[AT SEA, THE GOLDEN MASQUE; JANUARY 09, 2019 WR]
The masked figure in the corner of her shadowed quarters continued to babble, painting a grim picture of Midworld at a rate of a hundred words a minute. Only the King in Gold understood the maze of its words, but she had no doubt that the other regents and Kings would have their own methods of divining these current events, though they would likely be less efficient than the power of a World Lock.
“…Massacre at Graellengard…Slaughter of the Nemain…Shaerach, an Abbatoir…” The King in Gold translated as best as she could, plucking meaning from the gibbering chaos as it began to subside at last. For a moment, there was only the wooden creaking of ship hull and the rush of the sea against it.
Across the table from her, the King in Crystal frowned as he picked up runed-stone pieces from a pile to prepare for another game. The swaying of the waves beneath their ship bothered them little but they were disturbed enough by the news. He shook his head. “These Immortals have already dealt a blow to those Kingdoms deadlier than even any of us could, more than even the Solari or even you with your two World Locks. This Summit will hopefully provide us with some answers and some direction”
“The Immortals were defeated before by coalitions of entire armies, just as with Fang-zhara in the Stoneclaw Mountains” From behind her mask, Gabriella peered at the runed tiles that were collected in her bandaged hands. The shifting of the seas beneath them made for the shifting of shadows as well. “But what Tenebrous did to the Nemain Clanhold and what Lector did to Choir Shaerach are both unprecedented”
They played, though the game was far from their minds.
“Any news of this Nihilus, Iha*? They say that his very presence brings death to mortals for miles around”
“There have been clashes across Midworld, between him and them. But the result is the same, they flee from him and all mortals in the area die within the month, with only a handful spared. Only those with sufficient spiritual strength can withstand him, but it is not a privilege that everyone possesses”
“Doesn’t his Death Curse have a cure?”
The masked King nodded slightly. “The mineral is the only cure. But it is a resource that only comes from the mines near Freehold and not in quantities that would be remotely sufficient. Add to that, it would deteriorate within a month unless it underwent refinement”
He pushed his row of rune-stones forward and lay them so that their backs faced up, Water and Serpents – a potent attack” Which would take more time and money, I presume? Surely the salvation of these people are far more than coin and hours, Iha?”
Nikolas was the oldest of the Riverfolk Kings and knew more tricks than all of them combined, but he was also predictable. Her row was of Turtles and Flame, a perfect counter to his bid. “Coin spent on these people is coin unspent on defending ourselves from the other Immortals and other evils of the world… like Kristoff and Kritek. It is an unfortunate arithmetic, but one I am tasked to account and to put forth. Your words will not sway me like they did the others”
The old man did not waver beneath her withering gaze. “We did what we needed to do: our Fleets saved the Labyrinthium from Portia’s –”
“We had the opportunity to end the Writhing Curse! We have a duty to save our people, our legacies, instead of that murderer and the rest of his red-handed killers!”
Her words hung in the air for only a moment before the knocking upon her door.
“My King!” the Golden Scribe’s voice was muffled by the wooden portal. “Port Dawson is in sight!”
“Thank you, Scribe” The King in Gold called to her aide while her companion and former mentor began to pack away the runed-stones. He took care not to touch her, extracting the stone tiles with a deftness beyond his age and putting them in the weathered box he usually carried.
She watched him wearily, eyes narrowed behind the golden mask that mirrored the dozen that now hung around the chamber. Minutes passed before she spoke. “Why did you even come with me? Are you tired of sailing on your own flagship?”
He smiled, knowingly and warmly. “I just thought you could use the company, Iha. Not many understand what you carry. Some think that a King must command but I’ve always thought that it was my task to listen”
Gabriella turned to the masked figure in the corner, mentally willing it to continue its report. “Listening is well and good, lolo**. But for this Summit, we will need more than that — we will need answers”
*Iha– a Tihluurani term of endearment, from elders to younger women
** Lolo — a Tihluurani word for “Grandfather”, sometimes used for elder close, non-filial acquaintances