The Tomes of the Seer: Chapter 14

Another. Kind of unfinished, but it’s where I’m at with it all.





As the first rays of light broke themselves through the bars of a tiny iron window, the sounds of the townspeople beginning their day of work came, as well. The people, for the most part, sounded as if they were not in complete misery, which was odd considering the torturous screams that refused to dwindle during the midst of the longest, coldest night in Reifwhin’s memory. The sound of work, clanging, banging, and whistling, was a good things to hear.

At dawn the King’s Tower bells began to chime, and Reifwhin watched as the dolling made Tullin churn a little in his sleep. The poor boy. He lay on a slick, cobbled-stone floor, and the blood from the wound above his eye pooled pitifully around his face. His deep staggered breathing sent a ripple across the slick of slowly drying blood.

It had been a swift fall for both of them.

The days before seemed an unwelcome dream, still, and every nightmare worse than the one before, but the aching in the old man’s bones and the still-swollen bruises about his body reminded him that the nightmare was not made in sleep.

The bells from the tower stopped, and only the small noises from the town outside filled Reifwhin’s straining ears. Tullin had slept the whole night. If the old man hadn’t known better, he would have thought the boy was in a concussive sleep, that, or simply dead. His labored breathing, and the twitching he gave at abrupt sounds was enough to tell him the truth of the boy’s condition. He was knocked unconscious, and nothing more.

The thoughts of escape the Advisor had once had were now as fleeting as the remaining echo of the bells outside. Communicative exchange had once been in his armory as a tool for solving unpleasing confrontations, but these captors, he knew, would have none of it. Not with the wind-walker dictating their action. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to learn that the guards and soldiers enveloping the town had been corrupted themselves. Not at all, with they way they behaved. Chivalrousness, and the heroic halo once held above the heads of King Lanier’s soldiers certainly had dissolved.

It was no matter now. They had been moved from the dungeon cells to a cell within the castle walls. Reifwhin had overseen the prisoners in these cells before, and advised over their condemnation by the King. He knew where they were headed. Soon, on this day, surely, they would be hauled by force, prostrated before the new King. They would stand trial, and with the corruption deep in the blood of Hyrren, they would be found guilty of whatever absurd crime they had been accused of. Hopelessness dug a nasty hole, and began to eat at the old man, when Tullin began to toss a little more.

Reifwhin stood, slightly hobbled by his aching knees and walked toward the boy. He knelt shakily and put his hand on Tullin’s shoulder and gave it a minor shake.

“Rise slowly, son. You’ve gotten yourself a vicious battering.”

Tullin groaned and shifted a little on the floor. He coughed, splatter the pooling blood around his face even farther across the floor.

“There, there, boy,” Reifwhin said. “Don’t move too suddenly. The shock could send you sleeping once more.” He patted his shoulder, and at the same time, forced the young stable-hand from getting up.

“Where are we now?” Tullin said. His voice was thick with fluid, and he whistled through his nose when he breathed. “Was the woman my mother?”

“I–” Reifwhin began to speak, but conjuring up the best words to give answer to, proved to be a difficult charge. “I didn’t…see.” He breathed heavily through his nose and looked down toward the floor to avoid Tullin’s welling eyes. “We were close, the other cell just beyond the guard’s tunnel. I — I tried to call out to you — to slow you a bit, but they were already there. The screams of the other guard you…” He trailed off again as the memory of the killing of the guards visibly hit Tullin’s mind.

“It’s no matter, boy. I…we didn’t see, so we cannot assume. And do not feel poorly for the men you dispatched. They were monsters.”

With his head in his hands, Tullin nodded after a moment, but when he breathed in, Reifwhin could hear the fluid in his nose that told of his silently weeping.

“I’ve never killed,” he was able to say after a moment. “It’s…it’s horrible. The feeling I have, I don’t know a way to say how I feel. I took a life, one that wasn’t mine to take, and it weighs too heavily on my heart.”

Reifwhin understood, certainly. The first time he had taken a life, he had felt much the same way, but that had been what seemed eons ago. Faces flashed in his head, faces of men he killed in battle, splattered red, lips splayed biting down so hard their teeth splintered. A short-sword through the ribs often did that to men. As they held on, flexing, fighting against the pain — against death — some even bit off their own tongues, or tore holes in their cheeks before they finally went limp, and exhaled their last breath.

The faces faded from his mind, but the warmth on his face from the shame he felt remained for too long. Tullin watched him relive those painful, albeit, necessary moments, and looked upon as if hoping for consolation. His eyes still wept, but his brow, wrought still with anger showed that no matter what he was feeling now, he’d kill, and kill again if it would save the people he loved. Master Reifwhin understood that all too well. That, was the only reason he had ever killed a man.

“You…you’ve killed as well?” Tullin asked. The boy looked up hopefully, and Reifwhin looked down wishing he could have avoided the question a million times over. Those memories, some days they were fainter than others, and he liked to keep it that way. The times he dredged up the dead in his thoughts, were the times he wouldn’t sleep for days, and his fists would shake uncontrollably. Today was looking to be one of those days.

The thought of reliving his past was worse than the thought of facing the King — facing his own execution. Nevertheless, the boy needed to know.
And so he began his story. He told of the Cloth of the Ember, the ancient order sworn to stay true to the power of the stars, and never forget, never to let the Shadow spread it’s darkness over the world again. Their purpose, thousands of years old, to use the beacons of the Firmament’s Fires, forever, to scorch the evil veil that covered the fallow spawn in every corner of the world. He studied at the temples in Klidreal and learned to harness the raw energy from the sky. At Jhilu, he spoke of the ancient masters that honed those powers, and taught him, beyond all, restraint, focus, and discretion. He recounted it all to the boy, his journey to the tips of Nihl, and Khifri, at the very top of Hornhold herself, the top of the world, where the power died with the coming of the Horde.

Tullin gasped at that, that mention of the Horde, the only war to scar the world since the Age of the Risen. The only war fought since the Age of the Risen. Tullin would have just been born around the time of its irrevocably needed end, and had probably heard stories his whole life. That was where the memories of dead men lived. They haunted him whenever he thought of Hornhold. Whenever he thought of the edge of the world, or the tempestuous seas.

“You…you fought the horde,” Tullin said, eyes wide and full of wonder. Not a glimmer remained of the pain he showed a moment before, which in all truth was the old Master’s ultimate goal. Yet, reliving those tales hobbled him to his knees. It was a small sacrifice for saving what honest, loving soul remained in the young boy.

“I did,” Reifwhin said. I was an old man, even then. Yet I am here, and I am here because I did things such as you did in the dark cell. Killing, young Tullin, is sometimes necessity. Not a day goes by where I wish I hadn’t slain a man, but I am alive for it, and probably, so are you.”

Tullin fervently shook his head and stood so quickly he began to swoon. He fell into Reifwhin, and the old man accepted him and held him as in embrace. Tullin gripped the old man’s sleeves and pulled back to stare him in the face. Concern wrinkled the corners around his eyes, and he sputtered, looking for the words to say.

“Those men…the horde. They were evil. They were creatures from Lord knows where, set on only death and horror. They took our women…our children. They tortured good folks and burned half of the country side before the war was won. You can’t…no, you cannot feel sorrow for them.”

Reifwhin gave a tight lipped smile, and patted the side of Tullin’s face. “What is it that you think of the men you killed in the cells? Were they better men than those that you speak of in the Horde?”

Tullin looked down, and stared at the palms of his hands. Dried blood still stained the crevices of his palms, and crusted under his nails. “Those men…I…don’t…”

“The answer is no,” Reifwhin said.

Tullin began to protest, but Reifwhin spoke hard at him, and the boy stood and listened.

“Some men are purely evil,” he said. “Whether that evil is born in them, or put there by some force beyond out control, evil is what they are. And some men, boy, deserve death. Whoever’s screams we heard in those cells, whether it be your mother or not, she was tortured. She was beaten, mutilated, and probably raped until she was dead. You heard the sounds as well as I.”

Tullin turned a pale shade and lurched as if to vomit. Sweat suddenly poured down his face, and that fire he once had had returned to his grimacing eyes. Reifwhin could see that his fists where clenched, squeezed together so hard, a small trickle of blood ran from the bottom of his fist to the cold cobbled floor.

“Like I said,” Reifwhin continued. “Whether or not your poor mother, and whether or not that girl that died in that room had anything to do with you or your life, those men, the three that entered our cells for us, they, they had done all of that to her. You remember them laughing, yes? Screeching with joy, as the poundings, and the slapping and the grunting went on, hours and hours after the poor soul stopped her screaming. You remember this, yes?”

Tullin only nodded, his eyes boring jagged holes into the vision of the memory.

“Now you tell me,” Reifwhin said. “You tell me, did those men not deserve to die?”

The Tomes of the Seer: Chapter 13


Gherric sprang up with his sword in hand as soon as he had heard Chara begin to scream, keeping his stance low and scanning the area around their camp for threats. He looked like a cornered wolf, teeth bared and snarling, trying to protect his pack. “Where?” he whispered. “What–?”

“Listen!” Chara sat waving her hands frantically for silence, every hair follicle on her body standing to a point. “The miners.” Her body quivered just at the thought. Every word of Ghinri’s story seemed to be screaming out in her ears, the terrible parts of missing men, power, death.

Ghinri’s whimpering broke the sudden silence, and Chara caught a view of him in the pale light of the waxed moon curled up and clutching his knees. His face glistened, wetted with the tears she could see flowing freely from the boys squished up eyes. She wanted to reach out to him, to yell to him and tell him to run. She mouthed the words, but she couldn’t speak, couldn’t scream at all. Her limbs were frozen, the sound of the ghostly pickaxes chinking away at the rocks made her shrivel up inside herself with every blow.

Gherric was at her side almost immediately, both hands gripping his sword and holding it high and ready to swing. He didn’t shake, she noticed. He didn’t cry, either. He scanned the edges of what little the moonlight touched twice more before it seemed he trusted his vision well enough to look away. His eyes met hers, and Chara saw something. The hardness she had first seen when they met days ago was certainly still there, but there was something else now. His brow crinkled slightly. He looked pained — worried.

Another clangor rang out, and Gherric’s eyes snapped back toward the darkness. Chara flinched, and still thought she was unable to stand. Had he held worry for her? Or worse, was he just as scared as she was? After everything, the man that still held so many mysteries to her, she still trusted entirely with her life. She had to, not just for her sake, but for the sake of her brother — poor, sweet Mat — and her mother, too. The entire fake of Thrym could rest in the hands of her, in the hands of Gherric. If he were scared, how could she not be?

Another hit out in the night made her flinch, but she forced herself to shrug it off. Ghinri was still curled up on the ground like a baby bird fallen from its nest, and she was sure she looked much the same, sitting in her roll, blubbering like a child. She couldn’t die like that. What would people say? That her, Chara Leyon, sat on the ground like an infant after witnessing, and living through the demon-slaughter of her town’s men, just to die frozen with tears still in her eyes. No.

With great effort, she loosed herself from the terror, made it separate, far away. Closing her eyes, focusing on other things, anything, taking her mind to somewhere else, she pulled her fingers from where they gripped her tunic and reached up to grip Gherric by the wrist.

Instinctually, he flicked her hand away and raised the sword a touch higher before focusing on her enough to reign himself in. “M — Miners…” was all that he was able to get out before Chara interrupted him.

“Gherric, I — I am all right. Ghinri, he– he needs your courage.” She pointed over to where the boy lay, still curled up like a child, weeping as if he his mind had finally snapped. Oh, she wanted Gherric to stay, to hold that sword high over her and swing it on anything that came near. She wanted to cling to his leg as he fought off droves of terrible things, all vying for her flesh. She knew he would, if she asked. Somehow, she knew.

But, as those cracks and clangs filled the night air, she watched Ghinri lurch with every sound, the lifetime full of being told the terrifying tale of his ancestors’ demise catching up with him, becoming reality right in front of his own two eyes. Despite her own fear, Chara knew his must be ten fold with the words of his town’s sitters most likely blaring in his head. Her heart hurt for him, more than her flesh prickled at the night.

Gherric still stood tranquil, a statue looming in the night aching to come to life. That pained look still stained his face, worse now than it had been before. He stared at her, into her, questioning duty tearing at his features, and Chara knew that he wouldn’t move unless she made him.

“Go!” she yelled. “I can handle myself.” With that, she gripped his wrist again, and pulled herself to her feet, whipping her belt knife out of the sheath. She copied his stance, well, tried the best she could, and gave him a shove in Ghinri’s direction.

Gherric tightened his lips, holding back something, she could tell, but as he opened his mouth to protest, she silence him with a shove. “I’ll be fine,” she whispered.

Gherric stalked off, keeping low and alert, but looked back to her every few steps with those pained eyes. Chara tried not to pay attention. Really, she was fine; if she had survived a chase by a depleter, she could certainly survive a few sounds in the night. Really, they weren’t that scary anyway. They were just —

Gone? When had the sounds stopped? The pickaxes, the cracking of the stones — gone. She craned her ears as she slipped her knife back in her belt. She could hear the sobs coming from over where Ghinri was lying, Gherric crouched but still looming over him, a gentle giant offering a helping hand. The little black pebbles crinkled under their feet, her own deep breaths, her own heartbeat sounded in her ears. Something else, but not the clinking. Not the miners. Something…sneaking?

A twig snapped. Her mouth opened to yell to Gherric, but she knew she was too late. A big calloused hand close around her face, cutting off her scream. Her fingers fumbled for her knife again, but whoever was holding her gripped her arm by the wrist. Suddenly, she realized she was being dragged backwards. She dug her heels into the ground and reached behind her with her free hand trying to scratch at the face or neck of whoever held her. She fought with everything she had, but it wasn’t enough. Her chest burned, and her breath came out of her nostrils hot a fast. She tried to pry her lips apart to bite the man’s hand, but he held her too tight, and she only succeeded in biting her own lips. She could hear her screams beating at her throat, unable to escape her mouth, and as she clenched her eyes shut, fighting for breath, fighting for everything, she felt a tear escape. Just one, she thought. Don’t give him any more.

Chara knew who had grabbed her and was now dragging her away, out of the sight of her protector, before she even heard his voice. It all made sense. The way he had looked at her, watched her for days now, finally became honest. She swallowed hard as terrible images played in her head. Some imagined, some remembered. She hated admitting it, even to herself, but she knew what was going to happen to her, and it wasn’t the first time she had had to suffer through it. Another tear threatened to break the surface, but she fought it. She fought it and won. She would not give it. Ever. Fight, she thought. You are stronger than this!

Gherric and Ghinri slowly faded from view, a giant shard of rock blocking them from her sight. She couldn’t hear them anymore, and Ghinri hadn’t even tried to be quiet. If she couldn’t hear them…

After they rounded the first boulder, her assailant kept dragging. Back and back, edging closer toward the trees, he went. The farther he pulled her away from Gherric, the darker things seemed to get. Not just the night, but her fate as well. Don’t give in… He doesn’t deserve the satisfaction.

She squeezed back another tear, pushing her feelings deeper down, closing her eyes, trying to be somewhere else. She wouldn’t show him fear. She wouldn’t she him pain. He would have to fight for every inch he gained, and she would not make it easy.

I will kill you.

She squeezed her eyes together even harder, focusing on her last thought. Death. She had wished death on the other men, certainly, but things had never come to such light before. Nothing was ever this simple. Before, she was a girl, they were men of her town., Strong. Drunk. Violent. Now, the end of life itself, good and evil, a final moment in the very real future, things were much more simple. She was going to be raped. And Rhonnil was going to die.

