The Heart and The Obsidian Orb Part Two

Chapter One: The man painting a sphere while inside a sphere

The frothing azure waves crashed against the solemn craggy cliff. The water sprites dancing on the froth were not nearly as solemn, laughing little figures, they stole away pebbles and other things that broke from the cliff, tossing them amongst themselves. They spent every day like this, never remembering the previous day. A simple existence. Sometimes a greater water spirit was formed, and this would retreat into the murky depths, and play not with froth but waves.

The cliff was quite high, snow from its top had a bit of a trip to go to the water, it would be difficult to climb, even with all the crags. The builders of the ancient fortress of Wulthrane were aware of this when they carved their bastion into the cliff-face. It had stood proud over many wars, some forgotten to most people of Kigan, a veritable city in size. Countless murderholes and shafts for destructive constructions had once lined the cliff. As good as a position the cliff was for defence, it had been gutted, the face of the cliff-fort torn off by some great and furious force.

Part of the fort still remained intact, but the rest had been ruined, innards cast into the sea to be a curiosity to fish, spirits and other water dwellers. Well, a curiosity to those, but to adventurers of an aquatic disposition it had been a source of loot, some even still believed relics of an age past could be found in the sunken remains. The world did not end with the fall of Wulthrane, the ruins were built over and a town hugged the inside of the bared cliff. A town that bore the name of Welterine, after many forgot the name Wulthrane.

The buildings of Welterine were made of the same rock as the cliff, and stolen bricks and other parts from the ruins and the unruined part of the fortress, indeed, the making of the town and its growth ruined more of the fortress. These buildings were simple towers leaning against each other, competing to rise all the way to what had once been the upperparts of Wulthrane. Many of buildings however were just cut into the cliff and indeed the town had a thriving undertown that broke out into a sheltered dock at the base of the cliff. A dock cunningly hidden by the shaping of the crags and by magic.

Welterine was a trading town, and one of many ports that connected to Cahrissia and to the greater continent of Cri’Kigan. Being a port it was home to many different people of Kigan, indeed having some that would normally be quite strange to find in Nortrieln. There was something strange, though not in one sense odd to find in Nortieln near Welterine.

A huge sphere the size of a castle, resting on the ground. The sphere was made from some bluish metal that shimmered in dark or night. On the surface of the sphere were four massive round stained windows, in four different directions. The windows were supported and broken up by great metal rings. Smaller windows also covered much of the upper part of the sphere. If one looked closely one could see round bumps on the bottom of the sphere. Many of those in Welterine knew what these were, for they had seen the sphere walk towards the town on legs that were also spheres.

It was House Vulk’s, well… house. A house of Aehi Nobles.

It had arrived a few years ago, and to the people of Welterine the novelty had worn off. The council of the town had certainly not been worried, but then they had in turn been told by the ruler of the land that they were in that the aehi nobles would be arriving.

Standing behind an easel, behind one of the windows, was Ivakilnah DuVulk. Ivak was in many ways a man that was a like a bundle of sticks, his skin was even towards that kind of colour. He was very spindly. He certainly wasn’t ugly, but it would have taken a quite particular person to be attracted to him. His bright blue eyes almost shone feverishly from their deep sockets and heavy eyelids. His dull black hair was cut short and neatly swept back behind his slightly pointed ears. The neatness was spoiled by the bushy unruly nature of his beard, which had clearly suffered much from him pulling on it while musing about this or that.

His clothes were of fine cut, but they rested messily on his body. His creamy silky ruffled shirt was more ruffled than it was supposed to be, he had the sleeves rolled up, it was half tucked into his pants and half out. His pants were of fine brown dyed wool, these were tucked into a pair of unreasonably fancy boots that held the ravages of too much paint having been cleaned from them. They were his most comfortable pair however, so he had on a number of times saved them from being disposed.

The room Ivak was in was filled with paintings, some with cloths hanging over them. Ivak himself lashed out with a brush at the canvas before him, paint splattering on the ground and on his clothes and face. All of the paintings were quite realistic, perhaps unnaturally so in some cases, but the also seemed quite hurried, and there wasn’t much art to them, they exuded the sense that the artist had merely cared about quickly reproducing the image of what he had seen.

In many cases there was just a single subject on a blank unpainted background. There was a few paintings that were different. One was a soft abstract of crashing waves, divorced from the reality of how the waves really looked, instead the waves crashed into each other to form wondrous patterns that somehow warmed the heart. Another example was a thoroughly haunting piece, a painting filled with the refractions of crimson crystals, and just a sinister hint of yellow in the centre, corrupting the whole piece. In one sense these other paintings were far simpler than the hurried, realistic ones.

