After receiving an in-depth tutorial on the importance of showing rather than simply telling from narrative team lead Robert Gervais, I edited my descriptions in the following ways:
- distinct, unique voice for each relic's "narrator"
- new dialogue between the player and her sidekick
- if it doesn't further the development of the plot or of characters, cut it!
- consult with the game designers about their desired feel, timbre, and tone
ZAXON RELIC DESCRIPTIONS
Artifact Name: “The Red Scythe”
Value: 10,000 CR
Emperor Zaxos enjoyed fighting his battles in close proximity with his enemies. Butchering his enemies with a scythe, he was often seen leaving the battlefield drenched in blood.
Sam & Gimbal Lines
Sam: What even…why is a farming tool on the derelict?
Gimbal: Searching for tool origin…answer: the Red Scythe. Weapon belonging to Emperor Zaxos. Stolen by grave robbers. Believed destroyed. Like the emperor’s heart.
Sam: Awww Gimbal, you softy.
Gimbal: Negative. There is just some dirt in my circuits…
Many things drive the course of history: power, money, blood. But the reign of Emperor Zaxos would not have come to pass if not for the ill-fated intervention of love.
Having spent his youth in the fields, Zaxos learned how to wield a scythe and wield it well. He would have been content to remain a slave to the dread tyrant Virrin, had the slavemaster not claimed Sitha, Zaxos’ lady fair, for his bride. This sleight Zaxos could not abide.
After all but the night guards were asleep, Zaxos took to Virrin’s fortress to rescue his mate. Swinging his scythe, Zaxos cut through all who stood in his way, until at last he reached Virrin himself. The tyrant refused to reveal Sitha’s location, although he loosened his tongue after enduring a few slices of Zaxos’ scythe. Virrin confessed that he had sent Sitha into hiding by way of an enslaved Malic priest, but when he would say no more, Zaxos silenced the tyrant for good, claiming the empire for himself. Emperor Zaxos spent his reign searching for Sitha and taking revenge against the hidden Malic priest by systematically destroying the Malic civilization. It is no wonder that most artifacts from his era, from currency to child armor, have been found adorned with Emperor Zaxos’ sigil, the red scythe.
Artifact Name: “Florianne’s Hammer”
Value: 1,000 CR
This hammer was Florianne’s favorite weapon to take into battle. She earned a well-deserved reputation of being a brutal warrior who would leave a trail of flattened enemies behind.
Sam & Gimbal Lines
Sam: Oh yeah, I remember Florianne! Yeah yeah, she disguised herself to win a tourney and played whack-a-mole with Thalish invaders. Now here’s a lady after my own heart.
Gimbal: You are just looking for another excuse to wear a costume, sir.
To instill courage in their young, Zaxonion elders tell the story of a small but thick-scaled warrior named Florianne and her mighty hammer.
A youngling during the fifth century of the 4,000 Year War, Florianne was small but hardy, and she spent hours training with her father’s war-tested hammer. She wanted nothing but to join the First Warriors by winning the annual Ma’rak Challenge, but they rejected her entry time and again because of her age and size. In defiance, Florianne entered the competition anyway, disguising herself with a helmet and elevated boots. Relying on her remarkable speed and agility, she easily bested her opponents in every event, successfully landing more blows than any warrior who had come before her.
When it came time to name the Ma’rak champion, Florianne removed her helmet and proudly revealed her true identity. Shocked and embarrassed, the First Warriors immediately welcomed her into their ranks, making sure not to repeat their mistake of underestimating passionate warriors again. Today, younglings look to Florianne for courage and perseverance during their military training, many of whom try their hand at a hammer as a tribute to her memory.
MALIS RELIC DESCRIPTIONS
Artifact Name: “Timepiece”
Value: 25,000 CR
Malics don’t have the same sense of time as other species in this sector of the galaxy. Malics measure time by energy signatures, which makes their timepieces highly sought after. Based on the construction of this timepiece, it’s safe to assume that it dates back to the time of Vedic, High Priest of Malis.
Sam & Gimbal Lines
Sam: Ugh, a watch? Who wears these anymore? If I want to know the time, I just look at my communicator.
Gimbal: I doubt your communicator tells you the current energy signature of the Malis system, sir.
Sam: Just…sometimes, Gimbal.
Gimbal: I…I know, sir.
