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‘.⁠


Obridan didn’t notice the mist lessen. He had been walking for so long. Placing one foot in front of the other was all he could do. Hunger had fled centuries ago, as had thirst. He could not recall the last night he had slept. All his efforts, all of his being, his Will, was focused on crossing this plane of damnation.

The light, when it came-yet again-was not a relief. There was no end to this exile. Not one of his own making. Or one made by others.

As always, with the light came the voice.

Obridan, for nigh on four thousand years you have walked the edge of Desolation. Your exile is at an end. The Age turns and the Son of the Eye is called once more.

“I gave up that title long ago.” His voice was a dry rasp

Do you not wish to reclaim it? For the two halves of your soul to be rejoined?

“The safety of my people is all I seek.” Dust swirled through the mist, the choking ashes of worlds destroyed by the power that would consume all he held dear.

Phoenix Lord, you have given so much to your people and they turn from you. Revile you for a traitor. The light of your truth, the vindication of your actions, lies before you. Let go of this husk and embrace the Light of the Eye once more.

Obridan continued walking. His eyes, hidden in the depths of his cowl, remained focused on the ground before him. “I gave up much for glory once before. More than I ever knew. You cannot tempt me with that poisoned chalice again.”

Prophecy calls. A new path lies before you.

He raised his head. “My life, my path, is not yours to make!”

You will be healed of your memories.

He stopped walking. “I am my memories!” Around him, dark shapes gathered in the mist.

You cannot avoid your fate.

“My fate is mine to chose!”

He lifted the staff in his hand and brought it’s end down hard upon the ground. Power exploded from him, a circle of energy radiating outwards and incinerating the daemons that had been gathering. Extinguishing the false light.

He staggered, leaning against the staff.

Would they never learn? His soul was not split in two halves. It was shattered across five.

There was no end to this exile. Only when the fourth and fifth parts of his soul were spun out into the world once more could prophecy begin to be fulfilled.

Slowly, Obridan continued to walk.

The Game

Torbal crouched in the shadows and watched the guards on the street below. He couldn’t help the smirk that crossed his face as fat one scratched his head.

Art by Michael Komarck

The one in the middle, the leader he presumed, was unable to hide his displeasure at finding the street they’d chased him into empty.

But it wouldn’t do to gloat, that way lay hubris and tempted the Fates. He whiped the smirk form his face and kept one eye on the tall, slim fellow who held the lantern high and peered into the shadows.

Torbal made it a point to wear clothing that would reflect no light when he went on a job, but you could never be too careful. He wasn’t getting any further up this building with those guards directly below and he did not need the lantern-bearer to see the glint of light on buckle or a dagger hilt.

He shifted back a little further against the statue of some forgotten knight and settled in to wait. The night had been going so well until Sioned had decided to move in on his mark. He hadn’t even known she was back in the city! She was obviously keeping better tabs on his movements however.

Just as he’d been about to open the windows into the second-floor bedroom of the Latrelle Estate, they had been flung open and she’d lent out, smiled down at him-with a beauty so lovely it still had the power to take his breath away-and then screamed.

He’d slid back down the rope, and dashed across the dark garden and over the wall. But the grandees who lived on Sovereign Hill paid well to ensure that the city watch frequently patrolled the streets around their gold filled abodes.

Well he wasn’t finished with the Latrelle’s, they were the richest mark in town and he was going to have them.

As for Sioned; he’d have her too. One way or another.

A Knight of the Emerald Flame

Laeroth fell to one knee, his sword splashing into the creek beside him.⁠

Art by Efflam Mercier @efflammercier

He tried to catch his breath but the arrow-arrows, he knew there was more than one, each strike has felt like a hammer blow-shifted as his chest moved. The pain was excruciating.⁠

He couldn’t stop the cough when it came and blood dribbled out of his mouth. He swayed, but managed to catch himself on one arm before he collapsed face first into the creek next to his sword. ⁠

He had to focus!⁠

He’d lost his hold of Telumisere as soon as he’d finished off the Amarian blademaster. Thank Garnavaar he hadn’t lost it earlier or he’d have been a dead man. As it was, unless he could find his way back to the Sphere of Elemental Earth he’d likely die anyway.⁠

He’d been taught to focus on the Green using his breath, but he couldn’t breathe. The pain was too great. Even the swallow breaths he was taking now felt like his chest was being sliced open with blades of fire. ⁠

How could he find his way back to Telumisere if he couldn’t focus!⁠

He couldn’t use his breathing, couldn’t take the breaths to count… to count… ⁠

He listened. The sounds of battle were either further away than he’d thought or he was going to black out. But he could hear his heart beat. ⁠

Da-dum – focus!⁠

Da-dum, da-dum – he could feel the earth beneath his fist and knee.

