Ma’grok slammed down his mug, skarnsbreath ale spilling out over the rim and staining the wooden tavern table. The sound of his stone stein echoed through late night inn, interrupting people mid-thought and turning heads towards Ma’grok’s table.
“Preposterous.” He spat, breath heavy with the spiced liqour. “The Vault is a myth, a fairy tale. One that you humans tell far too often!” He grit his teeth down at the young human who had walked over to his parties table. A second later he calmed, looking around at the various heads that had craned to watch what they had thought might be the start of a bar-fight.
The boy, standing firm in front of the table straightened his back. He moved to wipe his face of Ma’grok’s spit with the edge of his crimson-stained cloak. “I’m… I’m not denying that.” He started, a stutter of confidence in his voice. “But I know what I -saw-. It was there, no mistaking it.” The young man had barely finished his sentence before Ma’grok had slammed his palm against his forehead.
A thin wine glass delicately hit the table across from Ma’grok. A lithe elven face turning from the frustrated orc down towards the insistent human. “How can you be so sure? Sure enough to tempt the ire of my friend here?” a quiet voice belonging to an Emberleaf elf cut across the table. Viola pushed her violet hair from her eyes with the hand she’d previously held her wine glass, and peered down at the boy.
This time the boy shifted the weight on his legs. “I… I don’t know what stories you’ve heard. I can’t say if elves and orcs hear the same things that humans hear, but… There’s no way it could be anything else! You could even feel the magic bleed off of the place!” this time the boy turned orc to elf, a pleading look in his eyes. Eventually he turned to the third member at the table. “Please… What if it disappears?”
The previously silent figure at the table looked up. A human knight from Adamanth sat at the table in battle leathers, a plate of food half eaten and forgotten in front of him. “Disappears? Like in the legends? It’d be a shame if we missed out on that, eh Ma’grok?” a thin smile crossed the knights lips as he pushed an elbow at the orc sitting next to him. A pained grunt fell from the orc who turned back.
“Don’t goad him, Sawyer. You humans tell enough lies without the encouragement of others.” Ma’grok reached back down to grab his drink, but was interrupted as the boy stepped forwards once more, slamming his hands down onto the table, knocking a bit of food from Sawyers unfinished plate.
“I swear it! You can ask the rider from Cerulea I was with! She’ll confirm that we saw it!” the young boy persisted. Shaking with either anger or fear. Or both.
“Where is that friend now, shouldn’t she be helping you plead your case?” Viola asked, leaning over the table and resting her chin in her palm. There was a thin smile at her lips as she spoke, a gentle kindness on her face that tried to hide the obvious scrutiny in her question.
The boy fell silent. His hands pulled from the table and his gaze turned to the tavern floor. “She’s a scout in the Phoenix Guard… She went to relay the message to scholars at the Academy in Cerulea. There’s no way she… or they, will make it back in time. That’s why I came here. I saw… Well I saw your pegasus in the stables sir. If we left now we might…” the boy trailed off, the absurdity of his words finally dawning on him.
Ma’grok finally stood. His chest was darkened with the twists and swirls of tattoos familiar to his kind. “Listen.” He spoke, the single word quiet, but filled with meaning. “Let us eat in peace. Tell your story to others around a fire or through song. But what we want now is drink and food, not a bards tale.” He moved one of his arms outwards and made a shooing motion with his hand.
Outside, Gerrel slammed a fist into the stone walls of the tavern. Hot tears stung at his face as he desperately tried to choke back his embarrassment and sadness. There was a corner of his mind that was thankful for the lack of moon this night, leaving him in near darkness with his frustration.
Several minutes later he pulled back from the wall, turning and leaning back against it. His cloak scruffed behind him against the masonry as he started to slide down to the ground. A voice cut through the darkness and shot a shock of fear through the young human, who bolted back to his feet, a hand reaching down to the dagger he held concealed at his hip.
“The wind speaks only the truth, but it makes a poor companion and it can be lousy with directions.” A calm feminine voice came through the darkness. Gerrel’s eyes shifted back and forth, desperately trying to find the source. Several moments later a coyotle stepped close enough for him to see, and his hand fell from his dagger. The coyotle was covered in weaves of leather, adorned with multicolour feathers that made Gerrel question how he possibly could have missed her. “Ma’grok once believed in the Vault, you know?” She spoke again, her legs crossing as she took a seat in the grass and looking up at the wary human.
“I’m sorry?” Gerrel questioned. He found himself sitting in the grass across from the coyotle woman who had snuck up on him in the night. “He sure didn’t seem like the type to take well to it, for someone who once believed?” He fidgeted with the cloak that had found it’s way underneath of him as he sat.
The coyotle turned and looked out into the seeming darkness. “Often times believing you’ve been lied to is enough to twist someone’s heart from the possible truth.” She said, never returning her eyes to match Gerrel’s. He turned his head to try and see what she was looking at, but could see little outside the light cast from the tavern windows.
