Crown of Splendor

rating: +17+x

“And why don’t you care about what we have left?”

The scarecrow was seated at the restaurant table, picking occasionally at a tray of warm fries, and listening to the vampire’s request. Outside, the sun had just finished setting, and the choir of singing insects began.

“Only the loyalest and purest in heart are allowed into our righteous gathering, and you have been fortunate to receive a rare invitation for our extremely limited positions. The great question stands, why don’t you, a qualified candidate for this incredible opportunity, care?”

The scarecrow dropped a few fries into his mouth, and swallowed. After the fries went down with the faint sound of rustling straw, he spoke.

“I mean, I’d really like to know more about what this position actually is, to be completely honest. Half of that last sentence was just adjectives, and I don’t even know your name.”

The vampire continued, and the frustratingly smooth voice continued polluting the otherwise pleasant atmosphere at the table.

“My name is Blaire, and I urge you to cooperate with us, Kensing. We, the Protectors of the Crown, know you have worked with an entity known as The Foundation.”

Upon hearing this, Kensing choked. A fry, perched between a few pieces of straw, tumbled out of a small hole in his fabric and landed on the sidewalk. He sputtered as he caught his breath.

“I’m sorry, the what?”

“You, a doctor within its ranks, do not know The Foundation? The Protectors of Humanity’s Pillar before it fell?”

“Well I know that much, but like, what? They’ve been gone for almost seventy years now, why would they matter?”

“But, they’re the Foundation! The Red Right Hand, and Law’s Left Hand that secure and protect us daily! Plus, as a doctor within the Foundation, you can open their Church to the world.”

“That sounds like a terrible idea; from what I learned after the whole thing went down, the Foundation did a lot of awful things. We don’t need them back, and we shouldn’t want them back.”

Blaire pulled a device out from under the table, and held it in front of Kensing’s fabric. A small flame sprung from it, and danced inches away.

“Show me how to open the doors of their church, and you will have the privilege of telling your grandkids about our quest.”

Kensing paused, and as the flame flickered dangerously close, he reached into the mouth carved in his pumpkin face. After rummaging around for a second, he pulled a yellow keycard from the mess of straw inside, and set it down on the table.

“Yes, that will do. Thanks to you, many miracles will be performed in the name of the Crown. You may go.”

“Blaire, just so you know, I’ve seen this sort of thing tried a few times before. You’re not going to get very far, and not nearly as far as the others did.”

Kensing stood up, put several gold coins on the table to pay for his meal, and went home.

Twelve years ago, when he was only a kid, Blaire had found the tablet. Shoved under the hulking shapes of sheet-covered furniture, the small remnant of the past had been found. About the size of a book, but made of once-smooth steel and scratched, black glass, it stood out from the other aged things inside the attic of the house-next-door.

He had taken it to his father first, a tall, strong man who worked to make the homes left behind by humanity fit for new inhabitants. Father, as always, shook a pale finger as he warned Blaire not to go poking around in the homes that sat near-untouched since Calamity.

“You can’t enter private places without asking first, it’s very, very impolite.”

Blaire would always smile, small fanged teeth and pale brown eyes looking up at Father. Father would always smile back, weather-worn face and gray-white teeth stretched wide beyond normal. Blaire would laugh, Father would laugh, and minutes later, Blaire would go back to the house-next-door in search of treasure again.

But not this time.

Father had taken the tablet in his hands, looking carefully at the absence of his reflection in the black mirror, and tilted it to show the exact surface in the kitchen-ceiling light. Inadvertently, Blaire had seen the silver logo, printed on the steel back. It was nothing more than a circle, pierced by three stylized arrows and given a simple outline, but it was more than enough to do harm.

Blaire, at the brief sight of the pure silver, had collapsed. Father, seeing his son go limp on the hardwood floor after looking straight up, investigated the back of the relic, and froze. To an adult vampire, pure silver was hardly more than an allergy, an annoyance that would cause a runny nose, or watering eyes without the proper protection. But to a much younger one like Blaire, it was far more of a danger.

Father had picked up the crumpled form, and carried him to the local doctor in a running sprint. By the time he got him there, Blaire’s skin was already withered and shrunken around his small bones in a failing state of undeath.

The doctor, a fey creature who was only knowledgeable about herbs, tried everything she knew. Anything from baths of fresh blood to ancient spells of reanimation were tried, and all had no effect. Blaire, after two whole days of attempts, was given the only thing left for an undead individual; they buried him out back, and prayed that he’d wake up.

Miraculously, on a night when the snow blew meters high, Blaire found himself conscious. Nothing more than a pile of bones, held together by natural magic that nobody understood, had shambled up to the doorstep.

The strange forces that were responsible for the rules of life and death had changed since humanity’s time, and unlike before, it was now easier to repair something broken than it was to create something new. His flesh would weave itself from the bone and coat it in full. Life would return in time, and unlike the doctor expected, he would heal.

For his own safety, Blaire would be left in the house to rest, and there he would remain until he made a full recovery. Father, who was beyond overjoyed at Blaire’s return, promised him anything. Blaire had asked for the tablet.

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