experimentation... I found that courtesy of my devices I was capable of transferring the human consciousness directly into another form. Which brings us to you. I needed a subject - someone with a strong mind I could use to trial the procedure. I need to know how much you can mentally endure before becoming insane. This will in turn determine how quickly I need to... acquire... more subjects. In the process I also manage to rid myself of a serial nuisance. With you out of the way, I will now be able to live in the lifestyle I deserve."

You listen to these words and inwardly seethe with rage. With great difficulty, you reach for Tey but pause as you see your outstretched arms. Your limbs, and apparently the rest of your body, now seem to be composed of clay. Imprisoned in a Clay Golem! You utter a few guttural sounds and watch as several soldiers enter the room, which you can now see is a laboratory. Tey speaks again.

"The Baron's men will now take you into the valley, where we will see what you are capable of. I can't say it's been a pleasure, but I will enjoy watching you slowly die." Tey taunts you one last time as you are carried from the room: "I don't believe that the other subjects will last more than a week or so, but this will be long enough for them to complete their task for the Baron. I imagine that they will be willing to do near anything if it means being restored to human form. A lie, of course, but the means justifies the end."

You are dropped unceremoniously on the ground.

You finally gain some control of your form and sit up slowly, and study what appears to be a huge valley. The wind is picking up slightly and the sky is darkening. It seems a storm is coming. What can you do? Where will you go? Your mind races and you struggle desperately not to give into despair. You glance back at a now shut iron door and hear bolts sliding into place. Attempting re-entry would not seem to be an option. If only you could see the machine Tey used to affect the change, you could possibly reverse the process...

As you scan the northern horizon, you suddenly notice another iron door in the distance! It is barely discernible but seems to be set into the side of a cliff. Obviously, Tey's underground complex is larger than expected. If you could reach that door and somehow enter... there may yet be hope! You must find a way to return to human form and stop Tey's foul experiments. You stand, and after several minutes adjust to your new form.

Time to move.
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