The Last Wedding of Vistix Akrath
The Last Wedding of Vistix Akrath is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.
The Last Wedding of Vistix Akrath
The below is an old dark elf tale told by the draugr. While its origin is from Elanith, it upsets the residents of Naidem to probe such things in detail, and little but angst would be wrought from trying to gather information from them.
Once upon a time (it always begins as once upon a time, dear children, but when or where or how that time is measured is a mystery, especially in Naidem. Especially when we try to remember what came before. Or who we were. Or why we are here). Where was I? Oh yes, once upon a time...
Once upon a time, long ago and far away, there lived a fair maiden named Yraelia in the principality of Evashir. Now, do not ask, my child, where or what Evashir was or is. We draugr do not recall. But the story... the story we know.
In Evashir, this fair maid lived with her widowed mother and younger sister in the small farming county of Laskt. The vistix (or lord, dearies) of the land was oft absent, spending his time in the capital city of Ata'Lysel. From time to time, he visited his mansion outside the fair Yraelia's town. Often, he brought a new bride with him, some tragedy or illness having befallen the previous (it was said, amongst these working class and farming folk, that maidens of those upper classes were more delicate and prone to early perishing in whatever times these were).
Akrath Yvalyst, Vistix of Laskt, had last visited his holdings a few dozen years before. During his absence, prosperity had slowly returned to the area after decades of struggle, and thus were they able to throw a magnificent welcome ball for the vistix when they learned of his return. At the ball, Akrath's eye was caught by the merrily dancing Yraelia. And it must be admitted that Yraelia was quite eye-catching, a lushly appointed figure, mahogany-hued skin, sparkling sea green eyes, and a cascade of tightly curled blue-black hair. Many a smith's son or a farmer's daughter had attempted to woo her hand, but Yraelia always demurred.
But now, now! A handsome and rich vistix? Everyone's tongues were set a-wagging as Akrath stole dance after dance with Yraelia. It would not be long, they wagered, before yet another bride adorned the vistix's mansion at the heart of Laskt. Most believed that this bride would outlast all the others, being of their own, hardy stock and not some simpering city-bred wife (yes, dear children, I know what you are thinking. But that was the mindset of the time, and we must let them have it).
Soon enough, the village got their wish, and wedding preparations were underway. Yraelia worked on preparing her younger sister for taking over her duties at their mother's teashop and bakery, and were it not for Samyrha's presence, Yraelia would have thought she dreamt the raven. She was overseeing Samyrha's setting out of the day's pastries when the shop door blew open, a crimson-winged raven tumbling in on strong gusts of winds.
"'Ware where blues meets reds!" it squawked, "'Ware the widower's heads!" And as quickly as it appeared, it was gone, the wind slamming the shop door closed again.
"Well, I never," said Yraelia. But before she could ponder more of that strange occurrence, she noticed her sister was about to drop an entire tray of fresh muffins. "Samyrha! The tray!" she cried, and while her sister muttered, "Did you hear that too?" the unusual situation was lost in a flurry of daily mundanities.
Three days later, Yraelia was in the back garden amidst the tangle of blackberries, picking out the best for her mother's pies, when a bright green frog jumped off a branch and onto her shoulder where it croaked, "Mountains three, headless be!" Yraelia grabbed at it, but it was too fast for her, leaping into the nearby pond and disappearing amidst the lily pads and algae.
"Imagine that," said the ever-practical Yraelia, but just then, her mother called for her, and Yraelia dashed off, basket of blackberries in hand, to help make pies.
Wedding preparations continued, and three weeks later, on the eve of her wedding, Yraelia spent her last night in her bedroom over the family teashop. She had the windows thrown open, and as she watched the night sky, a trio of glowing circles coalesced, flashing violent red, poisonous green, and vivid blue. The baubles grew closer and closer until Yraelia could see shadowed figures inside of them. One looked to be the image of a key, the other a wedding gown, and the third a dagger. In the blink of an eye, the baubles exploded, leaving only a quickly dissipating trail of tiny sparks.
Yraelia nodded thoughtfully and closed the windows.
The wedding went off without raven, frog, or mysterious bauble, and the beautiful Yraelia was married to the handsome Akrath in the best ceremony the county could offer. Yraelia climbed out of the carriage and got her first look at her new home. Outlined in the dusk sky behind the mansion were the peaks of three mountains, the home set perfectly betwixt them. "How curious," Yraelia thought, but Akrath took that moment to gather her up in his arms and laughingly carry her over the threshold (an old tradition, dear child, but perhaps it persists still?).
