Have you ever wondered what the point of gaining more followers is? Part of the reason is so that you can engage with incredibly talented people. Talented people tend to be creative, and one of our recent batches of new followers included some great creatives. Among them was the author of this short story, which we thought we would blog in four parts. Enjoy!
He almost choked as the nearest figure opened its eyes and swiveled its misshapen head toward him.
“Don’t scream,” the captain raised a hand. “They hate that.”
“What do you want?” the gargoyle rasped. The question was always the same and always as terse.
“Captain Craven and patrol, reporting as ordered.”
“And him?” the gargoyle asked, regarding Steven with a penetrating stare.
“‘Dagger’ Diorr. The Patron has requested the pleasure of his company.”
“Wait a moment,” the gargoyle said. It closed its eyes.
The promised moment later, the gate swung silently open, closing behind them – untouched – as they entered.
Steven, fully awake now, looked in all directions at once. Growing dread twisted his belly. What could Patron Orobus want with him? What could the most powerful man in Dynasty City, ruler of the city-state, want with a single drunk?
Had he committed and forgotten some horrible crime?
Oh, gods. What if he’d killed someone of whom the Patron had been fond? The man was notorious for great power and a greater temper. Never piss off a sorcerer, the saying went. Rumors had it the Patron was quite imaginative when it came to revenge.
They passed a room with a wide, open doorway. Steven glanced in and saw a huge tapestry of black silk, bearing a woven pattern of silver thread. It was a skull banner, the banner of the Remnant. It was the same skull Steven had worn around his neck for so long.
The Patron, it seemed, was not inclined to forget the past.
They reached the entrance to the Patron’s audience hall, which was guarded by two stone statues wearing the black and red of Patron Orobus’s private army. They held wicked-looking halberds crossed and barring the doorway. Their smoke-colored plate mail bore the Patron’s personal coat of arms, a death’s head on a red blood background, the skull behind the blade of an axe. The waiting area was decorated with oil paintings. The largest of these sat in a heavy gold frame of unknown but ancient origin. The painting was of a duel between a man in civilian dress and a plate-armored knight; each held sword and dagger and each had a blade at the other man’s throat.
The guards shifted uncomfortably when their stone counterparts opened inhuman eyes, revealing orbs of pure black. The enchanted statues – were they enslaved demons? Steven couldn’t help but wonder – raised their halberds and permitted the pair to enter. The doors swung open, again untouched by human hand, revealing a huge audience hall with a high, vaulted ceiling bearing an exquisite mural. The mural was of a battleground awash in blood and gore, showing ancient knights of the Remnant battling an army of Southern Coast raiders.
Stained glass windows permitted light to enter the room. The walls, tiled in white marble and matching the room’s floor, were also draped with tapestries and hung with paintings in gilt frames. The theme of each piece of art was the same: blood, death, killing, warfare.
“Do you like my collection?” Patron Orobus asked his visitor, looking down from the raised platform that held his throne. The throne was carved of green jade, shot through with veins of milky-white. Its armrests were elaborate gargoyle heads. Seated upon it was the sorcerer himself, his wide shoulders and confident demeanor testifying to strength both physical and otherwise. His face was timeless, though his eyes betrayed his true age. They were cool, light gray, and wholly disturbing. He wore a gray suit of modified platemail with a silver cape, two silver daggers riding on sheaths attached to his forearms. His long silver-gray hair was tied back in a ponytail. A closely-trimmed gray beard framed a strong jaw. One spidery scar curled past his left eye and continued on down his neck. His hands were covered by black leather gloves.
The guards shoved Steven forward. He stumbled to the floor before the Patron’s throne, started to rise, and thought better of it. He stayed where he was on one knee, stinking and bruised, his head bowed.
“This is Diorr, sir,” the captain bowed at the waist. It was a short, sharp gesture.
“Good. Leave me now.”
Without a word, the captain and his fellow guards turned on their bootheels and marched from the chamber, the door opening and closing silently.
Steven looked up. He was shaking. He could just imagine the horrors that awaited him in Orobus’s dungeons.
“What do you want from me, Patron? What have I done?”
“My, you are bold,” Orobus chuckled. “To answer your second question,” he stood before the throne, towering above the kneeling Steven, “you have done nothing. As for what I want,” he paused, staring straight into Steven’s eyes with his unnerving gaze, “I was hoping you would have lunch with me.”
His stomach clenched around the lavish meal fed him by Orobus’s servants, a stunned Steven sat with the Patron, staring at him across the carved oak expanse of an opulent desk. Here, in the room at the top of his tower, the Patron conducted the bulk of his affairs. Behind him, an iron door heavily engraved with runes lead to his magickal workshop.
Steven sat in an antique chair, staring about in wonder. Orobus was absorbed for the moment in a scroll of parchment. Steven gazed numbly at the desk.
Nothing the Patron owned was ordinary. This included the desk behind which he worked. Chipped from the heartwood of a giant oak tree, the desk was a solid block of wood in which drawer space had been carved. On its surface and on each side, magickal runes and symbols stood amidst reliefs depicting wizards working spells. Each tiny scene told a different story; each rune was a fragment of spells more powerful than most sorcerers would ever master. To Orobus, such knowledge was merely decoration