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HDK 45 † The vanished civilization of Xattoth

by TIR

You have fallen into a recess of the rocky wall that borders the west side of the canyon. Your few-meters fall did not have serious consequences, but you lost your backpack with equipment and food, that is still on the cart of the caravan but you don’t know where. You still have your sword, the saddlebag with a few crackers and a water canteen: food for a day or two. You can stand up holding onto the trunk of the dry tree that comes out of the bare rock: in front of you there is 50 meters gorge. Below, at the bottom of the canyon, you see a dry riverbed. It is morning and the sun shines right from your side. You feel trapped but you cannot stay still or you will die for heat, so you try to figure out if you can climb up the rock side or go down carefully to the dry riverbed. After a while, you sadly realize that the climb up is impossible and therefore you will not be able to recover your backpack, but carefully you can reach the bottom of the canyon, using the dry vegetation, to walk straight from there.
You climb down with difficulty. About halfway down the hill, you realize you have reached a smooth rock face, where some signs appear: they seem pieces of work by intelligent creatures, letters from an archaic and unknown alphabet. A little further, with great surprise, you discover a cave in the rock. You step into the darkness in search of a shelter from the ruthless desert sun. You proceed slowly accustoming your eyes to the darkness: you realize that this cave was a house. At the bottom you find a dry straw mattress, full of cobwebs, and a small casket. Inside there are some scrolls: they show incomprehensible writings similar to the alphabet discovered a few instants earlier on the rock face. You spend a few minutes recovering yourself in the shadow of these walls: someone, hundreds of years ago, lived here. A hermit, perhaps.
In the afternoon the sun shines upon the other side of the canyon. Now the descent is easier, thanks to the trace of a sort of steep path that runs along the side of the rock face. Finally, you reach the bottom of the canyon and lay your feet on the gravel of the dry riverbed. Turning around, you look up to see your path. You realize that the rocks, you have just descended from, are dotted with caves, connected to each other by impervious passages along the slope. You understand that this place was inhabited by a mysterious and unknown civilization, now extinct.
As you walk to the North, you hope that following the dry river you will be able to reach the town of Birazny. At a certain point you see a cave on the left side of the canyon. The entrance is decorated by a portal: once it had to have a noble and monumental appearance. You see the usual incomprehensible inscriptions carved in the rock. You think that, approaching the evening, it could be useful find a place to rest safely, so you decide to walk inside. The interior of the temple is a large rectangular room carved into the rock. It is dark inside, and you cannot see well but you think that it was a sacred and monumental place. You decide to spend the night there.
You wake up at dawn after a few hours of sleep. You feel better, even if the bruises of the fall still hurt you. You eat and take a sip from the bottle: you realize with discomfort that your food supplies are exhausted. On the wall at the back of the room, you look at the ruined large altar and notice traces of a large fresco. The drawing represents a great humanoid creature with a tiger head and two large chelas-hands: it seems a bizarre divinity, at whose side there are two deformed humanoid creatures that are holding some whips. At his feet many docile tigers are crouched. You feel a subtle restlessness and discomfort as if the ghosts of unspeakable past-atrocities invoked you from the bottom of the abyss. You are overwhelmed by an uncontrollable desire to go out in the open air. As soon as you turn towards the exit, you realize you are no longer alone.
The exit is blocked by two humanoid characters. You understand that they are hostile. They wield strange whips that snap on the ground and shout with sharp and threatening sounds: they look like the two god guardians on the fresco! You unsheathe your sword and you face them in a fierce battle. They are very strong opponents: they have great agility and one of them always manages to pass behind you and hit your back with painful whippings. It is not easy to aim them with your weapon. Soaked with sweat, you fight desperately for your life. Finally you can put one of them on the corner: you throw a precise blow with all your strength. You feel his abdomen ripped up by the blade of your sword. The creature runs away with a sharp rattle, bleeding: both your enemies flee away from the temple.
You go out in the morning light. Your enemies seem disappeared, even if you hear some distant noises re-echoing between the canyon rock walls. They are probably hiding somewhere along the slope. Wounded, tired, you start to feel the effects of dehydration after the fighting effort. You understand that you must resume the journey as soon as possible if you do not want to starve in this desolate land. After two hours walking to the North, the sun shines and warms the rock walls of the canyon with no chance to escape. Is this your end?
As your sight is getting foggy and you think you will soon fall exhausted on the ground, you turn on the left following the path in the canyon. You see some palm trees in the distance. A hallucination or a real oasis? Perhaps the river you are following is not completely dry but flows under the gravel. With your last energy you walk ahead. You reach the first palm tree and you realize that actually a large stream of water raises on the surface giving life to a small stream surrounded by green grass. You walk and finally manage to put your face and hands in the water. You drink it with relief and you are as happy as if you had conquered all the gold of the world.
You can eat some dates by climbing on the top of the palm and you feel better. The wounds still hurt you, but at least you can clean them to soothe the pain. You get back on track. Looking better around you can see the outline of a building not far from where you are: it is a five meters high stone totem, on the top of which a huge tiger head has been carved. As you approach, you realize that it is built with a hard-gray stone, totally different from the brown and friable stone around here. You observe better and you see something shining on the top of the totem: the tiger's face has a huge diamond, as large as a fist, set on the forehead.
You climb up the totem until you reach the precious stone. It is indeed a wonderful diamond that is worth a fortune. As you try to remove it, from the height of your position you notice humanoid figures descending from the rock wall a few hundred meters away from you: they are the deformed guardians of the temple, but they are not only the two you have already faced, there are many others! It seems that they have seen you. You hurry to grab the diamond to put it back in your saddlebag. The moment you take it out of its cavity, you hear a sinister rumble that shakes your bowels. You are about to descend when you look down and see something moving underneath you: a multitude of feline figures, that popped up from nowhere, are gathering at the feet of the totem. They are tigers, but their appearance is horribly swollen: flesh and bones are visible through their wounds, like zombies, shreds of torn dangling skin lean from their bodies. They look at you from below with their ghostly eyes. Quiet, without haste. You stay clinging to the totem at a height of five meters, thinking about how to get out of this absurd situation.
The zombie-tigers are now tens. The deformed guardians, armed with whips, are approaching: they whisk their whips and try to drive away the tigers that react with hostile roars. A violent battle breaks out between the two factions. But the worst has yet to happen. You hear awkward creaks and you have the impression that the totem is moving. The gray stone surface seems to rise up, as if something is pushing it from the inside. You feel frighteningly swaying. Is it an earthquake? You feel that the totem will soon collapse and you try to go down quickly to cushion the fall. You lose your grip and you are thrown violently to the ground after a fall of a few meters, into a dull roar and a cloud of debris that makes you confused for a while. You raise your head: a giant humanoid creature, hideously swollen, is just a few steps away from you: it has a huge tiger head and two strong arms ending with a pair of sharp chelates. It is the god represented in the temple fresco! You are terrified but with surprise you realize that the monster does not have interest in you...it is attacking the temple guardians! It grabs them with its terrible chelas and devours them without mercy. You stand up and run away. You perceive a group of zombie-tigers that chases you. One of them overtakes you and attacks you by jumping on your side. The violence of the feline creature attack makes you tumble down in the gravel. You think he hit you with a deadly bite, but you do not really feel pain: you realize that he simply pulled the saddlebag off your waist, stealing the diamond!
The zombie-tiger observes you closely: he has stared at you for a never-ending moment with his feline and mysterious eyes, while he holds the treasure he has held in his mouth. You feel a strange sense of respect by looking into this creature's eyes: his gaze hides something noble, though its appearance is horrible. Then he turns and runs towards his master, the obscene divinity that you have awoken from the millennial rest. Perhaps - you think - the diamond belongs to him.
After about three hours walking fast, you understand that you have escaped the danger. What the hell of civilization was the one that was built between the caves in the canyon rock wall? What terrible event or curse led it to the oblivion? Who were the guardians of the temple and why did the horrible deity, you awoke, devour them? And finally, who were the zombie-tigers? Your mind is full of these unanswered questions. But finally, you understand something: when you get out of the canyon you recognize the landscape beyond the Ghora pass. You are a few hours walking away from the ducal road that leads in Birazny, the great capital. You are dirty, sweaty and wounded, with just a few coins of silver in your pockets to buy a good meal and a night at the next inn. But you do not care anymore now: soon you will return to the city and you can rest at your place. You mentally note down the location of the canyon and the oasis, to tell about this adventure to your friends in the city. They will hardly believe you. On the other hand, now you too have the impression of having experienced a strange and vivid dream. A terrible vision caused by ancestral deities. Perhaps all this never happened. Or maybe it is just the beginning of another adventure.


