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HDK 104 † HDK Dungeon​​​​​​​-​​​​​​​synth magazine # 5

by V.A.

Iohon of the noble folk of the Snow Elves was traveling in the flat and remote region of Eternal Tedium, heading North towards the perennial ice, his beloved homeland. Only a demi-god like him, warrior-mage and high-level thaumaturge could have faced such a long and arduous journey in harsh and unexplored regions such as those. It was during that journey that, on the edge of a birch forest, he came across that strange temple. The path was flanked by gray-green skeletal remains of monstrous creatures, possibly soulless war-golems. Further on strange square structures of polished stone rose up, perhaps fortifications now reconquered by vegetation and animal creatures. Following those vestiges of a mysterious past, Iohon came to the gigantic menhir: it was almost entirely placed in a narrow pit dug in the ground, a huge monolith perfectly smooth, with a white and cold like iron surface and a tapered end. He noticed that the menhir went underground for tens, maybe hundreds of meters. It has nothing to do with the funerary structures or sanctuaries of any of the races and peoples he had encountered and known. Where the point of the menhir came out of the earth, the access to an underground citadel of steel and hard gray stone was carved out on its sides. The underground citadel descended in parallel to the menhir and its different levels were connected by steel stairs corroded by the centuries. Iohon, levitating, sank into the citadel. He arrived in a vast underground crypt where an altar of iron and glass with numerous mosaics of geometric shapes without meaning stood. He placed both palms of his hands on it and concentrated: he felt he was in the heart of the temple and sought telepathic contact with that place to understand its meaning. He fell into a self-induced trance and what he saw in front of his mental-eye left him troubled and confused: he saw the menhir detaching from the earth and rise to the sky with a deafening roar, leaving behind it the living flames of the most terrible dragons’ breath. He saw that same scene repeat itself dozens, hundreds of times in different places. He saw several white menhirs flying in the sky like giant, wingless, fire-tailed seagulls, he saw them explode with an unprecedented roar over gray cities that became huge fires. He saw the flames engulfing everything and saw millions of human creatures die in a few moments. Meanwhile, on the altar, in correspondence with the mosaic tiles, some magical lights appeared followed by a metallic hum. Iohon, in the midst of his trance, awoke with a start and detached his hands from the cold surface of the altar, feeling a shiver of disgust. The lights went out abruptly. Iohon was shocked at the negativity he had absorbed and the horror of destruction and death he had witnessed. That temple - if it was a temple - surely belonged to remote and dark ages. But what he saw, he did not understand. It was, he thought, a catastrophe so distant in time that the inhabitants of the Earth had completely forgotten every memory of it.
By the light of the four small waning moons of Xiccarph, Tiglari had crossed that bottomless swamp wherein no reptile dwelt and no dragon descended; but where the pitch-black ooze was alive with incessant heavings. At his side, in a sheath of chimera-skin, he wore a needle-sharp knife that had been dipped in the poison of winged vipers. About him heavy-hooded blossoms leaned in venomous languor, or fawned with open mouths that exhaled a narcotic perfume or diffused a pollen of madness. His faculties, ever alert, wore quickened still more by fear and hatred. The fear was not for himself but for the girl Athlé, his beloved and the fairest of his tribe, who had gone up alone that evening by the causey of corundum and the porphyry stairs at the summons of Maal Dweb. His hatred was that of an outraged lover for the all-powerful, all-dreaded tyrant whom no man had ever seen, and from whose abode no woman ever came back. He came to a gap in the horrible grove, and saw the saffron lights from the sorcerer’s windows. At length he came to a lampless, column-crowded portico; and, gliding silently as a jungle snake, he entered the mysterious house of Maal Dweb. The place was full of unknown perfumes, languorous and somnolent: a subtle reek as of censers in hidden alcoves of love. On the couch, in sober garments, a man reclined as if weary or asleep. The man’s face was dim with ever-wavering shadows. He knew that this was Maal Dweb, whom no man had seen in the flesh but whose power was manifest to all: the occult, omniscent ruler of Xiccarph; the suzerain of the three suns and of all their planets and moons. But the thought of Athlé was a red mist that blotted all. The man before him lay with closed eyes and a cryptic weariness on his mouth and eyelids. He seemed to meditate rather than sleep, like one who wanders in a maze of distant memories or profound reveries. Crouching tiger-wise, he made ready for the stroke. His arm, with the darting movement of some heavy but supple adder, struck fiercely at the tyrant’s heart. It was as if he tried to pierce a wall of stone. In midair, before and above the recumbent enchanter, the knife clashed on some unseen, impenetrable substance; and the point broke off and tinkled on the floor at Tiglari’s feet. He whirled about, thinking that Maal Dweb must be somewhere in the room. Baffled and terrified, he felt that Maal Dweb, the allseeing, all-potent magician, was playing a game and was deluding him with elaborate mockeries. ‘What do you seek, Tiglari?’ said the voice. ‘Do you think to enter with impunity the palace of Maal Dweb? ‘I seek the maiden Athlé,’ said Tiglari. ‘She has gone to find her fate in the labyrinth of Maal Dweb’. ‘Go now, Tiglari. There are many mysteries in my labyrinth; and among them, perhaps, is one which you are destined to solve.’ A door had opened in the mirror-paneled wall. The short night of the planet Xiccarph was not yet over; and the moons had all gone down. Tiglari saw before him the beginning of the fabled maze, illumined by glowing globular fruits that hang lantern-wise from arches of foliage. Guided only by their light, he entered the labyrinth. He climbed on by stairs and gradients lined with tossing, clashing aloes. He stepped forward upon the pavement through a narrow gap in this siagular hedge, and stood staring irresolutely at the serried blooms: for here the way seemed to end. The onyx beneath his feet was wet with some unknown, sticky fluid. A quick sense of peril stirred within him, and he turned to retrace his steps. At his first movement toward the opening through which he had entered, a long tendril like a wire of bronze recoiled with lightning rapidity from the base of each of the flower sterns, and closed about his ankles. He stood trapped and helpless at the center of a taut net. Then, while he struggled impotently, the stems began to lean and tilt toward him, till the red mouths of their blossoms were close about his knees like a circle of fawning monsters. From their lips a clear, hueless liquid, dripping slowly at first, and then running in little rills, descended on his feet and ankles and shanks. Indescribably, his flesh crawled beneath it; then there was a passing numbness; then a furious stinging like the bites of innumerable insects. With the senses of one who drowns in nightmare, he heard the startled cry of a woman. Above the tilted flowers he beheld a strange scene which the hitherto impenetrable maze, parting as if by magic, had revealed. Fifty feet away, on the same level as the onyx pavement, there stood an elliptic dais of moon-white stone at whose center the maiden Athlé, emerging from the labyrinth on a raised, porphyry walk, had paused in an attitude of wonder. Tiglari would have called out to Athlé. ’The maiden Athlé,’ announced the voices in solemn and portentous tones, ‘has beheld herself in the mirror of Eternity, and has passed beyond the changes and corruptions of Time.’ Tiglari, in helpless abject horror, waited for the completion of the metamorphosis. ‘The hunter Tiglari has been laved in the nectar of the blossoms of primordial life, and has become in all ways, from the neck downward, even as the beasts that he hunted.’ A great awe was upon Tiglari; his native fierceness, his savage volition, were tamed by the enchanter’s languid will. With one backward look of concern and wonder at Athlé, he withdrew obediently, slouching like a huge ape. His fur glistening wetly to the three suns, he vanished amid the labyrinth. Maal Dweb, attended by his metal slaves, went over to the figure of Athlé, which still regarded with astonished eyes.
For many days you have marched relentlessly to escape the militiamen of King Korgar, the Corrupt. Your comrades were hunting you, at least they were your comrades before you deserted. Was yours cowardice? No, rather revenge: years of lousy rations in the ranks of that army of bandits, cutthroats and ruthless mercenaries ... ptuah! After many miles of hardship and suffering, you have finally arrived in the fertile region of Loonadea, a magical and unexplored land, where the grass has reflections of the emerald and the sky is eternally clear. On this sunny morning swept by a vigorous spring wind, the disturbing stories you have heard from the Ishayani bards about this land sound strange and inappropriate to you. You stop to rest leaning on a monolith, a gigantic molar stuck in the earth. Not knowing the Loonish language, you did not pay attention to the inscriptions engraved on the stone and you fell asleep lulled by the warm breeze. Then something disturbed you: a large bat flitting around the monolith. A bat in broad daylight? Weird. But it was not an ordinary bat: it had the face of an old man with a hooked nose. His voice was unpleasant and squeaky, his words sounded incomprehensible to you, but strangely material, as if they were capable of ... striking you. Then you saw the backs of your hands, furrowed with thin strips of blood, wounds as a blade of grass; then you’ve unsheathed your sling and tried to chase away the diabolical creature. After a few unsuccessful attempts ... goal! With a sinister gasp the creature has gone away. It was time to get back on the road... but where to? You climbed the monolith to find out: from the top of the stone you could scrutinize the horizon, dominating the entire valley. Something to your right in a steep and stony area caught your attention: the inert body of a soldier with a uniform like yours lay among the boulders, sprawled on the grass of the ridge. Is he a militiaman of King Krogar in these remote lands? Maybe someone followed you without you noticing. Well, now he seemed like no danger. He seemed dead. You carefully walked the steep ridge to investigate, but when you got close to the corpse, it… disappeared. As if it had never