Andre Norton Quag Keep

ISBN 13: 9780765313027

Quag Keep

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9780765313027: Quag Keep
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Quag Keep was the first novel based on the world of Dungeons & Dragons by the legendary grand mistress of SF/Fantasy, Andre Norton.

Once, they were role-playing gamers in our world.
They came from different places and different backgrounds.
Now they're summoned together by some magical force...to a land that mirrors the games they used to play.
Quag Keep
Can they band together to unlock the secret of their summoning--and rescue from the legendary Quag Keep the person who may be able to return them home?

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Andre Norton was the grand dame of Science Fiction and Fantasy whose creations include Witch World and Beastmaster. She passed away in 2005.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One
Greyhawk

Eckstern produced the package with an exaggerated flour-ish and lifted the lid of the box to pluck out shredded packing with as much care as if he were about to display the crown jewels of some long-forgotten kingdom. His showmanship brought the others all closer. Eckstern liked such chances to focus attention, and tonight, as the referee chosen to set up the war game, his actions were backed with special authority.

He unwrapped a length of cotton and set out on the table, between the waiting game sheets, a two-inch figure, larger than any they habitually played with. It was, indeed, a treasure. A swordsman--complete with shield on which a nearly microscopic heraldic design blazed forth in brilliant enamel paints. The tiny face of the figure was sternly set above the rim of the shield, shadowed by a helmet with a small twist of spike rising from it. There was an indication of mail on the body which had been modeled as if the figure were advancing a step in grim determination. The sword in the hand was a length of glittering metal, more like well-polished steel than lead which was the usual material for playing figures.

Martin stared at it in fascination. He had seen many expertly painted and well-positioned war-game figures but this--this gave him a queer feeling, as if it had not been turned out of a mold, but rather had been designed by a sculptor in the form of a man who once had lived.

“Where--where did you get that?” Harry Conden’s slight hesitation of speech was more pronounced than usual.

“A beauty, isn’t it?” Eckstern purred. “A new company--Q K Productions--and you wouldn’t believe the price either. They sent a letter and a list--want to introduce their pieces to ‘well-known’ players. After we won those two games at the last convention, I guess they had us near the top of their list...”

To Martin, Eckstern’s explanation was only a meaningless babble. His hand had gone out without his conscious willing, to touch fingertip on that shield, make sure it did exist. It was true that the makers of playing pieces for the fantasy war games were starting to try to outdo each other in the production of unusual monsters, noble fighters, astute elves, powerful dwarves, and all the other characters a player might call for, identify with while playing, even keep on display like some fabulous antique chessmen between games. Martin had envied those able to equip themselves with the more ornate and detailed figures. But the best he had seen in displays could not compare to this. Within him came a sudden compulsion: he must have this one. It was beyond any doubt meant for him.

Eckstern was still talking as he unwrapped other figures, set them out, his elbow firmly planted meanwhile on the referee notes for the coming game. But Martin’s attention never wavered from the swordsman. This was his! He grasped it lovingly.
There were good smells and stale ones fighting for dominance in a room lit only by baskets of fire wasps, one of which was close enough so that he could see every old stain on the table at which he sat. By his right hand stood a drinking horn mounted on a base of dull metal. His right hand...

He stared at both hands, the fists lightly clenched and lying on the scored board. This was (it seemed that his mind had skipped something of importance as a heart might skip a beat), this was, of course, the Sign of Harvel’s Axe, a dubious inn on the edge of the Thieves’ Quarter in the city of Greyhawk. He frowned, troubled. But there had been something else--something of importance--of which only a hint slithered so swiftly through his brain that he could not fasten on it quickly enough.

His name was Milo Jagon, a swordsman of some experience, now unemployed. That much was clear. And the hands before him were bare below sleeves of very supple, dark-colored mail which had a hint of copper in it, yet was darker brown. Turned back against his wrists were mitts fastened to the sleeves. And about each of his thumbs was the wide band of a ring. The one to the right was set with an oblong stone of dull green, across which, in no discernible pattern, wandered tiny red veins and dots. The setting on the left was even more extraordinary--an oval crystal of gray, clouded and filmed.

