This is a prologue for a game I’m working on.
Jarad Ironmail slipped quietly into the Hall of Ancestors. The eerie glow of low-burning torches would normally frighten a boy of 10, but this nook of the castle has been his home for many years. Since he learned to walk he’d taken his food here, his letters here, his lessons in mathematics and alchemy, his secret and forbidden readings on the mystic arts. Even his own bed held little comfort to him compared to the Hall.
Pieces of gleaming armor adorned the walls, splitting and reflecting the guttering torches. Here hung a visored greathelm, there a lobstered gauntlet, at the scarred wooden doorway a full suit of mailed plate. Each piece had been worn into battle by the revered ancestors of his house. They were men and women of great strength, cunning, resourcefulness and loyalty to the King, and their deeds were honored with armor polish and codices detailing heroism that Jarad imagined in a hundred different ways before sunset each day.
Wielding a short-sword with two small but calloused hands, he practiced his forms while imagining his father battling robbers, mercenaries, traitors and fantastical beasts. Father had been gone for almost a year now, and was due back any day. Pigeons had apprised Ironmail Keep of Father’s progress home for several days, and the House waited in stoic impatience for the return of its venerable lord. Jarad’s eyes slid to the Dais of Heroes.
The dais occupied the center of the Hall, where it couldn’t escape the noticeand reverence of visitors paying homage to the Heroes of House Ironmail. Cast bronze flames licked and writhed around a tall, thin arch. The patina of hundreds of years lent the altar a brooding, powerful presence that reflected no light. Serving as the royalty’s warrior class, House Ironmail abhorred gold and silver, preferring base metals of arms and armor. There was no lack of detail though: coppery black flames, sinewy lizardlike creatures, horses and men and weapons all blended together in excruciating detail. Beyond the keep’s walls, the sea air conspired to slowly wear away the details, but many of the faces were still clearly distinguishable: strong men, hard men, Ironmail men.
The central slot of the arch was painfully empty, and had been for a year, since Father had carried Honor to battle at his side. Being of only 9 years at the time, Jarad knew little of the politics of his father’s call, but still ached for Father’s triumphant return. The seneschal and all his father’s rear guard retainers all said the same thing: “Soon my lad. It won’t be long now, lad. Eyes up and sword up, Scrub! Focus on your lessons! Your father will be mightily disappointed to return to an heir carved of milkfat and washerwoman soap!”
Almost a year. He could remember the dull silvery blue gleam of the finest black steel blade that crackled with power as his father’s hands closed about it. The wicked edges, the sword-breaker tip, the gut hooks, the Bronze Sunburst of House Ironmail adorning the polished bronze hilt.
As Jarad’s body flowed from Dragon to Castle to Cat Stance, attempting to mimic the glossy flow of his swordmaster, a shimmer caught his eye and he stumbled into a chainmail shirt worn by Lady Glinneya the True during Caster’s Rebellion, over 200 years ago. His jacket tangled with the buckles and he stumbled again, bellowing a curse he’d heard on the docks the day before.
The shimmer. In the arch.
He crept around the dais, peering into the Arch of Heroes.
Honor had returned to House Ironmail.
“Chastic! Seneschal Chastic! Chastic! CHASTIC!!! COME QUICKLY!”
The door creaked thinly as Chastic burst through the door in his small clothes, roused from slumber. His eyes widened immediately. “Dear… Dear me…”
Chastic took only the time to touch Jarad lightly on the shoulder before bellowing “To arms! Ring the alarm! TO ARMS! HONOR HAS RETURNED! LORD JORAD HAS FALLEN IN BATTLE! TO ARMS, MEN!”