The world around him slowly came into focus. A high pitched whine rang in his ears drilling deep into his brain like a dull corkscrew. An impossible weight pinned him against the floor. Every inch of his body twitched and jerked against a painful electric charge pulsing through him. Drool and mucus poured from his mouth.
Coughing, sputtering, he rolled to his back with great effort. A guttural moan escaped his lips. The room was bathed in a soft glow. Small orbs of light danced gently and fell like stars in the air.
The pain receded, and he found the strength to sit up. His stool hung in the air as if it had been thrown, but then stopped and held in place by time. He rose to his large leather soled green feet and stared in wonder at the thing. He wrapped long fingers around one of its legs and attempted to remove the stool from its place. It wouldn’t budge.
He pulled with both hands trying to free the stool until his feet lifted off the ground. He hung in the air unable to move the stool in the slightest. He set his feet on the ground and released the stool. A sense of awe churned in his gut, a maddened frenzy of butterflies.
The whole world stood still, awash in hues of grey and soft blues, glowing eerily with a gentle light. An powerful was at play. Snotfingers left the floating stool behind and ventured out of the washroom.
The great stone hall, just up the stairs was empty, held in the same peaceful stillness as the washroom. Washed out blue and silver velvet banners bearing the silhouette of a wolf’s head hung high along the walls. The standards of Howling Keep proudly displayed for all to see. A standard which gave pause to every rival kingdom in the land, an undisputed symbol of power and strength.
His feet slapped along the cold stone towards the grand hall where the court mingled about the day engaging in every manner of intrigue. Bored noble socialites abounding in wealth and every material desire so fat and lazy from a life at the top of the food chain, they had nothing more to drive them save for invented drama and high stakes backstabbing.
In the grand hall the nobility stood as finely carved statues. Their backs turned towards him, gazes locked at the center of the social epicenter. Carefully he weaved through their legs pressing towards the front of the lifeless crowd.
Each noble in attendance wore a black mask over their eyes. Frozen expressions of menacing sadistic joy and cruelty permeated the gathering, a looming darkness that made the hall feel heavy. Snotfingers swallowed hard keeping the rising acidic fear down at the back of his throat.
As he drew near the front of the crowd he caught glimpse of King Whisperfang, undisputed lord of Howling Keep and fearless master of the greatest Gods Blessed kingdom in all of Aurel. The king’s dreadful gaze, like his subjects, was locked on the center of the grand hall, muzzle drawn back in a snarl, ears held erect, black fur bristled.
Beside the king stood a robed figure. A silver chalice with a prominent ruby at its center was held aloft by pale arms protruding from the robe. Held as if making a toast, or an offering.
Snotfingers paused a moment to wipe the sweat beading along his brow on the tunic of a goat-faced noble whose dagger filled maw gaped open as if he had been mid-shout before time screeched to a halt. His own mouth was like a desert, a thick sandpaper tongue clung to the roof. A growing unease pleaded with him to turn back, yet something stronger still seemed to urge him forward.
His knees weakened and gave under him. Before him, at the center of gathering, lay the mutilated bodies of fellow slaves. Faces pealed away, throats opened, intestines torn free, and the remains cast carelessly aside. A giant wolf-faced monster stood holding a thrashing gnome over a golden basin. The slave’s jaw had been torn from his head, a sickly purple tongue hung lifeless from his mouth, his blood gathering in the basin beneath him.
The goblin wretched emptying the contents of his stomach onto the floor. He was overwhelmed. He recognized the remains of many of the slaves. Friends.
Tears fell like rain. His body convulsed in choked sobs. Hatred and fear battled for dominance within him.
“The Sacrifice.” The Grand Archmage, Medgar, stepped forward untouched, like Snotfingers, by the magic holding the world still. “A blood offering made to very old gods every 333 years.”
“An offering made to honor the pacts that made man the blood thirsty beasts you suffer under every day.”
“I wish I could. Everywhere, in every land under the tooth and claw of the Blessed, this night, acts like this are taking place. I can’t stop it. But you can.”
“It’s your fate. My kind, we are not blessed by the gods. We are under their curse. We earned their ire by serving their enemies. But I have foreseen your name. You will be the banner under which this depravity ends.”
“I-I don’t know. They stopped me before I could see more.”
Medgar pointed a slender finger towards the foot of the king’s throne where his severed head sat upon a silver platter.
“This is the last of my power. My act of penance. Gather your things. Leave. This spell has only a few more hours before time resumes.”
“Where will I go? What about…”
“Moira’s waiting for you just outside the keep’s gates. Gather your trinkets and go. Quickly! Trust that you will put an end to this. You will avenge these deaths, and more.”
“I don’t…where do I start?”
The goblin nodded and forced himself to his feet, running quickly from the archmage’s presence. He quickly gathered his treasures from under the stone in the washroom. His stool waited near the loose stone, released from the spell.
His feet carried him swiftly out of the keep, through the courtyards, passed the main gate, and into the open air of freedom where he and Moira set out on riding wolves into the night.