A letter from a questionable merchant to a member of the Guild of Elite Thales (GET). Both names have been redacted to protect the not-so-innocent.
You know I try to protect the identity of my clients – how else would a merchant make it in the black market, I ask you? – but there was something off about this one. She was clearly a Zaxonian sympathizer using a cloaking device – a cheap one, I might add – almost as if she wanted to get caught. Strangest of all was her request: one of those old Malic timepieces. The only one I had in stock was a red mess – why bother restoring junk no one in their right mind would want? I almost let her have it gratis, but I can’t just be giving things away. Bad for business.
Don’t rightly recall how they’re supposed to work, but I remember something from my studies as a youngling about how Malic timepieces measure energy rather than time. Their system has some unique energy signature that makes them all feel connected, especially when they wear one of those timepiece things. If you ask me, that’s a little too close for comfort.
Not my place to ask questions, but it seems like a Zaxonian sympathizer wouldn’t even know how to use such a thing…come to think of it, maybe I should’ve kept it out of their hands. A Malic timepiece – even a worn out antique – could still probably pick up energy readings about Malic affairs. Maybe I’m just a silly old man who remembers the times of the Revolution all too well. But I figured you should know, just in case the Zaxonians were getting some ideas…well, I don’t want to think about that.
Artifact Name: “Kell’s Jar”
Value: 8,000 CR
Malic priests are well known artisans, which is clearly evidenced by this multifaceted glass jar.
Sam & Gimbal Lines
Gimbal: Searching for origin…entry found: Kell’s Jar. Crafted by most talented artisan in history. It is perfect in every way.
Sam: Gimbal…this jar has seen some things, hasn’t it? Did it just get colder in here?
Gimbal: Unexpected phenomenon. Likely that spirits attached to jar – oh wait, I accidentally shut off the temperature regulator. That was a close one, sir.
Fan the coals. Check the pumps. Not too hot. If I burn, I stop. If I stop, I die.
A Malic priest named Kell was arguably the greatest practitioner of artisanal meditation of all time. In order to connect with the heartbeat of the universe, all Malic priests must choose a craft that will induce a meditative state and also fulfill a need of their community. But it was the art of glass blowing that chose him.
They’re gone. Did the night come? Always watching. Can’t stop.
At the age of nine, Kell collapsed on the doorstep of an orphanage on the icy planet Vedi. He could not remember his name or origin, but the Malic priests who ran the orphanage welcomed the boy, teaching him their craft: blowing glass. A quick study, Kell soon surpassed the skill of even the most talented priests among them, and it was not long before wealthy benefactors learned of his talent. They fought for the privilege of funding him, but Kell insisted on continuing to provide his creations to the community without making a profit.
Can’t anymore. Can’t fight. Just one left. Then rest. Finally rest. Coming home.
During Zaxonian enslavement of the Malic people, a nameless general captured Kell; word of his talents had reached even the remote regions of Zaxon Prime. Zaxon soldiers forced Kell to blow glass for Zaxon dignitaries at all hours of the day, allowing him only three hours of rest each night. Unfortunately, Kell died two weeks before Thalish liberators arrived, and thus the Zaxons’ greed snuffed out the closest any civilization ever came to looking in the eyes of the Celestials.
Artifact Name: “Vase”
Value: 2,000 CR
Malics love to grow flowers inside vases made of ja’dan, one of the only known materials capable of capturing celestial energy.
Sam & Gimbal Lines
Sam: Oh yeah, I’ve seen one of these before…dear old marvelous Mumsy never goes anywhere without a Malic vase. She always warned me not to put anything in it, though. Seems bizarre-o. What else is a vase for?
Gimbal: Absorbing one’s life force, sir.
Sam: Ha, good one, Gimbal.
Gimbal: Laugh irrational. I did not tell a joke.
Sam: Let’s just pretend that you did. Because creepy. And I’m done holding this vase now.
I admit that, at first, I could not distinguish the tribe from the trees. Perhaps I was not meant to. I had been told that they breathe light, live on the wind, and speak as animals, finding words for concepts beyond Thalish comprehension. But who can believe such fancies without seeing the truth for themselves?
It was not until one of them – a short, green- and red-speckled creature that I initially mistook for a mulberry bush – unfurled from his disguise that I realized that I had stumbled upon the very people for whom I had been searching.
