“The Colossus of Ylourgne” (1934) is a novelette by Clark Ashton Smith set in his often used fantasy realm of Averoigne.
This one begins with the mysterious disappearances of newly-buried bodies from their graves. This continues to occur throughout the land, and soon people begin to encounter the corpses running full speed toward some mysterious destination.
Elsewhere, a group of monks in a secluded monastery notice strange lights and noises coming from the nearby, ancient ruins of Ylourgne at night. Once roving bands of the risen dead are seen flocking to its derelict walls, a few go to investigate. They discover the evil sorcerer Nathaire there using his diabolical powers to create something horrible and massive. Nathaire, reviled in all of Averoigne for being a sorcerer and ridiculed for being a dwarf, is dying and wants ultimate revenge on those who’ve wronged him.
When Gaspard, a young, former student of Nathaire, goes to try and suss out what’s going on in Ylourgne, he ends up captured and forced to not only figure a way out but also a way to defeat the 100′ tall, undead giant from destroying the realm.
I first heard of Averoigne playing Dungeons & Dragons in high school. My favorite adventure published by TSR was CASTLE AMBER, about a French mansion which appears in an unnatural mist. The castle is filled with bizarre magics as well as the members of the royal Amber family, driven insane by their long imprisonment in the cursed mansion. The adventure continues from the house into Smith’s realm of Averoigne. The cover art for the module is a fantastic rendition of the Colossus of Ylourgne. For years I’d meant to get around to reading the story that inspired it, and although I had it in the anthology ISSAC ASIMOV’S MAGICAL WORLDS OF FANTASY 5: GIANTS, I tended to struggle with Smith’s florid style of writing. Recently, I decide to go back and try again. This time I found it to be a unique, fantasy tale filled with horror and adventure. Strangely, my previous difficulties with his extravagant descriptions were no longer an issue, and I quite enjoyed the read.
Article by Matt Cowan