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Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: The Embers of The Past: Black Ashes - 1st CH - Ver. 4.0
« Reply #220 on: May 6, 2021, 11:22:20 PM »
Starting to get around to doing some serious editing! Turns out that the MS Editor tool and the 'Read Aloud' feature in Word is actually very useful when you combine the two for editing purposes. This is going to be one of my final passes before handing this off to the editor soon, so I need to get started now to get the whole manuscript up to standard  :).

After this pass, I just need to start implementing some more world specific terms and phrases to get rid of the common place and mundane ones.

~*****************~


Kendal Giram Qallin watched snow bury what remained of the Dawn Fields. A fell wind sliced through the dusk wolf cloak draping his quilted armor, dyed black and reinforced with extra padding. His breathing frosted around his lips and an aching cold oozed into the marrow of his bones. The scabbard of his long sword jostled with every sudden quiver. 

Qenroth, his ebon stallion, shuffled in the snow. Kendal reached downward to stroke his mount's mane. He sifted his fingers through the combed horsehair. 

Kendal was sixteen summers when he had fled this land. His journey had been a long, winding road ever since, only now coming full circle back to the Mist Hollow. Several years had come and gone like the seasons, and the world he knew had changed forever.

Snowfall fell over the Kingdom of Hallorn. 

Kendal tried to remember the same golden fields on the fringes of the Deep Woods. Qenroth waded into the luminous white to approach the ruined village. In vain, Kendal searched for the homely farmsteads and villages. He searched for anything left to salvage from the destruction.

Scattered debris was all that remained of the homesteads, charred to ruin. The villagers were nothing more than skeletal remains, corpses picked clean of flesh scattered amid the debris.

Kendal beheld the death of the Dawn Fields. His childhood no longer existed, burned to ashes. A shiver passed through him as he looked toward his mentor, Vindiaccos. “I remember these fields from my childhood. My second home away from the Mist Hollow's heart.”

Vindiaccos steered his mount to Kendal's side. “Don't surrender to despair. Our foe is swifter than wind, and all—consuming like an inferno. We shall cease their rampage soon enough.” 

Fear weighed on Kendal's heart, but he banished his concerns. 

A firm hand on Kendal's shoulder reinforced his mentor's presence. Vindiaccos insisted, “Are you certain you don't need me to come with you? I've a hundred of my finest veterans at your disposal.”

He gestured toward the deafening jostle of armor and war dirges sung through the howling winds. Kendal glanced over his shoulder. Out of the snowfall, a lengthened column of mounted raven-clad knights waded through the winter fields. A score of banners woven from grey, black, and silver thread marked the elite cavalcade, heraldry of the Raven perched upon a chalice fluttering in the breeze. 

Kendal considered the small detachment, then glanced back at Vindiaccos. He shook his head, grimacing. He answered, “No. I'll be fine. Our brethren are needed to protect the surrounding villages. My home rests in the heart of the woods, isolated from anything within half-a-day's reach. You will only slow me down on the forest paths that will take me to the Emerald Road. It should be a short journey from there.”

His mentor inclined his head in agreement. “Your decision, Kendal. Which means we will need to part ways here at the Dawn Fields. We'll follow the Vale River and check on any villages in the area. 

“If we cannot find the source of this destruction, then it'll be me who will come galloping to you. Promise me that you'll do the same?”

Kendal agreed, “Should I encounter any warbands emerging out of the snow, I shall come galloping for you.”

Vindiaccos” countenance brightened. He lightly punched his apprentice in the arm. He replied, “I've only met your parents on occasion, and I know we're nothing more than acquaintances. Yet I believe that they will feel at home in the City of Raven’s Croft. It's another chance to achieve their dreams, of which they've possessed since they settled in Hallorn with you.”

A broad smile spread on Kendal's frosted lips before concern wearied him again. “Akine and Rynath are my inspiration. They believe I have a gift for sharing her teachings with the world.”

His mentor affirmed him with a sigh. “Inspiration is good. It is the reason I chose you as my apprentice. Always patient in the face of every challenge, no matter the severity. Forged in the fires of temperance like a magnificent work of steel by the Gods themselves.”

Realization seemed to dawn on Vindiaccos. He reminded his apprentice. “You're much like your father in that regard. Stoic Rynath. You should hurry home. Deliver your parents and all survivors you find back to Raven's Croft… in case you cannot find me, or I have left this world.”

Grimacing, Kendal nodded. “I understand, Vindiaccos.” 

He urged Qenroth onward.

Vindiaccos shouted words of encouragement to his apprentice. His words echoed, “We shall meet again underneath this bleak daylight! Let the Heavenly Flame blaze in your chest and warm you against winter's onslaught!”

Qenroth trotted farther into the woods until the gloom between the black earth and forest canopy swallowed him whole. 

 Ancient roots from centuries-old trees twisted down the steep hills and weathered cliff faces that supported their foundations. As he rode, Kendal ducked under a maze of hanging branches. Small falls of snow shaken from half—buried foliage came raining down on him whenever he snagged a tree limb in his passing. 

Mist Hollow grew and abounded around him, teetering higher and higher until the snow-laden canopy blotted out the wane light of the sun. He steered Qenroth over wooden bridges, fording half—frozen creeks and placid streams into the thick of nature's labyrinth.

Kendal searched for marauding bands of elves through the ceaseless snow. Wolves howled out of the gloom, hidden in the heart of the forest. Quiet creatures of the wood darted through the underbrush. 

Dawn's light continued to intensify over the passing hours. As Kendal journeyed on, the forest canopy became lit through by the cascading rays of the midday sun. Before the noon sun came to its zenith, Qenroth had finally appeared onto the Emerald Road, the cobblestones buried underneath a shroud of snow. 

Kendal searched for any presence in near proximity. His hawk eyes scanned the forest for stranded souls and bandits lying in wait by the roadside. Before long, Kendal noticed a hazy shape coalescing into view. He craned his head to assess the surrounding terrain for danger. A familiar scent of charred wood and ash lingered on the wintry air. 

He listened to the wailing wind, but heard nothing beyond the natural forest life. As he approached, Kendal beheld the remains of a travelers’ caravan. Each wagon in plain sight was nothing more than scorched ruins. A score of bodies half-buried in the snow scattered about the massacre site. 

Kendal reigned Qenroth to an abrupt halt on the massacre's perimeter. A sense of foreboding quickened his heart. A glance toward the tattered banners not yet concealed by the snow, informed Kendal that it was a supply caravan for the Dawn Field Garrison. This garrison hailed from Ulannis village, more than half-a-day's journey from Kendal's manor. 