The creature explained that his tribe was conversing with nearby flowers about the prospect of picking them. When I asked why the flowers would agree to this fate, he assured me that these flowers would not die and pulled an indigo vase from his cloak. It glowed with a slow, throbbing pulse that only seemed to grow stronger when the creature finally placed a flower in the vase.
Several days later, I looked again upon the vase and was astounded to find that the flower had dissolved and become one with it. Its pulse had increased in speed and intensity, a curious result that seemed to satisfy the creature. “She has transcended,” he sighed, bowing his head in reverence. I learned later that the vase was made of ja’dan, a dark blue stone capable of harnessing and spreading the celestial energy of all lifeforms. To my new friend, the flower had simply returned its energy to the collective, living on in every Malic that is, was, or ever will be.
I imagine that I am not the first traveler to encounter the Malics only to feel, upon leaving them, abruptly, painfully alone in the universe.
Artifact Name: “Malic Prayer Beads”
Value: 4,000 CR
Malics meditate five times a day, and these beads are a way of holding themselves accountable.
Sam & Gimbal Lines
Sam: These beads sure are spiffy…wow, did I just use the word ‘spiffy’?
Gimbal: Affirmative. I recorded it for posterity, sir.
Sam: You really shouldn’t have, Gimbal. Delete it. Now.
Gimbal: I can’t do that, Sam.
“How will doing the same thing day in and day out connect me to the Celestials?” I remember asking the same question when I was a just a novitiate, like yourself. The best I can do is tell you how I found my way, though every priest’s journey is different.
As you learned during your first few weeks of training, we practice a daily spiritual regimen to nourish all five parts of the self. These five parts are, in order of practice: First Glow: the waking self; Bonfire: the physical self; Glimmer: the mental self; Rekindling: the social self; and Candlelight: the spiritual self. A mouthful, I know, but remember, young one: we must cleanse ourselves to receive both the Celestials and our fellow living things. As the Celestials’ prophet Amalfia once said, “All we are is all we are.”
Each step requires a cleansing action that we must perform five times, counting off five beads on our prayer cords as we do so. For instance, upon waking, we cleanse our feet and welcome five creatures to the day. For the physical self, we channel the trees, opening our minds to their ancient strength. And at night – my favorite step – we gather together to welcome each other and share our joyous experiences.
And what of connecting with the Celestials? You need only look to the trees, listen to the creatures as you walk amongst them, and let the heartbeat of the earth move through your cleansed feet into your own heart…and you will know the face, the hand, and the love of the Celestials.
Artifact Name: “Jar of Ancient Soil”
Value: 250,000 CR
This is a jar of ancient soil from the most sacred mountain in Malic mysticism, Mount H’ol’Abi.
Sam & Gimbal Lines
Sam: Dirt. I came all this way to salvage dirt. I gotta make up something for Kotubir…uh…this dirt will…cure the Malic plague! Sure. That’s it.
Gimbal: …no one is buying that, sir. Also, contrary to most evidence, Kotubir is an intelligent lifeform.
Sam: That’s debatable.
One cannot visit a tavern in the Malic kingdom of Hearth without hearing tales of Lumena the Silver, a just and gentle queen from the ancient times of First Glow. Lumena reigned over all that the suns and stars could touch, tending to the heartbeat of the earth by favoring rituals that preserved its treasures; for this, her subjects worshipped her happily. This was also due in no small part to the fact that her bloodline was intermingled with that of the Comet Riders. The proof was in her hair, silver, shimmering in that First Glow.
Alas, her lineage did not grant immunity to misfortune. She bore a dark-haired girl called Mira, whom she loved more than the stars. But those who would wish the queen harm looked upon her joy with only hate and jealousy, and a short while later, the girl fell ill from an unknown poison. Healing salves had no effect, but Malic priests kept vigil. One priest was so deeply moved by the queen’s sorrow that he ventured to Mount H’ol’Abi, the most revered mountain in Malis, for spiritual guidance. Once he reached the summit, the priest collected a jar of soil, as the mystics believe that Comet Riders once visited the peak. Grateful for her gift, the queen kept the jar by her daughter’s bedside.
No one knows for sure whether the soil was the cause, but the princess arose in perfect health the next day. Her dark hair had become a radiant shade of silver, ushering in an era of peace and prosperity for the kingdom of Hearth.
Copyright Alexandra Lucas 2015