Hi everyone. To kick off the new season we’d like to showcase the first of more stories which will explore the world, people, and dragons of our game. We hope you enjoy!
Reginald was but a child during the last Withermoon. He did not remember much of those cursed months aside from the tales he heard later in life, but he did have one firm memory: peeking out from behind his mother’s silken skirts as his father’s ship cast off under the greenish gaze of the Withermoon, on a short trading voyage to a nearby isle. A grim, dread premonition gripped him that night and he was sure he’d never see his father again. At dawn three days later, with tendrils of daylight starting to creep up from the horizon, his mother had woken him for breakfast and his father was at the table eating quail eggs and joking with Reginald’s sister Alayne, just like any other morning. The premonition faded and the remainder of that Withermoon season had blurred into the rest of his early childhood memories.
Now, decades later, he looked up at the Withermoon again. Its skittering light played across his stern, lined face as he stared up into the night sky from the window of his inn. The Dreaming Sailor was an imposing stone structure, like most of its neighbors; there was no real point to wooden buildings where dragons roamed. And it was those mysterious creatures that Reginald studied: he had sold his late father’s merchant fleet and shifted the family business over time to focus entirely on the research of dragons. He had come to this lonely island and its dreary, grey-washed buildings following hints and rumors of unknown dragons that awoke only during a Withermoon. He had not been prepared for this journey, as the next Withermoon wasn’t supposed to start for years yet; it rankled him to put aside more promising leads in the Twilight Woodlands on the off chance he missed something important in the few months that a Withermoon lasted.
With a sigh he moved away from the window, extinguished his second-favorite pipe and set it on his trunk, and left his room. With the sound of each tap of his cane echoing around him on the misty street, he proceeded to his next lead: some apothecary named Vivian peddling medicinal herbs and dragon rumors alike. The streets were empty as the townsfolk sagely told each other not to go out at night during the Withermoon. The shadows were darker and fuller then, or so they said. Reginald snorted at the thought of it, though he also increased his pace.
Vivian’s shop had a low-slung roof and patched, peeling green paint on its shutters. Reginald raised his fist to knock at the splintery door, but before he could he heard a woman’s voice call from inside, in a voice like warm honey: “Come in and be welcome.” He dropped his hand and opened the door.
The interior was like any other healer’s abode and he spared it little attention. His focus was entirely on the striking figure seated at an ebonwood table in the center of the cramped room. She wore a polished metal blindfold of some sort, small bones were threaded into her brown, flowing robes, and he could make out what appeared to be the tops of skulls either laying in her lap or secured to her belt. She smiled up at him and he expected further strangeness, but saw only little white teeth gleaming in the smoky candlelight.
If the people of this town were happy to purchase healing supplies from this ominous woman then they were quite the trusting sorts. Reginald squared his shoulders and stepped inside. He wasn’t sure if he’d ever met anyone more bizarre than this person, but all sorts of unusual things were bound to happen in the pursuit of knowledge.
“Vivian, I presume?” he said, a trifle unsteadily, as he shut the door.
“No other. Forgive me but I must skip past small talk, your lordship. Every second of the Withermoon is precious, you see.”
Reginald shrugged and waved away the apology, somehow sure she could see the movement through her mask, “Time is always valuable. Please, do tell about these Withermoon dragons you wrote to me about.”
With a rustle of bones she rose. “I will show you. Come.”
She took him past the hanging herbs and the bottled ointments that lined the walls, and down a small staircase into a network of cellars connected with low archways. The stonework down here was even rougher than the town above and it smelled like earth and mildew. Vivian strode forward into the dark but Reginald paused to light a match in the gloom. His cane tapped into the darkness as he followed the masked woman.
After a few empty rooms they entered into what was clearly their destination. Cobwebs lined the old walls, and from gashes in the earthen floor spilled an unearthly green light. It was as if the light of the Withermoon was shining up from the depths of the world. At the center of the room stood a mirror, chased in gleaming silver and with unadorned masks wrought along the frame, but with inky blackness in the center instead of a proper reflection. As he stepped into the room, trepidation surging through his veins, the scent of something dead hit his nostrils and Reginald sneezed loudly, disturbing the funereal silence. Vivian offered him a smile and he returned it, his fear receding with his tinge of embarrassment.