The ambush had befallen the caravan on their journey into the village of Brightmorn, from where Kendal had come. They had chosen the Emerald Road, unsurprisingly, unaware they were venturing directly into the raids burning across the Mist Hollow. 

Kendal cursed. The Lani elves were still on the rampage after all this time. A calculative thoroughness went with the carnage they unleashed upon the surrounding Halish lands. Nor could he understand the elves’ motivations.

A subtle crack - like the snapping of a tiny twig shattered the uneasy tranquility of the forest.

Kendal made no sign of acknowledging the sound, but slipped out of his saddle with caution. His leather boots vanished amid the deep snow. He searched the area for any signs of life, but could not find one soul. After another brief assessment, he trudged through the deep snow to approach the destroyed caravan, Qenroth pulled along by his reigns. 

He searched his surroundings with subtle glances, but could not discern any threat nearby. A woodland beast, perhaps?

He stumbled first upon the corpse of a young woman, no more than twenty summers of age. Beneath the layers of animal hides was a silk dress of burgundy and off-white. Kendal knelt next to her and realized she had several slender arrows embedded in her torso. A gruesome and agonizing death, but Kendal knew that she had succumbed to the blizzard's sleep inducing cold. Blood trickled from her lips, building up behind her teeth.

Kendal grimaced as he gazed upon the distressing sight, transfixed. He whispered to the deceased woman. “Hanneth's light reveal the hidden paths for you...” He picked himself up and continued to search through the caravan.

The supply wagons were ransacked by whoever had slaughtered their guardians. Scattered across the main road were shattered chests, broken open with force both natural and applied. He uncovered all manner of currencies buried in the blood—stained snow. What Kendal had noticed was the lack of essential supplies needed to survive a journey.

The only mark the Lani left at the ambush site was a forest floor riddled with a hail of spent arrows. Broken ones, Kendal realized after picking up several. Of course, they had left behind their victims as well to freeze amidst the Black Blizzard. Several minutes of thorough searching left Kendal with precious little. 

He stood over the carcass of a workhorse slain under a barrage of feathered and steel-tipped shafts. Kendal shook his head in resignation.

 As the mist of his own breath evaporated into the snowy wind, he noticed another subtle breaking of twigs from behind him. The sound came more forceful this time, followed by sounds of someone bounding through the snow. 

Kendal surrendered to instinct, whirling around with a hand on the hilt of his sheathed sword. A dark, hazed figure came rushing toward him through the veil of snow. 

He unsheathed his long sword with a cry, practically ripping it from the scabbard. His blade parried an overhead thrust from the dim figure's long spear. A shower of sparks erupted from the collision of their steel—stinging Kendal's frosted features. His ambusher's blurred outline hurtled past him after impact; such was the speed of her charge. 

 The sentient shadow slid to a screeching halt amid the snow. Her features became visible in the midday light. She was all lithe muscle and gray skin, grayer than the brooding skies over the Mist Hollow. Raven hair flowed around her, caught in the wind like eels surging through the seas. She was clad in dull grey leathers to match her skin and the freshly tanned pelts of slain foxes and wolves. 

A Lioness, Kendal thought, came out of her crouched stance, so near that her frosted breath mingled with his own. Her scarred lips were pale and full, spread into a wolfish grin. A nasty crimson wound was carved from her forehead down to the bottom of her jaw. 

She watched Kendal with keen eyes the color of a deep sea. 

Kendal lifted his hands in a gesture of peace. She planted a leather boot on the back of the corpse she had dragged out of the snow. She studied him with cold, calculating eyes, that concealed a hidden flame beneath the façade. 

He blinked, and she darted through snow and rubble unhindered. Kendal parried a flash of her spear. She wove around his counterstroke for her chest, then pushed off her grounded foot. Her elbow crashed into Kendal's temple. 

Kendal shouted in pain from her cut across his cheekbone. 

Agile beyond human limitations, the gray elf pounced. She aimed her spear thrust for his vulnerable thigh. Kendal let the spear pass through his legs, then countered with a swift swing to give himself distance. 

She slunk beyond his immediate reach, coy laughter on her lips. 

Kendal scrambled back as his opponent came for another bout. 

He stopped his retreat, and committed to an engagement. He swept his blade in a low cut, missing the bandit's limb by a narrow inch. She brought her spearhead into an uppercut. Kendal parried the strike on the length of his gauntlet. Sword gripped one—handed, his fury of blows drove her back.”   

Seeing an advantage, he feinted to his left, then brought a chopping blow to bring the elven bandit to heel. 

Charging forward, the gray marauder halted Kendal in mid-execution, her elbow pinned against the pit of his supporting limb. Kendal cursed. She created an opening wide enough to see him dead. The elf lunged into him… and meshed her pale lips onto his frosted ones. She gently shut her eyes for the briefest moment, then pulled away.

Kendal could only watch her fade into the wintry gloom. He was too stunned to stop her, whilst she mocked him even as she faded into the winter gloom. He sneered in disgust after he realized she would not return, more at his own weakness than anything else.

He brushed any thought of the Lioness aside and sprinted back to Qenroth. He climbed back into the saddle and spurred the horse into a full—tilt gallop down the Emerald Road. He wanted to turn back the way he had come, to warn Vindiaccos and rally the Raven Vale Knights to the defense of Qallin Manor. There was no time left if there had even been to begin with. 

Qenroth galloped, swifter than wind, to deliver Kendal to his homestead before all was lost.
« Last Edit: May 6, 2021, 11:23:54 PM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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The Embers of The Past: Black Ashes Ver 4.0 Scene 2/2
« Reply #221 on: May 19, 2021, 08:07:43 AM »
Alright, so as I promised... I've been working away on the reconstruction of Chapter One.

I wanted to implement a few things with this chapter:

More creative, specific language in the form of terms and phrases for each culture/civilization that I created for the Embers of the Past.

I've decided to start with the first chapter as that seemed a good a place as any. Here is a short list of what I've changed:

Kendal's horse had a name change to Atlas, as opposed to the former name Qenroth, which was just too similar to Kendal's name lol.

Kendal Giram Qallin --> Kendal Ciluran Qallin

Lani Elves --> Lai'nurai Ishal

Elf --> Ishal

Elven Gods --> Ishalnan

Lani Elf Antagonists for CH I --> Siren Wraiths Clan

Lai'nurai Druid --> Dur'waith

Qenroth, Kendal's Ishal war horse --> Atlas

Qin'sar --> Noble-blooded Children of the Sun

Zar'qin --> Slave Warrior

Tu'shik --> Grand City of Canals

That's all I can think of for the moment, but this list will inevitably expand as I make the final pre-manuscript critique pass.