Her head hit the smooth side of an enormous shatter piece of stone, and the man leaned on her, pushing her into the rock face while he ripped a piece from her shirt and tied it over her mouth. It tasted of salt. Iron. It smelled of cherry and wood.


Another swath was torn and her arms were ripped behind her, her wrists squeezed together, and all she could think of was him. Gherric. But he wasn’t there. She sought darkness in her thoughts. Think of nothing.

Think of nothing.

The man tossed her to the ground, knocking the wind out of her. Still, she didn’t cry. She could feel his breath on her neck as he knelt down over her; his hands as he groped and fumbled his way around her body, feeling for the leathers of her tunic.

She swallowed hard and sunk deeper into the blackness. Inside, she was calm, but she longed for somewhere else, something else, anything but this. She felt her shirt tear, calloused fingers scathing, staining her skin. Nothing, she thought, Give him nothing. She strained to fall deeper into her mind, so deep she wouldn’t feel anything at all. Nothing, she thought, but one thought always echoed harder than anything she wished.

I will kill you.

And suddenly in the blackness in her mind, small at first but growing brighter with each pained breath, there was something there, and suddenly she felt nothing at all. Nothing but purpose. The small dot, growing larger, now golden, bright and golden pulsed with her heartbeat, and it reminded her of something — what was it? — something beautiful. Something bright and beautiful, and there just for her. Something she sought. Something she longed for and found. It was as if it had been there all along, and she just had to find it, but Lord, what was it? And why now?
The light grew, filling the backs of her eyelids, bright pulsing golds and yellows and fiery oranges, burning, too bright. Panic iced her veins, and she knew, not wholly, but she remembered. Something, what was it? Something before she had screamed, something before she heard the pickaxes of the miners. Bright. Burning. Swirling…

The stars.

I will kill you.

She opened her eyes. The face she saw wasn’t Rhonnil. A soldier lay over top of her, panting, and talking in fragments. The blue banner of Lucansphear was stitched into the tunic that he had pulled up over his stomach.

“Stupid,” he was saying. “I followed the…farmers,” he panted. “Right from…Dursei, I did.”

Chara let nothing show. She could feel the warmth on her face.

“That’s…that’s when I saw…you. The King…he mentioned you. Said what you‘d look like.” Sweat dripped from his brow as he ripped at her pants, fumbling with the buckle. He cursed once, and Chara stared straight up, not at the man, but at the sky behind him. He went on, “I knew it was you as soon as I saw your pretty face.” He huffed, out of breathe, fighting to hold down her legs. “He said not to kill you, girl; said that you were…dangerous, but you‘d need to be brought to Ghilenbrook.” He laughed.

“Who knows what the church would want with you.”

Dangerous? What was he talking about. Questions swirled in her head, but were swallowed up by her hatred. That bright, golden hatred, seething, churning, burning. It ebbed and flowed with her heartbeat. In tune, vibrating as one. She wanted to say something, what was it? Wanted to ask, but the act alone seemed so ludicrous to do when something like this was happening to her. What was it she wanted to know? Dangerous? A king named her dangerous? King Lanier?

“When I saw you, I almost…I almost forgot what the King said.” The man sneered, and turned to the side to spit in the dirt. “Dangerous,” the man scoffed. “I figured I’d take my chances. I’d risk a littler danger…for just a taste…of you, girl.”

Chara had stopped listening. She could no longer tell if the swirling storm of fire was scorching the sky, or was just in her mind, in her soul, smoldering in her veins. She could feel it inside of her, actual fire, ready to burst through her insides, stretching, and tearing at every fiber of her being. It struggled to be let loose, to empty itself upon whatever she and it decided, together. They were one, now. She was fire.

“I… I heard the stupid…ghost story,” the soldier droned on. “The miners…had your skins crawling…didn’t it?”

Chara opened herself, remembering now what she was so careless to forget before. She had done this before! The stars, the wonderful stars, beautifully churning, ebbing, and breathing on their own. The night had been on fire, and somehow, she knew that she alone had done it. As she lied there before, trying to fall asleep, she had summoned something, conjured something that she mistook as part of the beginnings of a dream. She was no longer confused. Deep within her emptiness — that deep dark place she strived for and finally found — she knew what she had done. She had become one, linked internally with the fires of the sky.

“All it took,” the man muttered on, “was a piece of old iron…just tapped on a rock. That had you all…not thinking…clearly.” The man, the soldier, the piece of rotten filth looked her in the eyes then. “Give me what I …want. An’ I’ll…let you…go. Fuck what King Lanier has to say.”

Chara’s insides boiled, and she closed her eyes in elation, savoring every sour, painful sear. She felt the heat roll throughout her, scalding her veins. Goosebumps prickled every inch of her skin as she watched the fire in the void inside of her with glimmering eyes, feeling the rage, the hate, the power. The constellations, real or imagined, swirled together. One giant mass of fire torched the sky, and she wondered if only she could see it, if only she could feel the magnificence of it. Somewhere far off, she heard someone scream her name. Closer it came, but she didn’t look. Two voices coming closer, “Chara!” one yelled. “DON’T!” But the fire spoke to her louder.

“Burn,” she said.

The man on top of her began to smile, his lips just starting to form curves. Chara kneed him with all her might, lifting his groin high into the air. His eyes widened in shock, and somewhere deep inside of herself, Chara wanted to laugh, but she couldn’t. The burning had taken over. The hatred, the rage, the fear — every emotion she felt and had ever been afraid of collided together in one final moment. The man didn’t matter any more.

With her legs finally free, she kicked out with both of them, striking King Lanier‘s soldier squarely in the chest. She felt the hard steel of the man’s breastplate bend beneath her feet, as she lifted him. It seemed so slow, as if time had stilled and started again, flickering over and over. She could think a billion thoughts in those tiny moments. Live a million lives.

Instead, she burned.

As the soldier launched backward, flying through the air flailing his arms she caught wisps of steam rising from the steel that wrung the man’s armor, and she caught a reflection of herself within it. Her eyes were embers, bright wild balls of light, and her hands were engulfed in flame.

Chara embraced the energy then, letting it rip through her to her core. She centered it, and balled it up as it teemed and churned, tightening it until it begged, screamed to be let free. Her eyes followed the man’s slow motion fall through the air until he hit the dirt like a discarded piece of trash. And then she pushed.

Fire split open the night, a thick pillar of flame, searing the nighttime air itself. Darkness no longer existed, just hatred, fire, and flesh. The beam of light hit the soldier exactly where Chara had aimed it, high on his chest where the crest of King Lanier sat mockingly. The fires engulfed him, cutting off his screams so quickly it was hard to say if the man had ever screamed at all. Not even an echo remained.

His skin crackled and popped, white, hot flame pouring from Chara’s hands, being directed, orchestrated, moving beautifully over his body. Her hatred, her fear and her anger began to fade, began to be sucked out of her along with the shaft of fire. It was fading now, just a thin stream, quieter than before. Over the falling roaring of the blaze, the once-was soldier’s body hissed and puffed, echoing out into the trees of the dead-still forest. Ember ashes fluttered in the breeze like torch flies fleeing the wind as the last of the fire died away, and the soldier’s dried up, blackened bones came tumbling to the ground.

Still holding her hands in front of her, shaking, her consciousness slipping and flying to reality all at once, over and over again, twisting her thoughts, tainting her insides, Chara felt the ache in her throat, heard the shrill wail piercing the night, and realized she was screaming. Her head swooned, and her vision contorted in on itself, becoming fuzzy and seeming to pull hard away. Her throat burned. Why am I still screaming?

There was silence.

Her vision penciled, and everything was black once again. Did I close my eyes? From somewhere far off, someone was screaming her name. Someone important. Someone she loved. She reached out, stretching her fingers, unsure if she was even moving at all. Someone she loved spoke again. Someone fearfully said her name.

Blackness encompassed her like the warmest blanket she had ever know, and everything seemed to melt away until even the thought of where she was or what had happened seemed like a silly thing to exist at all. The ground was rolled against her back, and she felt like she was sick, a young girl again lying in the bottom of her father’s little canoe. She swayed, and she smiled, ignoring the sickness, the urge to sick up, because comfort was there. She felt the hand on her shoulder now, patting her, telling her she’d be okay. And she was, she knew, for someone she loved was there. Someone who would never let anything bad happen to her ever.

Father, she thought, and then she thought she heard him reply.

From somewhere so far away, but so close and near to her heart, she heard someone speak. “Sleep. You’re safe now, girl. No one will ever hurt you again.”

And in her head, she smiled, but she never felt it touch her lips. Blackness swept over her as she sunk into dream.



The cold walls and the bare floor of the gatehouse did nothing to keep the air inside warm, and the steel décor of maces, axes, and swords that lined the walls appeared sharper than they should have been and pocked with malice. Mat didn’t normally let nighttime fears get the best of him, but considering the day that he had had, it felt a little more normal to give in to the perfectly ordinary childish fears that he was trying to outgrow.

Chara usually told him that that was baby shit. She’d say that only infants and invalids were scared in the darkness, which he knew was true, and he really did try his best.

Chara had always been so much braver, though. When their father died, Mat looked up to her. She raised him, now that their ma’ was pretty much dead in the brain. That’s what Chara said, anyway. Brain-dead. Stupid. Snapped, whatever that one meant. Mat wished she was there now. Chara, not his mother. She’d know what to do.

Mat shuddered at the thought of the day, before he locked himself away in the gatehouse. Things had started well, as he proved his honor to the men from Hornhold. They had given him a task, and he had completed it, sure enough, delivering the letter to Reifwhin without anything standing in his way. For that thought, he let a smile crack his lips. It faded quickly enough.

It wasn’t long after leaving the Tullins’ barn that Mat had found himself locked inside of the gatehouse. Duty and that flitting feeling of honor was just another disappointment. He had thought that his heart was going to burst straight away inside and his chest and kill him on the spot when he saw the group of soldiers outside of the gate. Especially what the one of them had said. Who threatens a gatekeep, he thought. Especially a boy?

It was no matter now. Mat had let the fear win, and in a panic, trying to decide what Quent would have done, he opened the gate with no thought of who the men where or what they were there for. Of course, he wanted to think it was the men that King Hyrren had promised — men to fill the void in work left by all of the dead soldiers. Of course, he knew that was the only explanation that could have been true, but as he looked into the eyes of that scraggly soldier with the brown teeth, he hadn’t wanted to open that gate at all. But, it was his duty.

There was that word again. Duty. Had he done his duty, though? Sure, he did do what he inferred King Hyrren had wanted, but beyond that, was it right? And beyond that, did duty really boil down to what was right after all, or was it just doing as you were supposed to have done. Because in this case, both things were certainly not the same.

No, and Mat knew that, too. That’s why as soon as he kicked up the locking beams to the gate, he threw himself inside the gatehouse and bolted the door shut. Those men certainly might have been sent by King Lanier, but they certainly did not look like any friends of Thrym. Didn’t sound like it, either.

A few of the men pounded on the door after he had bolted it, yelling scarring things, awful things. Men yelled things at him — a boy! — that he heard normally yelled at the women that walked the tavern streets at night. Those things, he didn’t even want to repeat inside of his own head. And those big, terrifying men with their gnarled beards and oiled faced, they rammed their shields and sword and armor against the gatehouse door until Mat was positive that the hinges were going to buckle, and the door was going to come crashing in, letting in droves of murderous, ravenous giants swinging hide bucklers and dinted, mangled steel.

After the clangor of the thugs at the door stopped, Mat could hear what was really going on out there, and grief burrowed its nasty fangs deep within his heart. People were screaming. Women mostly, but he could hear the whimper of old men and children, too. He could smell smoke wafting in from beneath the door. Footsteps of people running padded outside of the gatehouse, only to halt mid step and bang against the now locked iron gate. He could hear those people briefly yelling for him.

They’d cry: “Gatekeep, please!” They’d say: “Let us leave, for the sake in your heart!”

Mat covered his ears, because he knew what was to come, and he was too weak to stop it. He people were dragged off screaming, yelling about being forsaken. Most were cut off mid-scream with a loud thump that Mat didn’t want to imagine the reality behind. Other people just screamed and continued screaming until it seemed their voice would give out, eventually, it did, Mat thought. At least he hoped that’s why it had stopped.

The scariest part, though, was that amongst the screams of the people, there was also cheers. Although much fewer, there seemed to be people celebrating, or at least happy at the arrival of the new people. The urge to open the door and find out what was really going on was almost overwhelming. The urge to stay inside on Master Quent’s cot with the bear-skinned cover pulled up to his nose was much greater, though. He would find out soon enough, he knew. Sounds from the other side would soon bring news, and he could decide what way to go about his exit. Either that or another newly appointed gatekeep would come knocking, or barging right in depending on whether Reifwhin had yet another spare key, or not.

Another possibility, still, would be that from somewhere within him, he would gain the courage enough to just open up the door and face what lay in front of him, regardless of what it could be. He hoped it wouldn’t come to that, though.

No, lying there in the dark, scared out of his wits with the gleaming sharpened edges of war-weapons staring down at him from the wall, he hoped in wouldn’t come to that at all. Surely, some sort of news must come. But for now, he was content in hiding.

As the night went on, though, Mat’s thoughts began to wander, and whether or not he really considered his mother a mother at all anymore didn’t seemed to matter. Only the now-dead screams of the women outside of the door seemed to matter. Had one of those screaming been his mother? He didn’t want to think about it, but he imagined all of the worse things he possibly could.

It tore at him. She was gone in spirit, and very much so in mind, but she was still his mother. It wasn’t her fault that her love had been slain and that she was forever crippled by it. It wasn’t her fault that Mat felt a small part of himself grow more bitter every time he looked at her sitting at the table, spouting nonsense about his father. She had mostly raised him, and she had definitely given birth, and for that, he knew he would always have a love for her, whether she knew what was going on around her or not.

Hopefully, her awakening back into the real world hadn’t been caused by the fright of some foreign soldier bursting through the doorway.

Hopefully, none of those screams had been hers.

That thought alone had almost made Mat open the gatehouse door, before he had realized what he was doing. He didn’t remember putting on his boots, or even walking to the door. That, or turning the bolt halfway loose. He quickly slammed it back shut once his mind realized what he was about to do.

“Stars!” he yelled, as he slapped his fist against the wall. “Mother…”

He suddenly felt terrible. Had all of this been his fault? If he hadn’t have unlocked the gate, would those soldiers have broken it down as they promised? He didn’t know if anything that had happened could have been avoided, but at the moment, he felt as if he were about to throw up all over the room. His eyes wetted as the guilt again sank in.

His only prayer now was that the men from Hornhold had remembered him, the boy that had faithful honored their request. If they were alive, and safe, they must remember him and soon enough come to his aid. Yes, he thought. Quev’et won’t forget me.

He wiped the wetness from his eyes, and began to feel hopeful for once since the early intrusion. His father had told him quite a few honorable stories about the men from the north, stories of their bravery and prowess in battle, whatever that meant. He thought it meant something about their skill, or ferocity, and that was good enough for him to hope for. He knew deep down in his hart that the three men were battling in the city, cutting down brigand soldiers, protecting little old Reifwhin, and on their way to the gatehouse that very instant. That thought made him smile.