They spent the next several days as blithe newlyweds. Akrath showed her most of the mansion and the grounds, and they were waited on hand and foot by his loyal manservant and a cook brought in from the city. Days were spent exploring, and evenings were spent by the fire in the library.
Time carries on, however, and after a week, Akrath received a summons from the Tainach herself (the Tainach, my dearie, is the ruler over all Evashir. Whatever that is. We draugr know that much).
"My love," he cried, "I cannot yet bring you to Ata'Lysel... my apartments are not yet renovated for the likes of a wife. Let me take you to visit your mother and sister while I am gone."
"Nonsense," Yraelia stated. "I shall stay here and invite them to visit me." At this, Akrath grew cold. So sudden and so fully did this happen, that Yraelia forgot he was ever loving and kind. It was as if a mask were removed and she was seeing his real self. In an instant, however, the mask was back in place, and Yraelia fancied she had imagined it.
"Very well," he said, smiling indulgently (but was it false, dear children? Yraelia thought it might be but she was no longer sure). He handed her an ornate sapphire and gold key. "This key opens everything, and as my bride, the house is yours to explore. Everywhere, except the iron door in the back hallway." He gave her a long, hard look at this.
Yraelia knew the door of which he spoke. She had asked about it once but had quickly forgotten it when he showed her the secret passage to the library. Had he not mentioned it, she would probably never have even thought to go down the back hallway. She quickly acquiesced, sensing the seriousness of his request. And with that, he was gone, promising to send her mother and sister, and Yraelia was alone in the mansion. His manservant and the cook went with him, and she had assured him she would be fine without (she had spent the first thirty years of her life without servants, you know, child, and surely even in a home this large, a few days alone would matter little)!
Her first night alone, Yraelia dreamt of blood and pain, of a dozen bodiless voices calling her name, of the iron door. But in the bright morning light, she shook off the shadows and explored the west wing of the manor. She found a guest suite with two rooms perfect to house her mother and sister, and she set about getting them ready, breaking as dusk fell to eat her meal in the cozy library affixed to her rooms.
Her second night alone, she dreamt again (dear children, you may wish to cover your ears). She drowned in rivers of blood, she suffered beneath blades of iron, her voice joined the dozens, and she screamed herself hoarse. She awoke just before dawn, key in hand, iron door looming in front of her, and in panic, she fled, tripping and falling until she reached her quarters. Then the sun broke over the valley, and the night's terrors retreated somewhat.
In an effort to push fear aside (but not ignore it, my younglings, Yraelia was no one's fool, and the signs were all there), Yraelia ventured into the east wing. Here she found dusty bedroom suites, many still filled with other women's things as if they had walked away and expected to come back at any moment. In one suite, she found a raven-inlaid hairbrush, in another, a comb inlaid with a whimsical frog-in-pond scene, and in a third, a trio of colored baubles affixed to the mirror.
And finally, in a suite on the uppermost floor, Yraelia found a diary hidden deep within a dressing table drawer. It was battered and dusty and written in a woman's hand in cultured Dark Elven. The sun was setting, and not wishing to be caught in this wing alone and in the dark (see, young one, I told you she was not stupid), Yraelia hurried back to the main wing. As with previous evenings, she cooked herself a small meal and took it to her library, this time along with the journal.
And so we come to the third night.
On this night, Yraelia fell asleep in her library, diary in hand, and the words she read echoed across time and dreamspace: we are but his playthings. The others who came before me, they call to me, and I must open the door. I must. And then, behind the words, a dozen voices shrieked, "Yraelia, you must save us!"
Yraelia awoke as the clocks chimed midnight to find herself surrounded by headless ghosts, but at the twelfth stroke, she fell deep asleep again. And again, she dreamt. She dreamt of the ghosts. She heard the voices. She felt a blade. And then, something was missing. What was it? She began to panic in her dream – her head, it was gone, where was it, what happened, did she ever have one?
The sun rose, pouring its brightness across her room. She was in bed and unharmed, and the front bell was ringing. And thus, on the fourth day, her mother and sister arrived. Yraelia wasted no time in explaining the happenings, and all were in agreement, something was wrong, and it had to do with the iron door. Indeed, her mother came with warnings from the most elderly of the village, remembrances coming forth about the vistix and his many wives, memories that had seemed fuzzy or suppressed until after the vistix had crossed the border out of the county.
