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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Friday, July 19

Gapers Block

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5 years after charges, Kelly trial date elusive
In a case that has been a saga of delays and false starts, R. Kelly's trial was postponed yet again on Tuesday, with no trial date in sight more than five years after child pornography charges were filed against the R&B singer.

The lead prosecutor in the case, Assistant State's Atty. Shauna Boliker, gave birth last week, prompting the judge presiding over the case to indefinitely postpone the trial less than two weeks before its scheduled start on Sept. 17.
This was the closest that the trial had come to starting. But it was no secret that Boliker was scheduled to deliver a baby last week, which had led to speculation at the courthouse that the Sept. 17 date was unrealistic.

Kelly, 40, was indicted in June 2002 on child pornography charges. Officials say he videotaped himself having sex with a girl whom prosecutors say may have been as young as 13.

In the more than five years since he was charged, Kelly's career and popularity have soared. He has produced several hit CDs, gone on tour and recently released the latest installments of his highly successful video serial "Trapped in the Closet."
—The Chicago Tribune

The sound of the Dark Lord Kayne's empty, rattling laugh plunges my heart into my belly like a stone. I strain against the magical bonds that the Hag Queen M'yrrgh has set about me, but it is useless; I curse them, as I curse Wilhelm Warhammer, who led me into this trap, but no word leaves my tongue.

Then the laughter stops as the green flames of M'yrrgh's bonfire shoot 30 feet upward, lapping at the under-boughs of the great Summoning Tree, where she had been chanting before I so foolishly interrupted. About me I can see Wilhelm take a nervous step backward, as his loathsome gnome ally does the same, a pale visage of fear writ upon the creature's gnarled face.

Kayne approaches now, skirting the towering green blaze, his gaunt frame draped in robes of deepest black. As ever, his raised hood obscures the hellish features that surely lie within; to my knowledge, there is none in the realm what have looked upon it and lived. At the rate things are going, I do not expect to break the Dark Lord's streak this night.

Again I strain, but to no avail; the hag's spell is far too powerful. Wilhelm will not look me in the face, nor will the gnome, which perplexes me, as I am no great fan of gnomes and this specimen is hardly an exception. All eyes remain on Kayne, shuffling silently toward me, the inky blackness within his hood fixed upon me like an otherworldly spotlight. He stops mere feet away from me, and within the murk I see two spots of faint light.

"You have caused me much consternation, Axman," he breathes, his voice smooth and greasy as rotted velvet. "The entire city of Rheidling, destroyed... the corrupt sorcerer Weiland again on the loose... my Black Guard in disarray... yet I suppose you consider all of this trouble-making some sort of grand, heroic gesture."

"Free my arms, and I'll show you a gesture," I gurgle, suddenly able to speak.

The darkened cowl twitches. "Insolence," Kayne hisses. "What you refuse to see, Axman, is that this land has changed. The people forget your precious Mandrake. Too weak a man to hold the throne, too soft to stop me while he could. Long ago they learned this, and before the end, you will learn it too."

"I've learned much already. A stink-hog always smells up the barn sooner or later," I glare at Wilhelm, "and you're much shorter than I remember."

Much to my disappointment, Kayne seems to ignore this. "Your former friend, despite whatever hygienic issues he may have, has proven himself a much faster learner than you, Axman. When we caught him two years ago, it didn't take him long to come around to my view. After that, it was simply a matter of tracking you down."

My lips twist into a disgusted grin. "Your lackeys Stangharr and Gort didn't have such an easy time of it."

"Fools," Kayne spits. "They have been punished, just as Wilhelm shall be rewarded. It may interest you to know that he is to become high chancellor, serving at my right hand as captain of the Black Guard, now that Stangharr has vacated the position."

"It's a chance to lead, Blagg," Wilhelm says, sounding almost apologetic. "To do right by the people. The Dark Lord is right about Mandrake."

"The people," I sneer at him. "They'll never follow you — a liar and betrayer."

"They will," Kayne murmurs, "when he brings you to justice for what you're about to release upon the kingdom — and after they watch me protect them from it, and destroy it." He spins to face M'yrrgh. "The preparations have been made?"

