Greetings RPG-fans! Winter is here and where I live, we’ve seen the sun for the last time in two months. As the wind begins to howl and wolves stalk at the edge of the campfire’s light, nothing warms my bones like a good story.
Those of you who follow the devlog know I enjoy writing short fiction for the Skald universe. It’s a great way for me to flex some creative muscles and it also helps me take a break from coding and just immerse myself in world-building.
I consider my writing Skald canon BUT with the caveat that the canon is still flexible since we’re still early in the process. However, though details may change, more importantly I hope the stories manage to convey the feel and mood of the setting.
“The Silver-Dancer” will be dropping in three parts over the next three weeks so stay posted! Dig in, and if you like it, be sure to check out the “Skald: Against the Black Priory” prologue on Steam!
Ozone. Metal. Incense – The air was heavy with it.
With the unassuming gait that only much training can confer on those who are nothing but unassuming, the HISTORIAN crossed the threshold into the half-darkness of the strange chamber. The walls had an odd metallic sheen and rose to a domed roof somewhere high in the darkness above. There were odd curves where the floor gave way to walls and the rounded angles of the corners gave the chamber an odd, dizzying quality. It was difficult to guess at it’s true size: It felt cramped yet massive at the same time.
In the center of the chamber stood a raised dais and atop it, a massive, lidless sarcophagus. The HISTORIAN squinted in the half-darkness as he examined it: Tens of thousands of minute runes decorated its surface. Each carved with such precision that he doubted it was work of human hands. He shuddered internally.
At the base of the dais stood his host: A frail-looking hunched figure clad in rich silken robes. The HISTORIAN detested the Court of Auspices. A magus of Auspice would always provide an answer, he mused, even when it had to be ‘conjured’ into existence. A detestable praxis.
They were decadent mystics. At best.
That was not to say they were without their use. One simply needed to sift through the pomp and ritual and he did need the intelligence. It was, in fact, vital. Not to mention, he was also curious: Very few were allowed to observe the Magi of Auspice perform their rituals. He had been required to remind the magus of his office and even then, the wretch had been reluctant. But who was he to deny him? Who was anyone to deny him?
A gong rang in the darkness.
Mute, white-clad servants filed past the HISTORIAN carrying flasks and amphorae. Ascending to the sarcophagus, one of them began stirring its oily content as the others gently emptied their vessels. Scented fumes of strange and exotic concoctions filled the chamber and the HISTORIAN suppressed an urge to cover his nose with his robe. Or was it perhaps against the obvious mysticism of the ritual?
Suddenly, and as one, the servants ceased their milling alchemical rite and withdrew from the edge of the fluid-filled sarcophagus. The ancient magus began his slow ascent up the dais on trembling legs. As he stood before the sarcophagus, he stopped and let the silk robes fall from his body. A silent servant was there to catch the garment whilst another placed an eyeless mask of black satin on the magus’ forehead. It all looked like some well-choreographed dance.
The HISTORIAN winced imperceptibly: The naked form of the man that stood before the sarcophagus was broken in a way he had rarely, if ever, seen before. It shook him.
All magi paid a terrible price for their power and though they took great care to hide the ways in which it marred them, it could not be stopped. How long, he wondered, would he be able to stave off its corruption?
Two more servants silently came to the aid of the broken man, gaze averted, as he mounted the rim of the sarcophagus and then slowly lay down in the thick, viscous fluid. For the second time, the gong sounded. The HISTORIAN started ever so slightly and for a man who had spent so much of his life trying to perfect the art of appearing unfathomable this was no small feat. Slipping into a very light combat-meditation, he perceived a very slight raising of his heart-beat and an unmistakable rush of blood in his ears. Why? Was there danger? And why did it feel like the magos was stalling for time?
The heavy doors swung silently open and a new group of servants filed into the room: Six men and women, dressed in dark, ragged robes with shaved skulls and disturbing all-white eyes. Their faces were dull and their gait shuffling. Yet there was something about them: The markings! These were magi! Or rather, the HISTORIAN realized, these HAD been magi. There were rumors. Rumors that not all candidates who joined the Court of Auspice survived their initiation with their minds intact.
The grim troupe shuffled blindly up the stairs, groping before themselves until they found the sarcophagus. Moaning wordlessly, they turned around and sank heavily to the floor until all six were seated on the cold stone dais, backs facing the metallic sarcophagus. Their heads tilted back towards the rune-covered surface and thus they sat absolutely motionless.
The HISTORIAN stood transfixed as all was utter silence in the darkened chamber. When the gong sounded for the third time, he instinctively began the internal chanting that induced the deeper combat meditation. The “dance” was about to begin and he had asked much of the old magos. Perhaps too much?
To be continued…
That’s all for now. Check in next week for part two.