Syncope at the Symposium (short story)
Title: Syncope at the Symposium
Spurred by his ranger friends, Yardie made the journey through the familiar hunting grounds of Aillidh Brae towards the Alabaster Spire, the site of the Faendryl Enclave. Throughout his trips to the area, he never noticed the structure. Perhaps the grey orcs that inhabited the area conjured overcasts that obfuscated a clear view. Nonetheless, when his eyes locked into the magnanimous view behind the open gates, a sense of belonging not since yesteryear washed over him like a cool breeze cascading down his weary shoulders. It had been so long, far too long, since he was last home, and this visit made for a starting reminder.
Unfortunately, Yardie felt like a fish out of water once he congregated with the others.
It was not for lack of hospitality; the organizers welcomed one and all with cordiality and grace. But the Faendryl, noble as ever, moved with a sense of regality and dignity, sliding around as if they walked on air. Their clothing, pristine and tailored to perfection, with mien of lord or lady. Yardie, however, was a Dark Elf with no home and lacked such distinction. He wore his gear acquired from the guild, standing out as if he were there to rob the place. His voluminous black cloak enveloped him, not dissimilar to the withdrawn emotions he played close to his chest. That, too, was necessary. If someone recognized who he truly was, it would create a whole new slew of problems. Despite his youthful age, Yardie had seen much, experienced much, that he suppressed his past life with stringent concentration. But now those memories slowly resurfaced. Exposed. Vulnerable. Known to no one but him.
He arrived late, which was typical for him. As many of his past associates joked with a grimy grin, “Yardie was always tardy to the party.” As a result, he missed Lylia’s introduction, and arrived precisely at the moment of summoning. On any other occasion, he would have marvelled at Lylia’s beauty, studied her grey eyes, taken in her auburn hair that sparkled with copper highlights. Instead, he watched the way she wove spell, mesmerized by the dancing shadows between her outstretched fingers, lulled by her speech slipping into archaic Faendryl that, while familiar in its intonation, was mere tongues to his ears.
And from the confines of the vial emerged the summoned demon. The Igaesha. Ekrah the Virulent. The audience witnessed the hazy wispy being with cyan eyes and turquoise skin, with cerulean hair billowing about with her green orbs pulsing beneath the surface of her mist-like skin and unclear face.
Yardie, however, witnessed his worst nightmares in the flesh, or mist. Screams echoed throughout his mind, drowning out the faint crackling fire that swarmed within. His blood ran cold. His heart raced and legs locked as he looked upon the terrific being before him. Thoughts revealed snapshots of the sounds he heard, a day that led to his heavy burden.
And yet, Lylia spoke to Ekrah without a care in the world. Confident. Assertive. Cordial. As if it were a distant relative. Inquiring about the past, presence, and future, and the rules of time’s operation. The others slowly increased in their confidence towards the Igaesha, but that did nothing to assuage the young rogue’s concerns. Like it was a mouthful of acid, Yardie swallowed those overt fears and spoke his truth. “Quite frightening.”
Of course, some of the others, particularly those that were not of Dark Elven heritage, dismissed the display of power before them. Some, like the Dwarven Warrior Dwi, took the being with a grain of salt, ready to strike it down if need be. “It prolley kint read,” she chimed.
“I...wouldn’t provoke it,” Yardie replied through sharp, shallow breaths. As the presentation continued, Yardie struggled to stay in the present, slipped into the past like sliding on a razor blade. Those demons, his own thoughts, slowly burrowed out into the open. He slipped from here and there, breaking out into his own gibberish before regaining his senses. “Looking at it, there doesn’t seem much to fear...and yet there is,” he commented after a brief silence.
“Considering that every summoning is a potential brush with death or possession, yes,” Lylia replied as if the circumstances were typical and even trivial.
“Possession,” Yardie repeated. The word struck a painful cord, his spine shivering at the sound of his own voice. He sunk again, only for a prod between his shoulder blades to alert him again.
“Ye ferst,” Dwi chided. The dwarf knew nothing of the terrors she brought to the surface.
Yardie closed his eyes. “I’m afraid I don’t have much to possess.”
Dwi prodded again. “C’mon...try it.” She gave a playful wink.
The rogue frowned and considered his words carefully before finally giving Dwi a definitive answer. “I pride myself in my survival instincts. This would be one of them. It’s too familiar.”
Even though he stood in the safety and security of Lylia’s control, Yardie knew that one mistake could prove disastrous. After a bit of conversation and gleaning information, Yardie stumbled outside and leaned against the gates to collect his thoughts.
Overhead, the setting sun glared with the brightest red. The rogue’s pointed ears flexed towards the array of screams around him. Befuddled by a view on the right side of the world, the rogue inched his left hand towards his left eye, only to be greeted with a mass of turgid flesh pressed against either side of his eyeball. His face looked like grounded meat. Numbed, his body throbbed with each movement and shift of weight. At a snail’s pace, he leaned to his right side, only to take in a sharp pain from his ribs. As he moved, his bones crackled in lockstep with the patches of fires throughout the grasslands.
Once he made it to his feet, the rogue took in a sharp breath, assaulted by the acrid scent of burning flesh. His tongue danced around his mouth and took in the coppery taste of his own blood. His body wracked with a sharp spasm that forced out a cough of blood. Taking in small steps, his legs wobbled like gelatin as he took in the sights surrounding him. Bodies scattered like autumn leaves, some dismembers, others adorned with gaping holes. The races of the dead were indiscriminate. Many were his own brethren, Dark Elves, but many were of other races as well. Dwarves, humans, and elves. By far, the latter made up the majority of the fallen, their gazes transfixed as their last moments came to a violent end.
And amongst the death, ‘she’ was missing. With her gone, the rogue understood the consequences that awaited him upon his return.
“How might I serve?”
Yardie snapped back to reality as he stood before the Igaesha as it...no...as she...dispersed and flowed into his flared nostrils before cascading out of his ears and returning to form, presenting the question in the most respect of tones. He knew not when he returned to the crowd as he was woven deep into the fabric of his own nightmare. If he understood the power of the demon, then she knew the extent of his tragedy. Yardie hoped that the others lacked the same telepathy Ekrah had.
And so, he spoke plainly, truthfully, “Umm. I honestly am not certain. I’d simply say that I seek redemption for my past transgressions.”
Hearing his own words drew him for a start. Yardie never once took blame for what happened, yet knew that he’d be accountable if the others knew. Violet eyes swept around the room, catching sight of the smiling Viria before returning to the superior being. Perhaps they did know and simply forgave without judgment, finally accepting him into the fold.
Ekrah shattered those delusions with the candor of her words. “Something you must attain from yourself. Your transgressions are your own. Redemption is yours to grant. Sometimes it comes easy. Others it must be earned when you believe it to be earned. This information will not lessen the weight of the burden.”
It didn’t. In fact it loaded itself onto Yardie’s strained back. The demon only confirmed what he already knew: Yardie would never get that happy, fruitful ending that rectified his plight. In truth, his beginning was just as tarnished. Still, with a curt nod, Yardie absorbed her words with an open-mind. “I...I think I understand. Thank you.”
“Do not try too hard to understand,” Ekrah replied. “The final death grants absolute understanding as there is nothing further to understand.”
Her words cut deep. The final death. If all were revealed, Yardie would receive the final death at the hands of others. From enemies. From those who held resentment of the Dark Elves. Even from his own. With a conflicted heart, Yardie left the Spire, yearning for that Dark Elven camaraderie, yet apprehensive of being made by those he ran away from so long ago.
The Faendryl Symposium heavily influenced this vignette and spurred my love for this game, while fleshing out Yardie as a character.