Second, recreating Chapter One has proven a very fruitful endeavor. I've had to split the original chapter into two, since there is so much new material.

This time, I've been aiming to create a really suspenseful, almost otherworldly event that will start Kendal's narrative. Of course, the consequence to this is that I must now take a look at all his dialogue and chapters, since now I think I've finally found this character's voice.  I've noticed that the Kendal I want to write about is still in the other parts of the text, but his narrative arc as a whole just needs to be brought in line so that it's consistent.


~***~


Swifter than wind, Kendal rode into the heart of the morbid winter. Sunlight dwindled the farther his steed, Atlas, raced into the primordial wilds of the Mist Hollow. The winter conspired with time itself, strengthening until the horizon became a deep, colorless gray. A shrieking wind cut through his armor, lashing against his bones. A heavy snowfall clouded the path forward, until he had only his memories to guide him onward. 

From the dark heart of the Mist Hollow, sirens wailed into the bitter wind. Kendal first thought them howling predators on the hunt, until he noticed hazed, slender figures emerging out of the white shroud. Wherever Kendal heard the eerie wailing, he noticed only more of these strange, bipedal creatures appearing through the snow. 

Each time he heard their cries, the closer in proximity they seemed to come with every reappearance. Kendal spurred Atlas to the height of his limits, gliding like they had never done, but still the spindly shadows seemed to be closing an invisible noose around his neck. 

Kendal realized, when the first arrows struck the foliage around him, that the disturbing shadows were of the Lai’nurai Ishal, the Druidic and enigmatic race tormenting the Mist Hollow.

His heart almost burst within his chest, when the first Lai’nurai lying in wait behind a roadblock of hewn down trees, unveiled themselves with ear-piercing screams. His warhorse reacted on instinct, before Kendal even thought to take control of the reigns. Atlas diverted from the glinting tips of moonlit spearheads, weaving into the untamed forests of the Mist Hollow. 

The Lai’nurai were everywhere, Kendal realized, spotting the gloomy shadows by the score in any direction he searched for them. These Ishal were deathly pallid, so brilliant a white that their skin almost matched the snow blanketing the forest. Their shapes were whipcord thin, lithe enough that an ordinary man like himself appeared twice their girth. 

These Ishal were incredibly gifted of height, their males two heads over the tallest of men. Their hair was a deep contrast of dark and pallid shades, often dyed into soft, but bright hues of color. Their eyes unnerved Kendal most, piercing stares of lavender, cerulean, and vermillion piercing the winter gloom even when the Lai’nurai were all but invisible. 

Kendal could not shake the feeling that hundreds were watching him flee for his life. They studied him for every perceptive detail of horror and unease, many of them displaying a not—so—subtle mirth behind their cold, pitiless gazes. 

Inexorable, the Ishal strode through the winter woods toward him. Yet their aggression was subtle. The Druidic creatures refrained from closing the last few leagues between them and their quarry. Their archers, however, loosed entire volleys at him while they shrieked into the fell wind. 

A constant rain of luminescent, cerulean—white tipped shafts came raining down around him. Atlas weaving behind the protective bulk of teetering trees, Kendal was convinced the Ishal considered him sport rather than a threat to be neutralized. 

By Hanath’s deliverance herself, Atlas burst out of the labyrinthine realms of the Mist Hollow. Kendal found himself riding through a field of violet roses, where leafy white stalks, crowned with gold, bent unceasingly with the wind’s direction. Of the towering trees, the countless varieties in the Mist Hollow faded in numbers, until only several of the Anorian Guardians dominated all the fields beyond the forest. 

The Guardians were so world defying, that their branches and leaves formed an endless domed canopy over the entirety of the Mist Hollow’s heart. Their hulking trunks rivalled the girth of entire valleys, and their height rivaled those of the mountains. Their created canopy contained every kaleidoscopic color, so translucent that Kendal at first thought he had entered a world hidden under a sky of stained glass. 

Kendal remembered his pursuers, and snapped back into focus. He remembered where he was now; only a stone’s throw away from the farmstead of his childhood memories. He glanced over his shoulder more than once in search for the Ishal, but after the seventh time, Kendal wagered they had ended their pursuit.   

Nestled in the gargantuan flank of an Anorian Guardian, the Unknown Valley’s entrance loomed where the fields of violet roses came to an end at a massive cliff face. Kendal spied a natural, off—beaten path that would lead him safely down the cliff and into the foothills surrounding the miles’ long valley. 

Hope kindled, then blazed within his chest as Atlas galloped the last few miles around half of the most southward Anorian Guardian. When he approached the lowlands where his homestead was isolated, his hope withered into despair at the first signs of pillaging. 

Atlas twisted down winding roads, guided toward the smoke billowing into the bleak night where his homestead should be. The ashen pillars were only visible by the great orange glow appearing to bathe all the secluded valley. 

Kendal refused to surrender to temptation, and throw himself headlong into danger again. Atlas descended into the lowland farther still, until the heart of the Mist Hollow vanished from sight. All that remained was the valley carved into the flank of a mountainous Guardian, swallowing him whole.   

Once in the valley proper, Atlas raced across the last few leagues between his master and his home. He dared to hope that his parents were still alive. He dared to hope that somehow this was all a nightmare he could not awake from. 

When Atlas stumbled across a familiar path, and rode through the toppled gates leading through walls strong enough to rival a fortress’, Kendal no longer dared hope for anything. He rode swifter than wind itself through the shattered gates, trampling its dead guardians underfoot, and came into the lush, fertile fields of the Qallin Farmstead. 

The Lai’nurai Ishal were strange beings. Kendal would have thought them lustful for Seanna’s Wishes, the enchanted substance grown and harvested on Qallin farmstead. Even a purse full of the stuff was worth entire strongholds and the armies that garrisoned them. Yet the Ishal left several acres ripe with the enchanted pearls untouched. 

Laboring for breath, Atlas finally slowed when crossing through the last acres separating him from his farmstead. Kendal lightened his demands on the Ishal warhorse, knowing that if Atlas collapsed, then his efforts to rescue his parents were for nothing…

The fires of hope faded within Kendal’s chest, scattered like dead ash, when he laid his eyes upon Qallin farmstead. His home was already engulfed by a raging inferno, all eight tiers of the grand work charred so badly that the entire house had collapsed in upon itself. Shocked into inaction, Kendal could only behold the sight of his entire life fading away amid the dancing embers. 

