One week till we’re dropping the curtain on who our newest, amazing party-member is! I’m psyched to be able to talk openly about it and show off some of the fantastic stuff we’re working on! Believe me when I say, 2022 will be the year of Skald!
Just make sure you watch this blog and my Twitter account on December 15th!
But before then, and by popular demand, here is the epic conclusion to the three-piece Skald short-story “The Silve Dancer”!
If you haven’t yet, I strongly recommend you read Part 1 and Part 2 before you dig into the conclusion of the HISTORIAN’s ill-fated dealings with the Court of Auspice.
In the darkness of the resonance-chamber a change had come over the group of blind wretches that sat by the sarcophagus as soon as the magos had gone under. Their moaning had ceased and they were now whispering instead. At first, it sounded like nonsense to the HISTORIAN, but the strange whispers would occasionally converge and overlap on certain words:
“I see it… Shimmering… Looming ing ing…”
The wretches had once been men and women with an aptitude for auspices and, though their minds were gone, no doubt a certain sensitivity persisted: Now they were channeling their master’s voice.
“Hard hard hard to see, see… Dangerous to get closer oser oser…“
“You’ll get me what I came for, soothsayer!” the HISTORIAN boomed as he mounted the first step leading up the dais. The wretches moaned as they covered their ears.
“If you don’t, by the Golden Dead, I’ll drown you myself!”
“…drown you myself!” rang out around the magos. The words sounded as if carried by water. He hesitated a moment but there was no way around it. He needed to finish what he had started or he would never be free of his tormentor. With the ease and grace of a sparrow, he weaved through the groping tendrils of sickly light as he scanned for a color-pool: The tell-tale discoloration where the silver-scape and flesh-world almost touched. Like peeking through a lense of smoky glass, the flesh-world could be viewed through a color pool by someone with the proper training. The members of the Court of Auspice had perfected this art millennia ago.
There! He spotted the color-pool close to the luminous center of the glow. But there had been something else as well hadn’t there? The shadow in the corner of his eye? No. He had to focus. Even for him this would be a difficult projection, for the Reticular turbulence was rising and he still wanted to avoid touching the actual glow itself.
It took much more effort than he had anticipated but he made it. Here, so close to the source of the glow, it’s presence was palpable! Like a flesh-body orbiting a great sun. Whatever was causing this in the flesh-world had a power like nothing he had experienced before.
Even though it was modulated through the wretch-chorus, the voice sounded strained and oddly mechanical.
“Islands, islands… Mountainous. Raging seas… The Outer Isles, isles, isles!”
The HISTORIAN’s breath quickened. The decrepit old fools had their use after all!
“Think I see the source ource ource…”
A moment passed as the wretch-choirs babbling rose excitedly without offering any coherent words. Then:
“There is a structure ucture ucture! Black. Imperial make. First age I think ink ink.”
The babbling intensified.
“Wait… ait ait! I’m not alone lone lone!”
The last words came through with a sense of urgency. Then a loud bang as the great doors to the resonance chamber were flung open! The HISTORIAN whirled to face who he immediately recognized as the High Master of the Court of Auspice.
The ancient magos had long lost any natural use of his limbs and his shrivelled corpse of a body was suspended in a fluid-filled container that glowed internally with a sickly light. A dozen servants trailed behind, dragging grotesque cords and tubing that hung after the container like spilled viscera. Two rows of six silver-armored knights flanked the procession with their great two-handed swords. Magi-killers. The HISTORIAN shifted his stance imperceptibly and stilled his breath as the eyes of the ancient husk fixed on him through the glass container.
The tramp of the knight’s heavy boots died down, and an eerie silence filled the chamber. Even the wretch-choir produced only the faintest whimpering. The HISTORIAN moved backwards up the stairs of the dais another step. Under normal circumstances, the Master of Auspice would be mad to attempt to lay hands on him. Then again, he had come of his own free will to the heart of the spider’s web.
Without warning, the voice of the High Master boomed through the chamber. Though the blood-red eyes bored into the HISTORIAN, no movement of the corpse-like figure indicated that the voice was produced by any normal vocal organ. Instead it sounded metallic and hard and seemed to come from all around at once:“You have no right! The magi of this Court are mine and mine alone to command!”
The HISTORIAN smiled wryly:
“That may be, but you on the other hand is for the Princeps’ to command. Are you not?”
“INSOLENT!” the voice boomed again. “The Court of Shadow may hold itself above the other courts but you would be wise to know your place nonetheless! We see you. For all your subterfuge, we have always seen you. The Helix projects? The polar expeditions? The black camps?”
The last words dripped like poison. The HISTORIAN had underestimated the Court of Auspice. They knew more than they should. More than even their scrying should allow. How? Sprawling analysis-webs spread out before the HISTORIAN’s inner eye as the full ramifications began to reveal themselves.
The Master of Auspice delighted in the fact that he had managed to shake the envoy of the Shadow Court. They had overstepped and now he would pay the price. A metallic laugh filled the room and almost drowned out the rising screams of the wretch-choir!
Abruptly, one of the knights took a half step backwards as he raised his greatsword. The HISTORIAN was ready and drew in reticular energy so fast it felt like he was going to red-out. Luminous particles materialized around him and currents arced from his fingertips as he rose ever so slightly into the air. The other knights fanned out in front of their Master and somewhere inside a helmet, a man cried in terror. A reflection on the face of the glass coffin was all the warning the HISTORIAN needed.
He spun, mid air, as he drew in more energy still. Behind him, on the dais, the fluid in the sarcophagus churned and spilled as something massive shifted. Rending space itself, something was forcing itself into being. As a great horrible mass of half-flesh rose, a myriad of eyes formed and died in an instance. All were grotesque simulacra of the eyes of the man that had gone into that sarcophagus mere minutes before. With an otherworldly cry, the massive abomination launched off the dais in a mass of churning tentacles and fangs. Men screamed and the Master of Auspices’ eyes widened in terror. Where the HISTORIAN had stood mere moments before, nothing remained but a haze of glowing particles.
The doors of the resonance-chamber slammed shut with a loud bang leaving those inside to their horrific fate.
The HISTORIAN panted as he wiped the blood from his nose. Though the cost had been great, the shadow-shift had saved his life. It had borne him no longer than just outside the doors of the chamber, but that was all he needed. In a final effort that nearly caused him to collapse, he had welded the doors together with his bare hands. He did not know how long it would hold, but he could not linger: He was already nearly spent and the hour was much, much later than he had hoped.
That’s all for now – see you on the 15th!
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