The Dread Keep

Sitaria, my love. I write this before I cross the ice lake and seek entrance to Kaaronark. I would offer prayers that this letter, possibly my last, finds it way to you, but I fear the gods cast their eyes from me the moment the Mark of the Eye appeared on my hand. For that curse in and of itself surely proclaims I am no son of theirs.⁠

Art by Alexandr Komorov

I write this as the dawn lights the world around me. There are no colours here to paint the sky as they do on the Crescent Plains, merely a lessening of shadows, grey palors slashed with white. And the cold is more bitter than I ever imagined in these southern climes.

I can see Kaaronark now. Its granite walls tower above me. Even from two kilems away I am dwarfed by its size and feel more insignificant than I ever imagined. Some strange growth-vines perhaps-fall from its battlements like rotting curtains. and even the mists recoil from its dark walls. ⁠

I know not what awaits me within, I have seen no lights from its windows or smoke from its towers. The fables of the Evay are fools gold at the best of times, yet if they are true, if a Summoner still lives and makes his home in this dread keep, then I must find him. I must learn how I can rid myself of this Mark. This curse. For only then can I safely find my way back to you and our babe. ⁠

But I promise you this. I will not live in shame, or fear. I will not bring the curse of the Summoner down upon you and our family. If there is no redemption here, then I shall seek the remedy of death.⁠

Weep not for me, my love. I have lived a fruitful life. I met you and we have brought a son into the world. Take joy in that-for I surely do-and remember me as a man who did all he could to find a way to return to his family.⁠

All my love, L.

From ‘Legends of the Lichlord of Kaaronark‘.⁠

Forgecity

“I don’t understand, what is this place?” Nicoyin asked. Hot winds from the desert raced up the cliff. The sweat that had beaded itself on her exposed skins moments before evaporated as the furnace like air engulfed her, her lungs burning from the scorching air.

Art by Rob Joseph

“This is a memory,” Alem said. “From the Age of Glory. That.” He lifted a hand to pointed at the enormous structure below. “That is Ah’sal’an’ash. A Forgecity, sworn to the Summoner Saanaren.”

“Sahrin,” Nocoyin said.

Alem turned his dark eyes towards her, hand on the hilt of the blade at his waist. “Summoner,” he repeated, an edge to his voice. “I will not offer any show of respect to the men and women who thought so little of the people they were meant to serve that they would open a gateway to Void, dooming us all.”

“But look what they could do,” she couldn’t keep the awe from her voice, though truth be told she disliked the Summoners- the Sarhin- too. She just didn’t see the point in warning against a people three thousand years dead. “We lost so much when they died. Our ancestors once ruled the heavens and now we play in the mud, the star lost to us.”

“I don’t know why the Singers do this. You shouldn’t be brought here until you understand the truth. But come.” Alem nodded towards the Forgecity below. “See for yourself. Witness the millions of lives taken so the great Saanaren could work on his experiments with the power of the Void.”

Nicoyin gazed down at Ah’sal’an’ash, unease pricking her for the first time. She knew the tales of the daemons and the civil war that destroyed the Summoner’s empire and had broken the world. But they were just stories, weren’t they?

If she wished to take her place as a Singer for her tribe then she had to know the truth of it.

She met Alem’s challenging gaze and squashed her unease down deep.

“Then show me,” she said, and Alem laughed.

The Face

When I first came upon the Face I was newly raised to the rank of Seer. My cora’stone still uncoloured, though as much a part of me as the air within my lungs.

As an initiate I had not known the depths within the Arleth’taur, nor the secrets we Starbinders kept. I had learnt of the outer world, the stars around Sobia and the history of the realms. As a Seer I was presented to the Probability Matrix and given access to the libraries.

But books are not the only thing the Ardes Libirantus are conservators of. The world within the Cradle of the Stars contains histories as well as prophecies, artworks as well as books, nightmares as well as dreams. And daemons.

And my daemon was trapped in the Face.

I did not know her nature when I met her. The quantstructs of the Shaluay often mimic life, intelligence. I found her in a room of water, alone, staring at a dark ceiling and crying red tears. I was not meant to be here, but I thought I knew better than my teachers.

The levels that were forbidden are the ones I sort out. It was only after I fell that I understood they were restricted for a reason.

Her voice was soft, gentle. She reminded me of the mother I had lost long ago. She enticed me, lowered my defences and dropped the tiniest hints of the knowledge I craved.

There is a reason that the Shaluay keep their initiates sheltered as the Ciralys do those who can see the Light of the Eye. But I was strong, the strongest my teachers had found in a thousand years. I knew better than they my own abilities.

Pride. It is ever the downfall of humanity. She drew her web to coerce me and flew into it willingly. I let her in, and she would not leave. I was trapped, a voice locked in a Face, shut in a dark room, crying red tears while see took my body and her freedom.

I remain here still, waiting for another Shaluay to find me at last. Weaving a web of my own…

Still waters run deep

From the #wip

The Merlai are a seafaring folk. Their ships are the fastest amongst all of the Nine Realms of the Broken Continent.

But the Nine Realms, whose mercantile interests they assist, only know a fraction of the true power of the Merlai.

Founded in the Age of Chaos, after the Sundering that ended the War of the Summoner, the Merlai Islands were formed when the land their forebears lived on became cut off from the rest of Ath’may by rising oceans.

But there are many races on Sobia, and not all of them breath the air of the surface. The ancestors of today’s Merlai found assistance from, and in some aces refuge with, the evay of the oceans. This enabled them to survive when they likely would have perished. These sea evay also taught them how to build the ships they still use today, making them the faster, human, riders of the waves in Ath’may.

A Plea for Help

“It was the want of immortality that corrupted the Ten and made them Devak’sahrin. And it was the last act of Varos Korin’ad to lock them away for Eternity. But in the Sundering the Atresian Plains have become lost to us. All that is left of our civilization is in ruins, poisonous to the touch and over which the fabric of reality is stretched so thin that tears between this realm and the Void are a constant threat. We beg of you; help us.”

  • Shaluay Starmaster Rylak to the Hyla’varic Congress of the Var Imperium, 473 A.S.
Art by Scott Richard

At the end of the War of the Summoners, the Sundering broke the continent of Ath’may in two and destroyed the civilization that humankind had built over ten millennia. The chaos that followed lasted nearly five hundred years before Starmaster Rylak, in an act of desperation, petitioned the Hyla’var to assist the remnants of humanity.

Like many of the races native to Sobia, the Var had turned their backs on the war that the human Sahrin had wrought. It was these Sahrin- the Summoners – who had almost destroyed the world. It was their greed and lust for power that had caused the countless deaths of the Var and other races. The Evay had retreated to their realms and closed the pathways to them, the Aerynai had taken to their sky cities, abandoning the surface world to its fate, and the Xious’bisan had disappeared into their mountain fortresses. Only the Var remained, and it was to them that the leader of the Shaluay Starbinders turned.

For ten days and nights the Hyla’var – the artists and mystics, the elder caste of the Var – debated before finally agreeing to give succor to humanity.

This act was the first of what became the Hyla’varic Congress, and gave birth to the Var Imperium. The Hyla’var directed the Sola’var – laborers, farmers and sometime soldier caste – to assist humankind. The directed their considerable might to cleansing the remnants of the Daemon Horde from the war torn lands, and worked with humanity to build new cities in the changed world.