Of the Lai’nurai, there was no sign. All they had left in their wake, Kendal noticed after a brief pause, was a field of their slain foes left at the foot of the blazing destruction. Kendal steeled himself, and slipped out of Atlas’ saddle. He quickly took his horse by the reigns, and walked the last remaining paces to where the dead lay in their open graves. 

The heat from his burning manor became so intense, that his skin started to sweat profusely after a minute or two near its remains. Kendal pressed onward, however, until he stood on the perimeter of the massacre site. He studied the unblemished faces of each, and every poor soul heaped over the snow. Many were Qallin Manor’s farmhands and armed garrison, many of which he remembered in the days before his sixteenth summer. 

There were others. Distant kin of his Cenlori father, Rynath Ciluran Qallin, of which Kendal could not bear to see what they had plainly suffered before their demise. Of the scores that were heaped in the manor courtyard, Kendal could not seem to find the faces of his parents amid the death and ruin. 

Relinquishing Atlas’ reigns, Kendal patted the wearied warhorse, instructing him to stay nearby. Almost irreverently, he began to sift through the ranks of the dead. He tried with some semblance of ceremony to wade through the fallen for any sign of his father and mother, until he finally cast such notions aside. He picked up any corpse that looked to be burying another, throwing it aside with abandon when it did not uncover what he searched for. 

A voice unfamiliar by its spoken words, but vaguely familiar by the pure sound of its hushed breathing, called out to him. 

“None of the kin you’re searching for are here, half—blood.” 

Kendal picked himself up out of the bloody mire surrounding him, and turned back toward Seanna’s fields. He blinked, but could not dispel the illusion before him. The lioness he had encountered on the Emerald Road stood before him. She held no weapon at the ready, but kept her arms folded in patience. 

Kendal searched her stormy blue eyes, and found, to his surprise, a great empathy behind what he remembered a cold, calculative gaze. 

She spoke again, “There’s nothing left for you here. You should not have hoped that the gods would be merciful to you…”

Kendal studied her, perplexed. He asked, “Who are you? You’re not one of the Lai’nurai?”

She frowned, the expression brimming with distaste. “I am of the Ishal, but of another clan. The Siren Wraiths are no kin of mine. That is the reason why I am here in the first place. Doing the same thing that you are. Hunting our enemies.”

Kendal shook his head in deliberate motions. “I did not race all this way to defeat an army on my own.” He gestured to the mansion, a despairing laugh slipping his lips, absent of anything good. “I cam—”

“Search all you want, little Qallin,” She interrupted, “Your parents aren’t here any longer…”

Kendal felt the dying flame of hope gutter within him. 

The Ishal’s words sparked his dying spirit, until it blazed once again. “Your parents still live, Kendal. I saw them make their escape back the way whence you came from. You should know that they do not have much time.”

Kendal shrugged, and pushed any thought of her out of his mind. He whistled, calling for Atlas, and mounted back into his saddle when the horse came racing for him. He paused, before he spurred Atlas toward the exit. 

Kendal looked toward the Ishal warrior maiden in his midst. “You have my eternal gratitude—”

“Ishali,” She proclaimed, “My name is Ishali Winterwood… Do you think you’ll rescue your parents from that Lai’nurai horde on your own?”

Kendal arched his brow, “I don’t understand why you care, Ishali.” Speaking her name was like a revitalizing breath. “Why are you here, telling me what I need to know?”

Ishali shrugged, winking up at Kendal, her eyes fierce with interest. “I’ve a qualm with these brainless barbarians… let me ride with you, Kendal. I can guide you to your parents far sooner than you can find them on your own. Let me fight with you. I swear on my life that you’ll never regret it.”

Kendal almost became insistent, wanting to demand more information from her. But after some thought, he relented, and gestured for her to hop on Atlas’ back. Ishali chortled at him, and then whistled through the snow. Her own mare came trotting out of the fields, a pure ebony warhorse with a mane so lustrous, it sparkled in the firelight with an incredible sheen. 

Ishali gracefully mounted her mare, patting its mane. “Come, Naila, we must ride swift for our new friends here.” She looked to Kendal. “Come, let’s ride!”

