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The Ancestral Trail #7:

Zock, Cannibal Chief

Trapped in the Caves of Flesh-Eating Dwarfs


On the Seventh Day...

Captives bound, caged underground.
Release is found in length around.
A magic beam by evil seen.
Enemies will rise from below,
And dark waters carry the foe.
Prisoner's plight beyond the stern,
Now the slithering monsters turn.
A new deep opens 'ere the burn.

The three companions sit uncomfortably as the voices get closer and closer until a squat dwarf appears from the gloom, followed by a crowd of smaller dwarfs. The lead dwarf introduces himself as Zock, and claims Richard and his companions as his prisoners. Zock then uses Jaroot's dagger to cut the trio free from the stalagmite and orders the other dwarfs to take them to the brood-hall.

Their hand still tied, the trio is forced to march through a maze of intricate caverns while watching the dwarfs play with their weapons. As Zock leads his band deeper into the mountains, Richard asks his friends who these creatures are. Melek replies that they are his people, but now they're under the control of the Evil One and have become cannibals. He adds that the dwarfs are more than likely taking them to the pot.

After a while, the trio and their captors finally emerge into a vast, domed cavern. In the center of the cavern stands a magnificent totem pole adorned with faces of wicked glee and savagery. All around the cavern are giant cooking pots, and some of them are bubbling at full blast with lifeless limbs floating inside their sickening stews. Richard then recognizes the smell he detected earlier as freshly slaughtered meat, rank and salty.

The cannibals lead the three into a giant wooden cage, which is then hoisted into the air. They then watch as their weapons are placed on a nearby boulder before Zock leads his people out of the brood-hall. Orkan tries to break the cage, but the wood is too tough and the rawhide bonds are too strong. But despite the feeling of helplessness, Melek points out that at least the dwarfs didn't take the Book of Prophecies. The three read the ancient text in a hushed voice to see if it's any help.

The three ponder the meaning of the riddle for a moment before Richard notices Melek's rope hanging from the scribe's waist and excitedly points it out. Orkan states that they need their weapons, not a rope, but Richard exclaims that they can use the rope as a slipknot to haul their weapons in. Orkan jumps on the idea and takes the rope from Melek, quickly creating a simple slipknot. Melek then takes the rope back and, with his hands through the bars, throws the slipnot at their weapons. As if by magic, the knot lands perfectly on Orkan's sword hilt.

The rope tightens around the hilt as Melek pulls the weapon in, and when it reaches the cage Orkan grabs the weapon; however, Orkan also points out that they still need an escape plan. Richard then remembers the pod and quickly checks under his tunic; to his relief, Zock hadn't taken it or his bag. As he rumbles through his bag, to his surprise he finds his torch. A quick check of the batteries reveals it still works. An idea forms in Richard's mind of how they can escape, and he reveals it to his companions.

Meanwhile, Zock and his men are arguing about Richard and whether or not they should eat him. The other two are obviously creatures of this world, but Richard is odd, and eating him might bring bad luck. Zock finally decides to leave Richard for now and eat the other two now. With that decision, he leads his men back towards the cage in the brood-hall, the drums pounding furiously. He orders one of his men to bring Orkan and Melek down to him. One dwarf leaps onto the cage and opens the door before stepping inside and making a grab for Melek. Quick as a flash, Orkan raises his sword against the cannibal's throat while Richard uses tied the rope around his wrists.

Zock is taken aback for a moment, but quickly recovers his composure, pointing out that they can't pull that same trick twice. Then, as he orders his men to capture them, Richard shines his torch fully on Zock's face, causing the cannibal chief to drop Richard's weapon in surprise; to him, the light appears to be coming from Richard's hand. Shrieking that they're sorcerers, Zock and his men flee from the hall in terror.

Stunned at their plan worked, the trio quickly jump down from the cage and collect their weapons before running down a brightly lit tunnel. As they head further down the tunnel, they begin to hear the growing beating of drums once again, signalling Zock was coming after them. Richard is at a loss at what to do...when he senses Golan calling from inside. He leads his companions down a turn in the tunnel, where the air soon grows cool and fresh. Upon rounding a corner, they find themselves at the edge of a vast underground lake, and at the edge of the lake are a number of rafts and boats.

