"2000.9999978 - A Pentium Odyssey."
THE SEVEN GATES OF HELL
- or -
OBVIOUSLY INFLUENCED BY THE DEVIL TOO
by Richard Karsmakers
This is the last of the Cronos Warchild stories (see remark in
"ST Software Reviews in Short" about the "Warchild Weekend"). It
is also the one that took longest to write. The summer was hot,
my University work was intense, and Karin was lovely. I started
writing it on February 21st, spent *months* doing absolutely
*zip* and then finishing it in one rather fell swoop, as it were,
in the weekend of November 25th.
Inspiration came from a Venom song of obvious name, old Irish
Heroic stories, Terry Pratchett, Necronomicon - the book written
by the Mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred - and a host of lesser sources.
The basic idea was thought up in spring 1991, when Stefan and me
were still thinking of doing those Cronos Warchild adventure
games, a project which, sadly, got canned and frozen.
Have fun reading.
I - PRELUDE TO MADNESS
The date with the dentist's assistant had been disastrous. At
various instances Cronos Warchild, mercenary annex hired gun,
had put his foot in his mouth and had happily blabbered on about
his rather not-too-glorious past and rather not very illustrious
exploits, lethally boring the poor girl to death. Somehow it had
struck him as odd when the girl had found it necessary to take
her coat with her when basically all she'd said she went to do
was powder her nose.
He never saw her again. Feeling blue, he eventually left the
restaurant when the cleaners had assured him all to be found in
the ladies' room was a piece of purple dress caught on an open
window, flapping forlornly in the chilly night breeze.
Warchild felt wretched utterly as he walked home along a small
river. Willows drooped in it disconsoledly, fog flowing slowly
off the pastures onto the water. Autumn's decay made leaves
rustle as he moved his feet through them, not particularly caring
where he went. Vegetative death was all around him, and at times
the sky would clear enough for the pale light of the moon to peep
through wanly. Although Cronos would never have admitted it, he
was feeling thoroughly melancholic.
It was in such a mood, feeling really sorry for himself as
usual, that he found himself reading the classifieds in a fairly
recent newspaper. He didn't know what he was looking for, nor
whether he actually wanted to find anything at all. Some of the
adverts caused him to raise an eyebrow; a few even caused him to
raise both. He thought it was incredible to which lengths people
would go to get what they wanted. A particular advert, however,
got his immediate and virtually undivided attention.
"Bored?" it read, "Bored, strong and talented? Come and help my
nephew to become a man and make it in this world that he seems
unable to cope with. Martial skills are a prerequisite. Lavish
reimbursement to be expected."
Small glowing stars lit up in Cronos' eyes. Had someone bothered
to take a much closer look at the little starlets that glowed in
those virtually measureless depths, he would have seen that in
fact they were two almost infinitely tiny dollar signs.
The driveway looked almost like an interstate. Somewhere near
the horizon was a huge mansion, looming ponderously, speaking
real estate's body language of a man radiating vast wealth,
almost right up to and including the Rolly Royce key hanger. A
gardener was mowing the lawn with a nail clipper. When Cronos
moved up the driveway to the house, the garderer looked up as if
apologising for daring to exist.
It took quite a while until he finally arrived at the mansion.
Up close it looked much huger than he had anticipated. The front
had a lot of pillars. Around it were sumptuous lawns that, he now
saw, were kept by a veritable army of gardeners. Someone had a
lot of money here, and he guessed rightly that this particular
person was not among those wielding the nail clippers.
He stood before the huge doors, which hung on huge shiny hinges
that looked like - and most likely were - gold. The mercenary
annex hired gun could not help but hold his breath for a while,
in awe. Beauty and ugliness can be fascinating, and so can hard-
core wealth such as was blatantly on display right in front of
him. Above the doors was a huge, ornately fashioned coat-of-arms.
It consisted of a spear, a ball and a dog, embraced by red
Cronos made to knock on the door when it opened as if on its own
accord. Behind it stood, so Warchild thought, the human
equivalent of a pengiun. The man wore tails and a bow tie, and
looked as if, freshly pressed and starched, he'd just been
delivered back from the dry cleaner's.
"Sir?" the butler inquired politely.
"No," Warchild said, brushing the man aside, "Warchild. Cronos
Warchild. I am here to see Anthony Hepplewhite Saintjohn Thurny."