She spoke, still smiling: “Bless you. Behold the Voided Mirror, sir. I will not speak the name of its creator nor can I gaze into it, but I believe it holds secrets of dragons within. There is a chance it will reveal its knowledge to you.”
Reginald paced around the mirror, peering at it intently, though he did not yet step fully in front of it. “You found this, did you? It certainly seems connected to the Withermoon, though I see not what dragons have to do with it. And what are these masks along here?” he mumbled half to himself as he continued his examination.
He turned to Vivian, “I mean no offense, ma’am, but frankly I am not looking into this ‘Voided Mirror’ in the stinking cellar below the shop of a woman with human skulls on her belt during a cursed celestial event. Believe me, I’ve read enough to know bet–” With what he could have sworn was a roll of her eyes beneath her bronze blindfold, Vivian cut him off by bodily pushing him in front of the mirror.
He threw his hand up to cover his eyes but stopped halfway through. There was something in the pulsing blackness of the mirror, looking out at him. If it was anything else he would have covered his eyes regardless, but what stayed his hand was the promised thing he sought: a dragon he had never seen before was within the mirror. Its jaw was wrong and opened sideways like a pincer, masks lined its face instead of eyes, and growths of bright green lit up its silhouette in the darkness of the mirror, but it was still unmistakingly a dragon–and a powerful-looking one at that.
Reginald opened his mouth to say something but he was cut off yet again. An entirely different masked woman, wearing fine clothing and a tricorn hat, burst into the room, though judging from her raised rapiers she was no friend of Vivian’s. “Run, outlander!” she shouted in a steely voice.
Despite his curiosity, Reginald wasted no time making an undignified exit as fast as his cane and bad knee allowed him to. At first he heard the clash of weapons behind him, and then at the stairs he heard hurried footsteps approaching. He turned to defend himself but was oddly relieved to see the stranger dashing out of the dark. “She’s wounded. So let’s be gone,” she said, breathing hard as she pushed past him and darted up the stairs.
She waited for him outside in the mists, fiddling with the handles of her rapiers, but set off as soon as he emerged from Vivian’s now-threatening shop. He breathed in the fresh night air and set off after the stranger, who slowed down imperceptibly and spoke to him over her shoulder, her strong voice only slightly muffled by her bandana: “My name is Jen. As you may have gathered I hunt cultists of the Void, like that ‘friend’ of yours down there. Doubtless you have questions, but let’s keep moving.”
Reginald simply gave Jen a bemused smile in reply and did his best to keep up with her punishing pace.
She continued, “Alright, well, from the smell of bodies in that vile room I saved you from a bad end. Don’t know what that mirror does but I didn’t want to kill anyone next to it, cultist or not. You didn’t look it into it, did you?”
“Of course not,” Reginald lied. He was not sure why.
“Good then. I’ve a ship to catch and I recommend the same to you, outlander. The Withermoon has just begun and the skein of reality is thin for the next few months, so I’ll be busy. And the cults of the Void will be looking for you. So I wouldn’t linger.”
She gave him a final encouraging nod then took an abrupt turn down a street to the right, towards the harbor.
Reginald walked back to his inn, slowly now and thoughtful. In the back of his mind he was planning how to quickly leave as Jen had suggested, before anything else downright untoward happened. But at the forefront of his mind a word was forming, unfurling like the petals of a blackened orchid. No, not a word, a name: Narlyth. He was sure then, as the tapping of his cane echoed off into the night, that he somehow knew the name of the dragon he had glimpsed in the dark mirror, and moreover that it was no longer in whatever mysterious realm he had seen it in. The Void, as Jen had called it, he supposed. He looked up at the Withermoon in the expansive, starry sky above, and wondered exactly what he had let free.