A faint hint of morning light came into the the station through the tunnel, leading to the boarding platforms. Everywhere I looked creatures and humans were bustling about, carrying luggage, or blankets and picnic baskets. Some were talking to the vendors that lined the red brick walls of the high ceilinged terminal, others herding children and other family members onto the correct tram and cabin. The three of us stood in queue, waiting for our turn to board, while Patches talked to a razorclaw shifter by the name of Sen’jin; who was attempting to sell Patches what was very obviously a fake drake egg. We had bought tickets to the second train of the morning. The sword mage and the avenger had taken the first train, as it only had room for two passengers; therefore, it was myself, Patches, the warlock, and the artifacer left to meet them at our destination in the capital city of Tirisfall.
Before too long we boarded. Patches, who took up an entire cabin by himself, sat acoss the hall while the warlock, artifacer and I got comfortable in our own cabin. They were decently sized, and decorated sparingly; dark wooden walls with brass railings and a hanging lamp. The seats were a luxurious red velvet that one could easily sleep on and large enough that three thin people could easily have laid on them if they wanted no space to move. We had been seated for a short while, when the warlock pulled out a jar filled with several black dots, and began examining them with a slight smirk. It wasn’t until the artifacer asked nonchalantly; “So you still have your jar of Theocratic Spiders then?” that I realized what truly resided within the jar. Fighting back a scream, I moved to the opposite side of the bench, as far from the vile creatures as possible.
“You know something Arc?” the warlock drawled, lazily, a mischievous smile on his lips, the only part of his face I could see under his hood, “I’m getting hungry. Go fetch me a snack my minions.” This time, I did scream, pulling my legs up onto the seat as a flood of spiders poured out of the jar like a solid mass.
Shrill, faint, screams of; “THE OVERLORD HAS SPOKEN! APPEASE THE OVERLORD!” reached my ears as the army of creepy crawlies scuttled out the door.
I shall take a brief moment to say; that if it hasn’t been made abundantly clear by now, I truly detest spiders. At this point in my life in which I am transcribing these memoirs they still remain the single most terrifying thing to me, behind losing those I hold dear to unnatural causes and as you continue to read you will understand what it takes to frighten me by this point in my life. Now, it took me a moment to calm down enough to ask the warlock; “I’m sorry, but who is Arc?”
He chuckled, a sound that was oddly familiar to me, and said “Oh that’s right, we haven’t introduced ourselves have we?” he lowered the hood of his cloak, and for the first time in a day and a half, I saw the face of the warlock. He was an elf, but something about him was not quite right. I studied him a moment, unable to place it, before my eyes fell on his.
They were startling. Once white and pupil-less, the other ruby red. I had to fight myself to maintain the straight face I was working so hard to keep, and not shrink under his gaze. His skin was pale, almost ashen and his jet black hair was kept short and away from his face, showing a sharp jawline, and a neck that hinted at a well muscled torso. He was what most would refer to as a dark elf, though not quite. He was a shade. What happens when an elf spends too long in the black swamps of the Fae, only just managing to escape before being completely corrupted by its dark magic.
As I sat staring at him, still transfixed by the mismatched eyes, I felt a pull so strong it was astonishing. I had never once seen this man before, in my life, and yet there was something about him that felt familiar, like a half remembered dream. The smile he gave me when he held out his hand took me back and made me think for a moment that I might have known him. But that wasn’t possible. I had never truly known a shade. I preferred to stay away from them. “I’m Rook.” He said, shaking my hand. The name made me stiffen slightly, but I hid it to the best of my ability keeping the smile on my face.
“And I am Arc Light.” Growled the artifacer, holding out his hand as well. A genuine smile twinkled in his eyes, barely visible beneath his caterpillar eyebrows. The big bear of a man had a bushman beard covering most of his face and his wild brown hair was held back by a pair of blacksmith goggles he wore on his head. What little of his face that remained uncovered by hair was weather worn, tanned, and leathery. His eyes however were bright and friendly, a pleasant blue which echoed the summer skies. He had one arm that was well muscled and tanned sporting a bicep bigger around than my head, while the other was made of metal. Intricate and covered in symbols from some language that I couldn’t recognize that seemed to dance the longer you looked at them as well as what looked like secret compartments here and there along grooves and divots in the strangely organic curves of the metal. His smile was bright and welcoming and when he laughed, it sounded like rushing rivers.
“It is a pleasure to meet the both of you.” I said softly, “My name is Andraste.” the pleasant atmosphere was interrupted as a scream bubbled up from within me. The cabin door had somehow opened to reveal the small army of spiders, scuttling back in and carrying several types of refreshments on their backs like ants.