Cronos made a nondescript sign with his left hand, leaving
behind him the butler and stepping inside something like a glossy
Houses of the Rather Absurdly Rich magazine, quite oblivious of
the highly polished marble, the tasteful arches and the countless
displays of exorbitantly expensive antiques that would probably
have made many other individuals cause to sweat and salivate
vehemently and simultaneously.
He stepped through a vast hall or two, followed by an
embarrassed butler mumbling humble apologies, before almost
walking into a old man that he rightly reckoned might be the lord
of the mansion.
The man had a large, drooping nose and eyes that slanted down to
the outsides. What little hair he had left was combed back to
attempt to cover a huge bald patch, the long strands held in
place by what seemed like litres of gel and which were, in fact,
litres of gel. More ample supplies of hair, however, seemed to
sprout forth from the man's nasal cavities.
Behind the man stood a boy no older than twenty. There was a
certain family resemblance, undeniably, although the youth still
had more hair on his scalp and rather less of it protruding from
Cronos raised an eyebrow and said, "He is your nephew?"
Anthony Hepplewhite Saintjohn Thurny - pardon, Lord Anthony
Hepplewhite Saintjohn Thurny - nodded.
"That is the young fellow in question, Mr. Warchild," he said.
"Like I said over the telephone, he has some difficulty coping
with the world around him. He needs to become a man, and methinks
you seem pretty much up to the job."
Warchild looked at the boy. Maybe the rough working material was
there, but he'd first have to do some chiselling to get it
"What's your name, son?" Warchild asked.
"Trom," the boy said, stepping forward. There was a spark of
defiance in the lad's eyes, Cronos saw. No problem. It might, in
fact, make this potentially boring job a more interesting one. He
loved children, and not necessarily for breakfast, even.
"Would you mind stepping into the library with me, Mr.
Warchild?" Lord Anthony Hepplewhite Saintjohn Thurny beckoned,
walking past Warchild and vanishing through a pair of huge
swinging doors into semi-darkness. Cronos followed, to find
himself entering a huge library with shelves upon shelves of
books, the upper tiers accessible only by means of a ladder that
stood in a corner. It looked like it hadn't been moved for quite
a while, though.
"Mr. Warchild," Lord Anthony said, his voice down to slightly
more than a whisper, "I am worried about my nephew."
"Oh? Why?" Cronos said, "He seems like a strapping young fellow
"Hmm," Lord Anthony hmm-ed, "Hmm. You see, I think something is
wrong with him. You see, we come from a lineage of fine army
officers. Trom's father was actually a general and most of his
uncles are colonels at the least. You see, the boy shows no
desire to fight at all. He doesn't want to submit, he does not
want to rule. He does not want to slay natives or something. He
is not the kind of boy that our Great Empire became a Great
Empire with in the first place. You see, on his eighteenth
birthday I offered him a hundred naked women. And you know what,
"No," Cronos said, after some genuine thought on the matter, "I
don't believe I do." He thought of the dental assistant. Hell,
even one woman would be just fine and dandy to him, let alone...
"You see, he simply didn't mind them," the man said, rolling his
eyes, "He never looked at them. Instead, he looked past them to
discover if perhaps they were some trick to hide from him some
other gift, a chemistry set or something. I recall he was pretty
disappointed. The women, too."
"So what do you want me to do?" Cronos asked.
"I want you to expose him to discipline," Lord Anthony said
firmly, looking around for a handy table to hit with his fist and
failing, "teach him the ropes, nose on the grindstone kind of
thing, train him into the martial arts, get him in touch with the
real dog-eat-dog world outside this estate. And maybe, just
maybe, get him in touch with, er, the fairer sex, too."
Cronos mulled it over for a while.
"Why me?" Warchild wondered, "And don't tell me Julie Andrews
"Funny you should mention that..." Lord Anthony mused, trailing
off somewhere within his head and barely remembering to come
back. "Er," he recuperated, "because you have what it takes.
Whatever it is, my instincts tell me you have it. Knew it the
very instant I heard your voice on the telephone. And I always
trust my instincts."
Warchild mulled that over for a while, too. "What's the pay?" he
"The reimbursement, you mean?"