What is the meaning of "horror"? Maybe the sense of horror rise from the encounter with what is not human, with a reality that is "beyond". The protagonist of this adventure faces a fatal encounter with the unexplicable and, in the moment in which the horror seems to overwhelm him, he awakens from a magical sleep and has the feeling that everything he so vividly has lived has never happened...


"The Zula desert is a rocky, dry and sun-scorched plateau. It is a desolate land, where only coriaceous bushes, shaken by evening winds, can grow. Over the centuries, a road was built to allow commercial caravans to cross harsh rocky peaks. Overcoming the Ghora pass after a long week of march, it is now possible to reach the poor villages of the ocean coast from the rich inland capital, the city of Birazny.

Looking for adventure and money, you proposed yourself as a mercenary to guard a caravan of merchants along the journey on this difficult route. The desert tribes are very dangerous for those carrying precious goods such as water, wine, spices and precious metals. Lately, however, you feel that they are not as active as they were once: you believe that it will be a quiet mission.

Soon your adventure takes an unexpected turn: just near the Ghora pass, the caravan is overwhelmed by a strong sandstorm. A natural event of incredible violence: a raging wind makes the horses run wild and raises sand and soil from the ground. When, with your hands on your face, you see a man pushed away by a brutal whirlwind, you think it could be an event of magical origin. Hit in the head by something unidentified, you are thrown down a cliff and lose consciousness.

You wake up painfully, lying poised on a narrow steep path, on the side of a canyon. A dry, lopsided tree trunk miraculously saved you from a deadly fall to the bottom of the cliff. You thank the gods that you are still alive, but soon you realize you are alone, with very little food and water and with no idea of where you are. You understand that your real adventure begins just now: you must survive and reach the road that will bring you back alive to Birazny, the capital of the southern lands. Your home town".


Dungeon-synth musicians draws its inspiration from many musical genres: black metal, folk, dark ambient, minimal synth, kraut rock and classical symphonic music... About this amazing amazing album, the most obvious influence seems to come from the soundtracks of the 1950s kolossal movies (Quo Vadis, The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur) and from the compositions of the great Basil Poledouris (Conan the Barbarian, Robocop, The Hunt for Red October): the dungeon-synth by Tir, a turkish musician from Istanbul, is epic, magniloquent, but also full of mystery and sense of wonder.

We entrusted TIR with the soundtrack of a module for fantasy RPG written by us and entitled "The vanished civilization of Xattoth"...


released November 28, 2019

Music & Recordings by Oytun Bektaş
Recorded in Spring 2019 in Istanbul, Turkey
Enjoy Oytun's amazing music at: tirofficial.bandcamp.com
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Maps by Paths Peculiar (Niklas Wistedt).
Enjoy Niklas amazing works at: www.wistedt.net




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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