Suddenly, though, he felt very ashamed. Xia’an and Jaquat were two men, maybe the first in his life, that he had looked up to. He aspired to be just like them in every way. What would they have said if they broke into the gate house to free him, and found him with tears in his eyes, clutching a blanket over his head? They couldn’t see him like that. No matter how scared he had been, he had to impress, to show the northmen that he was worthy of the honor they had given him in trusting him with such serious information. Had they have known that he’d cower like an infant at the first sign of fear, they never would have trusted him at all. No. He had to be ready when they came for him.

The room felt much colder, then. Mat shivered in waves as he thought about what to do — how to prepare — that is, if his heroes were even coming at all.

No. They were. They had to be. Mother always used to say that behind every storm cloud, the sun lied in wait. Quev’et and his men had known everything. They had been ready to deal with whatever all of this horror was. And Reifwhin, well he seemed to know just as much, if not more, than even the northerners. Yes, they were certainly out there taking care of the awful business, and they would not forget about Mat.

Whatever task they called him for next, he was going to be ready. He had to be. He puffed his chest out and held his head high. That’s what they would see when they entered the gatehouse. Not some shriveled boy tucked away in a cot. No, they would see a boy, a young man, ready for whatever strange and scary thing lay ahead of him. Mat, the brave, he would charge ahead into battle, chin held high, and swinging a —

Suddenly, Mat felt his back grow slick with sweat. Swinging a what? He had no weapon. He had never even held a weapon besides Chara’s belt knife she carried around with her. And that had only been a few times to chip kindling for the fireplace. All of the swords and axes and maces and other gilded and silver things that hung on the walls of the tiny gatehouse looked so heavy. There was no way he could carry one, he knew. Let alone swing one.

Mat looked around the room, searching for anything that would help his cause. Aside from the small candle he had lit at the side of the cot, there were no windows to let in any sort of light. In truth, he hadn’t even known now if it was still day or if night had fallen. That lone candle made the sharp edges of the steel on the wall twinkle faintly, but other than that, there hadn’t been much to see.

There was a small table next to the cot that the lone candle rested on. It was low and flimsy, and splintered. Mat rubbed the tip of his ring finger and winced, the memory of the sliver he received feeling for the candle was still to sharp. Underneath the table, were several empty flasks of ale, tossed haphazardly as if they had just been dumped from a sack. Quent’s morning breath now made much more sense than before.

Those flasks, flung hard enough, could surely be used as a weapon. But, what kind of soldier walked around with a bag full of glasses. Most certainly not the type of soldier Mat wanted to be. He pushed the thought out of his head as quickly as it had entered, and kept searching. There had to be something.

At the foot of the cot rested an old wooden chest, lined with what looked like iron. Inside of the barred fastenings, someone had spent a good deal of time, and probably money, engraving it with fine carved scripts, inlayed with leaf-gold. They seemed to be letters of some sort — some foreign word art that Mat have never seen before. The latch hid some sort of keyhole, but whatever key was to fit inside of it, he couldn’t image. In the center of the keyhole, there was a dowel-like pinhole, and around it, connected three slits going in separate directions, as if the key had three sets of teeth. In between those slits, were three smaller holes.

Mat shook his head. There was no way that even the smartest thief or locksmith could ever break that lock, he knew. What could Quent possibly have been keeping safe in there? Whatever it was, it had to be important. Mat’s mind raced with possibilities. Stories he had heard in the market began to come to mind. Amazing tales of magic cloaks that made a man impossible to see. Quent could have something like that. Or, it could be an enchanted sword, giving whoever wields it the strength of ten grown men. Mat could certainly use something like that. Oh, how that would impress Xia’an. It could be all of those things or none. It could be something bigger, something better, it could be…

Mat tried to stop the thought before it came, but it pervaded its way into his already spinning head. It could be the armor of the black.

Mat shuddered where he stood.

The tale of the black armor was something he had tried to forget since he heard it, but it always seemed to come crawling back into his dreams. It had given him nightmares for weeks on end, and not him alone. The black armor, he knew, wasn’t just a child’s tale, it was truth, and it had been the ruin of dozens of great men. He back away from the chest, and hugged himself, rubbing his arms as the story he heard so many times before flooded back in awful waves.

He thought of the great Prince Lyrdran, then. The Prince, and many others just as brave. Although the armor hadn’t been used in a thousand years, Mat felt like he could feel the pain of that encounter picking at his soul as if it had just happened yesterday. He swore, he was sure, that if he tried hard enough, focused strong enough, he could hear the Prince’s legions screams, and feel that deep darkness that took them all pulsing in that very room.

A heavy bang at the door made Mat almost waste in his pants. His hairs vibrated on end as if he were about to be struck by lighting. He held his breath.

Another thud came to the door, this time a little softer then before, and along with it came whispers. Mat shivered, unsure of whether to put his ear to the wall and listen, and to back away, and cower beneath the bed.

The room hung in silence, except for the frantic beating of Mat’s heart, which surely he could hear pounding in his head. If only he was braver, the anxiousness he felt at the unknown wouldn’t be on the verge of exploding his heart. Prince Lyrdran, tall and strong, swinging his battle axe atop his mountain wolf sprang into Mat’s head, and he swallowed down a hard and tearful gulp of shame.

“Boy!” came a heavy whisper from beyond the door.

A tear slivered down Mat’s cheek. He was caught, and he would never see anyone he loved again. The only memory of him would be that he had died weeping, and that’s what had sent him hiding all along. He held back a whimper the best he could, but soon found himself alone on the cot, pulling that great bear-skin blanket up over his head.

The whispers and the banging continued, but it Mat’s head, all he could hear was coward!

The Tomes of the Seer: Chapter 12

New Chapter. Eh.


Xia’an Ko’Relz sat at the top of his tall white horse trying to catch his breath. The horse, known to him as Light Bearer, was breathing hard as well, blowing fiercely through its nostrils. He patted the destrier lightly on the side of its face, whispering to it softly. “You did well, girl. Saved my life once again.”

He walked the horse in circles, slowly, allowing her heart to slow. He wished his would slow a little faster, as well. He looked down at his hands holding the taut leather reins, and tried to stop the slight shake that still remained from the fight. Stars, he was getting old.

The little hollow of land in the woods that they found themselves in was not large, but a great hedge of Tanglebush acted as barrier to the open field in front of them, and they knew they would likely be hidden from sight. Tall Goldenknots and Saphire pines ringed the perimeter of their hollow, reaching far into the sky, covering them from much of the heavens above, except for a small clearing in the middle where the stars were only just beginning to show.

Jaquat, his brother-in-arms, circled his tall destrier, too, both of them making slow rounds around their Lord, Quev’et. They had done their duty well. Although they both harbored bruises, knots, cuts, and lacerations of all sorts, the man they were sworn to protect sat his horse in the center of the them, unharmed, and mostly unbothered.

The two warriors spoke, giving commands, or calling out things they saw when they had been escaping the city. Calm. Always collected. Quev’et however, was silent for the entire fight. He was silent now, after reaching their safety behind the trees — their hopeful haven for the night. He hadn’t spoken a word — hadn’t whimpered a moan. Xia’an eyed him carefully, feeling through their bond that something was not right.

The meeting they had been having with Master Reifwhen, the advisor to the King, had turned into a nightmare. Poor timing was what it could have been seen as. To some. Xia’an knew it was more likely the will of the Shadow, its cruelty and nagging persistence at creating adversity in the realms of man, revealing itself once more. The Dark One’s touch on the world was becoming such a bothersome part of life, yet, with its absence, his skills would probably fade to obscurity.

In truth, that was a welcome dream, but a dream most likely not to be realized in his lifetime. No. His sword would meet the flesh of many more before he could retire in peace.

“I do not believe that we have been followed.” Jaquat broke apart Xia’an’s thoughts as he sat scanning the wood around them, a hand held over his eyes to obstruct the glare from the now sliver-like sun, descending behind the earth. “Regardless,” he said. “Tullin and Reifwhin are captives, maybe dead. I saw them being taken as we fled. Who knows what’s become of the young one, the gatekeep.” He sighed deeply, shaking his head as he bobbed lightly on his horse. “That boy is part of this as well. The prophecies have spoken.”

Xia’an nodded, and grunted in agreement. The memory played out in his mind — remnants of visions of the three soldiers that burst into the barns — the way Jaquat and himself had slaughtered them all. It was regrettable to have to kill, but, these were dark times in the world, and dark people wandered about it, unfettered.

After the first three soldiers fell to Xia’an and Jaquat’s swords, what seemed a thousand more flooded into the little building. They each seethed with hatred, and reeked with the taint of the Shadow. If they had stayed — if they had tried to fight for the lives of the old Master, and the young stableman, they, as sure as the sun sets, would have been slain, as well.

Instead, they fled. They mounted their horses in the stable yard, and they jumped the fence, slashing their way through a mob of unruly soldiers, all seeming to swell with the hatred and corruption of one that had given himself to the shadow. The two warriors kept Quev’et in between them as they rode, and they slashed and stabbed at any face ill-fated enough to look their way. It was a wonder they made it to the gate at all. An even bigger wonder that they rode to the woods unfollowed.

The screams from the town rose above its walls for most of the day, and into the night. It felt a disservice to the kingdom of Thrym to sit idly as an army of brigands invaded, killing and destroying as they pleased. Black smoke filled the air, and the orange and red tips of roaring fires licked at the skyline above the bastions of the great stone fortification that ringed the whole of the city.

Quev’et was still silent, peering over the city from the trees, eyes dark, and full of contemplation. He’s never this quiet, Xia’an thought. Never.
Shame filled the void that Xia’an was trying to hold within himself. Yes, he had done his duty, and his brother had done his as well. Quev’et was safe, and that was all that truly mattered. The rest, well that would have to wait. He looked toward the southern sky, and even in the new-darkness of early nightfall, he could see the blackness, that great mass of growing, writhing storm clouds, rippling and folding its way across the sky, and he sighed. Wait, as they might, — it couldn’t be for long.

The three of them patched up what wounds they had as they listened to the horror that floated through the evening air from Thrym. Xia’an’s hand rested on the pommel of his blade, and he knew without looking that Jaquat’s did as well. They itched to reenter the city — to fight and slash their way to free the men they needed in their quest against the Shadow, cutting down as many foes as it took to do so.

Quev’et, somber as ever, finally spoke. “You serve me well,” he said. “You always have.”

Xia’an and Jaquat bowed their heads as they had done a million times before and began to recite their oath of honor. “The flame of the night, we hold for life! By light and honor, in peace–”

Quev’et waved them off with a flick of his wrist, and they fell silent.
Had the old man finally been broken? Endless battles, an eternity of nights chasing shadowslaves, and shadowspawn — countless years pouring over the tomes of the seers, studying the stars, and executing dark and dangerous undertakings, and this — a minor scrape of a failure had done him it, and made him lose his hope? Xia’an looked down at his cloak, and scraped at the flecks of dried blood that still clung to it. Despite what Quev’et had said, about serving him well, he looked downright disappointed. Xia’an could feel his tensions. He could sense his emotions; his fear, and anger, but couldn’t discern the thoughts behind them. Guilt, shame, and an overwhelming sense of failure worked at Xia’an’s insides, and a lump began to form in his throat. He had never felt those things come from the bond.

Quev’et seemed to notice and reached a hand out toward his shoulder. “Do not be ashamed, this day,” he said. “You men have fought for me more valiantly than any of the Firmament would ever hope for. You’ve proven time and time again that you would willingly lay down your lives for mine.” He smiled, with little crow’s feat crinkling at the corners of his eyes.

It was nice to see him smile. Xia’an’s chest loosened a bit, and he swallowed that lump that was forming in his throat. He met the eyes of his Lord, and nodded toward him with appreciation. That smile meant the world, when sitting next to the burning remnant of a once-was eminent city. He basked in its radiance.

“Quev’et nodded back toward Xia’an, and again over at Jaquat, who also seemed as if he had also been holding back worry for their leader. “My soldiers,” he said. “Your duty has always been with me, to protect me, to see me through our trials. I am no warrior. I am just a man of prophecy. But,” he said, looking out where Xia’an had been staring moments before. “The storm approaches, and in my heart, I know our time is short.

“I bestow upon you a responsibility much greater than that of my own safety. My job, the reason we came here to Thrym, has been fulfilled. My life’s meaning has surpassed its longevity. I’ve passed along my burden — this burden of the prophecies I have been witness to, and they rest now in far more capable hands. Master Reifwhen now holds the key, if his heart still beats, and his lungs hold breath.”

Sweat suddenly beaded on Xia’an’s forehead. What was he saying? Of course, the prophecies had told them all of the advisor, and the boy. The details were never clear, but their purpose had shown in the stars much more than that of their own quest. Those people were paramount to the success of the girl. And the viewings were never wrong.

Suddenly, the bond between master and warrior shimmered, and Xia’an felt a, what was it? A loosing. A disturbance in Quev’et so great, it almost dropped Xia’an to his knees. From the corner of his eye, he caught Jaquat stumble, too, surely feeling the same thing. Their bond was ripping.

The ground seemed to swoon, and his heart raced beneath his chest. If he was to lose his oath, it would be like losing someone you loved, someone you had dedicated every single emotion you had ever felt toward. The bond they held — their oaths, and allegiances — had been sworn in blood, immolated, a sacrifice to the bearer of light, sealed in the heavens forever.

Quev’et couldn’t just release them from that bond, could he? It had been magic. It had been something much more than an oath he had spoken. Stars! He had actually felt it when he was bonded; it gave purpose to his every breath.

Quev’et continued. “You must enter Thrym, again — save it, somehow from the wretched subterfuge that‘s masquerading within, unopposed. It is a piece of all of this, I have seen it in the stars.” He pointed toward the sky then, basking in the faint glimmers of light that had just begun to poke through the gloomy amethyst that had become the twilight sky. “You must save Reifwhin, my old, dear friend. He will bond you. He knows the ways.”

Jaquat suddenly jumped to his feet after being silent for so long. “The bond!” he cried, a hint of fluctuation entering his voice. “It’s sealed our fates together! My sword defends one life, milord, and that life is yours. The stars will never forgive an oath breaker. If you set this task upon us, you doom us to never ascend to the light.” He slammed his sword down, stabbing it deep within the earth. “I must refuse. Ferociously, I refuse.”

Jaquat had always been the ill-tempered one, but also a canny negotiator, and on this, Xia’an had to agree. His brother made sense, and despite his anger, and the boldness in the way he spoke, Xia‘an knew he spoke the truth. The oath had to hold.

He stood, as well, and his sword tip also found a sheath within the dirt. “I have to agree with my brother,” he said. “Our oath is not some self-appointed pledge, shoddily made by some southern sellsword, just to be broken at the first cry of battle. No.” he said. “If you release us from this, you will doom us both in the eyes of the ancients; it is dualistic to our vow.”

“I’ve held this secret from you both,” Quev’et said. “So that you would see me to this place alive.” He looked to the sky again, and smiled, as if seeing something there that refused to show itself to anybody else. The stars shone brightly in the trees now, and the glow from them cast a dance of shadows on his face as their light fell through the branches above them.

Xia’an could see the wrinkles at Quev’et’s enlarged eyes, and at the corners of his mouth. A true smile. How could he smile so as he spoke of such things. Hundreds of battles flashed through Xia’an’s mind, thousands of hacks with his sword; thrusts of his belt knife. All to save Quev’et. Every single part of his life had been in serving this man since he, himself, had been so young. He looked up to the sky, as well, searching desperately for the things he was failing to see. There was nothing there. Just a group of scattered flecks of light.

