The Václavák Salon has something of a reputation within Coldspire Academy. Serving as the home to the chess club founded by Vikkard Broju, its membership is generally limited to the organisation’s higher rung. Exquisitely decorated by ornate glass chandeliers, gilded guéridon and walls of pure white marble, the venue is an ostentatious display of wealth and power. At all hours of the day players can come to test their skills in the tranquility of its halls while semi-translucent servants offers choice of delicacies and fine wine. The salon has something of a otherworldly aesthetics to it, which should not come as a surprise as its design had been inspired from one of Master Broju’s many extraplanar escapades.
Chess was a distinguished form of entertainment, that Althea herself sometimes indulged with her acquaintances. She had recently arranged for Master Broju to teach the game to her pupil. Hasdrubal figured that it was a way to rear him to more sophistication. After all, his teachers of today would be his equals of tomorrow, it was time to adopt a past time befitting his station. Hasdrubal’s mere presence here also served this very purpose. The Václavák Salon was a proper place to show oneself, spending time with someone of Broju’s position served to elevate his stature.
Hasdrubal surveyed the puzzle before him with a furrowed brow. He was anxious, as he, uncharacteristically, seemed to hold the upper hand in this particular game. Hasdrubal was trying his earnest to close the deal but he knew full well that he had a tall order ahead of him. Master Broju had been the Academy’s best chess player during his youth and remained an extremely talented player. Hasdrubal, on other hand, had never played the game before joining the academy and showed no inclination or particular affinity towards it.
This abstraction of war did not play to his strength. Chess rewarded those approaching it with patience and a methodological approach, two things Hasdrubal sorely lacked. The man had become a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield by drawing on his primal instincts, and he approached many aspects of his life with the same reckless abandon. This translated into his play, trading pieces tit for tat, making them clashes in a violent and chaotic display, if rarely a successful one. Master Broju quickly realized that his only hope in making a decent player out of him was to teach him a chess school befitting his predisposition. He settled for the «Dorian school» characterized by brash gambits and an open, tactical game. A style focused more on artistic expression, rather than technical mastery or long-term planning. For its practitioners, winning was secondary to winning with style.
-«You have something on your mind, yes?.» inquired Vikkard, breaking Hasdrubal’s train of thought.
It was true. Something else was weighting on his mind. Something he wouldn’t dare share with Althea… But a door had opened, an opportunity to get it off his chest.
-«After we retrieve what is sought…»
Hasdrubal moved a piece forward, not leaving his eyes from the board.
-«…what will be expected of us?»
Spending eternity as an archangel for the new arbiters of life and death held no appeal for him…
Vikkard leaned in, lowering his voice:
-«You and I… We cut of same cloth, yes? Then no need to worry. Just enjoy creation… perfected… Yes?»
Vikkard straightened himself and nodded, smiling reassuringly to his opponent. He looked certain that he had shared some grand revelation.
The cryptic reply did little to assuage Hasdrubal’s apprehensions. Where did he and his companions would fit in the grand scheme of thing one it would all be said and done? Their mentors might be confident to prevail in doing a deed many times attempted and failed, to catastrophic repercussions, but he was not so. This whole endeavor filled him with dread and yet, against his better judgement, he could not stop himself from going forward. At the end of the tunnel glimmered a sliver of hope that kept drawing him further…
-«Would it… Will it make it possible to bring someone back? Someone long gone?»
Vikkard stroked his chin, processing the question.
-«Ah, from the other side, yes? It would be but trifle.»
The cat had played with his prey long enough, it was time to spring the trap. Master Broju reached for his knight and slid it into position. The piece now threatened both of his opponent’s King and Queen. Hasdrubal grunted in frustration, his fortune had done an about-face, his situation was now hopeless.
-«You wish to concede, yes?»
Hasdrubal slinked his king out of harms’ way, looking at Vikkard square in the eyes.
He would fight to the bitter end.
Vikkard spared no time responding, picking his knight and toppling Hasdrubal’s queen, seizing its place on the marble board.
-«Very well. Let’s keep playing, yes?»