Forums » The Keepings of Castigue

Third Letter - "A Night of Five Voices, Part 3"

    • 172 posts
    January 4, 2015 8:42 PM PST

    A Night of Five Voices, Part 3

     

    Despite the torch (or because of it) I kept close to Khazas inside the cave, realizing quickly that the light was for me, as he seemed to have no need for it. For the first time in our journey I heard the scrape of armor beneath his outer coat and my throat tightened. The whole place seemed narrow, even for a human - how the large god-King maneuvered was a testament to his dexterity. Every step was either frozen or wet. The passages were given to a constant inhalation of breezes, piped in from unseen cracks in the mountain crust. I assured myself this was the reason for the often unsettling noises coming up through the myriad of dark passages and tunnels we passed by.

    Khazas’ pace felt like a leash around my waist. He could speak and climb without strain to his voice.

    “You carry this reputed document with you now, I assume? Tragic to have come all this way just for our health.”

    I must have held silent in surprise a bit too long, for Khazas’ voice softened. “Narian, if you have spoken to a single good Dwarf, you have spoken to me.”

    “I do, sir.” My reply was comparably labored.

    Yes, Kaolyen, from the time I received your “precise” copy of the accord, I had spent most of every day with it tied around my body, scrolled up in the crook of my back, the twine cinched just below my chest - even as I slept. It was still nestled this way against my spine as we worked through the tunnel, and Khazas inquired no further.

    And so our journey went. The terrain rarely helpful, but almost never a hindrance. The passage wound, jutted, reversed upon itself and ceased entirely at times. But in those dead ends some intrepid explorer had carved out and buttressed an opening, seemingly ages before our ascent.

    “You know your way well,” I commented. “It would fatigue my mind to recall anything in this place.”

    “I know the way because I do not rely on my mind,” he replied.

    I permitted silence resume. Though I could not know it, the travel was nearly complete.

    Our arrival at the summit was sudden. The thick walls rolled back and our perspective widened immediately. Winds curled like waves beneath a deep ocean squall, whistling and thrumming from beyond our sight.

    The elevation was imperceptible in the snow gusts, but I could feel the height. Before us was a limitless black which was too dense for the torch to pierce. Though in the moments when the winds ebbed, the moonlight cast over the outline of a ruined structure, something like an abandoned altar. Pillars cracked and toppled, the dead holy elements bearing a crosshatch of deep scars.

    Out from this blinding tempest of wind, snow and torchlight, we were hailed before I could see any sight of what greeted us. 

    “What draws the Mountain Shaper up to my meager roost -- alone?”

    The sound of the voice still resonates in my mind, alive and clear. Like claws over smooth stones, its words dragged into my ear, clicking melodically. Yet they settled like a cart full of ash, dumped all at once and creating their own wake. The cavern roof behind us amplified its speech and I felt surrounded by the invisible giant, keeping itself hidden behind the cloak of night and snow. Though in moments I could see an ethereal glow of blue-green flash as lightning inside a thunderhead.

    “Was the fire sprite not bold enough to join you? Piteous. Or surely a few Dwarves would have relished the chance to journey with their Father, bringing home tales to pass down through their lines? Unless… you needed to keep this from them, O King?”

    If Khazas was amused in the slightest, he suffocated it. “Perhaps you ought step into the light, for you have miscounted the number before you.”

    This triggered the beast to good effect. Two swirls of wind opened suddenly before us, parting the snows like curtains and knocking me to the ground. And through the open veil, the Dragon Tel'Nharssis walked toward us, down the steps of the dilapidated altar.

    “I have missed nothing, Khazas." Tel'Nharssis covered his displeasure. "Expound upon your purpose, or depart.”

    I dare say he paraded before us, a mix of indifference and display. The ground barely recoiled as he moved, each thick leg fully supported by the fingers of the claw. Elegant and dreadful. The whitish lower hide bore an inverted crown of spines, which made the fluidity of his body control organically majestic. His upper skin melded into ash grays and near blacks. In the moon-mixed torchlight, it gleamed as though once polished, or liquid thawed and then frozen again.