Ivak was currently painting a picture of a jade tiger in the shape of a sphere. The sphere rested in a bowl on a table between Ivak and the window. It was a masterful statue, and the tiger was almost disturbingly happy. Ivak belted out a few more strokes onto his painting. Then he went totally rigid.

In Ivak’s left eye was a sigil, a single twisting line forming a mess of interlocking half circles in the middle, with either end splaying out in frayed edges. This sigil was a pale turquoise. It glowed in his eye and then flared out from his back, like thin transparent insect wings. The statue melted and then flowed into the painting, giving the picture an extra level of ‘realness’.

This was the power of Ivak’s heart crest, he could capture things inside paintings. One limitation was it could not be used on beings with full will and/or higher thought, there where other restrictions, some which Ivak had discovered and some which he had not. Anyone could release what was captured by ruining the painting, though Ivak could call forth what was inside the painting without doing so, he suspected he might have more power than just that over things within his paintings, but so far he had not managed to do anything other than release things without destroying the painting.

“Hah, there, I think I managed that even quicker than the last, what do you think Claroosa?”

Claroosa Mjorn had been standing to the side of Ivak. It was testament to her skill as a servant how unnoticeable she had been, impressive considering how large she was.

Claroosa stood a good two heads above Ivak. Her face was dusted with freckles, a face which had gentle but hard purple eyes. Two small blunt stubby horns sprouted from just beneath her hairline. Said fair brown hair was drawn into a braid that lay over the chest of her dress.

Her dress in quarters black and a blue similar to the blue of the house. The shoulders of the dress where spheres, and the skirt was a half-skirt, a great many black frills lurked under the skirt. Claroosa’s tail poked out of a hole in the back of the dress. It was in part like the tail of a cow, and in part like that of a lion’s. Her black gloves were particularly wide at the forearms. Her legs were in black stockings, which in turn where in some rather reasonable brown leather boots. She also had a brown leather apron, which had a number of pockets and loops for this and that.

All servants of House Vulk wore clothes like these, though the men had a few differences in their livery, namely pants, though if House Vulk ended up with a naija, a snake-man, they’d probably slap a skirt on him and call it a day.

Claroosa was not a naija, she was in fact a quadroon, a quarter blooded person, in her case one quarter aehi and three quarters huldre. As she was mostly huldre she possessed strength far beyond many races, the huldre inherit but a few of their troll ancestor’s powers.

She was somewhat distantly related to Ivak, but she was Mjorn, branch family while Ivak was of the main line. She held a ravaged pallet in one hand while she handed a towel to Ivak with the other.

“I believe you were just a bit slower this time milord” Claroosa Mjorn had looked after Ivak since he was a child. She had not once lied to him or shied away from honest criticism of him.

Ivak’s face crumpled, he did a good job of looking like a puppy made of sticks that had just been kicked.

“That’s no good, the whole point was to get faster!”

Claroosa began tidying the painting and various materials away.

“Well milord, you have been doing it rather solidly, a break would be advisable.”

Ivak nodded dreamily, tiredness hit him all at once. He had been practising from early morning.

“The inner garden?” Ivak questioned.

“An excellent idea milord, I’ll get some herbal tea sent”

Ivak did not see it, but the other servant who had been in the room went off. House Vulk’s servants were quite good at being unobtrusive. Quite the feat considering their livery.

Ivak took a bit of time to rest, Claroosa fanning him, then he got up and after rolling his sleeves down, he marched off to relax in the gardens, he considered getting a bit of reading done while he was at it. Claroosa followed sedately after him. In many ways she was quite pleased to have charge of Ivak, after all the painting was nice and Ivak was a fairly calm quiet soul. Claroosa was glad of the peace, it was nice to be looking after such a relatively unimportant member of the house.

That however was about to change, as Ivak almost barrelled into a figure wrapped in orange furs who had a stream of hair like the night sky, glimmer of the lesser starfruits and all. He mainly didn’t end up crashing into this figure due to Claroosa grabbing him by the collar, like a mother cat her cub, and pulling him back.

“Does someone need to spend a day as a chicken eh?” The figure snarled.

“My apologies, milady Yagmalral, I shall look more carefully in the future” Claroosa said.

Ivak, for his part had frozen in terror at encountering Yagmalral, head mage of House Vulk.

If Ivak was a bundle of sticks, then Yagmalral was a hatchet, her face sharp and her words ready to split apart any that dared annoy her. Yagmalral actually looked a bit pleased when she realised it was Ivak and Claroosa. This greatly worried Ivak.

“This is perfect!” She said, drinking in Ivak’s unease. “The High Crest was looking for you!”

This hugely worried Ivak.

Author: SnowyMystic