“I can release you from those oaths,” Quev’et said, still tilting his head up far into the sky. “I can release you, and you can save the world.”

Jaquat spat, and punched the trunk of the tree he was standing next to.

Xia’an squeezed his temples between his thumb and forefinger. Quev’et sat still — smiling away at the sky.

“This is madness,” Jaquat said.

“I agree. Madness.” Xia’an paced back and forth, still remembering his life as a warrior for his lord. It hurt. The knowledge that the old man had decided to release them stung like a knife being twisted into his heart. But– Quev’et had never seemed even a touch mad. There was always a reason. For everything.

Sure, he’d been a little aloof, and certainly intellectually distant. All those years of his nose is those books… That was the most troubling part. So many books. So much knowledge that the man had tucked away within his head; he had never been wrong about anything. And this — this wasn’t an argument, or a debate over wisdom — this was simply him speaking a fact, as he had done so many times before. Xia’an felt goosebumps ripple across his arms. What if what he was speaking of was the truth, and the way to their destiny?

“M’Lord…,” Xia’an said. He didn’t know how to continue. What was there left to say?

“The stars have shown me the truth,” Quev’et said. He pointed upward, and traced his finger in a small, pentagonal manner. “I see them now. Reifwhen is… No,” he corrected. “Reifwhin holds the key. He holds the connection, and knows the way to the one that will prevail against the shadow. Your task now lies in protecting him. My, how you’ve served me well…” He trailed off.

Xia’an nodded, this time trying, hoping with all of his might that what Quev’et said was true and not brought upon by a lapse in sanity. He felt the man through their bond, could touch some of his emotions. He did not sense madness there.

“You said you can release our oaths? Jaquat said, standing with arms crossed in front of the kneeling old man. “I’m not sure I can believe this. And I, I am not sure that I want this, nor am I sure that I will accept it. If you can retract the oath,” he said. “Let us see it done.” He nodded toward him in challenge, testing the old man on his words.

“As you wish,” Quev’et said. “And accept it, you must.”

With that, he pulled a small dagger that he had hidden in the sleeve of his great black cloak and plunged it into his own heart.

Through the bond, Xia’an felt the man’s life tear away — emotions, memories; his wants and wishes flooded from the touch of their souls. He saw Jaquat fall to his knees, screaming, feeling the pain as the bond left him, too, and he bent to the ground, his head pushing into the dirt, as the oath violently tore itself from their wills.

He never said goodbye, never hinted at what he was going to do. Only then did Xia’an understand why. If the warriors — Quev’et’s protectors knew that he was going to end his life, they would have tried to stop him, and they would have failed. That failure would have damned them. Without their knowledge, Quev’et’s death only freed them from their duty, the failure in protecting him not being a failure of their own. The mask he put over his deepest emotions finally made sense,

The realization hit Xia’an like a battering ram to the chest. He squeezed his brother‘s shoulder, as he, no doubt, felt it, too. He squeezed, as hard as he could, he squeezed.

They wept briefly for their loss but it seemed like days, their silent cries drowning in the roar of the fires and terrified screams that spilled from the city burning before them. Death encircling them, forever, enshrouding their path once again in a torrent of shattered life.

Slowly they rose, shucking their swords free from the earth, and mounted their horses. The hot smoke in the night dried their tears as they raced toward the outer gates of the burning city of Thrym. There was no longer a bond, but vengeance filled its hole.


The Tomes of the Seer : Chapter 11

This chapter is to show some of the dark side of what’s happening within the world of my novel. New perspectives of the antagonists. I don’t know if it worked well or not. Pretty god-damn dark, but I think the prose is pretty good. Let me know what you think. Any/all feedback is much appreciated.



Dra’amok’s true self squiggled free from the mouth of his captive. He left King Hyrren’s rotting corpse lying on the bloodstained bed next to his beautifully mutilated wife. No one had found her yet. That was good. The pleasures of the human flesh remained enjoyable long after death, it seemed. Surely, as long as the carcass stayed intact. He would use her again, and maybe, if the shadow allowed, reanimate her. She might still be useful. It was a pity he had gotten carried away with the girl, but the memories of their fun still held what the Humans would call joy.

He looked upon the two — the once coward night, and his still plump wife. If his true form could smile, it certainly would have. Progress had been made, so perfect, that the shadow itself was sure to commend him. His form wafted in front of the great gilded mirror that set the room and he floated. He stared deeply in satisfaction, conscious thought rising from the source of his vileness. The shadow saw through him, he knew. The shadow commanded from the fallow, and in each victory of his minions, he grew.

Dra’amok had given him plenty of growth. He knew this, because the Shadow knew this. But some other feeling, coming from someplace other than the shadow welled and shook within his form. Some remnant of the feelings of the Humans he inhabited whispered to him softly. Softly, so the shadow wouldn’t hear. The voices — his own, or theirs — told him that he should be jealous. For what the shadow knew, he knew as well.

Off across the hills the Human referred to as Swathed, in the Kingdom that guarded this realm, another had outshone him. Thurq’iksal, the First. And although their tasks were of one, Dra’amok seethed. The other, the First had entered the Kingdom Realm of Lucansphear unopposed. He held the king in his mist and had already began the Garnering. Dra’amok knew this, because the Shadow knew this.

A black army, souls all absorbed by Thurq’iksal, had marched in the nights and entered Thrym. This he knew, because he had his own eyes. If he could have spat, he would have. As instructed, they requested attendance, but Dra’amok, no, King Hyrren had delayed. As a mortal, he would have shredded his own skin in anger, all masquerading coming to a fastidious halt. The Shadow would have certainly been displeased.

Instead, he sat on his throne, brooding, grinding Hyrren bloody rotten teeth to stubs. His mask began to slip quite noticeably, then. His room, Hyrren’s room, with his bride in death was much more calming. Still, the screams filling the nighttime air that sang songs of agony through the opened windows filled him with something of a joy. What strange pleasures he was learning, even though the pleasure of the cacophonous torture was brought upon by the fallen souls of Thurq’iksal’s soulless army.

In truth, the task that was his was more difficult than he had imagined. What he envisioned when he stole his first body — the knight in black patrolling the wood north of the Fallow — was how easy it would be. He hadn’t counted on a scout witnessing his consumption and sending warning to the whole of Thrym. The army he met — the guardians of the Fallow — well, they had gotten soft since the last his master had risen. He knew this. He could almost hear the Shadow’s laughter.

What was surprising though, was how fast his corruption ate at the flesh he embodied. That first knight had only lasted a few days, and Hyrren’s shell was crumbling fast. People were beginning to notice.

Lords and ladies no longer came to the throne room to bask in his glory. Peasants wanting hand outs were fewer and farther between.

He looked down at Hyrren’s husk, and could tell why. The coward knight’s human lips were turning black and leathery and flaked apart like sheet rock. The skin was turning blacker and ashy, and if he itched while in that flesh, scratching caused the skin to peel away. The eyes were another thing entirely. They had gone nearly all white. Just a small faded fleck of black remained within the center. No wonder people stayed away. It was supposed to be easier. How had they not revolted?

No matter. He didn’t need highborn about to bugger him of needless droll. He didn’t need the peasants stuttering their way through inquisitions and greedy pandering. He only needed the throne. And when the time was right, his garnering could begin. In a way, he was happy the soulless army from Lucansphear was there to keep the peasants at bay — keep them from storming the castle with bloody pitchforks.

The thought made him ripple, as if in human shudder, and Dra’amok walked to the stone window, helm shaped high upon the wall, and looked about his new city. Fires crept here and there, and silhouetted shapes ran before them. Some from nothing, and some running from mobs of shadows raising cudgels. This made his form wish it could smile again.

It truly was a pity that the soulless hadn’t cut down the invaders from the north. The Shadow had warned him of their intrusion, and their intentions. They knew. Somehow they knew from the stars that he had come, and that he held the throne. Three of the Ember had stood to usurp him, and if Lucansphear’s murderous army hadn’t shown teir bloody cudgels, the Ember would have enlisted a number of swords against him.

Oh, they had tried, but now, rotting in the Dark Cells, there were two, set for torture. Little Reifwhin, and his horse boy. The damage they could have done, with the Advisors influence on the nobles, and the boy’s friends within the town — well, it could have been disastrous.

Dra’amok could have scoffed. They were dead now anyway. Soon enough they would be. After they stood before the court and confessed their crimes to the crown, convincing the town of their guilt, they would be hung, and the filthy peasants would be so wrought with fear they would have nowhere to go but to huddle under the Dra’amok’s polluted wings. That, or King Lydraan’s soulless army would push the peasants behind the murder gates that wrung the royal castle of Thrym out of nothing but fear and a hope for safety. There they would be locked, and the Lucansphear intruders locked out. Only then, could he enjoy his souls, and their flesh in peace. He would come on them like a windstorm, ravaging, tearing flesh from muscle, and he would rip the hearts from every man and woman who ever bore a drop of hope in this world. Thurq’iksal’s newly ebon army would not bring these souls to him. They needed him to allow it — needed him to open his true self like a giant wing to harbor their corruption — to spread to them his bond with the shadow, engraining them like a link in armored mail. Only then, could they be like him, and he was not going to allow that spoil to be Thurq‘iksal‘s.

He shimmered. The thoughts angered him, and his form shook like branches in a storm. “I am good enough — strong enough!” he urged the Shadow. “My wing will cover my souls and not those of The First’s.” Why should Thurq’iksal’s black army enjoy any of the flesh, the dripping, the blood and meat of the slaughter. They had done nothing but gotten slaughtered themselves. No. He would be the one to bring the shadow his souls, and once he fed enough the free the shadow from the pool, he would be rewarded in fleshly pleasures forever. Not The First. The other wind rider spent his greed to soon, and Dra’amok sought to keep his progress minimal. Maybe, he thought, maybe he would feast on the black souls of The First’s army, too. Was it possible to retake another’s bounty?

The Shadow only laughed.

Somewhere, through the eternal caverns — those dark, twisting catacombs of vile convolution and filth — where all connected beasts of the Shadow’s will shared thoughts and took orders as one deranged and malformed awareness, Dra’amok felt the Other shake with rage. The Shadow’s will was quiet, but it’s laughter had ceased. Through the connections of thought, will, and purpose, he could feel Thurq’iksal, seething and churning at the disobedience.

In truth, Dra’amok had disobeyed nothing, and at this understanding, he shivered at the approval he suddenly felt within the shadow. There were no “firsts” when it came to power and glory and blood. Only those that proved themselves first.

A thousand years ago, Thurq’iksal might have done better, but not this time. Much had changed. Before, there had been heroes — warriors that were born and bred for this battle. Now there were only shadows of warriors. There were only tales of the darkness. Nobody knew much, and much of what they did know was false. In the days before, Depleters had a reason to fear the lands of the men.

Not now.

The old ways were over. The powers of the skies were lost to the whole of man, it seemed. There was no fear of knights of the firmament scorching a fallow spawn where it stood. There were no more princes of the power, no more men to wield the fires of the stars. Now, was Dra’amok’s time — a time for manipulations and corruption — not all out war. The shadow hadn’t sensed the use of the skies in some time, and this is why he chose to rise. Dra’amok shook with pride. The world would soon bathe in the blackness of the Shadow.



Deep into the twisting gnarl of Fallowgrass that the southern point of the Swathed Hills had become, an ancient place of worship sat nestled between two oppressing statues of old in the center of a forgotten town known as Ghilenbrook . One, a massive sword, dug deep into the earth, the other, a robed figure, equally large, but marred by eons of disregard.
The place between, which housed the cathedral, was blanketed in a gloomy mire, fog twisting, milk-like, squirming it’s way up and across every structure it came across.

The place lay hidden. Nobody willingly set out into a patch of Fallowgrass, and these days, boggy, fog-ridden, sludge lands were apt to hide a number of creatures or unnatural, earthen things that would kill a man without a whisper or a wail.

It was for that reason that Halfor had chosen the place.
The Shadow had come to him in dream, and had spoken in an ancient tongue of corruption. It spoke of prophecy — a prophecy that could see to the end of all of the work that Shadowslaves had put forth, ensuring their place in the hierarchy of the darkness. He had set out after that day, searching through books and maps to find the perfect place to set up the operations for what the shadow had revealed for him to do. Along the way, he had gathered men, corrupting them with false tales, of spun stories, turning once-good men to follow in the footsteps that set him into collusion with the darkness.

He found his hold, and had brought his followers, and they had begun their demanding work. Before long, another had come, someone far above Halfor in the ranks of the damned. This Garlus, not just Shadowslave, but actual Shadowspawn, sent chills down his spine. Yet, the Shadow itself had sent Garlus forth, and all Garlus had really requested of him so far was to be informed of the fulfillment of the task that had been unmentionable.
Halfor, the man, and Garlus, the thing that had once been a man, sat stooped over, leaning toward each other in the front row of the long wooden benches that circled the Great Room of the Ancient House of Embers.

Massive golden pillars embedded in the walls rose to the sky and curved inward to converge at the center of the colossal room. Painted stars, orange, yellow, and golden, with wisps of red and white filled the walls against colors of dark blues and shades of black. Deep crimson-flecked inlets on the floor bore symbols of the product of the stars — constellations with names only found in the tomes of the ancient ones who descended from above. At the center of the room, a pool of scented oils, ten spans across fed a single ball of flame that stayed alight eternally — or had once until it was forgotten. Halfor had seen to lighting it again.

Outside, men wearing armor, and spherical helms lined in rank, wrapped around the base of the cathedral, and concealed by the miasma that seeped from the earth. They held cudgels, axes, great, and short-swords. On their breastplates, the forgotten symbol of the Ember was crudely painted, a bright red sun, sharp orange points representing it ablaze.
They watched, following their orders well, and viciously. They stood, and they waited — an ordained clergy of plague.

Inside, the silence had become a cruelness of it’s own, encroaching on Halfor as he sat next to the hooded figure that the Dark Lord had sent forth, himself. He sat quietly, knowing, somehow, that he was only to speak when spoken to. He could see the other man out of the corner of his eye, his head turned as if judging, eternally determining his worth, and what seemed like whether or not this mass he had gathered in the bog was even worth his time.

“The prophecies cannot be fulfilled, Garlus finally began. “If they are, we will be exposed.”

Halfor, lean and meek, who always seemed bathed in some sort of sickly sweat, shivered a little bit at the robed man beside him — an outranking member of the Shadow’s will. He felt sweat rolling down his spine as he glanced up to catch the man’s eyes.

There were none.

He hadn’t noticed before, as the hood of the man’s cloak lay low upon his face, but seeing it then, Halfor nearly fainted from fright. Garlus’s skin was a pale white, and where his gaze should have met Halfor’s own, there was nothing. Just flat, ashen skin.

“I–we are underway, my lord,” he said, his voice trembling. Stars! He hadn’t even felt this shaken when the Great Lord of the darkness had come into his dreams, itself. No, But this man — this thing! — was something his mind had never beheld, not in the most terrible of dreams.