    His wings bent up at an angle when closed, in a way I've only seen in the great swans that gather inside the inner courtyard of Thronefast's Honor Gardens. When open, these flying arms seemed oversized. Long and thin, but otherwise beyond compare, for I have never seen another created feature like the wings of a Dragon.

    In his neck was the mesmerizing blue-green light, pulsing softly with his voice. Along his throat the spines grew in size and keenness. They appeared to be made of clouded, pure ice, and I assume the beast sharpened them himself, for they looked more like the blades of a dagger than spikes on a serpent. These also ran along his backbone and disappeared behind the crest of his skull, lessening in number but growing in size. I counted eight or nine, a few with tips broken off. They stood like upright icicles, wide and angled back, giving Tel’Nharssis a natural sleekness. This recalled the image upon the Archai door, and I thought it admirably accurate yet incomparable to the reality.

    His nose was not long, but bore a fitting like a shield upon the tip that was rough and iridescent. The salivary expulsions from his nostrils and mouth crusted or froze, I could not tell in the dimness.

    As Tel’Nharssis dropped his body and laid down, he let the mountain tremble beneath his weight, signaling disregard and his posture echoed of boredom. In kind, Khazas sat against a hulking boulder as though it were a common chair.

    “We have use of your language,” the god-King began. “Rather, one of them in particular.”

    Tel’Nharssis did not even look at us. “Go on,” he managed.

    Khazas nodded at me with his eyes while I shook my head far too vigorously in acknowledgement.

    “We are confounded by the Dragon tongue Drak’Elrin, good sir, er -- good Dragon, sir.” I fear my head was still nodding. “We desperately seek your counsel for guidance and illumination.” Quiet moments passed and I felt my nerve holding like the breath in my lungs.

    “What am I asked to do?” I thought the Dragon almost confused, yet he continued otherwise. “To unwrap the majesty of Drak’Elrin -- for this one?” His laughter rang through my bones. “To mine the depth of Rok’Tsuntyensire’s first reign? Unfurl Rok’Mydrozphael’s twisted impartation or expound upon Syn’Vhaerulythe’s fanatical opus -- like a common school teacher before a class of children?” His cackle bellowed around us.

    I withered before his amusement. Yet however unwise, I felt a burn to reply:

    “I am no child, Tel’Nharssis. I am Narian Castigue, a respected Human historian of majestic Thronefast, Avendyr’s Seat, the Seat that governs all of King’s Reach. I have a manuscript which speaks of the great Dragon King, Rok’Nhilthamos. It is to this end we had hope that—”

    At this the beast stirred. His tail swing over our heads as his feet stamped upon the ruins and his claws dug deeply into the ice. His lungs drunk in air and heated it, thrusting back out instantly in short, dry puffs. So strong were these gusts they caught the cold atmosphere and formed man-sized whirlwinds that flashed forward and quickly dissipated.

    “This thing around my feet discourages me of you, Khazas. It causes me reflection upon the inconvenience of our pact and reminds me of my impatient stomach.”

    Khazas remained in place. He had not moved once from the boulder. “You have not heard the substance of his request, Dragon.” The Dragon was disquieted, beginning to pace with rage frothing in his throat.

    “I will tolerate one more assent, Khazas. See that you regard the arrogance of this Human, or any creature or being that would beg for insight into the transcendence of Dragonkind!” His voice melded with fierce winds and pushed me back in my stance. The light of blue frost in his neck kindled in flickers.

    As I have since recalled this moment, running it through my heart and mind, I am convinced  that had I been alone I would have fled, or tried to flee. Yet Khazas looked upon me as he did at the foot of the cavern, and in some small corner of my heart I felt safe. Thus I swallowed dryly and explained…

    “The parchment we have - or, I have - appears to be a copy of an ancient agreement. We have been calling it ‘The Dragon Accord’ and believe it to explain something of why our peoples have come to inhabit Terminus…”

    My words did trail off, for during my speech Tel’Nharssis had utterly transformed before us. It was all happening within his eyes, which for the very first time regarded my own, squinting in the whips of wind and torchlight. The Dragon suddenly appeared so singularly... regal. And at once I became aware of just how old this planet is, that even the legendary god-King beside me was preceded by Dragonkind.

    “Tell me of this Accord, dear Human.”

