Secrets In Silver – Introduction

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    (I am hoping to make this the start of an ongoing storyline with which many of us, if not all of us, can tinker, add our characters’ experiences and input, and begin to form a storyline to explore for the whole server. The introduction advances a plot for Gryttr, and allows him to bring home something curious…)
    The dark stone was baked hot, worn, weathered by untold years, and even to hands as his, callused as the were, and as familiar with the textures and grains of rock from numerous lands, it felt unnatural. He knew that they could very well be so. There were statues in the north and south both, along the waterways, of four-armed, gaunt humanoids, with faces akin to some spawn of both lizards and apes, and these statues were composed of the same stone. There were clues enough in the surrounding lands that these beings once ruled the surrounding lands, but whenever that was, it was little more than a memory beyond their one true enduring legacy – the ruins, the towers, the carved likenesses; natural or alien, these beings’ works dominated the land for many leagues around.

    He did not care, for he lived, and unless they were deeply hidden within the ground, or the rocks around, they did not. It was all the superiority, all the victory, that he needed – the breath in his lungs, the desire to endure, and the hope that the metal bracelet bonded to his wrist was not working away at his being. Mayhap it was, but those thoughts would consume one’s remaining mental focus, one’s very sleep, were they dwelt on. He was not after answers, or history, or lost landmarks, or even curiosity.

    He was after flowers, or more to the point, that which enabled flowers to prosper.

    Flowers there were, now, though it had not been so a few months passed. Though seasons seemed not to occur in these lands bordered by walls of shimmering green death, nor did much precipitation besides the occasional sandstorms, something like them must, for in the recent weeks, flowers of several hues had begun to bloom in the bushes in and around the blasted cliffs and ruins. Rich blue, silky violet, and flat grey, they were of sufficient richness of color to dye spider-silks and the crude woven fabrics that could be made in these damned lands, but that touched him little, but the flowers themselves meant something else.

    Where there were flowers, there could be bees. Where there were bees, there must be hives, and where there were hives, there would be honey. Where there was honey… a man of resources could distill a drink, and commune with the gods in the one and only way that he cared for. To survive was key, but to imbibe… in but only one other way could a man touch the sublime, a way less fickle and intensely brief than in the embrace of a woman.

    And so, here he stood, sifting through the lilac blooms of a flowering bush, it and himself shaded from the persistent sun by the arching, dull ruins of what may have been an ancient walled room, above him and below his feet, stone flakes crumbling under his shuffling, shifting steps as he studied the plant with intensity, trying to sense…

    His heart leapt at the sound.

    It was not one of the normal sounds of the desert wastes to Amarnaset’s west. The cackles of hungry hyenas, the grunts of rhinos, the scratch-slithering of giant scorpions, the wail and skitter of windborne sand upon black stone ruins, these sounds were all known to him, deadly familiar, and always able to prickle the hairs on his neck, a reflex that made survival easier, and which game him time to lift the great steel hammer in anticipation of the inevitable attack.

    No, it was not one of those. It was one he had been searching for, for at least two moons now. It was faint, and yet, in its command of his attention, it may as well have been the roar of a dragon, for it flushed out all other noises.

    It was the buzz of an insect. A bee. It was innocuous… but the gifts and signs from the gods often were to those oblivious. His pulse quickened.

    Eyes darted, seeking, taking in the shaded dullness of stone around, screening it out in hopes to find the tiny blur, the smooth passing of a mote of yellow or brown… there! It spun in the air, circling him, but then retreated farther into the alcove.

    He followed. A sting was an acceptable risk, for the promised, long-awaited reward. Seldom was he so focused, so single-minded, and typically only so when working and shaping stone.

    Two steps, three… the buzzing became louder, the sound less focused: there was more than once source. A hive? He had to know, and that need over came all else: caution, reserve, and his usual intuition about stone. The first step had sounded hollow, and the second, more so, but he did not heed it…

    His senses became all vertigo and cacophony – falling, the crackling of venerable wood and weakened stone, the abrasion of rough, broken rock on callused hands as he tumbled, three feet, six, the impact of feet on something giving, splintering, which tumbled him, and the touch of boots to ground again, and then impact on backside, as balance was lost to shifting sand and gravel below. It was another moment before he was fully lucid.

    He blinked, wincing and first, but then welcoming the pain as evidence that he still lived, and a long breath of relief followed and stirred the dust and must hanging in the air and coating the ground: he was bruised, but his muscles worked, and with a grunt of effort and frustrated realization, he rolled and pulled his legs under him, in anticipation of standing. But first, what had happened, and where…

    a broad column of dimmed sunlight had followed his tumble, and faintly lit the chamber in which he was now squat upon the floor. Near him was a long, nearly rectangular pile of wood, ancient, rotted, but splintered now: apparently, his feet had fallen upon it first, and then it must have given way, spilling him again. It made the most sense. Something greyer, stiff and segmented, could be made out in the dust and wood… bones… and something glinting even in the gloam.

    He reached for it, sliding his hand along the floor. He wasn’t even sure why he’d want to disturb the bones, long dry and but a few impacts from dust themselves, but his hand seemed to move of its own will – curiosity? Callused fingertips made contact with something hard and cool – metal – and wrapped around it, pulling, lifting.

    His hand was closed around a hoop of metal, mayhap a foot’s length in diameter, light of color and dulled from tarnish and dirt, yet still showing spots of reflection where caked grime fell from it as he lifted it – silver? It weighed as much, and tarnished as such would be. He lifted it further, feeling a wobble to it, as more grime flaked and fell. Suspended from the ring, as if it were a handle, seemed to be a fabrication of a skull in the same metal, the hoop attached to the sides of it… but a glance showed it as not human. It was too gaunt of jaw, too elongated, but his still-whirling senses threw a picture into his mind’s eye – the tall statues and carvings that littered the land, the representations of the long beings that once must have lived here. He swallowed, peered closer, and the eyes caught his attention, not hollow, but each set with a dirty, yet otherwise intact polished stone of black – onyx, obsidian, perhaps.

    Disgust wracked his guts as airborne grit choked him, left him coughing. But… he did not let go, instead lifted it aloft, it looking like nothing so much as some blasphemous lantern.

    He shook his head, clearing it; the nausea subsided, leaving him but bruised and dirty as before, and he looked up at the hole of his passage. It was but a few feet above his head. Barring curses or dire misfortune, he could climb out. Artifact, curio, whatever it was, he could ask Hemekthes of it – she seemed the most knowledgable of such things – or at least find advice to be properly rid of it.

    However, there was still the matter of the hive. There would be honey, and there would be mead, and such thoughts removed from his noticing that he had slid his arm through the hoop to carry the silver item with him.


    • This topic was modified 1 year ago by  Gorrd.

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    (An idea of what the skull looks like:

    Skull Lantern


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