Penblade the bard last edited by
This is one possible introduction to a story I'm going to write. It's supposed to be written in the second person present, so if you catch any issues there I'd be grateful if you'd tell me. Any suggestions as to how to improve it in general would be appreciated as well.
The night is still and silent as you lie in bed. No voices call in the starlit dark. No figures scurry in the moon cast shadows. All is still in the great capital city, but as you sleep, you begin to dream, just as a light rumble of thunder chuckles over the distant horizon. You find yourself standing in the streets of the city; two and three story shops and houses of wood and stone rising on either side to give you only a limited view of the night sky. You begin to float forward, but not of your own free will. Rather, you seem to be still as the world sluggishly drifts beneath you, guiding you somewhere.
You float down the street, past alleys and byways lined with disused market stalls and crates long empty. The bustle and majesty of the city under the sun is merely an echo in this twilight kingdom. You wonder if this is truly a dream at all as you reach out and touch the wall of an inn, feeling the sandpapery texture under your fingertips as it glides away from you, or you from it, but you notice there are no animals in the streets as there should be. You look at your own hand and see nothing but a wispy, smoky shadow, forming and reforming as you drift toward your unknown destination. You look toward the sky and another roll of thunder sounds, this time louder and accompanied by a dim flash of light.
As the thunder recedes you suddenly find yourself in another part of the city; the market you think, though you can hardly believe it. No matter the hour, no matter the season, the market at least always had someone in it, even if that someone was just a drunkard sleeping off his ale. Tonight though, the large cobble plaza is utterly deserted as you fly along across the ground. Stands, barrels, and crates pass you by and you eventually turn your eyes from them to see what lies ahead. At the other side of the plaza, at the end of a broad, long boulevard, you see the shape of the royal palace rising high into the night sky, silhouetted against the rising moon. It looks like it will be a long trek to the imposing castle almost a mile away, but then a low roar builds in your ears and a jagged streak of lightning splits the sky above the castle in a flash of blue and white.
When your eyes readjust from the flash, you find yourself standing in the shadow of a massive drawbridge, the fifty foot bridge drawn up by its thick, steel chains to act as an impenetrable wall of wood, framed by an even taller and thicker wall of smooth stone. For a second you gape awkwardly at the sheer dwarfing scale of the palace’s battlements, then the hidden chains begin to slack and the drawbridge silently lowers, falling into the stone slot on the other side of the moat without so much as a whisper. Like a ghost you pass over the bridge and through the gates of the palace. Looking back to catch a final glimpse of the city you find the drawbridge still lifted vertically against the outer wall, as if it had never been lowered in the first place. Turning back to face the palace interior you see a large courtyard which you quickly cross to enter an ornate gate, leading to a large hall with doors and stairways covering the walls on either side. Lifted on a dais against the wall opposite the gate is a mighty throne of silver and oak, draped in exotic furs and facing the gate with a towering fireplace behind it with terraces to place wood on, creating a curtain of flame behind the royal seat. Now though, the throne was empty and the fires were cold, just like everything else in this lifeless dreamland.
You do not stay in the throne room for long. Almost immediately you take a sharp turn and begin heading down a trackless maze of increasingly narrow corridors and tight stairways. You continue on this path for a long time, giving up quite early on the idea of keeping track of where you are going. The only thing you are sure of is that you are heading down, but despite this there still seems to be moonlight coming from somewhere. The speed at which you navigate the labyrinth increases to a blur, until you rapidly come to a stop in the middle of a broad hallway. You look around, perplexed as to why you’ve stopped here of all places. A small alcove with a spattering of candles in it holds a tiny shrine to the god of the sea, but other than that there is nothing even remotely exceptional about the place. The candles aren’t even lit. Then, you once again hear the sound of thunder, but you do not move this time. Instead, even as you watch the shrine, the cemented spaces between the stone blocks constituting the wall the shrine is built into begin to glow, as if a bright light were trying to break through from the other side. As it turns out, this is exactly correct, as you hear the faint crackle of electricity and the wall begins to shake and vibrate. The entire hallway is soon quaking and your head whips around, looking at the chips of mortar and dusk falling from the ceiling. But it is the wall that draws the most attention, as it begins to dissolve and crumble before your eyes, revealing the source of the light behind it.
The first sound you hear in this surreal world besides the sound of thunder is the dull thud of stone blocks as they crumble out of the wall in a cloud of dust, utterly demolishing the shrine. When the dust clears the light has vanished, but what is revealed by the twenty foot square hole in the wall is no less awe inspiring. Behind the wall stands a majestic stone relief, cut into the living rock far below the castle, of two women facing a central pedestal, also carved out of the rock. They are unlike any women you have ever seen before though. The one on the left wears a heavy leather breastplate, scattered with metal studs, while only a metal circlet adorns her head. Metal plates protect her shoulders, and leather pants cover her legs. Heavy boots with metal plate covering them shield her feet, and it seems unusual to you, but blacksmith’s gloves cover her hands. Despite her warrior’s appearance, her face seems to be cool and calm, almost motherly, and certainly out of place on this fierce warrior. Even in her fearsome armor, the woman on the left is still, in your opinion, the most beautiful creature you’ve ever seen. Her beauty is surpassed by that of her companion on the right however. Wearing a long, delicate robe that accentuates her feminine curves, she is a head taller than the woman on the left, and seems to be wearing only the robe and a gold circlet on her long hair, flowing down the side of her face until it is indistinguishable from the flowing robes. Her face is hard and stern, like that of a soldier, and it seems like the faces of the two women should have been switched.
Thick, ancient beeswax candles sit in miniscule alcoves sporadically placed around the pair, dripping trails of wax sometimes several feet long. Unlike all the other lights you’ve encountered, these candles are lit and emanate a constant, flickering light. You think you can faintly hear the sound of burning wood echoing off cave walls, but the visages of the two women hold all your attention now, because in the air around the warrior woman, dense black clouds are swirling, bulging at random to emit a low rumble, while the relief of the royal woman has bolts of thin, blue lightning spider-webbing across her, changing every second as lines of the web disappear and reappear somewhere else. It is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, but you know right away what it is. It’s an altar; an ancient, pagan shrine; buried beneath the foundations of the royal palace. You’ve heard of such places, but only from books. You tear your eyes away from the imposing women and look again at the central pedestal, remembering from what you’ve read that there is supposed to be an artifact or area to perform sacrifices at the center of the shrine. You see two stone chips with V shaped notches cut into them set into the stone at either end of the oblong pedestal, but other than that, it’s empty.
It was not always like this.
You jump and stare in wonder as the clouds surrounding the warrior woman rumble ominously, shaking the ground beneath you and swirling the clouds violently, again a contrast though in that her voice sounds just as motherly as her face suggests.
There was once a time when our shrine was not forgotten and decaying.
The electricity permeating the relief of the queen intensified, zapping the stone walls rapidly and at random.
Not so long ago, mortals like you paid homage at our shrine, and we blessed them in turn.
But then men forgot us, as the years passed from one to the next, and one age became another.
Awwww, but the mortal wonders, “why am I being told this?” Shall we tell, sister?
The time is not right Marisha. We mustn’t reveal it too soon. They would not understand, even if we did.
Hmmm, you are correct Tarisha. They are scared and confused already… Perhaps... Deign?
A wise suggestion. Their stories are so much the same; it would be well to tell of Deign.
Indeed it would. Hear now, mortal. Rest yourself at our feet, and may the wisdom of our tale guide you to understanding.
The story of Deign, one of few mortals we would truthfully call “friend,” began an age and many years ago, in the dungeons of this very palace, on a night, that should never have been forgotten…