been there. That old-faced bat - he must have dimmed your senses with some spell. You go back, and after climbing the monolith again, you observe. Here it is the soldier’s body, in the same position you saw him in before. Faster than before, go down the slope risking several times to slip on the sharp stones. This time you manage to get within meters of the body, but ... nothing to do. Suddenly it disappears. You did, however, have time to perceive something familiar about that body. Maybe your fellow soldier? Now it’s a challenge with yourself: you get back on the monolith, and here is the body back there. You are determined: you launch at breakneck speed, long strides down the hill; now you know where to put your feet and trust in your agility. You have almost reached the corpse, certainly this time to be able to see its face, when you hear a piercing cry behind you. You notice it out of the corner of your eye, it is - again he - the bat with the face of an old man. The brief distraction is fatal to you: you put your foot down badly and slip sprawlly at a large pointed stone. During the fall, for a moment, you are finally able to frame the soldier’s face. Then the sound of your skull cracking and finally darkness. The soldier’s face? It was yours. You were that corpse. And what you climbed was a Monolith of the Future Vision (it was written on it, but you weren’t able to read it). The old-faced bat perhaps was a charitable spirit who wanted to get you away from imminent danger. But you didn’t listen to it.
We were shipwrecked on an island none of us had ever heard of. The nature of this island was strange and almost unique: the vegetation was half tropical and half similar to that of the mountains: the mangroves coexisted with the fir trees with a large trunk, the emerald green ferns with the low palms with fleshy leaves. The air was cool and clear, the sky deep, almost unnatural blue. We camped on a white sand beach, trying to get enough food to get our strength back: we ate small crustaceans, grasshoppers and snails. In the meantime, we realized that two species of animals seemed to live on the island: wild wolves with shaggy fur and giant scarabs with an iridescent back. The wolves did not seem to have any peculiar characteristics: they kept a safe distance from the beach and fled when we tried to approach them; the giant scarabs, about a meter long, had magnetic eyes with human features. They watched us for a few days from the vegetation on the edge of the beach, as we struggled to find food. After a few days the scarabs approached us indicating the edible fruits and the best places to camp. They taught us how to get fresh water from the stems of huge flowers and where we could find the largest and most fleshy crustaceans. It seemed to us that they were protecting us from the wolves: we suspected they exercised what we might call a mysterious telepathic power against the animals. Having recovered our forces, we decided to explore the hinterland of the island in search of any human settlements. The scarabs indulged us, and indeed, escorted us as we advanced through the dense vegetation. After a few hours of walking we discovered that the center of the island was occupied by an endless abyss: a gigantic black crack in the earth, infinitely deep. Near the abyss the wolves were numerous and ravenous and, for the first time, they attacked us in anger. We got the better of it, but only with the help of the scarabs who used their mysterious telepathic attacks against the wolves, who retreated into the depths of the forest. In the following days, our explorations had results that saddened us: there was no trace of human beings on the island. Only the abyss: frightening in its breadth and in its apparent infinity. A few weeks passed in which a relationship of increasing confidence and collaboration was gradually created between us and the scarabs: we discovered that they were extremely intelligent creatures, holders of ancient and powerful knowledge: they had astronomical knowledge that not even the wise observers of the Nephratites skies possessed; they knew spells and magical powers that were unknown to the wizards of King Amur’s court. It was then that the scarabs taught us to fly. We were happy and infinitely grateful to the insects because thanks to this new magical power we could have left the island flying into the open sea. But then we understood. And everything changed, throwing us into total despair: the scarabs were not teaching us to fly so that we could leave the island ... but so that we flew into the abyss. We did not understand the reason and still do not know it. The fact is that our relationship with these creatures changed sign: the insects became oppressive and began to exert on us miserable telepathic powers that caused us moments of unconsciousness. Why do the scarabs want us to fly into the abyss for them? What mysteries does the abyss hide? What relationship is there really between wolves and scarabs and why do wolves defend the abyss? For now we do not have the answers, and perhaps we will never have them: the telepathic shocks are weakening our will and our minds. [Deleted text] When we were caught in the storm we were sailing to a remote area in the Sea of ​​Astug, three days’ sailing north-east from the shores of the Forbidden Region. I don’t think anyone can ever find us alive, but I still try to entrust this story to the sea, in the hope that one day it will reach someone.


