Tales – The Audience

The Audience

In the depths upon a dais sits a throne. It is hewn from the shiny obsidian like rock that forms the cavern and polished to a glassy gleam. To either side of the throne more stone has been shaped and carved into fanciful beasts. A soft gurgle and splash can be heard, but the water is nearly invisible against the dark stone despite the blue flames that dance above the water. Away from the fountains of fire and water a deep chill wraps the cavern, in places frost and ice coat the already slick stones. The cavern is as still as a tomb but for the restless dancing of shadows upon walls. The capering shadows move almost as if some mad puppeteer was enacting a play before the fire to an audience of cold stone.

The sense of timelessness that pervades the scene abruptly changes and the shadows become still, though the flames of the fountains change not at all. A piece of darkness detaches from the wall and glides toward the throne. As it approaches the pool of light from the fountains, the shape resolves itself into a dusky skinned elf wearing black leather. Its every stride relaying grace, power and control. No sound of a footfall interrupts the song of the fountain as it moves and then kneels on one knee before the throne.

For a minute or a day the elf kneels unmoving before the shadows on the throne stir. Where before had been seemingly nothing an armor-clad figure leans forward from a pool of darkness. Dark mail clinks mutely as the figure gestures for the elf to rise.

With a dry, soulless voice the figure speaks. “Why do you come before me now after your failure in the south?” “I bring the new agent you sought.” The normally musical Elven language seems stilted and dry. “I have also brought the grimoire you requested I retrieve.” The elf holds forth a book seemingly made of copper or brass plaques upon which have been etched runes of power. With no discernable queue a bit of shadow departs from the wall and carries the heavy plaques to rest on an arm of the throne. After touching the runes briefly the figure on the throne speaks again. “You may take your leave until I summon you again. Others will handle the contingency plans for the current course of events.” With an ever so slight bow of the head the elf backs away into the darkness and is gone. The shadows in the chamber return to their cavorting along the walls for an indeterminable length of time before a foreign sound intrudes upon the song of the fountain.

A presence enters the room, a sinuous line of movement that coils beyond the direct light of the fountains. “Maassster,” said a voice that hissed and quavered at the same time. The silence extended out and slight movements from the coiled form further betray its agitation. Finally the dark figure on the throne moves, laying a hand upon the plagues resting on the throne. “You will have your chance to prove yourself to me Shrissstaac. If you and your offspring perform well then perhaps you can earn the reward you seek.” “Ohhh, thaaank you maassster. We will live only to ssserve you!” A sound frighteningly dry and alien comes from the figure on the throne. It takes Shrisstaac a moment to realize that this is laughter. “Yes, you will only live to serve.” The mockery in the tone set Shrisstaac to coiling about himself in fear. With a movement that almost sent the coiled form ducking, the dark figure tosses the metal plaques to the floor. “Take this as payment for your service. You may share this knowledge among your offspring as you see fit. Now be gone from here.” Uncoiling some the form moves into the light revealing a dark serpentine body. The head dips down and swallows the plagues from the floor in one gulp before slithering quickly away.

All is quite for a moment, and then the horrible dead laugh comes forth again from the ShadowLord. “Live only to serve, or serve only to live?” The obscene laugh continues briefly before silence descends, and unmoving the figure on the throne seems to fade. Once again the shadows begin their desperate play upon the walls and all is as it was before…