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.


“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 Guardian

“Void take it!” Thearo cursed. “There isn’t supposed to be a guardian here.”

Art by Bohao Wang

He looked across the tidal flats at the elemental that towered before the forest hidden ruins of Co’mala. The only way that thing had been placed there was by decree of the Ciralys council, the self-appointed custodians of all knowledge that had once belonged to the Summoners.

The hypocrites. No-one could know the secrets of the Summoners, except the Ciralys themselves whose powers came those same secrets. A power they didn’t even know how to use properly!

The sun beat down hard on his cloaked form and sweat beaded his brow, but he did not move to find shelter. It was too late for that. The elemental had already seen him.

If only he could get to Co’mala. The records the court advisors of the Shepherd Kings had cobbled together claimed Co’mala was once a central city of the Sahrin. There had to be records of the Summoners arts there. It could even contain remnants of their artifacts. Though, truth be told, if a guardian was here then the Artificers of the Ciralys would have already combed through every inch of the city and taken whatever they could fin-

The elemental roared and slammed its great fists into the ground. Such was the strength of the blow that Thearo could feel the earth vibrate.

Taking a deep breath he opened himself to the first emanation, and centered himself. With another breath he opened himself to second and energy flooded him.

He raised his sword, crafted by drake-forges of Serjere, and the silver dagger gifted to him by his liege. If he wanted to find the ruins and – impossibly – the confirmation that the Ciralys did not know everything, then he was going to have to fight.

  • fragment from the ‘Foundations of the Magi’, backstory extract from the #WIP

Fall from Grace

My rejection by the High Council has led me to the unmapped depths of Atares Mon, in search of a forbidden, ancient knowledge of a power to rival Asai.

Here, in the underground fissures and canyons whose depths lead to the life-blood of the planet itself, I have found a makeshift city amongst crumbling ruins of a bygone age, populated by others who have fled the tyranny of the Sahrin in search of riches and power.

The inhabitants of this wretched, rotting hive call it, The Verge.

Had I still considered myself a member of the High Council of Summoners, I would have led a purge against these ignoble criminals and inhuman scum. But I have learnt in my fall from grace to make use of whatever I have at hand, and to disregard the sanctimonious views of the Summoners if they become an impediment to the furtherance of my goal.

Amongst these outcasts and renegades I may find those who know of what I seek, or even those individuals who have crossed the line drawn by the surface world, and ventured into the Void itself.

  • fragment from the journal of Tamaarin dos’Baddon, ArchSahrin, Age of Glory.

Excerpt 2 from the backstory of the #wip

The Ancients

The d’Valisantian stood as they entered the hall, light flashing on his crystalline armour⁠.

“Arosh Taarden,” U’shaltris said. “First Warlord of the Children of A’dem. Chosen from all mankind to sit at the feet of your betters and Ascend. You are here at last.” His eyes glowed. “I thought your vaunted talents would have brought you and my… executioner, here sooner.” He stood, his power twisting around him like serpents. “You must tell me, Te’lorne, did the Shaa quarrel before deciding to go to war against us?”

Arosh stepped forward. “Did you quarrel with your cabal when you opened the Ninth Gate and destroyed Nemisdrillion and all its people?”

U’shaltris laughed. “I did not think of them at all. You are like mewling newborns.” Gesturing at the men and women frozen behind them. “It did not take much convincing for these ‘chosen’ to accept the Path my masters have led the d’Val to.”

“Only by the Light of the Eye are all things seen clearly.” said Te’lorne.⁠

Arosh couldn’t help but notice that his menta was patient where his own emotions threatened to overwhelm him. He had to focus! ⁠

“You, who were once as my brother,” said U’shaltris, “would judge me unfit?”

“Yes!” Arosh said before Te’lorne could speak. “How could you forsake the Truth of the Firstborn for that of daemons?” Runes flashed across his mind’s eye, glowing with asai and he flung his spear at the traitor. ⁠

“How could I not?” U’Shaltris dismissed Arosh’s attack with a wave of his hand, the spear disappearing in a blaze of light.⁠

The d’Valisantian laughed. “You may see the Light of the Eye but you know nothing of the Path to reach it. You think the Firstborn noble? Altruistic? Do not be sim–”

From somewhere far above came a sound like dull thunder, causing the hall to shake and small stones to fall from the ceiling as the floor rolled.⁠

  • an excerpt from the back story to the #WIP