In the pale bone sands of the Outer Necropolis, just a few musings sonder of the tall and nameless city that bridged the Lethe, there was a squat ruined building of weathered ivory. It stood far from the Great Road to Mictlan, concealed from the outside observer by the thick overgrowth of dessicated shrubs and the slow subsidence of the building into the bone gravel that surrounded it.
Within its walls, the building was nearly empty, besides the nest of Hermit Cranials, a fluted pitted structure of twisted and melded bone that covered one of the interior walls. Occasionally a young Hermit Cranial, wearing a rat or mouse skull, scuttled across the floor and into the nest – disturbing the quiet.
Into a quiet, hidden building in the middle of one of the Necropolis’s wastelands, a diminutive figure strode. Or, he would have strode, were it not for the fact that his feet didn’t touch the floor. He glided, instead, the trailing end of a long cloak or possibly cape hissing on the dusty floor, across a trail in the dust with an edge so neat it could have been drawn with a ruler. He was a creature of habit, endless and maddening habit. He gestured, and under the pressure of his mind, one of the rough ivory floor slabs lifted with a creak, revealing a vertical shaft down. It didn’t have any ladders or handholds, because its owner had never needed one. He slid silently through the air and descended, floating languidly downwards and out of sight. When the end of his cape finally disappeared after him, the trapdoor closed with a soft click.
The tunnels were initially dark, and while he didn’t need light to see, sconces along the walls briefly flared with lilac fire as he approached them before flickering out once he had passed. He knew the tunnels intimately, following a path through the winding maze of dead ends and traps with a surety born of centuries of experience. It took him five minutes and thirty seven seconds to reach his library vault, a subsection of his larger collection dedicated to the containment of… the more aggressive tomes. The chamber was large, and the faintly glowing carved Words and runes on the dark stone walls betrayed the fierce bindings placed across it and its occupants. He snapped his shrivelled, dessicated fingers, and the five braziers at each corner of the room burst into life, fire that faded from purple to orange as the mundane flame overtook the magical.
From inside his robe, he drew a sealed box of spelled olythreme, one just large enough to hold a copy of Auguries, first edition, a book capable of opening one’s inner eyes to see pasts and futures and to glimpse hidden information. A small side effect was that it tended to make holes in everything – it would eventually eat through the olythreme container, even – and especially so if its primary purpose was in any way accessed. Traditionally, the way to deal with it would be to wrap it up in sackcloths and throw it in the nearest large body of water. He chuckled at the thought, and placed the box carefully on one of the many shelves that were strategically arranged in a pattern through the Library Vault in order to dissipate and defocus the powerful energies each vicious tome channelled. He had been proud, when he had first created it, inlaying the shelves with parts of his own bones in order to keep the forces he’d planned to command chained. Just twenty-three more texts, and he could really get started.
He sighed gently, reminiscing about a younger version of himself wandering through these tunnels, wielding nothing but a dripping bonesaw and darkened knowledge. He floated back out of the vault, a rippling spasm of his shadow bringing the heavy door closed behind him. He headed through the tunnels again, twisting and turning past his larger, more mundane library, onwards and upwards through the winding passages.
His workshop was just across the hall from his shrine, where he kept a picture of the Triskelion that he’d managed to purchase, at great expense, from a corrupt Aeonic Knight. He’d met her in person, of course, and she was far more wonderful in the flesh than she was in a mere picture, but the memories were blurred due to the fact that he kept inconveniently dying when they met. Along with the picture, which he had framed, he kept a number of artefacts connected to her – fur he’d found caught on barbed wire, various wands and staves of dubious authenticity and one of the stones of Hollowed Hall were arranged in a tasteful tableau. She was the most beautiful being he’d ever encountered, and one day he longed to kill her, skin her, place her taxidermied remains in his shrine, and use the flesh and bone of the last Smoke Elf to complete his greatest works. It made him almost giddy to think about.
He tore his attention away from the shrine and back to his workshop, where his conduit to the Spine awaited, a pulsing, throbbing stone that glowed darkly in its shallow bowl of viscera. He placed his hands on the stone, and his luminous yellow eyes dimmed.
The world fell away, and the Spine laid itself out before him, a screaming pain, the horror at the heart of Creation. It coiled itself around him in his mind’s eye, and a beautiful searing sensation filled the numbness of his limbs. The Spine whispered to him, a voice full of the beating, warm, agonising love that filled every synapse of his brain.
He came to, mind full of fuzzy pain and arcane mysteries. And one of them was that the Triskelion’s ancient enemies were moving, searching for something. The world, said the Spine, was moving around some disturbance, and at the centre of the web, pulling the strings, was something powerful and wondrous. Something that could advance his plans.
Syrk the Deathless grinned, a rictus on his skeletal visage.
“A hunt, after all this time. Excellent.”