Da-dum, da-dum – he pushed his senses into the cool soil.⁠

Da-dum, da-dum – the peace of the god of the earth teased his senses.⁠

Da-dum, da-dum, da-dum – the green light of Telumisere began to line the edges of his sight.⁠

Da-dum, da-dum, da-dum – it began to fill him. The pain in his back fading to a dull ache.⁠

He felt the arrows fall from his back and he breathed deeply, his lungs no longer burning. He coughed, blood gushing from his mouth but it was only his body expelling what had already pooled in his lungs. ⁠

He was a Knight of the Emerald Flame. He’d live.


“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 Soulsword

The Font barely held any power. I should have known when I entered the facility and the place had been leeched of all colour. That was the tell, the most obvious sign of all and I had let my excitement get the better of me.

Art by Manuel Castañón

The Six Bitches had left Fonts across the galaxy, each one a monument to their failed experiments at creating life, at imitating the Gods who had made them – and then left them behind. Chasing them like the dogs they were.

Only one of the Firstborn had been successful. Had succeeded at creating life. My master had done what his brethren could not. But they did not praise his glory, or celebrate his achievement.

Instead they had been outraged at his methods. At his use of chaos instead of order. At is refusal to follow their strictures that had failed time and time again. So they had cast him out. Imprisoned him in the Void and abandoned us, his children, to grow and flourish on a godless world, watched over by their ‘Keepers’.

But my Lord had not been idle in his exile. He had called from darkness to darkness and those of us with the ears to hear, heard his call and vowed to set him free.

The energy that was left within the Font coruscated down my arm, quickening the soulsword as I forged it in the energies of order and chaos, a feat that had not been accomplished since before my Master had been exiled.

Behind me came the mewling cry of Romelda. She had lost her toy crystal when my fury at the state of the Font had got the best of me. The portal had closed too but no matter. Once the soulsword was quenched I would be able to use it to open my own portals, tears in the fabric of space time that would lead me anywhere I wanted to go.

I raised the sword, it’s violet glow blazing, almost blue. I turned to Romelda and she began to scream. A soulsword had not been created in millennia but she knew what I was going to do.

After all, it wouldn’t be a soulsword without a soul.

The Font

“There is the Font.” Romelda pointed across the cavern to the enormous stone hand that held the construct of the Firstborn.

Art by @molham.haidar

It was older than I had imagined it would be. Most of the Firstborn complexes I had found were alive with light and colour. But here it was as though the very essence that made the Firstborns machinery what it was, had been leached out of it, leaving only the base minerals behind.


I turned at the impatience in Romelda’s voice. The portal we had stepped through glowed in the air behind her and I could tell she wanted to be gone from here.

“Well what?” I asked although I knew what she wanted. None of the Keepers, the pathetic wretches the Firstborn had left as stewards of the worlds and peoples they had brought into being, ever wanted to linger in the places they were supposed to rule.

“You… ” she swallowed and I had to bit my tongue to keep form laughing. “You said you’d pay me…”

“Oh, you mean this?” From a pocket I withdrew a somast crystal. It sparkled in the light of the portal. The somast had once been powerful relics, but they’d offer little of what she imagined in this world.

I tossed the crystalline sphere to her and she caught it eagerly, wrapping her hands around it as she stared into its depths. And stopped moving. She breathed still but she was effectively trapped. There she would stay until I released her.

It wouldn’t do to have the only person able to port in and out of a Firstborn facility to leave me stranded here, would it?

What if my Master could not be released from this location? I would be trapped as irrevocably as he.

I turned back to the construct. The avatars of the Six Sisters – the Six Bitches – stood around the upper ring, each with one hand raised as though giving permission for the power of the Font to rise. Well, rise it shall.

And when I finally free my Master from the prison in which they had placed him, they would rue the day they abandoned us, their children, to live or die without them.