    Here the fog deepened and in a moment I felt Tel’Nharssis’ wing dip between Khazas and I, slipping me slowly away from the Dwarf King. It was effortless and by design. Tel’Nharssis’ tone lessened, lifted, warmed and began again before I responded.

    “My, but you have come a long way...surely this incessant cold is wearing you thin. Perhaps I should tender you a fire, for how can two creatures discuss anything of true importance when so much is required of one.” Calmly he blew over a large bowl that had been hidden beneath the snow. Whatever element therein caught instantly. The flame was blue and not too hot. The Dragon drew his tail under his jaw like a scarf and rested it down quite literally at my level. Were it not for his overly hospitable tone, I should have screamed.

    “Now, brave Narian. Have you this document, fully intact? I should like to give it my rapt attention and read it for myself.”

    Before I could hint at a response, an enormous hammer fell before my face, severing the cordial air between Tel’Nharssus and myself.

    “We are finished here, Narian,” Khazas rumbled.

    In what I can only describe as a moment of black, primal terror, I watched as the Dragon leapt up on its hind legs, unfurling its wings with a deep, shrieking roar.

    “No one decides for me, Dwarf!”

    Khazas threw me to the side, sliding me into the cave hole we had first exited from. Despite the Dragon’s raging, his posture was tranquil, alarmingly so if not for his own size and presence.

    “There is no supposition upon your sovereignty, Tel’Nharssis,” Khazas spun the massive hammer in his hands with a short, blurred twist before bringing it up to rest against his shoulder. “Nor should there be upon mine.”

    The crouched Dragon fused his eyes upon the Dwarven King, constraining his breath to violent bursts. “You entreat me with ploys of insignificance, doubting my discernment. This night has been a predictable Dwarven snare.”

    “That is not the truth,” Khazas offered.

    “The truth is as I see it.” Tel’Nharssis’ eye flashed on me and held my gaze. “And so shall it be in the eyes of every last Dragon upon this planet. Every Ender, Protector, Watcher, Devourer and even the Reignborn themselves shall cover the sky and ground like the all-consuming breath of the Dragon King. When word goes forth that an inquisitive, ignorant human has his wretched fingers clutched around even a copy of Rok’Nhilthamos’ signet-tongue, the empire of his people will be turned to ash and bone to retrieve it.” 

    His tongue sloshed in thick, dripping saliva within the carriage of his teeth as his eyes returned to Khazas. “And thus shall it be visited upon every race who availed him in this ignominious pursuit.”

    I confess this tirade reduced me to quivering and I knelt against the passage wall in ardent supplication. With closed eyes I merely waited for either of these great beings to loose the first strike. Yet the contrary came swiftly.

    “Oh? You shall raise alarm amongst the Dragons?” Khazas’ ease remained invincible. “Tell me, Tel’Nharssis, have you regained your place among them?” At this riposte, the beast winced and something inside him heeled, briefly.

    “And further I wonder if they will perceive the quality of your intentions this night as favorably as we have.”

    Whatever knowledge Khazas spoke from, the effect of these words wore heavily on the Dragon. Tel’Nharssis said nothing for a time. Then with a sudden heaviness, drew back up the frosted steps of his disrepaired dwelling.

    “Depart, Dwarf. While I still harbor restraint.”

    Khazas lowered his head slightly to acknowledge. He slid back the hammer to its hold, and pulled his cloak back over the crown of his head. In a moment it all seemed to be finished.

    Yet in one last outreach of reconciliation, Khazas turned. “It was never my intention to address you so, Tel’Nharssis. I shall not boast of it.”

    Fury woke again, manifesting in a terrifying blaze from the mouth of the serpent. “Enough!” he roared. In turn we committed ourselves to a swift journey back down the stone passage, and the Dragon’s final words chased after us.

    “Never again will I permit your miserable kind to trespass my lands, Dwarf. May the coming plague swallow you whole!”

    I ran at dangerous speed down the caves, but never hesitated. Soon we found ourselves at the foot of the cliffs, once more in sight of the night and snow. I burst through the doorway, gasping for breath though my lungs burned from the cold.

