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HDK 150 † HDK Dungeon​​​​​-​​​​​synth magazine # 10

by V.A.

They had warned you: the power of the gem would corrupt even the purest spirit. Whoever wielded that arcane artifact was able to move time back and forth at his own will, relive the same situations over and over again, changing his behavior each time. If a consequence of an action was not pleased, one could go back and change the course of events as much as possible. After all, one could even avoid death, if he only had the foresight to stop time even a second before the fatal moment. But Zakarim couldn’t make it in time. A powerful and sudden sweep of the blade had torn his head from his neck, causing it to tumble to the ground like a macabre ripe fruit. Your research, which began many years ago, had come to an end. You had started hearing about the precious artifact when you were little more than a teenager. As a son of traveling merchants, you have always been fascinated by the strangest and most exotic objects. You started jotting down any clues or rumors related to the “Jewel of Cronos” in your travel notebook. You had gathered such a vast array of information that you were convinced it couldn’t just be a tavern legend. There had to be some truth in all of this. Maybe the “Jewel of Cronos” really exists. In your trades, you have begun to travel further and further east. You wanted to meet the most powerful men of the sultanate. “Such an object - you thought - must be in the hands of an extraordinary person, not just any man”. Crossing the green hills of Hak, you had visited the legendary city of Erim, with its white walls and its tapering spiers culminating in high plumes of shining ivory. Fabulous gardens inhabited by exotic animals adorned the sultan’s palaces. You have stayed a long time in Erim, exercising all your tricks, investigating everywhere, with discretion and intelligence. But, nothing, there was no trace of the “Jewel of Cronos”. No clue. You had continued eastwards, to the remote steppes of Ulator, where in winter the snow whitens everything and silences your steps in a dull void and where the spring sun changes everything into a humid and inhospitable swamp. After months of walking, you arrived at the furthest reaches of the known land and discovered that nothing existed beyond the endless ocean. It was many years later, while you were in the black city of Thorm on the remote island of Lanzroth, that you met him. The hope of satisfying your obsession with that miraculous object had never been completely extinguished, it smoldered under the ashes of your everyday life, like a distracted presence. That old beggar must have been watching you for a long time, following you and eavesdropping on you while you were talking to the other merchants in the city. “I have what you are looking for,” he told you. It had already happened to meet a beggar who, to get some copper coins, had bragged that he knew something about the “Jewel of Cronos”. But his eyes - my god! - were so deep and sincere... It was the gaze of someone who has explored the most hidden places of the human soul. “It is a cursed object: whoever owns it is doomed to relive its life far and wide a thousand times. It is a viaticum for madness! Before that hideous power wore me out, I threw it away. If you are still looking for it, go to the most remote part of this island and you will find it. But do it in secret: the man who guards it is obsessed with it to the point of madness and, fearing that you are a thief, he will kill you if he sees you first!”. And so the gem was there, still clutched in Zakarim’s lifeless fist. The mighty Jewel of Cronos, the quest obsession of your entire life. The old beggar’s words echoed in your head. How was it possible that someone who possessed such an enormous power lived here, in a dirty shack forgotten by the gods? Perhaps, after living his life back and forth thousands of times, he feared someone would steal his precious artifact. Overwhelmed and consumed by this fear, he had withdrawn to the ends of the world, far from all men. What was it like to live for a time beyond the resistance of human flesh? What would it have been like for you to get hold of that legendary artifact? Would you really have gone mad like the old beggar said? Did you have to throw away the precious treasure and bury it forever? You, Illimdus, son of adventurer merchants, could not have known all this. The choice was there, crystal clear, in front of you.
They called it “Torre dei Ladri” (“Tower of Thieves”) because from its battlements the lifeless bodies of criminals were hung upside down, exposed for an entire day to the people of Salerno: a warning to those who wanted to emulate their deeds. Jennarus was a gravedigger by trade: during the day he buried the dead at the cemetery, at night his job was to remove the corpses from the public gibbet at the top of the Tower, tidy and clean them up and then the next day transport them to the Medical School, where they would be used for the students’ anatomy lessons. That night, the body of Orpheus the Handsome, anti-Longobard bandit and hero of Salerno’s slums was hanging by his feet from the chain. Orpheus had been found lifeless in the room of an inn, slumped on the table where he had laid out the spoils of his nightly raids. Prince Gisulph’s guards, who had long been on the bandit’s trail, could not believe their eyes: Orpheus was already stone dead, ready to be hung. Jennarus, in hoisting the body onto the tower terrace had noticed that Orpheus wore a ring on his finger. A fact he had found strange, considering that bandits, before being hung, were stripped of all their possessions. An oversight, he thought, because that ring was so thin that probably no one had noticed it. When he slipped it off his finger Jennarus noticed that the ring was superbly crafted. It sparkled, as if it shone with its own light. Was it magical? As he was admiring the ring, an amazing thing happened: the corpse of Orpheus opened his eyes and stood up. The revived Orpheus had looked at his hands and exclaimed, “The ring!” He had then forced Jennarus to return the artifact to him and then throw it far away, down the tower. “Cursed be this ring!” Jennarus, petrified with astonishment, could not avoid the bandit’s escape. Jennarus was then seized with despondency, realizing that the corpse he was supposed to take to the medical school was gone. Not only he would lose his pay, but what could he tell? Reporting that unbelievable story would only bring him trouble. So Jennarus decided to tell nothing and go and dig up the corpse of the young merchant he had buried a few hours earlier at the graveyard. For the doctors, any corpse is as good as another, he thought. As he descended from the tower, Jennarus saw something glittering in