Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Voyage to the Purple Islands

Zerrett waited in the Library of the Ancients for his master's return.  As time passed, Zerrett's mind wandered back to his old life.  He wondering what a swordsman of his stature was doing here, away from the battlefield.  He remembered all the days of preparation, overturning wagon wheels until his body felt like a quivering newborn.  It took him over a year of strength training to effectively wield his mighty Dwarven war-axe, Ivarrol.  Perpetually black with blood and runes, faintly glowing like unhallowed doom as it hacked his foes into pieces.   Zerrett had been killing the enemies of S'kyrn even before he was strong enough to hold Ivarrol over his head.  It was a way of life.

Now, the warrior's axe leaned against a corner of his bedroom, collecting dust instead of gory crimson strands.  Zerret imagined the weapon restless, yearning... his soul the same – crying out for the once familiar sights and sounds of combat.

"What am I doing in a place like this?"  He said to dust and shadows.

As Zerrett paced back and forth, a book fell from the decrepit stacks.  It opened to an illustration of a Snake-Man slicing through a human's chest with a scimitar.  The image fascinated him; Zerrett didn't expect to enjoy it so, but he did.  The curving steel death ripped the man down his center.  It made Zerrett long for the crusades of his youth.  

Zerrett had only seen Snake-Men a handful of times, in drawings and in dreams.  They were said to have lived aeons ago in subterranean cities.  He’d been taught some of their history, part of an oral tradition passed down from his father.  The serpentine folk were conquerors.  They knew the exquisite beauty of slaughter just as they knew the dark secrets of sorcery.

"I see you've been reading."  Said Master Lynd.

"No, it fell open to that page."  Zerrett said, cradling the withered volume in his hands.  "I was just admiring the artwork."

Master Lynd considered his charge for a moment.  S'kyrn had fallen in the great war, just as the Dwarven kingdoms fell centuries ago.  Though not technically a slave, Zerrett wasn't a free man.  After the fall of S'kyrn, Zerrett's people were assigned to the Asgochians.  It was a slow and painful process to reeducate the S'kyrnians.  Many could not shake their ancestral bloodlust, Zerrett being a prime example.

"Thousands of years ago, the Snake-Men ruled this world, brutally.  The heavens thick with Wyrm Riders..."  Lynd's voice trailed off as he remembered something black and formless like the void.

"Ancient history."  Zerrett said.

"Not according to the prophecy.  Upon some accursed night of this very aeon, the Snake-Men threatened to return and assume their rightful place.  Not just deep within the mountains and below the land but everywhere."

"If they return, we shall destroy them."

"Many will try.  Of course, there will be a few who choose the opposite, those drawn to Chaos.  Thankfully, the realm is in short supply of wizards."

"Some of my people call the Snake-Men fiction."

"I'm not surprised.  Your kind are little more than barbarians from our perspective."

"What do you know of S'kyrn and its men... beyond what I've told you?"

"Do you know where the name of your country comes from?  S'kyrn was the name of an emperor, a Snake-Man."   Lynd noticed the young man silently scoff.  "It's true."

"I doubt that."

"Nevertheless."

Zerrett placed the book back upon the stone shelf.  “Do you believe in prophecy?” 

“The Snake-Men did.  But then, they believed in all sorts of strange and blasphemous things.”  The Asgochian studied the library's crumbling stacks until he found the right book.  “Here it is... the purple islands.”

“I’ve heard of them.”

“And what have you heard?”

“Purple sand along the beaches, so dark they look almost black from a distance.”

“What else?”  Lynd inquired.

“Isn't that where the Snake-Men are from?”

“No, it’s where the last of them died.  We're setting sail for the islands tomorrow.  I wanted to surprise you."

"Very well."  Zerrett sighed.

"I thought you'd be more excited.  After all, there's sure to be plenty of battle.  A chance for you and that giant axe of yours to become reacquainted."  His charge beamed with anticipation.  Lynd returned the smile.