Their whispers died amongst the roar of the fire, as if there had been anybody around to listen, anyway. It had been near a thousand years since the once-bigoted people of Ghilenbrook, or anywhere else for that matter, had sought out the comfort of worship. Most men openly stated that they did not believe, despite what the books in all of the great libraries had said. That, had actually proven quite fortunate. It would be a shame if the Black Army he had amassed would have been discovered, and whoever discovered them, slain. Missing men meant inquiring minds, and it was far too early in the planning to have to start war with the locals. That was the reason for the church. The symbol of the Ember. All of it. Nobody would expect the old order of heroes, the forefront of the willing that rushed into battle against the Darkness. People would never think to expect the ancient religion of atrocity. To the simple folk, the Ember was long dead, and no longer needed. If people saw them return, they would praise them, salute them, and cheer for their triumph against the Dark One, if they would even believe the Dark One risen. Never, would they believe that they were already slaves to the Shadow. Besides, nobody alive still followed the old way. There wasn’t a soul to see through their deception.

“The cages have been built and lined with the irons, my Lord.” Halfor steepled his fingers and smiled crookedly, hoping that he did not come across too eager. “We have the clergy ready and willing to do our bidding. Our swords are out in the night, and they search for the child, as well. If it has been born, it will be killed.”

“I have known you could be trusted,” said Garlus. “The Shadow knows, as well.”

Halfor shivered again. The creature, Garlus, talked so quietly, and so roughly — even when speaking of the Shadow — that it was hard to hear what he said at times. The nod of the other man let him know that his admissions had been met with satisfaction, though, and if Halfor hadn’t heard him at all, a nod was usually enough to make him smile, again.

“What of the women?” Garlus asked. “The ones with child?”
Halfor leaned closer to the looming, hooded man, and stuck his ear forth to hear again.

“The women.” This time, he growled the word, seeming to sit far above Halfor, demeaning him, even more.

Halfor suddenly trembled, his thoughts, and ambitions unraveling. It was enough to shake him to his core, and for a moment, he was at a complete loss at what to say. Women? he thought. What were we speaking of? Lord, let me survive this night. Was he actually cut out for this? Yes, the Shadow had been persistent at showing him his reward for his work after the world would be conquered, but even for him, a man of any and every sin, this night had become very dark, and very dangerous.

Before he could vomit on his cloak, his thoughts came rushing back to him like a kick to head, and before Garlus could bring his gauntleted hand up to correct Halfor’s misdirection, he spat out the words he had so desperately been searching for.

“Nine!” he said. “Just nine for now, sir — I mean, Lord — I mean…”

“Nine is not enough.” Garlus’s voice was less rough than it had been, but there still seemed to be some agitation lingering. At least he had not struck him yet. Not yet.

“There will be more.” Halfor coughed into his sleeve as he cleared his whimpering voice. His usual oily skin was now soaked, as if he had been through a rain storm. He prayed for no more questions. He wished upon every fiber in his being that the creature that sat before him, this Garlus, this wretched thing sucking the light from the room itself, would just go, and let him be about his work. But he knew…the Dark One worked in such mysterious ways, and never, had it any sympathy for the weak.

The work itself hadn’t bothered him. As the Shadow explained, he would be so greatly rewarded in the future, that all of the horrid things he would have to commit to, would seem small, insignificant steps toward his path to greatness during the Calvary.

A child was to be born, this he knew.

That child would die.

The Shadow had shown him, more in pictures and feelings than in actual words, what the Prophecy beheld. A child, wielding the fires of the heavens, invoking the ancient powers of the Cloth of the Ember, and the Firmament’s fire, would stand before the darkness, and this child, with the armies of the world behind it, had the weapon to burn the Dark One from the world.

The assassins of the new Ember struck out in the night. So far, only nine women carrying a babe had been cut loose from their thread of life. There would be more, or the Shadow would be displeased.

The cages they had built, were set to hold every child under three, every single one that they could capture in the night. They would grow them, they would groom them, and eventually, those children would be slaves in the Shadow’s black army. If one of them happened to be the child of prophecy, it would be turned, corrupted, and let loose against the realms of men it was prophesized to save.

All of it, at the time of the dream, had sounded so right, such an easy goal to obtain. Now, looking at the scope of the project, Halfor wondered how in the stars it would be in the least bit possible. Yes, He had gathered many men, hundreds, if not thousands, into his own personal, corrupted army, yet they were just a speck on the maps of the world. His legion, their gnarled fingers grasped far, but surely, there would be children they would miss, women they couldn’t seize. And, what if the disappearances traced back to their hold, as lost and forgotten as it was. Halfor had found it. Why couldn’t anybody else?

So many questions. He grappled with his mind, contorting his face with his now haunted, horrified grievances with the planning, and Garlus seemed keen to pick up on the dissolution.

He gave a soft, gurgled laugh.

Halfor looked over toward the creature, mind reeling. Can it read my thoughts? He stared hard at Garlus, waiting for him to respond to his internal question, and fearing for himself, physically and mentally, if he saw any inclination of the eyeless creature’s telepathic abilities.

Garlus laughed again, louder this time, a hissing noise rustling from his throat among his barks of enjoyment.

The room seemed to shrink on itself, closing in, swallowing Halfor with this sickly being before him, closing in, pushing them together in some sort of sick and bitter quarrel. The light seemed to dim, so much that the personification of the ember, born and burning of the dark oil would die, and that darkness would envelop and end all of existence, as if it were just him, Halfor and the creature, alone, trapped in all of nothingness, forever.

Garlus suddenly stopped his laugh, and put his big, steel-covered hand on Halfor’s trembling cheek. “I know what you know — what you think — because the Shadow knows. Do you understand?”

Halfor twitched. His mouth hung agape, and he was too petrified to try to move, to try to shift away from the other’s touch. He tried to find the words, at least mouth them somehow, so someway, Garlus would understand. Deep down, it didn’t matter. What he knew, Garlus knew. The Shadow knew. From now on, his thoughts would never again be his own. He’d lie forever in the shadow of the Shadow itself, hiding from his own wants and wishes.

It was a mistake. This agreement. This giving of his soul to the foulest of beings the world had ever known, all of the promises of glory — it wasn’t worth this. The realization was crushing, and over the shattering sound of himself screaming in fear, crying out in true terror, Garlus’s laugh echoed, louder, higher, and more vile than any noise ever emitted in the entire world. Halfor bellowed, drawn out shrieks of horror exploding from his crackling throat, and over it all, Garlus still laughed.

He cackled.

He roared.

And through the bond, that wretched attachment, forged in the acceptance of the Shadow’s will, Halfor suddenly understood. He felt the will of the Shadow. He felt the thoughts. Somewhere, through eternal caverns — dark, twisting catacombs of vile convolution and filth — where all connected beasts of the Shadow’s will shared thoughts and took orders as one deranged and malformed awareness, Halfor caught the reflection of Garlus’s twisted mind. It was there that he saw why the creature laughed so deafeningly.

No matter what will Halfor had now — no matter what change in his life or heart he would suddenly make — the Darkness would use him as a pawn, until his dying breath. His choices were no longer his own. His wishes no longer left to himself. He would be used — guided as an entity of the Shadow, and if he ever faltered, he would be disposed of, quietly, and as permanently as permanent could get. It was that simple.

Garlus calmed himself, no doubt feeling, or hearing, or simply being aware of the sudden acceptance in Halfor. “You’ve much work ahead of you,” he said.

Halfor’s screams had long since waned to sobs. His eyes were cinched shut, evading the look of Garlus and his eyeless face.

Garlus squeezed his face hard between his thumb and forefingers. Blood slowly slalomed down Halfors face, where the creature’s nails were slowly, excruciatingly digging in. He stuck his face closer, and willed Halfor to open his eyes.

He obeyed, unquestioningly, in both thought and action. Tears streamed from his eyes, flooding them, obscuring his vision, Garlus now just a shape, thank the Light, beyond the distortion of his overflowing eyes.

Through his warped vision, Halfor could make out that wretched eyeless face, it’s mouth twisted in hatred, seething, spit trickling from its lips. He wished so badly to close his eyes, but the will of the Darkness forced them to stay.

“Bring us the one!” Garlus hissed, his last word echoing endlessly throughout the great chamber of the House of Embers, ringing of the walls, spiraling up into the ceiling of the great chamber, and bouncing back down to ring again in his ears.

Halfor wretched, spilling his dinner on the floor tainting even further the ancient, religious relic of a building. He lied on the floor, curled up and clutching his stomach for what seemed an eternity. Finally, he opened his eyes.

He was alone. He felt more alone than he had ever felt in his entire life. But, there was something lingering. Something dark, like a stain deep inside of his soul, no amount of groveling and servitude over infinite lifetimes could cleanse. It was the whispers. Awful, creeping whispers, as if every single dark thought throughout the world spoke to him, called, and beckoned to him at once. He could still hear their thoughts, no matter how hard he pressed his hands against his ears, and one thought — one demand stood out above them all.

, it said, a cacophony of millions of voices, whispering, screaming, laughing the words.

Bring us the one, they said.

Bring us the one.

The Tomes of the Seer: Chapter 10

Another chapter. Sorry this is coming out of order. Look to the side bar if you need to grasp for continuity. Again, any/all input is of the greatest value to me. Please, comment.


Quiet. Finally, there was quiet.

The light from the single candle that burned beyond the barred window rose and fell, glazing the sudden silence with an eerie air of calm. Tullin felt everything but calm — the horror about not being able to see his mother or truly know if it was actually her screaming down the hall was almost too much to bare. He had long since stopped crying. He was dried up, he thought. Not a single drop left to give.

The woman — his mother; whoever — she screamed the entire night. Long wails of pain, terror, and agony screeching out in the night, slashing long jagged wounds into Tullin’s already weakened soul. Each yell came in through the small window of his cell and bounced around his head. Each squeal, he studied under his own sobbing, digging through, taking apart, and trying, trying but failing each to time to make certain it wasn’t — it couldn’t be — his sweet, sick mother.

Over the course of the day, or what Tullin guessed was now day, though he could be entirely wrong, the shrill cries grew quieter, and underneath you could hear sick wet slaps that now echoed louder than the screams themselves. Underneath all of that, you could hear grunting; cursing; whispering; laughing.

Riefwhin tried to comfort him, but he failed, too. At least the screams had stopped. Tullin was grateful for that. The slapping sounds — the thwops and the thuds — still sounded, echoing disgustingly throughout the chamber. Tullin was grateful the screams had stopped not because he thought her torture had ended. No, the other sounds told him clearly that it hadn’t. What Tullin was grateful for was that if she was no longer screaming, hopefully she was dead. It hurt more than anything else to be thankful for something like that.

Tullin didn’t feel much physically. In fact, he felt not much there at all — as if all of this were some horrid nightmare that he couldn’t seem to wake from. He knew deep down that that was not true, but a slight hope of waking in his home’s bed still glimmered under the surface. Reifwhin was there to break the calm, though, and pull Tullin back to reality.

“No matter what,” he said, “have faith in truth and justice.”

Tullin looked at him as if he were some creature from the other side of the Saline Sea. How dare you, he thought. Riefwhin — the King’s advisor — only now being spit upon for the first time in his long luxurious life. He had never known what it was like being common, and certainly had never known what it was like to experience what Tullin had in the last few days.

Riefwhin unquestionably had not been spit on by nobles his entire life, working harder everyday to just live a bit more comfortably. He hadn’t had to watch as the Fallow Fang slowly took his mother, drying up her insides, making her move as stone. He never had to watch his father leave for battle — had never had to be told less than a day later that his father didn’t return from that battle.

It wasn’t his fault, any of it. If Reifwhin hadn’t been there — if only he’d met those Northern bastards someplace else, someplace far from the quiet life he had been trying to squeak through, just him and his mother. If only, Tullin certainly wouldn’t be held in the fucking black cells beneath the castle, waiting on a trial for colluding with Shadow Slaves. It was abominable. Nobody should ever have to live through such as Tullin had. He felt as if his head were about to explode, and Riefwhin had the nerve to talk about truth, about justice.

“I have faith that when I get out of these cells, I am going to kill you with my bare hands.”

Riefwhin gasped, and scooted away from Tullin on the bench they shared. “S-son,” he said. “It was not I who put you here, you must remember.” He reached over to put an arm around Tullin’s shoulders, but seemed to think better of it and jerked his hand back. “I did not put you here, and neither did my friends. Our business, some of which you heard, it could not be waited to be spoken about, and I do apologize, your barns were of much convenience. We had — “

“Convenience?” Tullin asked.

Reifwhin snapped his mouth shut and hung his head. “I don’t know how to comfort you. All I can do is offer my guidance. It’s the only thing I have.”

Tullin felt bad instantly, and wanted to crawl into a deeper and darker hole than he was already in. Of course it wasn’t the old man’s fault entirely, if at all. And he certainly hadn’t intended to have anything ended like this.

“I don’t know what to say, Master Riefwhin, sir, but I do apologize. You’ve been gentle with me, and I do much appreciate, and your council has been well and good enough, I suppose.” That feeling was back again, that ache and burn to the front of his eyes. He wanted to cry again, wanted to feel something else, anything at all. The more Riefwhin stared back at him, sitting there feebly on the stone bench next to him, the more he saw the aged and aching eyes of his mother. Riefwhin looked on the verge of boiling over as well, wringing his hands and trying to control the small quiver of his contorted lip.

“You spoke earlier, or rather screamed to me,” the old advisor began, “that the woman in the next cell, the screaming woman, was your mother.” This time he did put his hand on Tullin’s back and patted lightly. “I know my words may do no healing, but I am old, and there is some wisdom there somewhere. At least I’d like to believe so. Men over the years have agreed.” He smiled lightly, his skin crow-footing at the edges of his eyes. “Else wise, he said, “I’d be out of a job.” A small cough escaped his throat which Tullin expected was supposed to be some sort of laughter. Of course it sounded choked. Nobody could laugh openly in the Dark Cells.

Tullin took his joke without comment or judgment — only returning a slight, dejected smile, and asked Riefwhin to continue.

Clearing his throat, the old man slid a little closer and began to talk in a whisper. “I urge you to consider that the women being abused may not at all be anyone you know.”

Tullin rolled his eyes and began to stand, but Riefwhin pulled at his shirt and nodded back toward their cement slab telling him to sit. How much more of this nonsense did he have to take? Of course he didn’t know for sure whether it was in fact his mother or not, but that was not the point.

Yes, indeed, it was near impossible to suffer through the sounds of some poor woman being beaten to death. It was a tactic, mother or not, being used to break him, to make him confess crimes he had not committed, surely. If it was his mother, the guards probably would have made him watch. He knew this. The advisor had no need to remind him of it. Their tactic worked well enough on it’s own to break him down, he didn’t need some old man breaking him down as well.

He tugged his shirt from the clutches of the old man and stalked toward the iron-barred window again. It was black. Even the lone candle floating in the emptiness of the ebon hallway seemed swallowed by the darkness. Tullin couldn’t help but think of himself. A single light, skewered in place — trapped — as darkness encroached, and bleak, dank wind raked at it endlessly. It sat alone, shrinking, fading…dying. At least it doesn’t have someone advising it on the best way to burn out. He could hear Riefwhin shuffling behind him in the uncomfortable silence framed by the sounds of torture emanating from the hallway and began to feel guilty again. This isn’t his fault…

“Master…,” he began. “If… If I may be honest…” How could he word what he wanted to say without being crude? The old man was certainly far more uncomfortable than him. At least physically. The man looked wracked with pain, hunched over in the dark, cold sweat beading off of his face. His back looked like a shepherd’s crook, and he no longer bothered to straighten or even feign looking noble. His cough had gotten worse, too.

“Go on, son.”

“It’s just — it’s just that I know these things, sir.” In his head, he sounded like he was whining. His mother had always told him never to whine. He cleared his throat, and stood straighter. “All of the things you’ve said, as good of things to say that could have been said,” he added, “I just already know them.”