Kendal spurred Atlas into a full gallop, and still found himself trailing behind Ishali when she commanded Naila with only a spoken word.
« Last Edit: May 19, 2021, 08:10:14 AM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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The Embers of The Past: Kindled Hopes
« Reply #222 on: May 26, 2021, 05:16:20 PM »
Another reveal of Kendal's overhauled narrative - this time quite a bit later in Act I.

~~~~*********~~~~


A crackling of wood drifted from the hearth fire, flames filling the emptiness with a pleasant heat. He had slept peacefully to the calming sounds, and the soft lullaby of the summer wind. Nestled away under quilted blankets, Kendal awoke at the first sound of firewood tumbling deeper into the hearth. 

He opened his eyes, taking in the scent of burning apple-wood, and found the cedar roofs of his home housing him within his room. After spending his whole life beneath this roof, the mere sight of it became stifling. Unadorned walls crafted from fine redwoods never seemed to change. 

Too familiar for him to feel anything beyond a distant nostalgia. It offered no challenge, but the same mundane tasks he had come to endure for all his years. 

Kendal watched the hearth blaze, flames rising like the defiance of one’s true purpose. A purpose many took for granted in these blissful days; he knew. For years, he was no different. Always thinking the gods had a place for him. Always confident that some aspect of destiny would forever alter his life the way he saw fit. 

It was like his father, Rynath Qallin, had spoken to him the day before.   

“What would you do if destiny altered your course the way you desired? Would you stride through these doors like a fated hero? You, a young boy with many aspirations, but learned of none of the lessons that such heroes would know by heart… Remember, my son, that patience is what separates true myths from even legends.

“You want to live forever? Of course, you do, everyone does. Then I suggest you continue your studies, and keep chopping firewood… you’ll never wield a sword without respect for the basics of life itself. Let alone anything so demanding in the disciplines of the mind and body.”

It was only upon awakening when Kendal realized how much his father’s words bothered him. Tried as he might to pull the blankets over himself and fall back asleep, the effort was futile. Eventually, he kicked off his quilts and rolled over to sit on the edge of his bed. Minutes passed into hours, as Kendal spent his night before the hearth fire, reflecting on himself. 

He always did so absent the watchful presence of his parents. As Kendal thought about his mistakes, his father Rynath always so quick to point them out, he knew he would not fall asleep again tonight. 

Leaping to his feet, Kendal drowsily navigated the spaciousness of his room. He wove around the gnarled oak roundtable placed at the heart of his chambers, past a triple door wardrobe to approach the space most familiar, and beloved by him. With a ginger touch, he nudged aside his assortment of scrolls and ancient tomes, gathered from across the fabled lands of Ios and Khios continents, his parents had always bragged. 

Kendal wasn’t so certain if there was any truth to that. But he wouldn’t argue that some of the finest scholars of their own ages had placed pen to parchment, creating some of these exemplary tomes from ages long forgotten. 

He sat down within the claustrophobic confines of his study, somehow at home amidst the chaos. 

Picking up one of the dust-laden tomes, a gentle knocking at the entrance of his room interrupted him. Kendal leaned out of his armchair, twisting uncomfortably toward the source of the disturbance. The door came sliding open in silence, without even a squeak to betray the presence of the one who had opened it. 

A woman of unblemished caramel skin, dressed in flowing night robes of pallid lavender and beige silks, stood before him. She leaned against the doorframe with her arms folded, eyes of golden amber watching her son with a curious look. Her endless falls of hair, a dim shade of midnight, was bound into a great crown around her head. 

Nairi, his mother, studied her son within his adapted environment. Casually, she swept her gaze across his room for anything alarming, before it settled on Kendal again. With a puzzled arch of her brow, she smiled in the way he had always recalled. As he would always remember. 

Kendal made to open his mouth and explain himself. Yet, Nairi cut him off with her own confession. 

She sighed, “Can't sleep? I thought you’d be up, reading your books.” After her confession, Nairi swept into her only son’s room, and closed shut the door behind her with the quietest muffle. 

Nairi kept a hand raised to the doorway as she contemplated her choice of words. She warned, “You shouldn’t be up like this. You’ve given your father more than enough to worry about these last few weeks… Don’t you think, son?”

Kendal shook his head in disdain, turning back to the tome clutched in his hand. He unfurled the sprawling pages, and started skimming through their contents. Without looking up, he asked, “When have I given either of you cause to truly worry about me? It’s not like I’m half a world away, just out of reach of you for forever.”

“No,” Nairi agreed, but pressed her point. “It’s your sixteenth summer, Kendal. We know you’re no longer a child. No one is trying to treat you like one… You jest about being across the world itself, but once you choose to walk out of these doors, then you could very well be so distant from your parents.”

Kendal sighed, becoming frustrated. He set the ancient tome in his hands back down on the table. He tried his best not to accuse them outright. “If this is supposed to happen, then why am I being berated by guilt and fear? Both of you always said, there must come a time when I must know more than what the Mist Hollow has to offer. Why are both of you changing your minds?”

Silent, Nairi drifted away from the door to his room, and seated herself in one of the roundtable chairs by the burning hearth. She shook her head, “Your father isn’t angry with you, Kendal. Neither does he vent his frustrations to my face… he becomes inward when he must confront his own mistakes. Much like his only son, I might add.” 

“What mistakes?” Kendal cocked his head at her, “he only ever believes himself right.”

Nairi lifted her hand in a gesture of calm. “When you have lived a century or two short of several, then you may have wisdom enough to question his doubts about you. If I were you, son, I’d start assuming the faults were my own. I would begin to think about how I could mend them, then turn that weakness into strength.”

Kendal shook his head, “Mother, I cannot waste all my years in this lonely place. As much as I love you and Rynath… there has to be somewhere else as comfortable as all this.”

Nairi warned him again, “Reality is far harsher than you realize, Kendal Ciluran. Push too hard on the boundaries, and it’ll all come raining down upon you in ruins.”

The door to Kendal’s room fell open once again, the frame filled this time with the shadow of a majestic figure. 

“Nairi,” The familiar tone of his father’s patient voice called out to them. “Leave us. I’ve words for Kendal meant for him alone…”
« Last Edit: May 26, 2021, 08:49:30 PM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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The Embers of The Past: Progress Update & Oath of Brotherhood, Scene III
« Reply #223 on: June 10, 2021, 08:14:37 AM »
Progress Update:

Manuscript has reached about 102,000 words. Less than 8,000 away from hitting my target word count of 110,000. I think I'm going to over it a bit at this rate.

I'm actually writing the final chapter of Embers of the Past now, basically wrote the first two scenes. Now I'm just tying up some scenes I never quite finished, then everything should be ready for my critique.

I've done a lot of editing, kind of paused to resume writing the story again. But getting ready to dive back into editing the rest of the manuscript once I complete it.

Almost finished overhauling Kendal's entire Act I narrative arc, just have one last scene for him to go. Then I've one more chapter to seal up, and a battle to edit through on the fly, and that should be it!

