Chapter 1: 01 - Prompt: 3 - Meet with Scholars - Ill Omens
Dalv stepped up to the cave entrance that loomed above him like a gaping maw with rocky teeth. Water softly babbled around the stepping stones he stood on, and a fine mist from a nearby waterfall was doing an excellent job of dampening his mood. “Clever.”
Dalv thought back as he waited. He’d gotten his letter for the elemental tournament in the guild hall early one morning, slipped under his door as he changed. By the time he’d gotten to it, the sender had vanished. Any invite would have gotten a response. So including the symbol of his Gauntlet on the envelope only served to make the hair on Dalv’s neck stand on edge. Few of the other residents had paid much attention to the Gauntlet. This felt more… calculated.
“Lord Blackhand of Sazen.” A dull, booming voice broke Dalv from his memory. It echoed around the cave without a source. Dalv sniffed. Mysterious voices had stopped having an effect many years ago. Instead, he simply bowed gracefully as his moral code demanded.
“Welcome. I am a member of the Scholar Collective. It is I who invited you,” The voice continued after Dalv gave no verbal response. But at least they cut to the point. “We wish for you to take part in a tournament to demonstrate your power and ability so that we may judge which element is best…. “
“I received your invite, and you have my acceptance,” Dalv said carefully, eyeing the darker areas of the cave, his red eyes shimmering lightly. “But the inclusion of the envelope was a little overboard, I dare say. The greeting could have gotten from any of the guild hall patrons but the envelope? In my humble opinion, I am a little concerned this was a means of showing off.”
“We required many participants, Lord Blackhand.” The voice responded, unfazed by Dalv’s accusation jab. “We need to assess which element is best.”
“May I ask why?” Dalv replied a little curtly despite his best intentions. “I feel there is more here than you are letting on. I’m afraid to say my acceptance now hangs on the answer to this question. You have plenty of others to fight, no?”
A figure emerged from the cave from a small opening near the mouth. Their white and gold robes remained in immaculate condition despite the mist.
“There is no need for such ultimatums, Lord Blackhand,” Even though the figure had risen, their voice still bounded around the cave. It echoed louder than a normal voice should have. “The Scholar Collective obliges the sharing of knowledge. We invited you specifically because of events that have yet to transpire.”
Dalv tried to get any facial features on the individual, his eyes narrowing. Nothing save a chin and a non-descript mouth.
“About this?” Dalv asked, raising his black Gauntlet. The mist gave the garment a shiny sheen to every detail.
“No.” The figure replied. “In truth, we worry something from your world or a world akin to yours may come to Avangard and sew ruin among the constructs there.”
Dalv did a double take, blinking. “What? Sazen?”
“Yes. Or a world close to it. We can’t determine where exactly. However, we know it is coming.”
“Have you told other applicants of this?” Dalv asked through narrow eyes, suddenly uncomfortable with his home being mentioned in some doom prophecy. He’d been to enough noble balls and adventures to know how such reactions usually ran.
“No.” The figure replied, raising a calming Dalv didn’t realise he needed. “Our process of picking a champion does not require such knowledge, and we have framed this tournament so that the strong feel compelled to join. We do not want to start causing accusation or suspicion until events are confirmed.”
“Smart choice,” Dalv said with a slight sigh of relief. “Then indulge me as I will accept that your Collective can discern the future. So what is this thing you’ve seen?”
“You are in the right mind to not trust us at once, Dalv.” The figure said. Dalv didn’t even bother to deny that he didn’t. “But we know you will keep it in mind, and that is what we require from you now. The only name we have of now is ‘The Infinite Sovereign’”
Dalv thought. That name did not ring any bells, and he was confident that he knew a fair bit about his home world’s history. Nothing of an ‘Infinite Soverign’ Not unless it came from the Silent Era, a moment in history blanked to all civilisation… Maybe this thing came from there-
“I’m sure this meeting has raised more questions than it has answered.” The figure cut off Dalv’s train of thought as if they were reading them.
“Forgive me,” Dalv bowed again, “I have to confess that you have been most forthright with this information, and I thank you for that. I’m just processing that my home will deliver potential disaster to a world I have not been in yet.”
“We understand, and more shall be revealed as you go along, Lord Blackhand. Do I take it that you are accepting our invitation?”
Adventure awaited in a world he knew little about. A danger loomed, and the prospect of further answers lay ahead. He could die or suffer greatly. Ruin could come. Knowledge could be hidden throughout, and Dalv stood on the edge of it all.
“I do accept, indeed!” Dalv bowed with a grin large enough to reveal his fangs. “I wouldn’t miss it for the worlds!”
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