the grass: the ring the bandit had thrown! That object seemed to call to him with its luster. It was so beautiful and precious that it seemed to say to him: take me! Hesitantly he picked it up and put it in his pocket. When the work at the graveyard was almost finished, Jennarus was surprised by a guard on patrol. He cursed to himself, but did not flee: he was the gravedigger after all. He explained that these times were really hard, that a lot of people were dying, that he no longer knew where to put the corpses, so he found himself finishing the job in the middle of the night. The soldier listened in silence to his speigations, after which he told him, “In my opinion, you are a grave robber.” The soldier searched him for the loot, which of course he would pocket. Jennarus prayed that he would not find the ring. No one listened to his prayers. “Here is the proof that you are a thief! This beautiful ring!” The soldier tried to slip it contentedly onto his finger. However, the ring was a little small for his fat fingers and he struggled with it. Jennarus advised him against wearing it, because he was cursed, but the soldier kicked him away and finally, with a superhuman effort, managed to slip the ring on; then, as if seized by a lightning evil, he slumped lifelessly to the ground. Jennarus tried hard to remove the ring from his finger, but - alas - it seemed impossible. When a second patrolling soldier, attracted by the noise, overtook the scene, he saw Jennarus bending over the corpse of a guard as if in an attempt to pull his finger off. He could do nothing but arrest him. At the barracks, Jennarus told the story of the ring and convinced the prince’s official that he could prove his point. When the ring was slipped off the soldier, the man returned to life as Jennarus had predicted, but the charge of murder was changed to the much more serious one of witchcraft. Jennarus wept and despaired, “It’s not me, it’s the power of this cursed ring! Ask Orpheus the bandit: he is alive! Seek him!”. He was ignored, however, and the ring was seized from him. When the executioner led Jennarus to the top of the Tower of Thieves to execute him and hang him upside down, the condemned man realized that Orpheus could do nothing to help him anyway: the bandit’s body had already been hanging from the Tower for a few hours. This time, dead for real. And Jennarus went to join him shortly thereafter. A month after the narrated events, at the Salerno Medical School, two students were preparing a cadaver for an anatomy class when one of them noticed that the cadaver had a ring on his finger. “Leave it there, it’s none of our business!” said the former, but the latter did not seem intent on listening to him. That ring had mesmerized him with its glow and beauty. “It looks really precious... and maybe even magical!” After he slipped it off the corpse’s finger, something incredible happens.
Hillsfar is a dictatorship: Maalthir the sorcerer holds the county tightly in the grip of an iron and implacable law. For some Maalthir is an enlightened tyrant who has brought peace to the region after decades of civil war, for others he is a corrupt bureaucrat, a servant of the occult powers that indeed rule Hillsfar. To Dragaar the Silent, Maalthir is far worse: a traitor. In Hillsfar it is strictly forbidden to carry weapons and cast spells: the only armed men are the soldiers of the Royal Garrison, the only one who can legitimately use magic is himself, Maalthir. For this reason, Dragaar, who wanders through the alleys of the old city with a magical dagger hidden under his cloak, risks getting into big troubles. “If Dragaar has set foot in Hillsfar it is to kill Maalthir!” the Old Man hissed. “It cannot be Dragaar! I saw him and his band of assassins hanging from the gallows with my own eyes!” Mytrasyl retorted, in his flamboyant robes as Supreme Councillor in charge of the Sovereign’s Security. “Now go away Old Man. And do not return without certainty on this matter. You know: I don’t pay you for the rumors of the prostitutes!”. With a wide gesture of his arm Mytrasyl motioned the guards to escort the guest to the door. “These are not rumors, Mytrasyl, the Old Man is telling the truth: Dragaar has been seen wandering along the walls, then in the city market. Trusted people have no doubt: it is indeed the barbarian”. Otur the Good was the head of the Palace Garrison: he stood on the threshold and with his eyes followed Mytrasyl walking nervously from one side to the other of the richly furnished study. “Leave me alone now, Otur. I must think”. Otur instantly obeyed. Mytrasyl sat down on the silver desk and, from the large glass window of the tower, observed the teeming life of the city center: Hillsfar had now become the center of the Kingdom, trade was flourishing, wealth had returned as abundant as ever. Mytrasyl thought for a long time. And after thinking, he regained his proverbial calm. At last he caught a glimpse of him turning from the Alley of the Rat into the Square of the Arcane Well. It was the middle of the night, the streets were deserted, and a sickly moon badly illuminated the scene. Mytrasyl cast a spell of invisibility on himself in violation of the law: not even he could use magic without Maalthir’s consent, but he had already done it so many times that it didn’t bother him in the least. Dragaar felt the air in front of him move and, betraying himself, he put his hand on his chest towards the hilt of the dagger. At that moment Mytrasyl, disguised as a humble beggar, with his face hidden by a heavy hood, suddenly appeared in front of him from nowhere. “So it is you! Don’t move, keep your weapon under your cloak, you know... a guard may be watching us. And listen to me carefully.” Dragaar and Mytrasyl sat at a secluded table in the worst tavern in Hillsfar. A place for outcasts and bandits, but optimal for plotting away from prying eyes. “As I told you, the time is ripe, Dragaar. Maalthisir no longer has the friends he once had. You will not regret accepting my proposal”. Mytrasyl raised his glass filled with bluish wine in toast. “Let’s do what we have to do. And when the clamor over the tyrant’s death has subsided, the people will find us ruling Hillsfar”. Dragaar hinted a feral smile and without saying a word responded to the toast, furiously guzzling the contents of his tankard. Mytrasyl drank with satisfaction as well, but when he returned his gaze to Dragaar, something jolted him: the barbarian was still in his half-smile of before and his eyes had become strangely expressionless. “Dragaar, what’s wrong?” but he did not receive any answer. Then Dragaar’s paralyzed silhouette began to whiten: the outlines faded like water vapor and the barbarian became a kind of transparent ghost. Mytrasyl paled, because... he understood. How many times had he used Maalthir’s bewitched hologram spell against suspected traitors? How many times had he tricked the suspected conspirators with that magic trick? Many times, perhaps too many. But this long experience had been of no use to him: he had never imagined that one day he himself would fall victim to the system he had devised to protect his hated sovereign. As the silhouette of the fake Dragaar became more and more impalpable, until it disappeared, Mytrasyl was sure that his life would end soon. He fled anyway, but Otur the Good was already standing at the tavern entrance, with the Sword of Judgement in his fist. His gray eyes betrayed no pity for the man he had served for so many years. “Mytrasyl, it’s over for you”.