Hello dungeoncrawlers!

With this fifth chapter of HDK Dungeon Synth Magazine we cut the ribbon and enter the second year of life! A year of extraordinary adventures, of intrepid descents into the dungeons of our imagination, facing our most hidden fears and the most frightening monsters. But also by conquering lots of treasures, magical weapons and earning a ton of experience points!

We want to thank all the artists who have finished their quest in these first five episodes and those who are still struggling with the conclusion of their projects for HDK Dungeon Synth Magazine. And above all to thank all those who are still waiting patiently to see their work published. It’s a tough quest, we know, but we hope that, in the end, it will be very satisfying!

With this new Christmas chapter we want to offer you even more music and for this we have “extended” the traditional compilation duration to accommodate two old acquaintances from the HDK catalog, as well as two fantastic new artists. We start with ICEWIND DALE from Sweden and his “A distant apocalypse”, a classic evocative and mysterious sound built with very old school pads and strings. Then we find MAAL DWEB, the silent entity devoted to the classic tales of Clark Ashton Smith, who with his “The maze of the enchanter” gives life to a little jewel of Dungeon synth enhanced with ... classical guitar! Changing sides, we arrive at the epic and sensual GARADRAK with his “The monolith of the future vision”, a tragic and unpredictable story about the vaguely “peplum” atmospheres woven by this remarkable and creative artist from the Czech Republic. DUNJON MAGIK closes this chapter with “The abyss”, an experimental journey - as this artist has accustomed us - into a hallucinated vision in trap sauce of the Dungeon Synth. Hurray!


released December 30, 2021




Heimat Der Katastrophe Milan, Italy

DIY label focused on ambient punk, minimal-synth, dungeon-drone, wartime music and post-nuclear wave. Managed by a creative punx collective from Milano city.

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