Armed with the righteous fury of being deceived, Yraelia took the sapphire and gold key and stalked to the iron door, mother and sister in tow. With a deep breath, she unlocked the door and threw it open.
(Oh dear children, you must listen, I suppose, but gather close and support one another)
As they stepped into the room, the trio was confronted with a dozen heads on shelves, each perfectly preserved as if still attached to a living body excepting the jagged gash of crimson beneath each neck where it had been severed. The wives of Vistix Akrash gazed upon Yraelia and cried as one, "My sister, watch your step!" and then shrieked in horror as Yraelia, gazing back at them took one step too many.
Her final step put her in the middle of a rune-covered circle carved in the midst of the floor. Indeed, she noticed now, the stone floor and walls were covered in carved symbols, runes, pentagrams, and summoning circles, and she was perfectly centered in the largest. "Doom, your doom," cried the brides.
Startled, Yraelia dropped the key, and when she bent to pick it up, something pricked her hand, and a drop of crimson blood hit its sapphire. No sooner had this happened than the key vanished, and blood filled the circle. "RUN!" shouted the brides, and run they did.
As Yraelia, her mother, and sister fled the room, the iron door slammed shut behind them, and her husband's voice boomed across the entire house, "BETRAYED!" but he was nowhere to be found. Yraelia's mother quite rightly stated they must all leave, but Yraelia steadfastly refused. "I must free them," she stated. "Go, run, bring help, but I shall stay."
With her mother and sister safely away, Yraelia prepared for her husband's return. She found the blood permanently stained not just her slippers but her feet as well, and nothing could wash it off. Every pair of shoes she put on quickly took on the stains of her betrayal as well. Ever practical, Yraelia chose to ignore this and set about searching the vistix's quarters, hoping to find anything that would help her.
And thus, dear children, do we come to the fifth night and the sixth. Yraelia slept fitfully but dreamlessly, the ghosts, you see, had done their job. She knew their need. And she prepared. And she discovered. For her husband too kept a well-hidden journal, and it was here she learned of his experiments with the Veils, with death, and with everlasting life.
Barely had the sun risen on the seventh day, when the vistix stormed in, gold and sapphire key in hand.
"Betrayer!" he cried, "Just like the others!" And he lunged for her. She led him on a merry chase, up one hallway and down another, her bloodstained footprints leaving an easy trail for him to follow if ever she got out of sight. He roared with anger, he laughed derisively, he threatened boastfully, and still she ran, this way and that until he cornered her in an unused great hall.
"I had found the secrets," he said to her, "And if you had just kept your meddlesome nose out of my chamber, we would have been together for eternity! Their sacrifice did not have to be yours. But you were weak. You failed the test. I chose poorly for my final mate."
He advanced on her, and Yraelia kept stepping back, drawing him deeper into the room.
(Ah, it is here, my dear younglings, that I must explain, the story forks at this moment. Draugr have different versions, and each swear theirs is the truth.)
For those more inclined to desire a happy ending, they tell of how Yraelia lures Akrath into this hallway for there, hidden in the shadows, are the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, of many of Akrath's wives. Headless ghosts pour out of the walls, shrieking their ire, and when at long last Akrath falls, they shimmer and transform, heads reunited. They cry out with joy and share a final moment with their loved ones before dissipating and crossing to into death's final, restful embrace. With Yraelia as the new vistix, the county prospers for a hundred hundred years, and Akrath's dark magics are destroyed.
But, dear ones, not all life is happy. Not all fairy tales end well, and other, darker versions persist. In these, Yraelia finds herself dragged from the great hall to the iron door, for no matter how her mother and sister begged and pleaded, no help was forthcoming. The vistix prevails, and Yraelia joins the others in the iron chamber, another head on the wall. For the next hundred years, Akrath rules the county with an iron grip, and Yraelia's village is wiped out in a plague so none may speak of his treachery and forbidden experiments. It is said he lives still, but he has never taken another wife.
Which is right? Oh my sweet child, who is to say? There are some who even agree with his path, claiming the search for such knowledge is worth the price.
And thus, for some, the latter version is the happy ending. We draugr tell this tale, my dear ones, but it is up to you what you learn.
- Created by GM Xynwen, October 2023
- Used as inspiration for the Ebon Gate 2023 storyline, the Vistix's Last Bride