Riefwhin nodded, looking only slightly disrupted. He crossed his arms in front of him and returned Tullin’s stare with no sense of animosity. It certainly would be understandable, though. A lifetime of advising, now rotting in a dungeon with no one to give lessons, teachings, or consult to except for a boy a fraction of his age. It felt dreadful to deny the old man of that, but there was simply too much going through Tullin’s head.

“I don’t intend to be discourteous to you, sir,” he said. That was certainly true. An odd feeling though, just sprouting after really looking at the man and taking his circumstances into consideration. What a horrendous situation for everyone, anywhere. What in the stars is wrong with me, Tullin thought, remembering that just moments before he told the old man he was going to kill him. Kill him! With his bare hands, no less! He shook his head at the memory, feeling his face go red. Taking in the old advisor’s feebleness, Tullin wavered and almost fell to his knees. I’m no better than the guards in the other room, he thought.

Riefwhin rose from the stone slab, flickering candlelight dancing shadows over the deep wrinkles of his worn and spotted face. Even in the dimness, Tullin could catch his slight, pouting smile beginning to work its way across his face. It seemed as if the man were about to hug him, but he stopped just short of an actual embrace. “Son,” he said. “There is no need to explain anything, nor a need to tread softly around your words. I’m an old man. I have heard it all in all the ways something could possibly be said.” He patted Tullin on the shoulder as if he were a father talking to his boy. “I tried to ease your mind is all.” He held up a hand to stop Tullin’s interjection. “I know,” he said. “You have a good mind. You are a bright young man. If it pleases, we can sit in silence or talk of other things — other than advice, I’m skilled in conversation, as some kings and queens have been know to say.”

They stood in silence for a moment, awkwardly, in an instant where outside of somewhere such as the Dark Cells, people may have spoke of the weather, or food and drink, or rumors and such. Instead, the sound of skin and bone, thick and wet, slapped in the echoes of the room. They both hung their heads as images more distasteful than anything ever imagined by decent men crept throughout their minds, poisoning and crumbling them.

No cries came, and there was no more laughter or talk of any sort from the men who hounded the woman. Just the slaps and thuds and splats — the sound a melon makes when dropped in the mud. That, and the dripping, and the cracking, and — no… The sounds of pounded flesh had stopped, too. It was different now. The thuds — the wet slaps — they were footsteps now.

An iron door slammed, making Tullin jump near out of his flesh. Riefwhin seemed to visibly shake. He trembled so hard it seemed what little teeth were left in his mouth were sure to wiggle their way loose. If he was so scared, what exactly should Tullin feel. Yes, fear was certainly there, but he seemed distant to it. He could feel it, clouding his other emotions, but there was something else seeping through. Something that seemed that if he could just put a name to it, it would be more powerful than fear.

Hatred, maybe? Desire? Some sick coupling of the two, pounding against one another in longing to know the truth. Mother?


Rage filled him as the footsteps drew neared. He could hear men walking together, breathing hard and whispering, laughing with one another again. Small snickers as they spoke under hush, clearly planning, plotting, setting up whatever new horror they were about to beget. Riefwhin seemed to know something Tullin didn’t. He shook still, taking steps backward toward the corner of the cell. The darkest corner, the corner furthest from the door. Tullin stood in the center, fists clenched and balled up, facing the little glowing window and the candle on the other side. So many questions and emotions whirled throughout his head.

Mother was one, of course, had it been her? Beyond that was the fear for himself personally, the fear of whatever was walking down that hallway, and whether or not it had a sword, or great-axe, or a long rusted poker in hand. The fear for Riefwhin was there, ever-present, too. He was too old — too sweet — to have to go through anything near as horrid as this. Damn you, he thought. Damn you and damn Sir Hyrren. Murder raged throughout his head. Vengeance became a welcome dream. Open the fucking door, he thought. Open the fucking door and I’ll rip your black hearts right from your chests.

Rage pulsed through his veins, and power surged in his muscles. Never before had he felt like this. Never before had thoughts of blood and murder and hate made him feel so — what was it — made him feel so elated. The footsteps slowed, and then they were there.

Two heads eclipsed the candle, their silhouettes revealing bald, lumpy stubbled heads. A lantern they carried lit the undersides of their faces, flame reflecting off of their wetted, rotted teeth. Tullin’s throat lurched as he saw was reflected in among the sweat and grime of their scarred faces.

“We’ve got some news for you, boy.” The guard on the left said it with a sneer, dragging out the last word as if it were an insult to be known as young. The keys clinked heavily in the lock, and Tullin’s heart raced so hard that it ached. His knuckles cracked under the pressure of his fists, and suddenly a thought came to him. With that candle burning right in front of their faces, they’ll be near blind to the darkness. A smile, as insidious as it seemed, felt good on his face. He waited, right in front of the door, he waited, holding his breath, savoring every bit of strength his hatred pumped throughout his muscles. He would need it. Lord, was he really doing this? Could he? His heart thumped so hard in his chest that he swore he could hear it. He glanced back toward Riefwhin again, poor Riefwhin curled up in the corner with his eyes closed, shriveled, shaking, murmuring nonsense. Poor Riefwhin; unable to tell Tullin “no”.

The iron locked groaned and slammed into place with a loud clank. “Your mother,” one of the guards said, as he opened the cell door. “Did you hear her,” he said stepping closer to Tullin, pushing the lantern right up to his face. “Did you hear her beg?” The two disgusting men filled the doorway, both shirtless and plastered in dark, red, blood, from face all the way to where their breeches had been pulled. Their mouths, thick wet lips, covered, swathed in blood as if they had worn her; bathed in her; drank of her…


A repugnant grin spread on the guards face, brown teeth sucking in the candlelight. Fire raged within Tullin. His eyes quickly scanned the guard, and he found what he needed. Only a quick flick of his hand, and he’d be able to pull the guards dagger from his belt. A split second. He could do it, he was sure. Still, anger surged, now pain and vengeance as well. The guard, what he’d said — was it a trick? Did he speak the truth? So many questions…two guards; could he do it? Would he do it? His hands shook almost unbearably, so much so that he was beginning to doubt himself. He had to be quick. Now, he thought. Now, do it NOW!

He leaned forward just a step, and blew as hard as he could.

The room went black. The guards both yelled as the lantern went out. Tullin’s hand grabbed the belt dagger just before, a fraction of a second faster than the guard’s own fingers, and he pulled it free. In one motion, he turned the blade inward, slashing long and deep, up and across. He felt warmth. Wetness flowed, sprayed over his hands, and he felt a splashing at his feet. The man groaned in front of him, and he heard a heavy thump, and then came the screams.

Somewhere below him in the darkness, the guard thrashed about. He was screaming. No words came, just night piercing wails of horror reverberating off of the stone walls and crackling through his head. It was music to Tullin’s ears. He wanted to still it all, slow it down, and revel in the music of the night. The man was nothing to him. And his screams did nothing to quiet those of his mother, still echoing throughout his head.

But, there was no time.

The other guard stood in the doorway, a giant silhouette, a black shape eclipsing the single hallway candle. Suddenly, as if he had been frozen in shock before, the man reached for his own dagger at his side and lurched forward.

Tullin jumped to the side, barely getting out of the way in time. The candlelight, now unblocked, shone fully into the room, no longer dulled by door or man. What that arc of light illuminated there in the dank, rotten room made Tullin’s stomach lurch harder than a warship in an apocalyptic gale storm.

The two guards were a tangled mess. One screamed and rolled back and forth on the dirty, and now blood covered floor of the cell, thrashing about and gurgling a scarlet froth, intestines and other unknown parts spilling through a foot-long slice right across the man’s naked midsection. The other guard was on his hands and knees, frantically pulling at and tearing the other man’s exposed bowels which had become wrapped around his own feet. He must have tripped over his fallen friend when he lurched toward Tullin, catching the man’s innards and tangling himself in a terrible, gruesome web of flesh, feces, and bile. With each pull, the sliced guard screamed harder, and tried to pull back, struggling to force his entrails haphazardly back into his wound, as the other pulled away, tearing tubes of guts, and slipping on and tripping through gallons of overrunning fluids.

Tullin had to force a hand to his mouth. Luckily he hadn’t been fed in days, and had nothing left to spit up. Still, the smell… The smell alone was something that could have killed lesser men, and with that thought he looked to Riefwhin who he prayed to the stars still had his eyes shut. Luckily enough, he did.

After watching the men struggle for a few moments, remembering the screams of the woman, maybe his own poor mother, who had been tortured endlessly by these two floundering brutes, the scene didn’t bother Tullin much, he realized. The screams were like music. Each pull, each tear of flesh, each sliding foot that produced the crack of the guards nose off of the floor was ethereal splendor, more stimulating than any single noise, or scene of beauty he could ever remember. He rolled the handle of the dagger back and forth in his hands, savoring the stickiness of it, that tight, gluey clinging, like a pin to fresh dough. Blood. The room was red, bleeding itself, everything red. Behind his eyes, red, bleeding, squirming, dying. Laughter. Building.

Suddenly, over someone cackling in the distance, someone, who? — over it all, so far away, Riefwhin was screaming, he was saying something, Lord, what is it? Screaming, mouth open behind cupped hands. Louder. Oh no, the laugher; cackling — it was him. It was himself, screeching. Tullin, himself, laughing with tears streaming down his face, stopped suddenly, realizing what he was doing, realizing the guard was getting up and the dagger was still in his hand. Riefhwin, what was he saying. Focus. Louder now…

“–it. More will be coming. End it! Do it now!”

Stupid, Tullin thought. What are you doing. Standing her laughing like some crazed lunatic! The shock almost made him drop the sticky dagger, but he caught it just in time. Laughing? Was that really him. He hadn’t lost it already had he? No. He could do this. Focus. He just had to focus, and everything would be better, everything would go away. Focus.


He squeezed the dagger, feeling his fingers push in to the sticky, soft leather of the handle, and he knelt and swung it down hard into the neck of the kneeling man entangled in the putrefying entrails of his friend. He went down hard with a sopping smack as his bare chest hit the stone floor.

Tullin stood and regarded the other man who still screamed, although much more weakly, more gurgling than anything with short gasps of sharp airy voice bursting through occasionally. His feeble fingers still pathetically struggled to pull his sloppy, torn insides back into his split torso, filling with it dirt and shit and other grime from the chamber. Not for long.

The man’s air caught, and a last spurt of bloody foam launched from the guard’s mouth as Tullin put his foot to his throat. He made it a point to stare down into the man’s dying eyes. He smiled, too, mimicking the first smile that guard had given him, so proudly telling Tullin about his mother’s screams. Who was the proud one now? Tullin saw fear swelling the man’s pupils for what he thought may have been the first time in the guard’s entire life. Pride filled him with glory, so matter how unclean it was.

The man pulled at Tullin’s ankle, trying pry it away from his throat. He gagged and sputtered as his face swelled up and ejaculated sweat. Tullin looked down on him with no sense of pity, as if he had any to give at all. The man’s bulging eyes and purple tongue didn’t incite mercy. No. It brought joy.

“She better live,” Tullin said. “For the sake of your soul…” He stomped his foot down, feeling the man’s throat crunch beneath his boot. The sound sickened him, but behind it, there was something more. His rage was quelled a little by the guard’s death — not dissipated, but calmed. It still lingered, though, and his fingers wouldn’t lessen the grip on the dagger’s handle.

Slowly, his thoughts became more clear. He had killed — murdered two men in a violent frenzy. The totality of the scene; the graveness of his new predicament hit him in a wave of emotion, and finally, he let the dagger fall to the floor. The sound of the steel chipping the soft stone startled him, his head swooned and he felt a vile fluid climbing from his stomach.

They got what they deserved. He knew that. If he could have gone back — could have done it all over again — he wouldn’t have changed a thing. But beneath all of the fiery, glowing retribution he felt, fear made his skin lurch and crawl. How was he going to get out of it now. Even though he was innocent before, nobody would believe him now. Especially not King Hyrren. The walls suddenly seemed to be shrinking in on him, doom crowding his panicked thoughts.

“Master,” he said. “We have to go. NOW.”

The old man got to his feet faster than Tullin would have expected and actually seemed less mortified about the bodies than he had been. It was a good thing. They’d have to move fast to escape whatever horror of guards or worse that were surely on their way to the Dark Cells now. As decrepit as he seemed, Riefwhin ran at pace with Tullin himself, his now grime soaked cloak flapping in their wake. The black walls sped past, every few paces a singles staked candle flickered alone on the wall.

“Where is she? I have to see,” Tullin was yelling. “I have to know.”

“There is no time. Any second, boy, guards will burst through the gate and they will cut us down without hesitation.” The old advisor was losing breath and beginning to lose ground on Tullin. He struggled to breathe, struggled to get enough force to his words to be heard over the stomping of their feet. “I know a — a passage. An old — an old tunnel.”

They hadn’t passed the lit cell Tullin was racing for, it was what seemed a mile away, glimmering deceptively calming, lighting the end of the slick, black hall. Tullin knew what was in there. He pumped his legs harder, feeling them burn, and hating the ache in his chest that slowed him down. Rage surged through his veins again, and he pushed harder.

Rhiefwhin fell further behind, almost yelling now, begging him to slow, urging him to wait. “You don’t know where you go. The path…the tunnel. It is just ahead — a passage — to your right. There won’t be — there won’t be a light. Slow…you must slow your–”

Riefwhin’s voice was cut off with a loud bang, and instantly the world went white. Tullin’s head felt like it exploded, and suddenly he was falling, tumbling backwards into blackness. It seemed an eternity as pain exploded throughout his face and skull. His ears rang, echoing the concussion that split his head open like someone tearing apart his mind.

He felt his back hit stone and his head split on the slick floor. He tried to open his eyes, tried to reach out for something to grasp. What happened? he thought. What–? All at once he began to panic. Where was he? Why was he running? He could hear muffled voices over the ringing in his ears. Someone trying to yell, someone angry? The world was spinning. He tried to stand up, but something thick and heavy hit him in the chest, sending his back down to the floor. He coughed, choking for air, flailing his arms.

Finally, he opened his eyes again and his vision began to return. The blinding whiteness was fading, tendrils of darkness, shapes, and yellow light was seeping in. Something moved. A face close to his.

He squinted, shaking his head, trying to force away the blurriness of his sight. That face, it had teeth, and they were seeping spit. No. The face became clearer, and Tullin could make out a greasy nose and unshaven whiskers. Atop the man’s head sat something shining, something metal.

A helm? thought Tullin. A guardsman’s–

Tullin remembered where he was.

The guard stood over him, yelling, shaking that bloodstained cudgel in his face, that same cudgel that probably sent Tullin flying to his back a second before. How hadn’t he seen it coming? What have Reifwhin been saying? Something about a passage. Riefwhin… Where?

Saliva peppered Tullin’s face. The man’s snarl twisted with hate as he continued to yell. What was he saying? Tullin’s ears were still wringing, and his brain felt like it had been smashed and rolled out like dough. The man screamed again, and Tullin squinted trying to read what the man was roaring.

“–up, you filthy–!”

“Stop!” screamed Tullin. “I can’t…I can’t understand–”

The guard grabbed Tullin by the throat, cutting off his cries. He squeezed, and Tullin felt his airway close. His lungs ached for air, and his throat burned. He clawed at the man, pulled at his ragged tunic. The guard leaned in so close Tullin thought for a moment he was going to bite him. He closed his eyes, and felt hot breath on his face. “Can’t understand me, eh, boy?” Tullin could hear the guard plain as day, now.