I want to thank everyone who is still holding interest! It might be a while before I'm able to go through the other editing steps with Embers, but if that happens, then I'll switch to Plan B to focus on the Map + Website + maybe some additional art for EoTP.

Azat stood alone on the battlefield, abandoned since the evening dusk of yesterday. Ominous thunder split the dawn skies asunder till they wept. Ceaseless rain came pouring down from the heavens onto the mountain pass of Reaper's Lantern. Galerider waded through crimson water coming up to his ankles, through the innumerable dead heaped upon the craggy earth. 

Azat took in the aftermath as the storm raged on. Cleansing rain washed away the gore and filth of the battlefield back into the Suranna Plains. Despite the weather, warriors of the Ardent Vigil hunted the field without end. Each of their number combed through the dead's morbid legions in search for wounded or deceased comrades.

Thousands had died in the span of a single day. Azat gazed out across the thick of ruin left in the wake of two clashing armies. He shuddered at the sight of such violence and death. It was no different than that fateful day, thirty years ago, where a King had perished, and his armies put to the sword. 

Yesterday, he had little time to assess the damages done to his forces. The battle at Reaper's Lantern had not even came to close that night, when Azat was forced to quit the field to execute his strategies for the morrow. Of course, the first day of the battle had proven indecisive. Old Myria had repulsed the Dominion back into Cressa's Lantern, but his own battered army was all but spent holding their ground. 

Azat knew any attempt to spearhead an assault into the mountain valley was suicide. 

So, as the dawn sun crested the horizon, Azat waited for the Carthites to take to the field for another day. He was unsurprised when less than a fraction of the Dominion’s hordes sent against Old Myria yesterday, came riding down the steep slopes into the mountain pass. He counted about two hundred riders, a mix of Zar'qin warriors and their Qin’sar masters, riding under one banner. 

They held aloft no white banners for parlaying, but Azat knew that was precisely what they wanted. He knew from the God King of the Carth Dominion riding at the fore of the cavalcade. 

Erasyl of Tu'shik, Azat thought, in the flesh himself. 

Azat folded his arms, standing his ground before the oncoming stampede. The Ardent Vigil combing the fields looked up from their grisly task. They saw the enemy charging through the heavy rain, and drew their swords out of caution. His Immortals quickly gathered around him, forming a protective formation as the Carthite cavalry began to slow when they drew near enough. 

Their voices carried on the howling winds; their wailing battle cries distorted by the storm, sounding like howling sirens of death. A handful of the Anahir Immortals clashed their swords over shields to strike courage in the hearts. A handful of Ardent Vigil glanced over their shoulders toward safety, but the presence of the Anahir Immortals amassed in the backfield forced them to look forward. 

The deathly cries of the Dominion's warriors continued to haunt the Old Myrian ranks, well after the cavalcade halted amid the battlefield. Azat felt the earth under his feet gradually cease its shuddering, as his enemies kept a respectful distance from the Old Myrians. Still, they were near enough that he could make out their shadow clad figures in the burning light of pitch—soaked torches. 

From the howling ranks of the Dominion, one warrior rode out toward Azat alone. He shouted the command for his archers to stand down, and spurred Galerider to meet the Dominion's herald on middle ground. Galerider waded through the endless dead and came into the light of a lonesome torch, blazing between either army. From the opposing direction, Erasyl of Tu'shik did the same. He rode a massive ebon warhorse the size of which Azat could only imagine in fairy tales. 

Lightning cracked open the dark skies, and thunder bellowed until the Veiled Mountains quivered out of fear. 

The God King of the Carth Dominion smiled graciously when he first noticed Azat's approach. The two figures neared one another until they stood face to face, and could see the white in each other's eyes.

“Lord Zakarian,” Erasyl intoned. He brought his gargantuan mount to a halt, looking down on Azat with a look of extraordinary pride. “I should have known you'd find some way to survive the onslaught. I must confess, that you've impressed me. I can see why my father was struck down by your hand, when you were in your prime.” He looked Azat up and took in the sight of his repaired armor. “There is not a talented blacksmith in all the world that could clean out all the blood in those iron scales.

Azat disagreed, “It is the blood of the countless slaves you've sent to their deaths, and of the friends that perished fighting against them. This is not a wardrobe that I'm proud of.”

The God King inclined his head out of respect. He replied, “Azat Zakarian, the Black Wolf of Irothis… I remember the days some thirty years ago, when you were a much brasher, arrogant sort. Perhaps not vain like my father, but I can appreciate the wisdom you've gained in your elder years.”

Azat smiled, “In theory, my wisdom is probably only a grain compared to the full hourglass of a thousand-year-old man. The fact alone that you continue to fall into the same pits of sin like any mortal shows that mankind is flawed beyond hope.”

Erasyl lowered his gaze, glaring down at Azat with a patient smile. He answered, “What guilt I must bear for my transgressions, I gladly bear for the sake of all the children of man. You wouldn't understand, Lord Zakarian.”

Azat arched his brow, “Are you so certain about that? Always have the Children of the Sun stayed an enigma to Khios. Should you have some convoluted lesson shrouded in all that religious encryption, I would gladly listen.”

Erasyl considered Azat's insistence, pleasantly surprised judging from his expression. He contemplated, then declined with a mere shake of his head. “You're gracious enough to ask, but you and I both know that there are more pressing issues to be discussed during our parley.”

Azat squinted into the rain crashing down on him. He asked, “Shall we stand here in the rain till we've reached some agreement?”

Erasyl bellowed with hearty laughter. He answered, quickly sobering, “Would you feel comfortable accompanying me back to my encampment? I am certain you would not, as I would not feel comfortable riding out alone into the Suranna Plains.”

Azat smirked, “Candor from a tyrant? And here I thought you a fearless sort.”

Erasyl shrugged, “Fearless, perhaps, but certainly not foolish…”

An eerie silence descended upon Reaper's Lantern as the Carthite war hordes eventually ceased their wailing cries and the Old Myrians stopped beating their shields. There was only the storm raging, as a moment of silence haunted the still ranks of the fallen. 

Erasyl shattered the interlude with an unusual request. “Let us cast aside our obvious demands. There is little point in asking you to abandon Reaper's Lantern, as there is no point of asking the Dominion to withdraw from Cressa's Lantern.”

Azat heard Erasyl's reasoning, and nodded in agreement. “We would be at an impasse otherwise. You surprise me, Erasyl, I thought you would send another legion of your Zar'qin to batter us aside. You and I both know that you could have your victory on this second day of the battle.”

The God King did not disagree, but neither did he agree with Azat's opinion. He countered, “It has only been the first day of our battle at this mountain pass. I have lost several thousand of my finest Zar'qin warriors. And you?”

Azat arched his brow, taken back by the confession. The last thing he wanted was to reveal the number of his own fallen to the God King of all the Carth Dominion. He thought upon the matter, and decided to parlay in honest transparency. 

Azat sighed, “I've lost nearly three thousand able bodies. All that said, I have no intention of surrendering the mountain pass, or allowing you to march on without retribution.”