Despite the mention of monsters in the riddle, Richard still insists they use a boat because Zock was closing in. Orkan suggests that they untie or skuttle the remaining boats, but before Richard can do this, the sounds of drums and stomping feet are heard coming down the tunnel leading to the lake. The three companions and their prisoner leap into the boat and push off. Orkan mutters that they should've gotten rid of those boats, which prompts the prisoner to spit at Richard, saying bravely that Zock will catch them.

Richard and Melek put all of their strength into rowing across the lake, trying to put some distance between them and Zock, when the boat comes to a sudden stop in the middle of the lake. Orkan takes Richard's torch and looks into the water, but cannot see anything...until he notices something moving. Suddenly, a giant eel leaps out of the water, its snapping jaws barely missing Orkan's arm. The companions then see by the light of Richard's torch that a mass of squirming eels have surrounded their boat, preventing them from going any further.

Meanwhile, back across the lake, Zock and his men reach the boats and jump in, continuing their pursuit. Zock's private boat is illunimated on either end by skulls used as candleholders. As the cannibals row their way across the lake towards their prey, they cry out in triumph.

Zock in pursuit

Orkan responds by taking the dwarf prisoner, raising the cannibal above his head, and throwing him into the water. An instant later, the eels that surround the trio's boat head towards the thrown dwarf, clearing the way for Richard and his friends (just as the prophecy had said, Orkan notes). With the eels now feasting on the poor cannibal, the three begin rowing their way back across the lake, with Zock and his men now blocked by the eels.

The three reach the opposite edge of the lake and quickly get out of the boat. Seeing a tunnel leading off the lake, Richard leads his friends in that direction. They path appears to lead the group to their salvation...until it abrutly ends at a wide chasm with no path leading to the other side. Seemingly trapped, Richard groans as he hears Zock and his cannibals grow closer and closer...


Zock is the chief and leader of a race of dwarfs that have become cannibals under the Evil One's power. Very little is known about Zock except that he is cunning and ruthless. Because of his relatively large stature compared to most other dwarfs, as well as he commanding presence, Zock commands a lot of respect from his men, who follow him without question. However, Zock is also very superstitious; he and his people see the great totem pole inside their brood-hall as a carving worthy of respect, and salute it every time they pass it. It's also Zock's superstition that causes him to fear the mysterious light from Richard's hand.

The dwarf forces are an ancestral race composed of dwarfs in the Ancestral World. Melek is also a dwarf, and he gets to see firsthand what has happened to his people when he meets cannibal chief Zock. Zock's tribe is actually Melek's people under the spell of the Evil One, and the dwarf forces have resorted to cannibalism to survive in the fallen world that is their land. They have also resorted to superstition, worshiping an idol in the middle of their village.


In the seventh issue of The Ancestral Trail, the story again demonstrates the descructive power of the Evil One, only this time in another light. In the previous issue, the story showed the dying Green Man Wood; in this issue, they show a once-good race under the influence of the Evil One's power, i.e., Melek's own people, the dwarfs. There are very few things that the world can almost unanimously decry as morally wrong - cannibalism is one of those things. So for Melek's people to change into such creatures shows just how much the Evil One has corrupted the world.

The seventh issue also adds in something that should've been expected: modern technology in a fantasy world. When Richard used his torch on Zock, the cannibal chief was afraid and thought it was magic. Many books have been written about time-travelers or people from our time being whisked away to a fantasy world who use modern technology to wow and/or frighten the locals. Richar's usage of his torch not only helps him and his friends escape from Zock, but also allows a bit of a comedic moment that, while not laugh-out-loud funny, is slightly amusing.

Finally, it should be noted that this issue insert a bit of a continuity error that will pop-up in the next issue. When Orkan grabbed the cannibal in the cage, he used Melek's rope to tie him up. After this, there was no mention of him ever untying the rope from the dwarf's hands; for all we know, the rope was still attached to the dwarf's hands when he was thrown into the lake. However, the rope will show up later in the story...


Richard: "Do you know who they are?"'
Melek: "They are my people, but now they are under the control of the Evil One. I heard that they have become cannibals."
Orkan: "So why haven't they eaten us? Where are they taking us?"
Melek: "To the pot, I suppose."

Richard: "Let's take one [boat]."
Melek: "What about the monsters in the riddle? They could be out there!"
Richard: "That's right, but we don't have a choice. Zock will be upon us any minute."

Orkan: "We should've scuttled those boats. Zock can still chase us!"
Richard: "There was no time."
Cannibal: "Pah! You'll never get away. Zock will catch you."

Go to #8 - Enlil's Dungeon

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