The man let go of Tullin and pushed him down hard onto the stone. Tullin opened his eyes just in time to see the bloodstained cudgel come hurtling down toward his head, and then everything went black.

Alternate Prologue. The Tomes of the Seer.

This is something that I added to the beginning of the novel to help set it up a little bit more. It’s still shoddy, and a little bull-shitty, but I think it works for the most part. If any of you are familiar with the rest of my chapters, hopefully you can give me some criticisms on this set up. Thank you all.



“Dark times are upon us, again. The Shadow — it is stirring.” The wrinkly old man waved his good hand over a bowl of churning filth and wafted the steam into the air. He stared at it for a moment, watching the multicolored wisps float and swirl ominously before him, dancing and changing shape and thickness with each passing second. He took a deep breath and filled his lungs with the putrid mist.

The room was small and cold, with no window and only a chipped gilded desk that drowned in flakey papers and scrolls stacked with no discernable order or care. On the wall opposite the door, odd vials and trinkets crowded a crooked, splintering shelf that looked as if it had been there since the castle had first been built. The old man — the diviner, as he was known — looked as if he had been in that place just as long as the decaying wooden shelf. The bowl at his feet had stopped roiling, but the diviner was still entranced.

Gherric stared at him for a moment waiting for the mystic to continue his foretelling, but the man stood silently in the middle of the room holding his breath with his held tilted back and his eyes cinched shut — savoring whatever it was that he was doing. The man’s long black cloak covered the frailty of his bones, and enshrouded his gray, straw-like hair. The fingers that poked from one of his rotting sleeves were gnarled and curled in upon his hand and spoke of ages and conflicts unknown.

It had been what seemed several minutes, and time, it had been made clear, was of the essence. “Sir,” Gherric began. “What is it that — ?”

He was cut off by the mystic placing one finger in the air, signaling for silence. He sighed loudly and found a small stool to sit in that was close to the door he had come in some moments before, and suddenly began to wonder if he had been wasting his time.

Half of the mediums in the world were known to be fraudulent, and would tell you anything at all if it would make them a coin. Somehow, Ifrie, as peculiar and cryptic as he was, seemed different, though he hadn’t at first, and even King Lanier had trusted his guidance a time or two, himself. Still, something about diviners made him uneasy, and if the old man didn’t explain his urgency in what he had to tell Gherric, he certainly would be leaving soon without looking back.

The man had sought him out in the yard of the castle barracks teaching swordplay to a young page who couldn’t have know the difference between the pommel and the point of his shiny new weapon.

Ifrie had called him by name, which was certainly odd, considering not many beyond the barracks had ever heard of Gherric Noyel. The old man’s speech was hurried and he spoke in stutters and backpedaled often. He seemed shaken, and his little hands arduously strained for power as he clutched at the once-knight’s tunic. His words were odd, and spoke of darkness and danger. None of it made any sense at all.

Gherric took the mystic’s crippled hands in his own and looked him in the eyes indulgently, urging him to slow his heart, lest he suddenly drop to the dirt, a dead man. It seemed some dire importance, some burningly critical need that required attending to at once. Somebody must have been dying, or in great peril, but still, why was the man speaking to him?

Ifrie took several deep breaths, nodding to himself repeatedly as if reassuring his mind that things were acceptable if not entirely satisfactory. His face seemed to calm a little, but the deep wrinkles that swelled his liver-pocked forehead held strong. He tried to swallow, but coughed instead, sounding like a deflating bellows. Sweat beaded and glistened throughout his shabby beard.

Gherric patted his back, and put his hand’s on the man’s shoulder even though he hadn’t known the old mystic — Lord, it looked as if his heart had been about to explode right there on the spot, and then Gherric would be left standing near the castle barracks with a sword in his fist, and a dead man on the ground. In a place such a Lucansphere, as riddled with paranoia and whispers as it was, that situation certainly would not hold him in favorable light with the city guard.

“Gather yourself. We must move from this place if we are to speak of dangers.”

The old man nodded again, and Gherric sheathed his sword once he realized he was still clutching it in his fist. They began to walk toward the castle base, past the barracks and the siege yard, and beyond the ashen stairs that dipped into the pool that held the crypt of the warriors of old. Looking upon it always made the hair rise on Gherric’s arms.

They walked quietly, but with haste, and along the way, Ifrie began to explain his strange affair. “I expect you’ve heard my name, Mister…not many around here who have not.” He flourished his robe a touch, and gave Gherric a crooked smile from halfway below the hood of his cloak.

Suddenly, he began to frown again, and those fading green eyes he held began to weaken further. With a long and labored sigh, he shook his head in that bewildered way once more. “I am afraid I cannot put in much simple terms how I’ve come to seek you out. Yes, I’ve seen you a time or two to your own business, but Sir Gherric, before this day, I hadn’t known your name at all.”

“I am no Sir,” said Gherric through grinding teeth. Yes, the man might know his name, but surely nothing more. Nothing of the Brotherhood, or the Order of —

“Yes, I have seen,” Ifrie said, interrupting Gherric’s crestfallen thoughts. “Your armor and mail — well, you get used to calling a man in Knight’s dress, sir, and–”

“On with it,” Gherric said. He understood the confusion well and good enough, and it wasn’t like he hadn’t gotten that sort of mix up exceedingly often, but it undoubtedly was getting old. Very old.

“My apologies,” said Ifrie. He wrung his hands together hard enough where it seemed he may pull the skin right off, and began to scan the streets fretfully, lowering his voice as he began to speak. “As I was saying,” he whispered. “You came to my mind’s vision. I was performing a certain, let’s say ritual, which allows me to see the states of places other than where I can see with my own eyes. These visions are sometimes cryptic, and only hold interest, as of late, to merchants or politicians wanted to know where to trade or where to bribe and bugger. My skills are highly sought after, as you can see.”

The old man stared at Gherric through his whispers, and when he was finished, he held a smug smile, showing his spittle glisten off of his filmed-over, rotting teeth.

Now Gherric knew this encounter was a mistake. Some old fool, set to cheat him of what little coin he had put away over the years made his nearly froth at the mouth, and in one solid, quick-remembered action, he ripped his sword from its sheath and put it to the mystic’s throat.

Ifrie threw his hands up in protest, and caught the edge of Gherric’s blade on the knuckles of his left hand. Blood flowed instantly, and he held it to his mouth as if to suckle it like and injured child. Tears welled in his eyes, and Gherric felt a sick pang in his gut as if he had just kicked a kitten.

Amidst the anger of being surely used for a fool, and the guilt of hurting an innocent, Gherric stumbled of his words heavily. He tried to explain his anger, but he failed. He tried to explain his thoughts, and assure the old man that the way in which he spoke told Gherric that he wanted to use him for coin. He failed at sounding convincing in that matter, too. In the end, all he managed to say was, “I am sorry for your hand.”

Rattled, but persistent, Ifrie began to speak of his vision again as Gherric put away his sword. “I assure you, I am not after your dear money. I am after your assistance.” He looked to the sky, and seemed heavily focused on a set of incoming storm clouds. “It has been foreseen. Your path, and hers.”

Gherric furrowed his brow and rolled his eyes. The whole thing still seemed a joke, now bordering poor taste. “I caused you blood, old man, and that it something I don’t take lightly. I owe you a debt, and if my debt is to hear your tale, I will pay it.” Gherric stopped walking and turned the diviner on his heels to meet him face to face. “Hearing your vision is my only debt, you understand? I will pay you nothing.”

Ifrie nodded, waving his hand to silence his lecture, and began to walk again. “Come,” he said. “My chamber lies just ahead.” Gherric nodded in acquiescence and followed.


The memory in his head made him cringe, and sitting in the little stool staring at the old fool who just breathed in the fumes of some surely toxic concoction, positively made the day seem one of the strangest he had experienced since the War of the Horde.

He rose, smiling to himself as he did so, more at his own stupidity than anything, and began to slink toward the door. Old fool man, he thought. Herb induced delirium. Waste of my —

Thunder ripped the air, and wind so strong it could have toppled stones sent the iron door slamming almost into to Gherric’s face. Ifrie dropped to the ground like a crate of apples, his old weathered bones bouncing off of the floor so hard he couldn’t have had a one left unbroken.

Gherric swept to his side and swooped his battered body from the ground to rest upon his knees. A dagger of lightning split the sky out of the lone window, and its deafening echo made the walls shake and the jars of ancient bile, and vials of polluted, glutinous filth explode over their heads.

Screams filled the night air.

The mystic opened his eyes slowly, and Gherric pulled back in terror. There was nothing left of the faded green they had once been. They were white and as cold as winter’s breath. He opened his mouth slowly, and only a groan escape. The wind outside was howling, and vicious bolts of lighting ripped their reverberations of thunder throughout the kingdom.

Gherric leaned closer toward the mouth of Ifrie, it moving softly, but no sounds seemed to escape. “Damn you, old man,” yelled Gherric. “What have you done, playing at the darkness’s games?”

“Not…me,” he finally croaked out.

Gherric stared in shock, his mind racing, and not an answer to be found within it of what to do, or what had just been done. “What is this? What has happened?”

“The Shadow,” he whispered, his words on the verge of trembling. “It grows.”

The hairs on the back of Gherric’s neck rose at once, as sweat immediately began to seep from his pores. It was a cold sweat. The type that plague you in the deep of the night when you wake alone and stare for too long at the strange shapes hidden in the corners of your chamber that you can’t quite make out. The shadows. Tales over a thousand years old still left hardened men trembling in their boots, and nobody over all of the world got pleasure from being alone in the dead of the darkness.

The diviner grimaced in pain, his mouth contorting as his face bore the likeness of his agony. “Death!” he screamed. “In the pass…” He put his hand over his heart and lurched hard, arching his crippled back high into the air. The shock of whatever it was that he had seen wrought havoc throughout his body.

Gherric watched helplessly as the mystic’s once graying hair now turned a solid, uniform white. His face grew more pallid and purple veins throbbed at his temples, mapping out the thinning flow of blood.

The diviner collapsed again to the floor, and this time ceased to move or cry out in pain. Gherric cradled him, putting his palms against his face, trying to ease his departure from life as much as he possibly could.
With his eyes half open, and the green they once were returning just a bit, Ifrie reached for Gherric’s tunic and pulled his face close to his. “It ceases,” he said.

“What…ceases? I don’t understand.”

“It carried over,” Ifrie began. “I stared for too long. The darkness, it clung to me. The Shadow…”

At his last word, his uttering of the name most foul and damned, Ifrie’s eyes shot open, and he heaved himself forward, attempting to stand on his own. Gherric had to catch him, and urged him to stay seated, the shock of his katabasis still rocking the core of his foundations. “You…you’ll hurt yourself,” he said. “Sit. Please. We can talk once you’ve–”

“There’s no time!” Ifrie shoved Gherric away and got to his feet on his own, as if his collapse and tortured state hadn’t happened at all.
The man was exploding with need, shouting at Gherric that he needed to rise, that he needed to run before it is too late. “You need to save her!”

There was that word again, that reference so some girl that seemed so inviting — such a prospect for a fortune teller to offer a man who’d been alone for years. But this wasn’t warming or inviting. This wasn’t to be a story of love in the future. The look on the diviner’s face made him seem a hundred, no, a thousand years older than he had already appeared. His look — his deep, hurried breaths — they screamed of fear. They screamed of agony, and hardship, and loss, and horror.

“I saw you, earlier. I sought you out because…because…”

“Take your time,” Gherric said. “Calm yourself –”

“There is no TIME!” Ifrie flipped his only table over, shattering it against the floor.

Gherric instinctually grabbed for his sword, but the old man put his hand on his forearm just in time.

“Listen. Listen to me.” Ifrie panted in front of him, his breath ragged and harsh. Gherric could see now that tears had welled in the corners of his eyes, making them look large and made of glass. At least the color had returned. He nodded at the mystic and let his sword fall back within its sheath.

“I saw you. A merchant, he asked about Thrym for trading silks. I saw you, and I saw a girl. She was young, and full of terror and flight. You ran, and behind stretching over the southern horizon, a darkness filled the sky.”

Ifrie put his heads in his hands and began to pace about the room.
“That was the whole of it, earlier,” he said. “I thought, certainly, that it was a sign of the Darkness’s rising, once more. But, had I known…Oh, had I known.” The old mystic stooped over, lying his elbows over the stood that Gherric was setting on a moment before. He began to weep inconsolably.

Gherric had tried hard enough to soothe him. Now was the time for answers. “Had you known what, old man?”

At once, Ifrie was back on his feet, frantic and scrambling. “You must go. Now! Thrym is in danger. A war. A great battle is about to take place, and no…No! It is unstoppable now, but yet, you must run, you must push with all of your might. There is a soul at danger. Not one of the fallen, no, not one of the soldiers or townsmen slain in the battle, no, they will all perish to the slayer, but yet there is one. A girl! She holds the key,” he said, now clutching the front of Gherric’s collar. “She is the key, don’t you see?”

Gherric shoved him off. Girl? The key? he thought. His mind raced. Ifrie was panting before him, his mind spiraling out of control, rambling things that didn’t — couldn’t — make sense. Thrym, at battle, with — what had he called it? A Slayer, god what could he mean? Gherric, with no other sense to do otherwise, pulled his sword once more.

“Speak, cleric, and you speak fucking clearly this time.”
Ifrie stood, staring blankly at the blade. He no longer seemed to care of imminent danger. His eyes were cold, focused, and his breath ragged and cruel to hear. He swallowed hard, and slapped Gherric squarely across his stubbled face.

“Listen harder, you buffoon.” His jaw was hard-set, and he spoke now between clenched teeth. “Earlier, in my trance. You were there with a girl. She was young, and you were as you are now. A darkness pooled behind you. It showed signaled an ending. A time of terror to yet befall the realms of man. I awoke, and I instantly sought you out, and you’ve berated me the entire time. I am through with this treatment, but thus, the stars have plans for you, sir.”

“I am no sir, old man.”

Ifrie slapped him again, and Gherric swung his sword up hard, mostly just to scare the man, but hoping he would catch him, too.

His blade was stopped, mid air, the mystic standing before him with an unseen breeze waving his winter-white hair into frenzy. His voice echoed through the room, booming, crashing in on Gherric’s ears, as if amplified by some unseen device. Gherric tried to free his blade from the stuck position it was in, delved deep in some concealed stick of a substance, but it was no use.

“Hear me now,” the old man bellowed. “Thrym will die! The darkness will swallow her whole. A Wind Walker walks forth from the depths of the Stained Fallow, and it will devour the kingdom, whole.”

Gherric pulled frantically at his sword, fear encroaching his thoughts and pushing at his every muscle to act, to lash out with everything his body could muster. He writhed and twisted, spat, and screamed, but the diviners holding would not be undone. Terror wracked his heart, and for once in his life, he was unable to do what he had been born to do. His sword, would strike no flesh, and helplessness bit at him harder than ever before. A single tear slalomed down his roughened cheek.

Ifire bellowed more. “The girl will escape the slaughter, this I have foreseen, and you will find her unmolested. She is the key, and the Wind Walker, just the beginning. Great sacrifice lies in your wake, soldier — Sir Gherric Noyel, Cloth of the Ember, Order of the Firmament’s Fire — but you will see her safe! The world will lie forever in shadow, if you fail. This. I have seen!”