"You know they have, Kaynie," the hag purrs, each word dripping with putrid syrup. I see Kayne flinch before he turns back to me.

"Observe, Axman," he says, before turning back to the fire and raising up a bizarre and terrible chant, uttering unspeakable and alien phrases as the fire grows higher, deeper in color, the air turning cold. The night seems to grow blacker around us, the forest still.

M'yrrgh joins in the chant, and almost immediately I feel vibrations in the ground; minutes pass and they grow, a strange and unearthly shaking, and Wilhelm and the gnome take several uncertain steps backward. The fire, green as poison, begins to expand and contract, and at its base a shadow grows. Overhead the limbs and broad leaves of the Summoning Tree seem to stand on end, charged with some unholy energy.

Kayne and M'yrrgh stretch wide their arms, lift them over their heads, the droning chant now almost deafening. The shadow within the fire darkens, becomes taller, wider. My nerves fail me and I cry out to them, demanding that they stop, but my voice again is silenced.

A dull roar now sounds from the blaze, the ground shakes nigh uncontrollably, and the shadow within the fire rises up nearly fifty feet. Emerald flames writhe around it, and there comes from within a horrible roar until all at once the green firelight explodes, brighter than the sun. Then it is gone, leaving orange and purple splotches swimming before my vision.

"You fools," I try to scream at them, "what have you done?"

Its breathing is the first sound. Wet and guttural, heaving. Deep. I squint, willing my pupils to dilate as I hear it shift among the aromatic mulch that covers the ground. When finally they do, I immediately curse them for doing so.

In the gloom I make out a hulking shape, vaguely lupine, its arched back nearly scraping the ancient treetops. Enormous ribs pulsate beneath its loose, leathery skin, covered with what appear to be scales, wet with black ichor and reflecting what little moonlight is unfortunate enough to have filtered through the leaves above. Massive legs, canted backward, anchored by armored feet bristling with scimitar-like claws. Its head, long and flanked by two cruel and twisting horns, its teeth sharp as swords and dripping with the same foul wetness that covers its body. Its eyes glow a sickly yellow, burning in the dark.

"My lord..." M'yrrgh sighs.

"Silence!" Kayne snaps, stepping toward the beast as M'yrrgh scowls.

"Unnamable One," he intones, hands spread before him, "we have called you into this realm to carry out our bidding, and so you shall. Go forth from this place and spread woe among those who would oppose me, as I guide you with this gem..." Kayne holds aloft a long, green crystal, pulsing with a faint light, and the thing seems almost to shrink back from it as it exhales loudly. A foul odor permeates the air and breathing becomes difficult; my eyes begin to water.

"Kaynie," purrs M'yrrgh, again in that sickening tone, "remember that you promised I would be able to control it from time to time as well."

The cloaked shoulders slump and he turns back toward her. "Hear me well, hag. This is not—"

Two sounds then — first, the delicate tinkle of a stone, shattering the crystal clutched betwixt Kayne's gloved fingers; second, the dull thud of the stone landing safely in the mulch, its job done. Silence reigns for brief seconds in the clearing before everything happens at once.

M'yrrgh, screeching in shock; Wilhelm and the gnome, gasping; Kayne, whirling, searching the forest, sucking breath between his teeth; Wilhelm Warhammer and the gnome, backing up, stumbling, getting back up and running; and the booming roar of the beast, echoing through the sunken Forest of Arboula, drowning out all else.

I clamp my hands to my ears and fall to my knees, eyes squeezed shut before I open them in amazement — I am freed from the binding spell. A hand clamps around my arm, hauls me to my feet as Kayne screams curses at the thing he has called here, rearing back on its hind legs and ripping branches loose from the forest ceiling.

My eyes follow the hand on my arm up to the face of its owner, pale with strands of long hair flying loose around the hood of her cloak. It is Nan, former magician of King Mandrake's court, who disappeared last night when Wilhelm was about to kill her. In her hand she holds a slingshot.

"Come, Axman!" she tugs me toward the forest. "There's no time!"

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About the Author(s)

A former mercenary for hire, Blagg is an axman by trade and still carries the banner of King Mandrake, the once and true ruler of the realm. Gapers Block readers are invited to contact Blagg for advice, insight and recommendations at His column appears every other Saturday.

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