    Then I saw blood everywhere - pools of old blood and one fresh river flowing to me, but the stench was vile and unlike the sticky, metallic scent of a slaughterhouse. I looked up aghast and saw Rel-Cirin, his face to the cliffs with the obsidian sword on his shoulder, dripping wet.

    He was silent until Khazas exited, then cleaned and sheathed his weapon, confessing, “We have no more time.”

    As I stood I saw the bodies. Three of them, split open in various ways and one severed cleanly in half. These creatures looked human, but yet strangely withered. Like all water had been drained out of their corpse. Their armor was light, weapons heinous yet sleek. Their arms and legs bore wrappings of wet cloth.

    Disregarding the dead entirely, Khazas was looking to the cliffs as he strode past me.

    “The Ill Watcher,” he whispered.

    Standing before the wide disk of the moon was a silhouette.  Even high upon the cliffs, he appeared a menacing version of these assailants at our feet. Yet about him emanated a  distortion, like that of extreme heat. It made the moon itself seem to shake. His arms were folded and he stared down at us, unflinching.

    In his face burned two eyes of green flame, but with a hue tainted – indeed giving the color of a pale, ill appearance. He spoke a word that started like a whisper, but ended in a scream –

    “Soon.”

    After a few seconds of observation, he turned away and disappeared over the cliffs. The moon regained its composure.

    “He is prodding,” Rel-Cirin commented, just then letting his gaze slip back down to us. “They are not ready for war. Not yet.”

    “No,” Khazas replied. “But neither, I fear, are we.”

    At this we departed, out from under the shadow of the watching eyes in the cliffs. Back to the snows, the boat and Khadassa. Of that journey I have informed no one but you, Kaolyen. And of Khazas I permit myself to give but only the most discreet, knowing glances -- though he has not been seen in Khadassa for nearly a week, as I’m told.

    What these events mean for our quest I am not certain. Though, I am all the more convinced it is vital in every regard and commit to you its continued safekeeping.

     

    Be warned and encouraged, friend.

     

    Narian

     

    ----


    This post was edited by Joppa at December 13, 2016 11:13 AM PST
    • Moderator
    • 6168 posts
    January 4, 2015 9:48 PM PST

    I get lost in time reading these, they're awesome, great job Joppa, Istuulamae and team :)

     

    Edit: Spelling


    This post was edited by Kilsin at January 5, 2015 11:35 AM PST
    • 212 posts
    January 4, 2015 9:58 PM PST
    Thanks man. That really means a lot.
    • Moderator
    • 6168 posts
    January 4, 2015 10:05 PM PST
    Istuulamae said:
    Thanks man. That really means a lot.

    It is well deserved mate :)

    I really love the way that the lore is taking shape and I cannot wait to hear more!

    • 87 posts
    January 5, 2015 4:39 AM PST
    Thanks Joppa !
    • 785 posts
    January 5, 2015 6:42 AM PST

    Great read here as usual.  Keep up the hard work Joppa/Istuulamae and team.


    This post was edited by Raidan at February 24, 2015 8:17 AM PST
    • 500 posts
    January 5, 2015 11:36 AM PST

    Good Stuff Joppa ! Rock On ! 

    • 223 posts
    January 5, 2015 5:55 PM PST

    The writing has a nice flow of and cadence about it.  The subject is very intriguing and interesting.  If this lore continues to improve like this, this will be a detailed world.

    ps-Oh yes, I like the vague descriptions of the Myrfolk that you have in the story.  It would make sense that if/when they die not only do they lose blood but they would also lose water/elasticity of the skin :)


    This post was edited by Sogotp at January 21, 2015 6:26 PM PST
    • 171 posts
    January 5, 2015 7:18 PM PST
    Sogotp said:

    The writing has a nice flow of and cadence about it.  The subject is very intriguing and interesting.  If this lore continues to improve like this, this will be a detailed world.

    ps-Oh yes, I like the vague descriptions of the Myrfolk that you have in the story.  It would make sense that if/when they die not only do they lose blood but they would also lose water/elasticity of the skin :)

    ohhh Good guess on the Myrfolk! I was trying to figure out what those things could be. I was thinking maybe there were more as yet unannounced races or something... Im slow lol