In an attempt to keep my eyes off of the disturbing sight before me, I turned to look into Patches’ cabin. The tiny cabin made the minotaur look even bigger, and was curled up asleep wearing a nightcap, and cuddling his battle ax, also wearing a nightcap. He had, of course, cleaned the blood off of his horns and out of his fur the night before, and was now gleaming ivory, snowy white, with jet black patches once again. Every time he shifted his weight the muscles under his fur rippled and knotted, doing nothing to hide the immense strength that lurked beneath his calm state. I smiled to myself, forgetting why I had looked into the cabin in the first place, until I turned back to my own cabin and was reminded. The spider army had delivered their “tribute” and had begun to construct a pyramid of dates on the seat next to mine. They appeared to be preparing for a blood sacrifice.
Rook smirked at my reaction “You don’t like spiders very much do you?” he asked with a chuckle. I shook my head vigorously and shuddered to answer. There was a knock on the door of the cabin at that point and Rook, being closest to the door, answered. “Can I help you?” he asked dryly.
The conductor, who was not a small man, was dwarfed by the looming shade, who stood at least 6′4" tall. The man took one look into Rook’s eyes and seemed to shrink in on himself before holding out a trembling hand “I-I” he cleared his throat “I have a note for you” he held a small piece of paper with gold ink, which Rook took quickly, glanced down at, and stiffened. His head snapped back to the conductor, furry and urgency apparent on his features
“Where did you get this?” he hissed.
“Um... A-A man on t-the platform. Why? Is something wrong?”
“You didn’t ask his NAME?” Rook said through clenched teeth, drawing himself up to his full height.
“Um, well, um no. You-you see it didn’t-didn’t occur to me at... at the time.” The conductor had begun to wring his hands, his eyes darting from side to side, as though searching for a way out of his predicament.
“IT DIDN’T OCCUR TO YOU?!” Rook shouted, positively livid “IT DIDN’T EVEN CROSS YOUR TINY LITTLE MIND TO SEE WHO WAS SENDING A NOTE TO A PASSENGER ON THE TRAIN?!?! A PASSENGER WHO MAY NOT HAVE EVEN BOARDED YET?!?! IMBECILE!!!” and with that he slammed the door in the dumbstruck conductors face. Through the crack in the drapes, I watched the now shaking conductor walk down the hallway, his face white as a sheet, while the two men in my cabin began to talk.
“Did you read it?” Rook hissed at Arc.
“Yes, but that isn’t the question you should be asking here. The question is; what are we going to do? Are we going to comply?” Not wanting to intrude I began to observe the spiders, primarily to keep them as far from myself as possible. One of them had come up next to me and was holding something out as though in offering. I respectfully declined and, pulling my knees a little closer to my chest turned it around with a little magic. More tiny shouts of “APPEASE THE OVERLORD!!!” reached my ears.
“Look” Arc was saying “we might as well find out what it’s talking about.”
Rook shook his head “No. Do you not remember what happened last time?”
“All I ask is that we check it out. Go wake Patches and see what he thinks.”
“Fine.” Rook said standing up. As he walked by I caught a glimpse of what was written on the piece of paper.
Make it look like an accident.
Rook slipped out of the cabin and wedged himself in with the sleeping Minotaur. This didn’t seem to be the best of ideas as he was cuddling a giant battle ax, but, to each his own I suppose. He proceeded to shake patches awake, and immediately ducked as the axe whooshed above his head, and after a brief shouting match; of which I caught only brief snigbits such as “WHY THE HELL ARE YOU SLEEPING WITH AN AXE ANYWAY?!” and “WHAT KIND OF WORLD ARE WE LIVING IN WHERE A MINOTAUR CAN’T SLEEP WITH HIS OWN AXE WITHOUT BEING ATTACKED?!” Rook handed him the note. He was shaking, whether it was from his anger or fright however, I couldn’t tell. Patches pulled out a set of reading glasses and placed them delicately on the edge of his nose. The two deliberated for a moment, and before long, Patches stood, exited his cabin, and began to lumber down the hall.
“Patches wait!” Rook shouted, running after him, “there isn’t a-” but it was too late. Patches had managed to find an attendant.
“Excuse me miss” he slurred, loudly, to the very frightened looking young woman, “Where might I find the cargo hold?”
Her eyes were positively huge when she answered. “We don’t have a cargo hold. We have a mail room, but we don’t really let anyone back there.”