On the right wrist there was a glint of something else; again that faintest hint of other memory--even of alarm--touched Milo’s mind. He jerked down the right mitt and saw, banded over the mail itself, a wide bracelet of a metal as richly bright as newly polished copper. It was made of two bands between which, swung on hardly visible gimbals, were a series of dice--three-sided, four-sided, eight-sided, six-sided. They were of the same bright metal as the bracelet that supported them. But the numbers on them were wrought in glistening bits of gem-stones, so tiny he did not see how any gem smith could have set them in so accurately.

This--with his left hand he touched that bracelet, finding the metal warm to his fingertips--this was important! His scowl grew deeper. But why and how?

And he could not remember having come here. Also--he raised his head to stare about uneasily--he sensed that he was watched. Yet there were none in that murky room he was quick enough to catch eyeing him.

The nearest table to his own was also occupied by a single man. He had the bulk, the wide shoulders and thick, mail-covered forearms, of a man who would be formidable in a fight. Milo assessed him, only half-consciously, with the experienced eye of one who had needed many times in the past to know the nature of an enemy, and that quickly.

The cloak the other man had tossed to the bench beside him was of hide covered with horny bristles. And his helmet was surmounted with a realistic and daunting representation of a snarling boar brought dangerously to bay. Beneath the edge of it, his face was wide of the cheekbone and square of jaw, and he was staring, as Milo had been, at his hands on the tabletop before him. Between them crouched a bright, green-blue pseudo-dragon, its small wings fluttering, its arrow-pointed tongue darting in and out.

And on his right wrist--Milo drew a deep breath--this stranger wore a bracelet twin to his own, as far as the swordsman could see without truly examining it.

Boar helm, boar cloak--memories and knowledge Milo did not consciously search for arose. This other was a berserker, and one with skill enough to turn were-boar if he so desired. Such were chancy companions at the best, and the swordsman did not wonder now that their two tables, so close together, were theirs alone, that the rest of the patrons, eating and drinking, had sought the other side of the long room. Nor was he surprised that the stranger should have the pseudo-dragon as a traveling companion or pet, whichever their relationship might be. For the weres, like the elves and some others, could communicate with animals at will.

Once more Milo gave a searching, very steady survey of the others in the room. There were several thieves, he guessed, and one or two foreigners, who, he hoped for their own sakes, were tough enough to defend themselves if they had wandered into Harvel’s Axe without due warning. A cloaked man who, he thought, might be a druid (of low rank) was spooning up stew with such avidity that spattering drops formed gobbets of grease on his clothing. Milo was paying particular attention to right wrists. Those he could see were certainly innocently bare of any such banding as he and the berserker wore. At the same time, the impression that he was being watched (and not with any kindness) grew in him. He dropped hand to sword hilt and, for the first time, noted that a shield leaned against the table. On it was emblazoned an intricate pattern which, though dented in places and plainly weatherworn, had once been skillfully done. And he had seen that... where?

The vagrant curl of memory grew no stronger for his trying to grasp it. He grinned sourly. Of course he had seen it many times over--the thing was his, wasn’t it? And he had callouses from its weight along his arm to prove that.

At least he had had the wisdom to pick a table where he sat with his back to the wall. Now there flowed through his mind half memories of other times when he had been in just such uncertain lodgings. A table swung up and forward could serve as a barrier to deter a rush. And the outer door?...

There were two doors in the room. One led, uncurtained, to the inner part of the inn. The other had a heavy leather drape over it. Unfortunately, that was on the opposite side of the room. To reach it he would have to pass a group he had been watching with quick glances, five men gathered close together whispering. They had seemed to show no interest in him, but Milo did not depend on such uncertain reassurance of innocence.

The eternal war between Law and Chaos flared often in Greyhawk. It was in a manner of speaking a “free city”--since it had no one overlord to hold it firmly to his own will. For that reason it had become a city of masterless men, a point from which many expeditions, privately conceived and planned for the despoiling of ancient treasures, would set out, having recruited the members from just such masterless men as Milo himself, or perhaps the berserker only an arm’s length away.

But if those on the side of Law recruited here, so did the followers of Chaos. There were neutrals also, willing to join with either side for the sake of payment. But they were never to be wholly depended upon by any man who had intelligence, for they might betray one at the flip of a coin or the change of the wind itself.

As a swordsman Milo was vowed to Law. The berserker had more choice in such matters. But this place, under its odors of fresh and stale food, stank to Milo of Chaos. What had brought him...

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ISBN 10:  0765351552 ISBN 13:  9780765351555
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