"What about having a go at a hundred of my aunts and nieces," an
inanely grinning Trom interrupted, who turned out to have
entered the library not too long after they had, "all of them
sexually thwarted not too long ago?"
His uncle gave him a killer look. "No," Lord Anthony said,
smiling with the soft-hearted air of one who will soon be dealing
out a good spanking, "I had a more conventional reward in mind in
the shape of a chest of Hepplewhite Saintjohn Thurny family
"What are we looking at here?" Cronos asked, the little dollar-
shaped starlets in his eyes swelling and throbbing.
"Well," Lord Anthony surmised, "I think it would be safe to
assume that we're looking at perpetual wealth here."
That sounded good.
"Deal," Cronos said, grinning. The boy looked up at him for no
particular reason. A bell tolled in the distance, but that was
The sun had barely dared to show itself above the horizon the
next day, when Cronos and Trom were out already on one of the
estate's sumptuous lawns, preparing for a training session.
Warchild had suspended a straw puppet by means of a primitive
gallows, and from somewhere within Lord Anthony's impressive
collection of World War I souvenirs he had retrieved a bajonetted
"Today you're going to learn all you wanted to know about
gutting," Cronos said with some relish, "but were afraid to ask."
"Yuck," Trom said, with some feeling, "sounds disgusting." He
prodded the straw puppet tentatively with the rifle. It seemed
heavy in his hand. He wasn't sure he was going to like this
training stuff that his uncle had somehow thought necessary.
Somehow, however, he felt like this might be a part of him, or of
something that used to be him.
The world began to go all floppy and swirly...he wanted to
embrace it, be one with it and its past, his past. He flopped to
the ground, limply, and for a while he dreamt...
The dog ran towards him, aiming to make of him a tasteful dinner
of sorts. He didn't know what to do; the only thing he could
think of was grabbing his playing ball and throwing it at the dog
with all the force that was within him. It entered the dog
between its jaws and came out through its tail. Happy for having
accomplished this feat, he threw one of his warrior's fits. His
hair stood out like nails, and his eyes crossed gruesomely. He
then picked up a stick and threw it away as far as he could, then
ran like the wind to catch it himself.
The dog's master - who was now the owner of about 80 pounds of
dead meat - came outside. It was Culann, the smith. He was angry
at the boy for having killed his dog.
"I am sorry, sir Culann," he said, "but the dog attacked me and
I didn't know what else to do. But if you'll let me, I will be
your guard dog until I have made enough money to buy you a new
"You OK, son?" Cronos asked, slapping Trom's face, "It seems you
had some kind of fit there."
Trom shook his head, entering reality again.
"I have these dream fits occasionally," he said, rubbing his
eyes, "it's almost as if there is someone else living in me,
waiting to escape or something."
Cronos nodded. He was no psychiatrist, so he reckoned it would
be best just to nod at regular intervals. Always worked. Did this
"You OK?" Cronos asked again.
"Yeah, sure," Trom said, "Give me that rifle again."
"Wait a minute," Warchild interjected, fumbling in his pocket
and retrieving a red piece of cloth, "I've got to tie a ribbon
around your head."
"Why?" Trom asked.
To Cronos Warchild it seemed the most stupid question possible.
It simply wasn't done not to tie a ribbon around your head prior
to heroic exploits of sorts. Preferably a red one.
"Just because it's supposed to be like that," he said.
At that very instant, taking Trom quite by surprise, a cloud of
acrid smoke signalled the entry upon the scene of a demon.
Cronos, by now, had met these so often that it really didn't
startle him at all.
It grinned with fangs that had be dontocured perhaps once too
often. Unceremoniously it zipped open Warchild's fly, slid in a
warty green hand, fumbled for a brief instance or three, then
came out again, having retrieved a Battery Pack.
With a sound like an dinosaur's handclap and another cloud of
smoke, it - and the battery pack - disappeared. There was a smell
of sulphur, like someone had just lit a match factory.
Hands hung limply, like Cronos' flabbergasted lower jaw. The
ribbon flopped to the ground uselessly.
"What was that, master?" Trom had never laid eyes on a demon in
his life before and, by the grimace on his face, was pretty sure
he never wanted to again.
"That, Trom," Warchild said, deep in thought, "was a demon."
"One of the Dark Lord's minions, you mean?"