War, war and more war. Viekna had known nothing else since her childhood. For her, there was no such a thing as peace; it was only an abstract concept in the mouths of the old men. Immediately after the sight of the flying ships, before a rain of fire fell from above sowing death, she had learned to run away. Fleeing from village to village at the sound of alarms, this was an extremely familiar activity for her. It was even worse to see the endless multitude of the imperial army on the horizon: it meant months and months of siege, food shortages and slow agony. Also in that case, escape was the best option. However, by now, there were no places to shelter. The war Gal Sur had declared on her people left no escape: towns and villages were falling one after another. The conquest of the entire known world by that bloodthirsty madman seemed inevitable. “Why do those men agree to serve Gal Sur?” Viekna once asked to her friend Sharil. “Gal Sur pays well. But they only fight for a fistful of money, they aim to survive. We, on the other hand, fight for an ideal. You will see, we will be able to drive them out”. Gal Sur, the Hierophant. Viekna knew his face only from the votive statues erected in the four corners of the empire. A bald man with a thick beard and an unflappable expression. His eyes were entirely blue; not just the pupils, the whole eyeball, giving him a supernatural appearance. Indeed, it was said that he was a deity. Viekna hated him. She dreamed of killing him. Yeah, but how do you kill a deity? Leonis was a spy. He and Viekna had grown up together, inseparable childhood friends. Unlike her, introverted and with an intricate tangle of feelings always on the verge of exploding, he was a surprisingly practical guy. He was very shrewd, always able to get by and keep his word with his friends. The day came when the imperial troops besieged the capital. Those were frightening days, the dead numbered in the thousands. The end seemed inevitable. One evening Viekna, Sharil and Leonis found themselves talking on the roof of the assembly hall. They were eavesdropping on the decisions of the Grand Council. The situation was discouraging, and it was then that Leonis proposed a plan. “Every day the flying ships” Leonis said “come to storm the city walls with flames. The last among them comes to bring supplies to the imperial troops. Then it returns to the Gal Sur fortress when it is already night. We will climb on the top of the ship, take out the crew and, once we get to the fortress, disguised as imperial soldiers we will kill Gal Sur”. The two girls were surprised by their friend’s sudden outburst. “A suicide plan?” reacted Viekna. “Yes.” “I like that!” replied Sharil with a splashing laugh. The next evening they put their plan into action. They said nothing to anyone; it would be useless to inform the Great Council. Getting on the roof of the flying ship was not difficult. They remained hidden until the restart and throughout the journey. Once they sighted the Gal Sur fortress, they sprang into action. They descended inside the cockpit. One of the two guards was killed with a precise slash that opened his carotid artery. The other guard, however, seeing his numerical inferiority, did something unexpected. He turned to the pilot and smashed his skull with a blow from a spiked club. The pilot’s body with the smashed head fell to the side causing the ship to veer dangerously and lose its course pointing down. “If I have to go to hell, I will take you with me!” Were the second guard’s last words before being torn to pieces by the angry slashes of the three rebels. “Can you drive this thing?” shouted Viekna to Leonis. “No but we have to try anyway!” The boy took the helm and tried to get back on course. The ship was now close to crashing into the walls of the fortress. With a miraculous effort, Leonis managed to right the rudder and raise the ship, which nevertheless hit the battlements of the walls with a thunderous roar. The lower part of the craft burst into flames. The impact set off the alarm and immediately the guards tried to break through the cockpit door. They succeeded within seconds but found Sharil’s sword ready to greet them. The ship swayed fearfully, half engulfed in flames. Leonis harnessed the helm as if it were the last relic of a religion destined to disappear. He had managed to steer the ship toward the highest tower of the fortress, where the supreme temple of Gal Sur was located. The guards had now entered the cockpit and there seemed to be more and more of them. Sharil was covered in blood, full of wounds but still furious in her fighting to her last breath. Viekna had tears in her eyes as she tore apart one guard after another. “Why? Why are you still fighting? Can’t you see that we are all going to die?” Suddenly there was a frightening crash. The carcass of the flying ship had taken the tower by storm, sinking inside the great glass window of the supreme temple. An infinitesimal moment before the deadly impact, Leonis had managed to meet Gal Sur’s surprised gaze. Viekna was thrown forward against the stained glass window and rolled inside into the temple, which was enveloped in flames from the explosion. She knew that her friends were now dead. She knew there was no hope for her people other than the knife she clutched in her fist. Surrounded by flames, Gal Sur was there, from behind. He had stood stunned watching the ship crash into his fortress. Viekna gathered her strength and ran toward that figure with the knife raised. Gal Sur was just in time to turn around and see the hallucinated look of the girl plunging the knife into his chest. The blade thrust into Gal Sur’s body, which was of an unknown material. No blood came out. “You failed, little girl” sneered the hierophant as his eyes turned increasingly deep blue. Viekna felt her bones fracturing under the power of the hierophant. “Deities can survive a blade” Viekna said with the last edge of her voice “but can they defy the flames of hell? The girl push the button on the handle of her knife and the entire fortress was razed to the ground by the most violent explosion...