“That is no surprise to Carth's Immortal Son.” Erasyl smiled knowingly. “I could order another assault on your forces, but I could risk my casualties spiraling beyond ten thousand valorous souls… and for Old Myria, is the rest of your three thousand living, able sons and daughters not too great a sacrifice?” 

Azat cocked his head at Erasyl, puzzled. “Are you suggesting an end to this petty war?”

The God King answered with a grim shake of his head. “This war is far from petty, Azat. It is a reckoning over one thousand years in the making. But for either of us to lose so many in the first two days of this war… It is unbecoming of any general or monarch to waste valuable lives in such numbers.”

Azat slowly inclined his head in agreement. “Then we've come to another impasse. What is it that you are suggesting?”

Erasyl smirked. He must have thought Azat was being coy. “You must have an idea already? In the days of wars long forgotten from history itself, our ancestors would solve pressing issues like these in personal combat. They would allow their armies to gather and spectate, and two champions selected by either opposing army fought on till the death in most cases.

“I suggest that we forgo a trial by combat to the death, but determine the victory by the first grievous wound.”

Azat countered, “Either of us would risk death anyway, if it was to the first wound that leave us unable to fight.” 

Erasyl nodded, “True, but you'll have your chance to survive, should you remain strong. The same applies to me. Such is the way of war, even those fought honorably.”

Azat nodded without hesitation. He said, “shall we get this over with now then?”

Skeptical, the God King questioned him, champion to champion. “How do you feel after the first day of battle? I heard from my scouts that you led from the fore. I was greatly impressed to hear of your exploits, and am impressed further still that you are still here, breathing.”

Azat begrudgingly answered, uncertain how to be thankful to his mortal nemesis. “Perhaps we could wait…”

“Seven days.” Erasyl suggested. “We shall meet here one week from today, our armies assembled, when Sirius has reached its zenith in the clear skies. You and I shall fight a trial by combat to the first grievous wound. Should you wound me, and I yield, I shall take the warriors of my Dominion… and return from whence we came. Should I wound you and you yield, you must surrender Reaper's Lantern to my armies.” 

Uncertainty haunted Azat. He wrestled around in his thoughts, calculating which choice was the correct decision. He concluded, that if anything, another seven days for reinforcements to arrive was better than losing the mountain pass and his entire army, then his life on the morrow. 

He accepted with a nod. “Seven days from now, the fate of our entire war shall be decided by who is the better warrior.” 

Erasyl nodded, still smiling. “It shall be a myth to pass down into the centuries. Should either of us die in our struggle, we shall be remembered as legends.”

Azat sighed, “It feels odd, doesn't it? Men as old as we are already carved legacies that will last into history. It is strange that after thirty years, you and I are poised to repeat history once again.”

The God King turned his great warhorse back to the Carthite lines, and went ahead to take his leave. As the storm winds howled ever louder, the God King's words pierced the veil like a Sage's prophetic warning. 

Erasyl promised, “Us old guards must do what we can for our children. For one day, they must take up the sword when we are gone from this world. Let them spectate a little longer. There will be no return to peaceful days of bliss and waiting for champions to decide Khios' fate, when they replace their forebears on the battlefields of ceaseless war…” 
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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So, to everyone who has been keeping up with this story, thank you so much for coming back to read the updates. Probably 99.5% are lurkers and that's perfectly okay.

This will be my final preview for Embers of the Past - at least for a good long while. The manuscript is almost complete, and I'll be busy following the next steps to get this thing into gear.

So I wanted to leave everyone with something really memorable. I don't think this is something anyone has seen quite yet throughout the book scenes I've shared.

I introduce to you a taste of The Embers of the Past's finale. I won't say anymore, go read it. Also, this portion of the final chapter is only a piece of the story's culmination. I hope you guys have enjoyed everything I shared, and I know none of its was perfect, even now. The editing process is only beginning.

In the meantime, keep a lookout for a second thread on the fiction board. This will be for the sequel, A Sanctum of Swords.

~***~

Hurrying through the Maritime Gate, Ara was greeted by the sounds of battle raging. Burning fires fanned throughout Khalnar’s river-bound infrastructure, whilst its scattered defenders engaged their adversaries in the town’s streets and homes. He looked toward the harbors in the near distance, seeing an entire armada of ships anchored on the Alabaster.
   
The Children of the Sun laid waste to the district, their presence growing as more ships sailed into the harbors.

“Gods,” Ara cursed, “we’re too late! Dominion forces have already pillaged their way to the maritime gate!”
   
“Good,” Aslan said, “let them come with all their strength. We’ll turn them aside with the reinforcements we’ve brought!” He turned about, addressing seven hundred Old Myrians Antranig dispatched to reinforce the harbors. All were Cataphracts of Myr, Old Myria’s finest equivalent of the Iosian knights.  “For Anahir and the heartland! Death to all tyrants!”
   
Several hundred voices, roughened from ceaseless nights spent putting down the riots throughout Khalnar, echoed his battle cry. Despite their exhaustion, Ara saw their eagerness to test their blades on mortal enemies. The thought of giving battle after so many decades languishing in peace, granted their life’s devotion in the pursuit of war a renewed purpose. They lifted their swords with pride, screaming into the maelstrom, rallying around one another.
   
Ara joined his brother’s bellowing cry, breaking ranks in a headlong charge toward his adversaries. The earth quaked beneath his feet as the Old Myrian forces rushed through the Maritime Gate after them. Leaping over scattered debris, he waded through the slain scattered about the main road. 
   
Flaming arrows filled the skies, loosed from the Dominion’s fleets anchored on the river. Ara made to defend himself, when Aslan covered them both with his great round shield, Aegis. The fiery hail came raining down around them. Stray arrows deflected off Aegis like soft rain. On either side of the Zakarian brothers, Ara noticed Kendal and Voshki overtaking them. With timed precision, either of them turned away the heavy arrows by their blades alone when one strayed near enough.
   
Out of the fire and smoke, the Dominion’s finest came charging without fear into their foes. Scarred champions of either gender, the Children of the Sun were of sable bronze skin. Satin robes of sapphire fluttered about their physical frames, scarred, and honed by centuries of constant war. Chain mail layered their clothes, followed by full suits of scale mail armor, creating a fearsome sight for any beholding them.

They came rushing forward with all manner of two-handed weapons at the Old Myrian forces. Around Ara, the collision of both armies into one another deafened him like a storm of sundered steel.
   
Aslan hurled Aegis out in front of him and his brother, barreling over the first four Qin’sar piling in to strike them down. Out of the shadow of his elder brother, Ara shoulder-charged his first would-be opponent to the ground, a Qin’sar female crying out from the shock of his assault.
   
Her surprised shout became one of pain, the metallic rim of his buckler impacting hard against her temple, knocking her unconscious. He parried a lunge for the right side of his chest on his shield, then the natural counter with his sword. Ara leaned into his new adversary, kneeing him beneath the belt.
   