"One of those very ones."
"What did it...er...do with its hand down your trousers?"
A recollection of intensely nauseous pain raced through Cronos'
groin and belly.
"I am afraid it, er, borrowed," he sighing painfully, "my Mega
Absorb Groin Protector's Battery Pack."
"O," Trom said.
"And," Warchild added in a half-hearted attempt at an ominous
voice, "the bad thing is that it didn't ask."
Cronos looked around to see if perhaps the demon was looking at
him from behind a bush or a conveniently placed tree. There was
no sign of any such thing, however. The world around him had
returned once more to a kind of peaceful tranquility. Still...you
never knew where a potential groinal threat might come from. Not
a female in sight, however. He was quite safe. For now, anyway.
He flinched again as if at a particularly painful recollection.
"Er...Mr. Warchild?" Trom ventured carefully.
"Hmm?" hmm-ed Cronos.
"Those Groins...er...are they dangerous?"
"Well done, oh Flattus," Satan grinned.
Flattus moved his feet uncomfortably, causing him to appear very
much like a shy schoolgirl would in front of a school principal
wielding a cane.
"It was nothing, oh Dark One," he said, absent-mindedly fumbling
a piece of paper in his pocket.
"You did remember to leave the note, didn't you?"
He stopped fumbling, abruptly.
"Er...sure I did, oh Jet-Blackest of Lords."
There was another cloud, yellow-green, smelling even more
horribly than the previous one had. It appeared right in front of
Cronos, who just about panicked and quickly used both his hands
to protect his vitals. He was once more reminded of how many
pores he had.
Before him, as the smoke lifted, appeared once more that vilest
of the Dark Lord's Minions. In its warty green hand it now held a
crumpled note, which it deftly rolled up and put into Warchild's
mouth, what with it hanging open conveniently anyway.
Within the few instances that Cronos laid eyes on the demon, he
could have sworn that it looked somehow different. Yes, indeed,
he could have sworn...sworn that it had a black eye.
With another puff of smoke, however, the demon swiftly
disappeared back to whatever dark retreat in the deepest hells it
had originated from.
Having ascertained that the demon had properly vanished, Cronos
relinquished the protective grip on his gonads and took from
his mouth the note. It tasted like burnt sulphur. He'd never
quite tasted that before but he was pretty sure that, if he'd
ever taste it, it would taste like this.
"Yon Batterye Pakke hath been Pilfered," Cronos read, "See thee
in Helle (Dont Bee Late)." There were some numbers on it, too,
that didn't make much sense at all.
"Turn it over," Trom said, "there's stuff on the back, too."
"Conseyled too Alle, Reveyled too Nonne, Lye Helles Infernalle
Gaytes," Cronos continued after flipping the note, "Heyr the
Deymons Calle from the Crymson Waterfalle...Where the Blod Weepes
from the Skye."
Warchild's face spelled thunder and lightning.
"Does that mean..." Trom said.
"Yes," Warchild cut the boy off. "Yes, Trom. It looks like your
training might be a bit more rigorous than expected. We're going
"You are going to hell, certainly," Trom retorted quickly, not
quite wishing to get into situations where his life would be
flashing before him, "there's no reason why I..."
Warchild showed Trom the note, pointing out one more short
sentence in somewhat smaller handwriting, apparently scribbled on
it as an afterthought.
"Bringe the Boye," Trom read. His heart sank, his knees went all
"Do you know of a waterfall around here?" Cronos asked, in
thought. He had to shake Trom up a bit; the boy was feeling too
sorry for himself to have heard the question. Instead, Trom was
whimpering about fire, dirt, sweat, heat, fear and functions of
"Come on," Cronos said, pocketing the note, "get your act
together! Do you know a waterfall here? On the grounds of the
In between the pathetic whimpering, there came out a barely
"Where?" Cronos insisted.
"To the south of the mansion," Trom said, breathing irregularly,
in the forest where my uncle usually does his hunting."
Cronos considered it apt to lose no more time. What with his
Mega Absorb Groin Protector being useless now, he felt much too
volatile, too exposed, for his own good. He felt like he was
walking around naked or something. He simply had to find the
Battery Pack again; the Protector had been manufactured on
Ambulor Eight and, similarly, the Battery Packs were only
available on that planet and selected of its moons.
