Marai: The Long Dark

Aghrim
The Story of the Naktu
Prince Barindu Nikuri Kaneed II sat on the bench with his legs opened and arms rested upon them, staring down at the mug in his hands. He wasn’t looking at any of the others around him, the group known as the Order of the Cerulean Flame, but his attention was focused on them just the same. He had traveled with them down Mount Kinai, leaving his sister and brethren alone in the Maker’s Laboratories. Despite the plan to free his people and retake the capitol city of Aghrim, the group had already lost one of their own. Though he didn’t know Bail very well, the others seemed to have respected him.

When the leader of the Order, a man named Connor Starson, began asking questions of the Prince, he answered as best he could. He knew the group would need everything he could remember about the Gray Palace if the were to be successful; the guards, the defenses and his father, King Kaneed. Then a question came to the Prince that surprised him, but not because of its intrusiveness, but for its seemingly pointlessness. Glancing up at Connor, he asked him to repeat the question.

“Can you tell me what happened on the night of the Long Dark?” Connor said again in his affected accent that labeled him instantly of being Habrinel. The Prince blinked, not understanding why it would be important. He knew that Connor had a reason for every question, and had already proven himself to be more of a leader than the Prince ever felt he, himself could be. After a long sigh, he began.

“At first, we didn’t understand what was happening. I was only a year from majority at the time, and when the sky suddenly blackened, there was a panic. Well, except my father. He seemed to be completely calm as he took my mother and me to the Gray Palace. The whole time we were moving, he was receiving reports from guards, and they didn’t make a lot of sense to us, and it wasn’t our place to ask. Then, he opened up a passage in one of the walls. My mother was shocked, I remember. She asked him why we weren’t joining the others in the Laboratory. He just smacked her and told her to get in the room and not to come out until he opened the door.”

Taking a sip of his ale, the Prince continued. “I could see the city from the window, even though it didn’t make sense. The window I mean. I knew that from the outside there was no window, but we could easily look out onto the streets below, filled with the Colors. There was a great panic below, and the streets and alley were filled with lights and flashes. It was terrifying to watch, and after awhile, my mother pulled me to the other side of the room. There we sat for some time.”

“For three days we were in the room, waiting for my father’s return. Occasionally, a servant would enter, though he wasn’t one we had ever seen before. He would bring us fresh clothing and food, and take care of amenities. We never left that room, though as Father had a great temper and would have beat us senseless. He was a ruthless man even then.”

“Finally, the Sol Linaru returned to his sky, but there was something wrong. Below us, in the street, the Colors were being taken down. The Royal Gardens were being cut, and the flowers were being burned. When I glanced at my mother for an explanation, she just cried and shook her head. The door opened then, and instead of the servant, it was my Father. He was wearing the Royal Crown, but he had removed the Colors from it. My mother rushed to him and asked him what happened, and as a response, he beat her.”

The Prince paused to clear his throat, attempt to hide a lump.

“My father then told us he was King now, and that he should not be questioned. He said that if we ever spoke about the Colors, he would kill us both. And then he said that it was time for another heir just in case, and had me escorted from the room. I could hear my mothers screams across the castle.”

“The change in my people was equally as brutal. They became solemn, almost as if the light in their eyes had been removed. There was this sense of dread, and anyone caught with a Color was executed as a traitor. My father said that the laws were put in place to honor our new God, Djiriantheorthos the Devourer. He reenacted the Laws of Caste and forced the new slave caste to build a temple in his honor. He worked them so hard that most died within weeks.”

“That was eleven years ago. And even though I have always seen the Colors, we had to hide that fact. But once my sister was born, I knew we couldn’t continue down that path. So I took her and went up to the Laboratory. And that’s were we found the rest of my family.”

Feeling the need for another sip, the Prince swallowed hard and remained silent for the remainder of the night.
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The Meeting
Book II: Introduction

The ancient dwarf reached his metal hand into the shallow sea, the icy waters sending a chill up his arm. Moving his hand around in the silt, he felt something clang against his thumb. Grasping the object more fully, he began to gently pull upon it, mindful of the delicate nature of it. The silt continued to move about as if complaining bitterly about losing its prize, filling the area in a cloudy haze. Finally, with a tug, the kanko wrestled the ancient lute, Bihai Ju-Long, from its watery grave. The carvings along the neck began to glow for a moment and two musical notes danced forth, causing what scratches it had suffered to fill and clear.

“There ye be,” Myrikin said to the lute. ”We’ll be getting’ ye back to ye master soon enough.” Lifting the lute into the boat, he clumsily followed, grabbed the oar and began to move towards the shore once again. As he turned his boat towards the shore, he could see a figure pacing; his green, leafy robes, whipping about in the chilled winter air. Myrikin’s metallic mouth attempted to form a smirk, as he had willed it to do so many times in the last century, but it remained unchanged.

“Ho, there! Thaenadir! What’s bringin’ ye out here?” Myrikin ran his boat aground, and leapt out to drag it further onto the shore.

Startled, the figure turned to focus on the metallic dwarf moving towards him. The green elf had enough in his facial expressions for both he and Myrikin, in his wrinkled olive tinted skin. He was older than Myrikin by several centuries, and reminded him of this fact often. Planting out his walking stick in the sand for better balance, Thaenadir, the Elder One of Nadradiss, shook his boney finger at him.

“You know perfectly well why I am out here, metal man. Kala is in the middle of her third attempt, and you have gone fishing! You are to be watching her, guiding her!” He ended his statement by pointing sharply at the ground.

Myrikin walked up to the man and looked up into his grey eyes. “And she’ll be fine. Right now she’s in meditation and I cannae be helpin her with that, now can I? Here,” he said, shoving the priceless lute into the hand of the elf, “take this back this while I go headin’ back out there.”

“Back? BACK OUT THERE?” The elf shouted. “When I agreed to this nonsense; in training Kala to perform this ceremony, in using my spirit house for your experiments; I expected that you would live up to your side of the bargain. Instead, I find you seeking trinkets in the waters. What is to stop me from putting an end to this right now?” The elf took a deep breath and released a quick sigh to emphasize his frustration.

Myrikin shook his head, realizing the elf had once again forgotten about things they had discussed only a few hours earlier. “Elder One, there be few people on this world that’re able ta decipher them runes. All of ‘em happen to be beyond the wall.” Sweeping his hand out, he pointed to the Black Wall, a monolithic barrier which stretched as far as the eye could see maintaining exactly forty feet from the shore. The Wall prevented passage of any sort, and every attempt to leave the island had failed.

Myrikin continued, “That bein’ the case, we be needin to bring someone who is not of this world into it. We’re needin someone who can read the runes. And if ye are ever able to perform the Nir’Sai, ye’ll need this wall to be broken so your spirit can be movin’ on.” Reaching out, he placed his metal hand on the arm of the elf and lowered his voice softly. “If ye people’re gonna be free, I need to be findin’ these things. Do ye understand?”

Thaenadir unclenched his jaw and began to gape out at the Wall. Sighing, he glanced once more at the odd dwarf. “I forgot again didn’t I?”

“Yes.”

A tear formed on the edge of the elf’s grey eye and dropped gently onto his bony cheek. “They’re coming more frequently. I’m not sure how much longer I can hide this from the Marshals. Kala has to succeed this time, she simply must.”

“She will, Thaenadir, she will.” Patting the elf’s arm once again, Myrikin turned away and shouted over his shoulder. “Ye best be getting’ that lute up to my hut. I’ll be returnin’ in a bit for the next phase.” He pulled the boat back into the water, climbed in, and began to row back to the wreckage.

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