Hello dungeoncrawlers!

Let us begin by giving you news: with the tenth episode of your cassette magazine we are taking a break! Drum sounds, tragic sequence of chords in minor.... Panic and dismay! Hold on everyone, this is not the end but a new beginning: starting with the next episode your favorite dungeon synth magazine will be released with a freer cadence but most importantly with a revamped look! We need more time to manage the contents, associate them with the music and select your many submissions. We are so grateful but with these fast rhythms we risk missing out on some phenomenal musicians we listen to superficially, ending up dismissing him or her with a simple “Thanks for your tracks, they’re nice, but we have already a lot of stuff so bye bye... catch you for a beer at the tavern of the earless Goblin!”.

Let’s cut the crap now and see what this new issue has in store for you! We start with two Italian artists: Tidemancer set to music “The Jewel of Cronos” with his dreamy dungeon synth about magic & life, while about 15 minutes later we find the project Torre dei Ladri by a mysterious girl devoted to a project somewhere between dungeon synth and electronic music. On the B-side we have Skuggkonungen with the mocking “Fatal spell”, minimal and very intense dungeon synth. Closing the compilation is Gnoll with “Hierophant,” the soundtrack to the eponymous episode of the cult animated film “The Spine of Night”. If you haven’t seen it yet - check it out!

So, light your torches, press play and have a nice exploration!


released February 10, 2023

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Torre dei Ladri:
Gnoll (the soundtrack of "The Spine of Night"):


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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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