"Come on," Cronos said, resolutely, pulling Trom by the arm in
the direction of Lord Anthony's hunting grounds.
It wasn't a big forest or anything, but they were practically
falling over pheasants and constantly running into startled deer.
Was Lord Anthony the kind of person to hunt with an M-60 or
"It's in that direction," Trom said, pointing to a particularly
dense bit of forest from behind which the sound of falling water
seemed to be coming. He was beginning to get a feel of elation.
Obviously, contact with nature did him good.
The patch was particularly dense indeed. Cronos had to try his
best to tear away branches and push aside deer that had gathered
to see what was happening. Until, suddenly, shoving aside a
natural curtain of leaves and ivy, they beheld the waterfall.
It was pretty huge, crashing down at least 60 feet into a
shallow lake with rocky sides. It indeed seemed to be the fabled
Crymson Waterfalle referred to on the note: The water was a deep
dark red and had a thicker quality, like blood. Curiously, all
that watery torrent did not blank out the sound of cries, now
distinguishable, that seemed to come from whatever lay beyond it.
"That waterfall wasn't red last time I looked," Trom shuddered.
He was getting ever more convinced that whatever it was they were
getting themselves into, it would be well over their heads.
Needless to say, he didn't like things one bit.
"Come," Cronos beckoned, stepping into the shallow lake towards
"I was afraid you might say that," Trom said. He stept in
It wasn't water, no si-ree. It was blood all right. It stuck to
their boots and soaked their trousers, feeling uncomfortably warm
as if from a vast source of the freshly dead.
"The cries," Warchild said, "you hear them?"
Trom nodded miserably. He'd been trying to ignore the soppy
sounds his boots made in the redness, to block out the wailing
cries that were indeed quite clearly audible.
"They come from behind the waterfall," Cronos affirmed, "Heyr
the Deymons Calle from the Crymson Waterfalle." He seemed alight
with zeal. Trom wasn't.
Cronos had always dreamt of this, standing knee-high in blood,
wading through soft entrails, things like that. This was almost
like mercenary's heaven as far as he was concerned. Had Trom
known Warchild's thoughts on the matter, he would surely have
begged to differ.
Warchild halted in front of the waterfall, of which the sound
was now close to deafening but still didn't block out the cries
and wails that came from beyond. He looked up at it, felt dwarfed
by it. The warmth radiating from the cateract of warm blood made
his skin glow. Trom, for his part, found he had to swallow rather
a lot. He was beginning to smell it too, now. Horrible.
Rather unexpectedly and unceremoniously, Cronos stepped through
the waterfall. Trom panicked. What to do now? Before he could
make up his mind to return to the mansion and face his uncle -
and another hundred of his scantily clad relatives, if need be -
Cronos' hand reached out to him from beyond the warmly red
curtain and pulled the boy through.
Trom uttered a terrified cry, which died on his lips when he
looked back and discovered that the waterfall in fact consisted
of water and, miraculously, both the crazy summabitch mercenary
annex hired gun and himself were completely dry. The demonic
sounds that had previously been impossible to ignore had vanished
similarly. What the hell was going on here?
"It must have been an enchanted waterfall or something," Trom
said, voice hushed, feeling himself now slowly filling with a
sense of adventure. He breathed in deeply, which was a bad idea.
He gagged as the centuries of collected debris and rotting animal
remains that had gathered behind the waterfall made his olfactory
"Yuck," Trom said, and he meant every word of it.
Cronos, apparently insensitive to the noxious fumes, had in the
mean time discovered a kind of cave. He signalled Trom to come
closer to help investigate. They probed the cave walls for signs
of a lever or a button, but failed to find them.
"We're close," Warchild said, frustrated, "we're close. Damn it,
I know we're close!"
Trom looked around as best he could, but continued to fail to
see anything other than rock and yet more rock. And rats, of
course, especially rats. Dead rats. They lay rotting there, god
knows for how long they'd been lying there. He prodded one with
his foot and got scared out of his wits when the creature sprang
up and legged it. It disappeared through a fairly small hole.
"Hey, there's a hole here," Trom pointed.
Cronos immediately investigated it. The rat had vanished
completely. Warchild probed the hole with his hand until he felt
something like a button. He pushed it.
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.