Patches heaved a sigh, removed the spectacles still perched on the end of his nose, and growled “Look lady did you hear about that train that wrecked a couple days ago?” she nodded “Well I was on that train a-”
Rook rushed forward at that point looking panic stricken, at the last moment however he put on a very concerned, father type, demeanor rushing down the hall towards the Minotaur. “There you are Patches; I have been looking all over for you.” Then turning to the stewardess he said “I am so sorry miss. He gets like this when he is due for his medication. It’s in a package in the mail room would it be possible for us to go get it? He gets violent if he doesn’t take it in time you see.”
At that precise moment Patches flung back his hand in irritation, not intending to hit anything, saying “Now wait just a minute...” but before he could finish his massive hand collided with one of the light fixtures on the wall shattering it on impact.
Arc’s grin stretched from ear to ear “Oh perfect timing old boy.” He said in hushed tones.
By now the poor woman looked like she was about to pass out. Her face had gone chalk white, and her eyes were the size of watermelons. With what seemed to be all the strength she could muster she said, “Yes, yes go. Please just-just go...” She waved her hand loosely as she pinched her nose with the other directing them toward the mail car close to the engine of the train. I assumed that she was the one who had to clean up his mess. She was also shaking like a leaf in a wind storm.
Rook nodded, and thanked the stewardess, before making his way back up the hallway in pursuit of the large black and white behemoth, that was now lumbering away to the cargo hold. Once I felt he was out of earshot I turned to Arc and all but screamed “Rook?! The Rook?! Rook the Blackheart?!” Arc nodded, a look of both understanding and amusement on his face as I continued; “He’s supposed to be dead!!
“Well, apparently I’m not.” The voice behind me made me stiffen out of pure fright, and I turned to see Rook, standing behind me. The smirk was replaced with a look of cold indifference, though I was surprised at the slight twinkle in his eye. Not to mention the utter silence with which he carried himself, almost like... Death itself.
“Here” he said calmly, tossing a bag of something to Arc,“Your stomach has a talent for giving away our position. Let’s go.” He glanced down at me, and smiled a sideways smile before making his way back down the hall.
Arc could barely hide the laughter that was rolling through his body in waves as he opened the bag, and began munching on the small red berries. He nodded his approval, and made his way past me, and stopping at the door. Then, turning to me with a smile, he said “You coming?” I took one glance at the spiders, now building a statue in Rooks likeness, and nodded vigorously. Anything to get away from them, even if it did mean following the man responsible for enough deaths over a period of 8 years to make an Orc blush. As we left the cabin tiny shouts of “APPEASE THE OVERLORD” reached my ears yet again.
It took us about 10 minutes to walk through the bustling green and brass passenger cars, to the mail car. As soon as the door shut behind us Patches and Rook proceeded to go though the letters and other mail; opening, reading and, quite sloppily, resealing it. Arc and I stood at the door flabbergasted. “Ummm... Isn’t that highly illegal?” Arc asked in a terrified whisper
“Last I checked Arc,” Rook grinned up at him from under his hood, he had put it up while walking through the train to avoid stares, “we had done much, much worse.”
Arc let out an exasperated sigh “Well... Yes, of course” he said placing the thumb and fore finger on his normal hand to his temples what little of his face was visible dissappeared from view; “but still, can’t we leave just one law unbroken? Why don’t you just save your time and energy and see if you can sense anything magicky. You are a Warlock, are you not? Between you and Andraste you should be able to sense something.”
“Alright, alright you may have a point. I’ll try it.” The both of us took a deep breath and closed our eyes, “I feel... Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not even Andraste’s magic.” He said grudgingly.
I, on the other hand had the exact opposite result. “I feel everything.” I said calmly “There is nothing in here, or anywhere else on the train for that matter. There is, however, a race of demons roughly 50 miles below the surface.” I turned to look at all of them just in time to see Rook’s jaw drop.
“I” he said, pulling out a pad of paper and a piece of charcoal “Will make a note of that.”
Once we had established that there was nothing to be found in the mail car, save a very interesting lantern with what appeared to be some fireflies in it, we headed back through the train. Along the way we ran into the merchant Sinjin again. He claimed to be selling drake eggs and various other items such as, a medallion that was supposed to bring you good luck. All it really did was attract spiders. Needless to say, Rook bought it. When the merchant decided he wanted more for the medallion than it was worth Rook decided to try out a little trick of his called “Iron Spike of Dis” but, thankfully, was stopped by Patches just as it was about an inch from the bottom of the tram.
We had started back to our cabins again when I abruptly flew forward as the train began a very sudden and fast stop. I got to my feet, and the next thing I knew the rest of the tram car was flying. Something I was pretty sure trams were not supposed to do.
The last thing I remember is Rook yelling “HOLY SHIT!!!” and then nothing. It all went black.