    • 172 posts
    January 5, 2015 7:30 PM PST
    Good guess, but these adversaries are not the Dark Myr ;)
    • 24 posts
    January 11, 2015 12:33 AM PST

    Really enjoying this series, very engaging :) Please make quests and story lines in game, resonate that same immersion. I mean I like hack and slash, but I want to feel the need to hack and slash. Reasoning and mortal enemies etc derived out of lore go along way toward long term interest in a game, something modern MMO's are missing or confining to solo storylines. I would love to see world lore played out through the legendary quests of old, including raid story quests. Also locational lore quests, say a dungeon or castle would have its own lore and quests through it. The quests need to bring the world and different areas to life, like never before :)

    Keep up the great work :)

    • 172 posts
    January 11, 2015 5:45 AM PST
    Great post Haelm! We absolutely have the same convictions and goals in mind!
    • 212 posts
    January 11, 2015 11:41 AM PST
    Expect no less, Haelm.
    • 357 posts
    January 21, 2015 6:22 PM PST

    Very nice work Istuulamae/Joppa. I would  take a guess on the attackers that where killed (undead maybe) but I could be wrong. Might be a Necro on the cliff. It reads like a book can't wait for more and I also can't believe I missed this post!! I'm ready to join put me in Captn.

    • 252 posts
    January 23, 2015 7:28 AM PST

    The style has an interesting flavor and it seems to blend in in the world to come.

    In EQ there was also a kind of "storyline" but it never felt as part of the lore and to be world defining. That's why few if any read it.

     

    I like it when the lore is so solid that it extends on the races/classes very existence and cultures and even makes some/most quests looking natural.

    There is nothing more powerful than feeling the connection between Lore and what a player really lives in a game.

    If somebody played/plays Dragon Age he knows what I mean.

    • 828 posts
    March 17, 2016 9:24 AM PDT

    I relly enjoyed this. 

    Deadshade posted: In EQ there was also a kind of "storyline" but it never felt as part of the lore and to be world defining. That's why few if any read it.

    I think you are absolutely correct. here. I can think of a few games that strayed away from the Lore in attempts to create new content and in turn have push the storyline to the side. The storyline should always be present in the form of quests and or the world itself. LotrO tried to make this work but things got muddy. Here again they the Tolkien series gave them a great blueprint to work from.

    WoW tried at first and now there are pandas…I won’t say anymore there. I also felt in EQ I Was not part of the Lore or story but did my best to follow when playing.

    I think it will help with emersion if they follow this model and the Lore created for Pantheon. Fingers are crossed and its looking good so far.

    Ox

    • 194 posts
    March 18, 2016 3:35 PM PDT

    @Joppa...... This was by far my most favorite read of all the lore and writings. This had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. Cant wait for more.

    Pyde Pyper

    • 428 posts
    July 9, 2016 9:21 PM PDT

    Reading the lore for the races got me into this game, and this proves to me again how much I love this writer. Great stuff!

     

    -Todd

    • 119 posts
    February 23, 2017 8:57 PM PST

    I've been wondering: Will there ever be more revealed of this tale, or is this all we'll ever know about these characters?

    Considering this event happened 400 years (ish) in the past before the game starts, it's all "ancient" history, but I loved all the parts of it and have been wondering if there will be more released, or if the continuation of this story (if there is one) will be in-game..?

    • 1917 posts
    February 24, 2017 3:15 AM PST

    Renathras said:

    I've been wondering: Will there ever be more revealed of this tale, or is this all we'll ever know about these characters?

    Considering this event happened 400 years (ish) in the past before the game starts, it's all "ancient" history, but I loved all the parts of it and have been wondering if there will be more released, or if the continuation of this story (if there is one) will be in-game..?

    I'm sure they'd have no reason to write and release a story if it wasn't going to be a part of the game somehow. That is the whole point of it after all :P These are like teasers and then you have to go digging in game to find the rest. It seems like they've successfully roped you in lol.

    • 947 posts
    March 20, 2017 3:03 PM PDT

    Another gem that I didn't even realize was sitting here.  Great job team VR!

    • 447 posts
    April 19, 2017 11:35 AM PDT

    Very nice writing here I simply couldn't take my eyes off of it, if i had to guess what the creatures were at the end I'd have to see it was the Skar though.