The Three Quests of the Wizard Sarnod

In picture form! Although the story has changed, this is the crappy graphic I drew to orient myself to begin with. I will not be inflicting it on Dying Earth editors Dozois and Martin…

Excerpt (rough draft) after the break…

The third of Sarnod’s familiars had the moniker of Grod Lump, and never had a creature been more truly named. Grod Lump was a barrel of an animal, round and fleshy on squat legs, hairy and swarthy, with eyes all over its body that had sometimes made foes mistake him for Chin the Unavoidable, four brawny arms, and a face distantly like a burlesque of a boar: the upturned lip, the leer that could become gruff and brusque. Its skin was unscorchable, impenetrable. Grod had a huge hole in the top of his head and from it came a kind of distant flame and the smell of hot coals–that which stoked his long, long life, for Sarnod believed him a living weapon from some past bygone age. (He kept his brain behind the iron bowl of his prodigious stomach.)

Grod made Sarnod the same breakfast every morning: three green-glowing salamanders, each lovingly plucked from the rich mud of the lake bank, one served cold, one served dead but crispy, one served alive and wriggling. The cold Sarnod ate for his memory, the hot for his heart, and the living for his brain. They had no eyes, for Sarnod did not like to see his food looking at him.

No doubt Grod was making Sarnod’s breakfast even as the wizard made his way down the winding stairs to the dining area, walking by the many tributes to his past brilliance: trophies in the form of parchments, heads, and armor reflecting the best of the threats that had long sought to topple him. And seeing them, Sarnod reminded himself that the thorn in his heart was also a warning, for always there was a half-forgotten spell that spoke to him of danger.

As if anticipating his thought, Whisper Bird whispered in his ear and said, “On the golden table, where lie the three portals, a creature has appeared, from below.” Just as there was an Over Earth, there too was an Under Earth, and Sarnod had used it to entrap and imprison his enemies for centuries.

Thus saying, Whisper Bird passed through Sarnod in a wave of cold and heat that made him shudder–what manner of ghost? what manner of being?–as they went together to see what had thus intruded on their daily ritual.


  1. jeff ford says

    I didn’t realize at first you have the story there behind the cut to go along with it. Gotta read.

  2. says

    I’m glad to see this.

    That would be “Chun the Unavoidable” rather than “Chin the Unavoidable.”

    I’d be very happy to send you a copy of our Compendium of Universal Knowledge – and encylopedia of the Dying Earth if it would be of any assistance.

  3. Jeff VanderMeer says

    The error is in the descriptor. Chin the Unmistakable it should be.

    Also, yeah–that certainly wouldn’t hurt, but I’d need it in the next week. But I’ve pulled all kinds of things from the first two Dying Earth books, so…


  4. Jesse B says

    Vance the (formerly) Inimitable coughed and spluttered, priceless Saponcian anis-wine dribbling onto his Oast leather tunic. There, on the crinkled parchment, lay undeniable proof of the undoing of his moniker. Doppelganger berries were, obviously, his first suspicion, but then he perceived the nonsensical truth of the matter. The antiquated script, the curious sheaf and the ominous brown stain caused by no beverage his sorcerous investigations could identify proved one thing, one strange, enigmatic fact–written there, before him, in his own (formerly) inimitable language, were words he had never written, a tale he had never dreamt–a tale written millennia in the past, millennia before he was even conceived . A curious discovery to be sure.

  5. Simon Rogers says

    Fire over your address and I’ll get one over to you straight away. I have had the pleasure of reading your work, after all!

  6. Jeff VanderMeer says

    Well, he is alive and he did okay the whole antho idea. I think it should be fun. We’ll see.

    Simon–i’m trying to find your email address. I’ll track it down shortly. Thanks!