The door behind them flung open, and Gherric was shoved out of the keep as if thrown by a ghost. As his back his the pavement, the old oak door slammed before him, and the old mystic was displaced from view.

“How…?” Gherric began.

He had renounced the Cloth of the Ember some fifteen years before, and the sacred Order of the Firmament’s Fire was the most guarded secret of the realm. Only Ghelrdra from Khifri had known of his involvement, her and, his own brother. But he was dead. Long dead.



Far to the west, across the Swathed hills, and southward from the kingdom of Thrym, a small farm sat nestled between the old battlegrounds of the Guardian Kingdom, and the endless fields that spanned the horizons toward the Fallow.

The southern sun hung hateful in the clear blue sky, and it taunted Rork. At this time in the newborn spring, his crops should have been high above the blackened, beautiful soot that peppered his gorgeous fields. Instead, the heads of the stalks of beans he had planted had turned a rotten brown, and lay flat against the ground, burned through by the unnatural heat of that maleficent sun. That once beautiful dirt had turned an ugly shade, scorched like blackened sand, covered in dried-out thatch.

This early in the spring, most farmers hadn’t likely even planted their crops yet. But, considering how the winter had turned, from tempest ice-storms to summer-like thaws within an instant’s width, Rork had thought to get the planting on early. The summer was festering to be a hot one, and at first, it seemed he had been right.

Now, as right as he was, what he had been right about seemed most peculiarly unnatural. Never in Rork’s 58 years, had he seen a spring like this. By the time it was now, several weeks into the growing season, his beans should have been knee high, blossoming in all of the green exuberance they were sure to behold at the town’s little auctions.
Rork had a reputation to uphold, and the constrained state of which his beans held themselves were sure to ruin it, whole. Yes, it was unnatural, indeed.

He sat on his favorite chair on his little wooden front porch, looking out upon his fields. The arms of his chair ran smooth, run down as if lacquered from years of sitting and gandering, and the seat itself held the worn chasms of his legs, whence he sat and stood for generations upon.

He gripped a small cup, filled with ale from the neighboring town of Turgin. They had gotten it right. Good ale was hard to come by in the south, so close to the fallow, but if Rork didn’t know good beans from rotten corn, he had known a good ale. Their ale was the best around except for that in the kingdom itself.

That flask had cost him a pretty penny, a pretty penny that he hadn’t happened to have, and he had promised a flourish of the most beautiful beans the eyes would ever see to get it. He sipped his ale, and a flash of guilt wrinkled his brow. How would he repay? This season seemed it wouldn’t allow much for paying his overgrowing tabs.

All in all, it was no matter, anyway. His sons had long gone on their own ways, one joining into the armies of Thrym, and another pledging himself to the Lords in Lucansphere. They were good boys, but they were gone. Now, only himself and old Geldra remained, looking after the broken fields for far too long.

In truth, it had actually been years since he had produced a useful crop, but the harboring neighbors had never felt the need to mention it, or deny him goods. No. Rork had been a shining member of the community since before most of the townspeople had ever been born. Time to time he had produced great numbers of savory and celebrated foods for the people of the area, but now, it seemed he had dwindled away, his crops almost feigning obscurity. This season, things were worse than ever. He was sure to be denied goods, and in that, his, and his families death was certain.
He sipped his ale, and looked thoughtfully at the sun.

“I hope that tastes good,” Geldra said, fists clenched and at her hips. “You’ve sure always liked the taste.”

Rork smiled a slight smile, and kept his gaze southward. He saw something there his plump wife did not.

“You keep on smiling,” she said. “Smile like you’ve never smiled before. An end is coming to this.” Her fists shook with rage, yet she did not release them from where they dug in at her hips. “You’ve ran off our sons,” she said. “You’ve made us bankrupt with oaths made in false; you knew these crops wouldn’t grow. Our field is dead. Lord, this land is dead. An end is coming.”

“Yes,” Rork said, tossing his mug forward and throwing the perfect, northern gold ale out onto the dusty walkway below his stoop. “An end is coming.”

With that, he looked toward the southeast, toward the scorched fallow. Great thunderheads filled the sky, illumined with silvery boughs, that torched the blackened sky they ripped across. A wind grew, and all of the dead and browned flecks of bean he had spent days forging in the earth, they began to dance, rising and shaking in the wind. “Yes, an end is coming.”

The scorched fallow. The name was common place now, a leftover legend from the Age of the Risen. Most people, especially Geldra, denied to acknowledge that the battles for the salvation of the earth had ever happened. For as it were, memories often faded to stories, and stories faded to legend. Those legends became myth, and the sands of time often swallowed them whole.

Most people believed that. Most denied the existence of the Shadow, and whether they feared to speak his name or not was a different story. Arcauth. The names didn’t scare Rork any longer at all.

Almost all denied the existence of the heroine Armanda, and her Army of Fallen. Rork didn’t deny that, either.

He had been to Thrym as a young man; he had seen the tomes of the seers, read the literature of the historians, and to him, their word meant much more than the denunciations of a bunch of ill-hearted, small-folk.
The myths, the legends, all of them were true, and he had picked this farm, not to cultivate the land, but to prepare. Rork knew the time of the Shadow was drawing close once more. How could one deny it? Men saw the dead walk the streets — people they had known to be dead, people dead and buried for years! — and they still withered, blaming it on the exhaustion of the drought. Men saw their crops, spring to growth in new, prosperous dirt, just to wilt and die at the turn of the sun. It was unnatural. As unnatural as that storm head, forming just above the Fallow men called scorched.

The dark one rested there, or so the legend said.

Rork looked at his wife, her eyes still held shock over his tossing his ale to the dirt. It had been a crutch of his for years.

“May I tell you a story,” he asked.

She nodded in acquiescence.

Rork stood firmly then, facing away from the fields, turning away from the very thing that had brought him life for all of those pointless years. True, it was, that his beans had been the best in the lands, but that fact was a happenstance, and that tale was written in blood.

“When I chose you to be my wife,” he began. “I began to tell you things. Things of nature and history, my past and what was to be my future. You — you were adamant that I stopped. It scared you, you said. Do you remember?”

Geldra nodded, a curious look in her eye. “You,” she said. “You were young and full of a young man’s fire. You spoke many things. I — I knew you were a good man without all of the lies…” She trailed off, looking toward the ground, as if unsure of what she had just spoke.

“Lies…” Rork said, fingering his temples. “I moved us here for a reason, you know?” He pointed a finger out toward his land, and swung it across the whole of it. “This is where it happened. This is where the Shadow fell.”

Geldra sighed, looking up toward the roof of their little wooden front porch. “This again?” She paced back and forth, eyeing Rork from the corners of her eyes each time she made a pass. “I thought we were over this. The ale, Rork, you’ve got to stop. It makes you stupid — it makes you tell these…these stories!” She crossed her arms beneath her breasts, and leaned against one of the pillars holding their porch roof aright.

Rork nodded. Their cohabitation hadn’t always been easy, but she was the woman he loved, whether she were to believe him on this day or not. He wished he hadn’t tossed the ale. He wished he had some of the blacksmith’s vodka, something much stronger to take the edge off of what he was about to say. It didn’t matter, really, though. He knew the truth, whether Geldra would admit it or not. Either way, if she was full of vodka, ale, or that brandy Lady Teilen was apt to serve, she’d believe anything he had to say. Unfortunately, he had to be true, and often, truth led to things about as bad as death.

“The Shadow did fall here,” he said. “And my people were the ones to defeat it.”

Geldra barked a laugh, and tilted back on herself, clutched her chest as if in pain. Rork reared back and slapped her hard across the face. She looked at him then, regarding his cold, weathered eyes. His brow was ruffled, but steady. His cheeks were taut, but stern. His jaw was set to scream if need be, but his face — it claimed he’d scream the truth.

Geldra held her now reddening cheek. She looked at Rork, and she looked hurt. Rork glanced over his shoulder at that head of those dark and nasty clouds, now fast approaching. There was no time for consoling. There was only time to speak. And be heard.

“My father,” he said. “he belonged to an order.” He held his hands out in front of him, thumbs and forefingers held apart, pincer-like, and pointed toward the sky. Through bloodline, I am Cloth of the Ember — a member of the Order of the Firmament’s Fire, and my duty lies here.”

This time, Geldra stood as still as stone. She still clutched the front of her flower embroidered blouse, but her ears were perked, and her eyes shone like glass. “What…?” she said. “You… why do you say these things?”
“The fall of the Shadow did happen here,” Rork said again. “I know, because my father knew. Him, and his fathers and forefathers before him.” He laughed for a moment, shaking his head at some memory that came and then flittered away. “Yes, I was doubtful, too. Doubtful…yes. Until the historians. Until the seers. They all taught me, my father — his fathers before him.”

Geldra’s mouthed opened and closed, but no noise came. Her eyes shone in the great southron sun, silhouetted by the forming clouds of storm. “I–I don‘t know what to think…” she began.

“I love you,” Rork said. “And I’m sorry. I’m sorry for hitting you; I’m sorry for not telling you; and I’m sorry for leaving you to this.” He hissed that last word, and spread his hand again, against the rotten field that held the horizon of their little front porch. He hung his head at the approach of the silvery, tempest clouds that began to blot the earliest summer sun in recorded history.

“The Ember–,” he began. “We’ve fought the Shadow, we’ve entombed the Shadow, and our time has come.”

Geldra looked frightened now, her eyes rose up above Rork’s own, and fully embraced the coming storm. She shook without mercy, true fear shaking her to the very fiber of her soul.

Rork was sad to see her like that, but now, he knew she’d listen to him.
He looked back over his shoulder, and within the clouds he could see things, moving, writhing beneath. One cloud-form bore the face of a skull, stretching out, it’s jaw moving, laughing, gnashing its teeth. Another stormhead broke forth, snakelike, slithering, until wings exploded from it’s back, and lightening forked from its blackened, twisting mouth.

Geldra gasped. If she could see those things, this time, it definitely wasn’t the ale. No. The time was drawing near.

“Do you know why this land had been so fertile, Geldra?”

Geldra still stood shaking, looking upon the mass of encroaching clouds, like a rabbit staring down the length of a bow, yet too slow to draw a distance. She only shook her head.

“Some say this used to be a river,” Rork said. “Some say the sediment from dead fish and the like are what make my crops come so alive.” He shook his head softly, gathering up into visions information tossed down from his masters. “But,” he said. “That isn’t true.”

Rork stepped forth, grabbing his frozen wife by the shoulders and moving her beyond sight of the storm. “My love,” he said. “This is where it happened. The earth is not profitable from the corpses of dead fish. The soil blooms life because of the death of men. This. This place, is where Armanda and her million lie!”

Geldra fainted then, and thunder clapped overhead. Rork thought it a sick joke. He hadn’t meant to scare his wife, but it seemed that the story would have to come sooner than later; so much sooner with the storm brewing, and terror, well, that was a fact of life now.

In truth, it didn’t matter much. All men, women and children were scared when the Shadow touched another’s words. He was sorry she had to faint though. He could have used help with the boards.

He moved his poor sleeping wife, now unconscious with horrid new information, and he laid her to the side, softly on the dirt.

He pulled at the first board of the porch, the smallest one of the steps, nailed in by himself many years ago. He pulled, he hacked with the hammer from his belt, until the board came free, and from that, he recovered the first sword he had ever found, buried beneath the bloody dirt that now made his vegetable fields.

It was dinted, and it was rusty, most of them had been like that, most except for one.

The one he sought bore the Flame of the Firmament, a thick, jagged line, of two halves of a lightning’s bolt that made the frame of the hilt. The blade, he knew, black as night, and slight of curved, with a ragged bloodline, and a scribbled spell, too old to be recalled — that blade belonged to Armanda, the first of the Ember. Her sword, the one sword to defeat the darkness, lay buried beneath his povern, wooden deck.

He smashed with his hammer, lightning cracking throughout the sky. He struck boards, lain by his own hands, crushing them with the blows of prophetic might. Thundered peeled, and crushed.

He dug beneath the wood, feeling, cutting his hands on weapons of old, some ragged and beaten to no further use, and then he stopped.
The thunder seemed to roil, setting back beyond the edge of the clouds, seething with anticipation.

Rork ripped Armanda’s sword free from it’s dusty haven, and held it to the air. Lightning fired the sky, thunder growled, and pulsed hard enough to send Rork to his knees, yet he held the famed sword high, and pointed to the skies, a blade of legend, said to bring death to death itself.

The clouds didn’t seem so dark then, beyond the image of the blade held in the sky. The lightning slowly ceased, but the clouds held their girth. The tempest loomed, coaxing him to try his luck. Holding that sword before him, he felt a sudden pang of fear.

The sword in his hands, although held by the great and mighty Armanda, was, in reality, only a sword. Armanda, she lay dead, tilled in with the drying dirt that lay at his feet. That was thousands of years before that she had died, and buried the dark one with her. Yet, these clouds, this awful, dread-ridden storm, roiled with the taint of the shadow, set to explode over the whole world at any given moment.

Over his field, a wind grew, and on it came a blackness. A large sweeping form of wind and darkness spiraled forth, and settled itself just at the edge of the field. For a moment that blackness, that malformed mist of wind and horror paused, and formed the shape of a man. The thing, black wind spinning off of it, like shreds evil whipping the world, strode forward.

Thunder growled within the clouds, and they seemed to churn with eagerness. From somewhere far off, Rork thought he heard laughter, cackling, insane, squeeling laughter.

He hadn’t realized it had been his own.

Come to me, he thought. Bring me my destiny…

Lightning set fire to the sky.

Back at it.

Time flies, I suppose.

I see that it has been over a year since I posted last, and to my followers (those that have stayed), I owe an apology.

I was in the process of posting each new chapter of the novel I was writing, and for some reason or another, I just stopped. There has been a lot of things that have happened in my life over the past year that, I suppose, could be to blame for that.

  • I quit my job. The one where I took care of mentally ill residents. It became too taxing, and I began to question whether or not I was mentally capable of overseeing the well-being of people who I began to look at at (some) as more sane than me.
  • I started a new job. It was awful. I felt like a Skaa, if any of you have read the Mistborn novels. Slave labor for nothing. It was shit. I quit that, too.
  • I got married. It was, as most say, the best day of my life.
  • Being Jobless, however, put my new marriage in peril. My wife was unhappy. I was unhappy. Yadda yadda yadda.
  • I’ve gotten into bodybuilding. Though, I have gained quite a bit of new muscle, I still drink too damn much to have any resemblance of a descent physique. Yes, that crux is still very much a part of my life. A devastating, crushingly important part of my life.
  • I got a new job at an insurance company, and things in the future are starting to resemble something bright — something worth waking up for. I don’t start until the 30th of November, though. Sad face. Hashtag – FML.
  • In the meantime, I have been writing.

My writing is sure to reflect a lot of the bullshit over the last few years, but I feel obligated to share it anyway. A lot of the new followers I gained were solely here because of the frequent chapters I had been flinging out.

So here it is.

Starting now, I’m posting all of the chapters that I’ve written over the last year or so. Sorry to flood your reader feeds.

At one point, I think I stopped posting because I thought that there was actually a slim chance that I might be able to publish this piece of garbage. It’s far too fucked up for that, now.

My reasons for posting, and continuing this charade, are purely selfish. I know the novel got fucked up and lost its way somewhere. I am hoping for critiques, criticisms, and advice.

Help me get this piece of shit back on track. I promise, maybe, that I won’t be drunk while reading your responses.

Too late…