Several more moments passed in silence. Gerrel finally spoke up again. “Ma’am? How do you know what we talked about in the Inn? I might have been busy making a fool of myself but I’m sure I didn’t see a coyotle at any of the tables.” He hoped, desperately, that the nerves in his voice weren’t as apparent as they had been earlier, but he’d heard stories about how keen coyotle hearing could be.
“Mm.” She reached down to her side and pulled a leather circle from her side. A crossing of tightly woven strings danced an intricate pattern through the inside of the circle. “The wind catches all manner of things if you know where to look.” She turned back to the boy and smiled. Her free hand moved and pointed upwards, directly into the night sky. “Up there?” she questioned.
Gerrel felt his jaw fall a little in surprise. Today had been an onslaught of surprises for him, but finding out that a coyotle had eavesdropped on his conversation using the -wind- of all things? The mysticism of the coyotle as something he had been told of several times over, but it was different seeing it in person. He followed her hand up, a single claw (Finger?) pointing upwards to the sky. He looked back down and met her eyes. “Yes. It’s resting on the surface of the clouds.” He said. “It’s the Arcanum Vault, I’m sure of it.”
Another voice cracked through the darkness, calling out in a direction away from the pair conversing in the grass. Gerrel recognized it as belonging to the knight, Sawyer. “Whispers? Are you out here? It’s time to go!” he called. Voice echoing through the valley, a few miles outside of Gawaine.
The coyotle turned towards the voice, “I’m here. Do you know where we’re going?” She spoke back. Her voice low enough that Gerrel was sure there was no way someone at the entrance to the tavern would able to pick it up. He was surprised to hear a response, and surprised further to hear a hint of joviality.
“No? I had assumed we were continuing on to Gawaine to report our findings, but you have the sound of a detour. What’s our destination, Whispers on the Wind?”
Whispers spoke back. “We’re going to the Vault in the sky.” There was an audible groan from the front of the tavern. “Hush, Ma’grok. I’ll buy you a drink if we find nothing.”
A long second passed.
“Two drinks, than.”
There are many stories about the Vault. They’re told across every surface of Entrath, ever race with their own spin on the mystical locale. Some of those stories are even true. One point that fixed itself into the story no matter who told it, or where, was that the Vault was not stationary. It would disappear and reappear on a whim, sometimes appearing at the top of a mountain, others at the deepest crest of a valley. Underground in a deep cavern or beneath the ocean, or even in the deepest parts of a forest that no elf or shin’hare would dare trespass into. It had a seemingly mysterious agenda and never stayed in one place for long.
Inside? Treasure. Lore. Riches. The truth. That part was never clear. A wish, a dream, darkness, or secrets untold for so long they might have lost their truth…
Ma’grok let his arms fall to his side. A twisting cloud beneath him carried Ma’grok, Viola, and Whispers into the sky, following behind Sawyer and his Spearcliff mount, Gerrel riding behind the knight. A structure of curves and pillars lay before him on top of a rather large cloud. No matter which way he looked the building seemed to curve differently, and he could feel what Gerrel had previously described as ‘magic’ permeating from the building as they closed in. One feature in particular caught his eye, never seeming to shift. A pair of massive doors arching up beneath a pair of pillars that twisted upwards from the clouds.
“It’s… Real?” The orc questioned. He turned (carefully, he never trusted the clouds that Whispers carried them on. It wasn’t natural.) to look at his companions. Viola was busy sketching everything she saw in a pad of paper she kept on her at all times, and Whispers merely looked happy as she looked ahead, motioning her staff to direct the cloud closer.
The hooves of Sawyers mount touched down on the clouds cautiously and found them solid, trotting to a stop. The knight and Gerrel dismounted, making sure twice each that the cloud would hold their weight. Soon the entire party was before the arched doors, which creaked open unbidden.
Inside the door, a human man stood, arms to either side and beckoning forwards. His robes billowed and shimmered as the wind from outside burst into the mystical building, light bouncing off various sparkling gems that were woven into the material. His grayed hair and beard pulled behind him with the wind, but a smile was clear on his face. “Welcome back!”
“Back?” Sawyer questioned…
The Arcanum Vault returns!
Format: 4-round Swiss constructed (Standard) best of 3.
Time: 11am PT and 6pm PT
Day: Mondays (April), Tuesdays (May), Wednesday (June), and Thursdays (July)
Where: In-client, called “FiveShards Arcanum Vault”
4-0: 3x Current Set Boosters and 3x AA Aspect of the Squirrel
3-1: 2x Current Set Boosters and 2x AA Aspect of the Squirrel
2-2: 1x AA Aspect of the Squirrel
1-3/0-4: No prizes