Where is King Sestonn?
By Alan Mittag
Coach Sestonn was deteriorating. His skin had grown so taught over every bone, that it was like he didn’t have any tissue beneath. No muscle. No organs. The phrase skin and bones, which I had used haphazardly my whole life, was coming true right before my eyes. But worse, Coach Sestonn himself seemed to be disappearing. The golden crown on his head was the most prominent thing about him now. In fact, every time I entered the room, it was the first thing I noticed.
About a month ago, he spoke of himself in the third person. But he didn’t call himself Sestonn. He was the Eternal King. He would say things like, “The Eternal King demands sustenance.” And then a skeleton would be off to find him some piece of food. Stale dry bread, usually. At first the change in speech was just words, but now, he doesn’t even sound like himself. His voice has changed with his body. Just a rasp in the air, dead lungs leaking air.
The change was frightening. But for better or worse, over the last week, Coach Sestonn/The Eternal King, had not spoken a single word to me. He doesn’t even seem to notice my presence anymore. It was as if I were the only living person, a ghost among the dead.
On any given day, the palace is silent. Constantly silent. Deadly silent. The only noise at all is the gentle click of bare bones on the marble floor, and even that is only when some servant is on a quest for his king. Mostly, the skeleton guards remain motionless at the intersection of every hallway. The skeletons for his Blood Bowl team, All Hail King Sestonn, stand motionless in the throne room. The only movement in the entire palace, besides myself, comes from the Tomb Guardians. Four Tomb Guardians stand to the sides of their king. Occasionally, one of them may reposition his stance, shifting an arm or leg. I even caught one taking a sudden bite of the scarab crawling through his face. Though, he did not chew. Just one bite, quick crunch, and back to silence.
But yesterday was a day of action. When I arrived in the throne room, Coach Sestonn stood up from his seat. I single word escaped, breathless, “Come.” A single word, drawn out over the length of two seconds. Was he talking to me, at last? The four tomb guardians took a step forward. I didn’t know if he spoke to me, or to them, but I followed.
Coach Sestonn, or maybe, The Eternal King, led the guardians and I down five flights of stairs, into a basement without a floor. The bottom of the palace. I stepped into soft earth. The room had the aire of stillness, staleness, even more than the palace above. A shiver ran down my spine. I’m no wizard, but something in that room was so powerful, even I could sense its darkness. And, it didn’t like me. It didn’t want me down here. This was no place for the living. I wanted to flee. But I didn’t, I couldn’t. I had a responsibility to record the happenings of the team. And it was so rare for anything to happen.
The Eternal King walked out into the room while his guardians stayed near the door, two to each side of me. They were twelve foot tall, towering monsters of bone, scraps of flesh, and hungry beetles. I had the feeling that if I tried to run, I would be ripped apart, food for the scarabs.
The Eternal King knelt down and pressed his skin-on-bone hand to the earth. He held it there for some time, maybe 30 seconds, maybe a minute, then he closed his eyes. About twenty feet away, the earth shifted. A skeletal hand pushed through. Another shiver ripped through me. Dark Magic. I didn’t belong there.
I watched the new skeleton rise from the earth. One hand, then the other, then it sat up. Its eyeless skull twisted and turned, looking right passed me until it settled on Sestonn, its Eternal King.
“Rise.” It took 2 seconds for the rasped word to escape from the Eternal King. The skeleton rose to its feet, climbing out of the ground with relative ease. It stepped up to its king, and then knelt to a single knee and bowed its head.
“Serve.” He said again, long and slow. “Heperu.”
And suddenly Coach Sestonn’s voice, weak, but him for certain. “Skull-Pow.” The name stung through the air. It was law. It was truth. That would be Heperu’s true name. Skull-Pow. I smiled at that. King Sestonn was still in there.
Then the guardians surrounding me spoke in unison. Deep, dark, terrible voices that boomed through my head, driving down into my heart. My body shivered. My spirit broke. I fell to my knees, clutching at my head and ears. But their voices… They could not be denied.
It took awhile for me to gather myself and follow them upstairs. I don’t know how long. My nose was bleeding. My ears were bleeding. My arms and legs shook. But what I remember most was my heart, pounding, pumping me full of life as if my very soul was afraid I had lost it. Darkness. Necromancy. Human beings are not made to witness such things.