Aslan’s shadow fell over them, his broadsword thrusting straight through the Carthite’s neck. Their foe seized up upon death, his fingers grappling the wrist of Ara’s shield arm like the cold grip of death itself. Ara broke the Carthite’s vice grip, slamming his shield down on the elbows where they bent, robbing them of all strength. He watched the body sag to the ground, lifeless.
   
“You’re welcome,” Aslan said. “Don’t overthink in the midst of combat, just defend yourself, brother!”
   
Ara hawked and spat, catching a Qin’sar beneath the jaw with a flung elbow. A bloodied toof flew out of the Chosen’s mouth. He said, “Worry about yourself! Coming from your right!”
   
Aslan stepped aside, letting the halberd hurtling down toward him sunder its blade on the road. His elder brother struck with beguiling speed. Ara saw his broadsword punch straight through the Qin’sar’s chest. The blade had exited through the broad of her back, slathered in blood, when Ara shifted to turn another blade aside.
   
War cries deafened him from either side, as the Myr Cataphracts came crashing amid the Children of the Sun like a tidal wave of blue-hued steel. Around Ara, their great swords struck with ruthless precision. They broke through grounded defenses, running noble-blooded Chosen through or breaking them open with bludgeoning force.
   
Their wrath stoked into a blazing fire, the Qin’sar answered Ara and the Knights of Myr with the brutal chained assaults they were known for. Old Myrians closed in around him, matching their foes blow for blow. Yet where they possessed momentum, the Children of the Sun claimed near-limitless endurance.
   
Blood flowed throughout the height of the battle, lashing Ara across his armor and soaking his clothes through. Qin’sar veterans weathered the worst the Myr Cataphracts had to offer without effort. They endured until their foes tired from exhaustion, cleaving through entire ranks of the Old Myrian Knights in practiced coordination with one another.
   
Ara himself was almost slain several times, blind sighted by adversaries who struck over the heads of the comrades locked in combat with him. He ducked beneath the pendulum swing of a halberd. The Qin’sar claimed the heads of two Old Myrian Knights, as oblivious to the danger in death as they were in life.

Focused upon Ara, the Child of the Sun shoved his way to the frontline with the intent of killing him. He lunged into the Carthite, but was turned aside by a masterful parry. A pommel strike to his flank sent him hurtling sideways. He pivoted, striking the halberd’s haft, altering the course of the Qin’sar’s killing blow.

Out of the fire and smoke, a shadow coalesced behind the Child of the Sun, dark like the essence of night. Voshki slew the Qin’sar with a razor-edged dagger across his throat. Ara staggered backward, watching the blood spray from the dying warrior’s open wound.

He looked to Voshki, who mocked him with a confident smile. She turned from him, her glaive lopping the arm from a Chosen daughter at the elbow. She never ceased moving, her dagger and glaive woven in broad sweeps, spilling blood by the gallon like a gladiator, hungering for eternal glory.

Ara made to follow her example, rejoining the fray with a reckless charge into the teeth of several Qin’sar. Before he could make contact the first foe turning to face him, the Qin’sar’s armor slathered in the blood of a slain Knight of Myr, Prince Qallin swept into the combat alongside him.

Ara’s scimitar struck true, cleaving through a battered suit of scale mail, cutting a Chosen from shoulder to waist. Prince Qallin hurtled past him; his longsword thrust straight through the throat of the first foe who moved to counter him. He shouldered into the sable bronze warrior next to him, tearing his longsword out of the throat of his first kill. Clutched in both of his fists, he drove the blade down clean through the nearest threat.

The Carthite staggered back into his comrades, bloodied fingers clutching the razor-edge of Kendal’s blade even as they wept streams of blood. One of the surviving warriors whirled around the corpse of his brethren, his polearm striking out to split open Kendal around the bicep. Kendal reacted swifter than his opponent did, somehow turning the blade aside despite the blow biting deep through his padded brigandine.

Ara mobilized, ducking beneath the Carthite’s following thrust of his spiked halberd. With one cut alone, he severed the Qin’sar’s leg out from under him, toppling him to the cobblestones. Kendal planted a triumphant foot on the warrior’s chest. He silenced his cries with a merciful downward thrust through the Qin’sar’s heart.

Kendal cried, “Ara, we cannot hold out much longer like this! The Children of the Sun are more skilled than we are! They have superior numbers! The Knights of Myr are faltering, they’re being butchered where they stand!”

Ara searched the battlefield and realized Prince Qallin had spoken the truth. Throughout the streets, the Knights of Myr were being scattered into isolated pockets of resistance. Some where even being pushed into the blazing ruins of many buildings, cornered, and hunted down like animals. Others took shelter from the brutality of battle, even as the Qin’sar worked to burn them alive or smoke them out.

In silence, small numbers of Old Myrians routed after realizing how outmatched they were. As Ara and his comrades had fought on, those numbers swelled until their ranks threatened to break all at once. He knew their panic would sweep through the ranks of all the Old Myrian defenders and rob them of any will to fight.

The siege of Khalnar would end with the stronghold crumbling down to its foundations.
Aslan appeared by his younger brother and Prince Qallin’s side. He said, “brother, sound the retreat…I will hold the line with the most courageous. We’ll give you the time you need to organize another defense.”

Ara replied, “how will you do that, Aslan? You’re only one man, Lion of War or not! You’re committing suicide!”

Aslan shook his head, shrugging. He said, “You know I was never one for being foolish. That has always been your calling. I shall challenge the Exalted to personal combat and survive for as long as possible. Perhaps I may even prove the victor, but I won’t leave any one of your lives to chance. So, withdraw and find some way to outlive this storm!”

A triumphant scream tore through the anarchy. Ara shifted his gaze alongside Kendal and his elder brother. Unnerved Qin’sar were backpedaling away from the black-clad assassin in their midst. Voshki stood amid the Children of the Sun, holding aloft the severed head of a woman bedecked with a crown of glittering jewelry. He watched several glittering necklaces created from flawless precious stones slide off the bloodied stump of her neck, lying broken at the Ashen Blade’s feet.

Kendal cried out, “is that the Exalted?”

Aslan shrugged, “doubtful, Prince Qallin. Regardless, this is my chance to even the score against the Children of the Sun, and break their morale. Voshki and I will hold here with whoever is willing. You two must report to Antranig… tell him the maritime district has fallen. Tell him the Lion of War will see his given task fulfilled.”

Horns sounded behind the amassed ranks of the Children of the Sun, who chanted dirges into the blazing dawn and hefted their weapons at the noise. In loose synchronicity, the formations parted into great aisles on either side of the road, leaving an open walkway filled with the dead and heavily wounded.
   
Ara witnessed an individual approaching them in a casual stride. His armor was like the rest of the Children of the Sun, save that a tabard of sapphire satin silk, emblazoned with white gold calligraphy, marked him out as a leader. Helmet cradled underneath his arm, the Qin’sar’s chiseled face exuded poise and confidence. His skull was shaven on either side, his wavy hair swept back along his scalp so that it flowed off the back of his skull like a curling wave.
   
Piercing hazel eyes studied the four warriors with a calculative glare. He noticed Voshki first, then picked out Prince Qallin with an arrogant snort. His eyes finally fell upon Ara with great interest, before they finally locked with Aslan and ceased their wandering.
   
Aslan shoved Ara back behind him. He said, “go brother. Do the same, Prince Qallin. None of us will survive this if no one is willing to do what must be done.”
   
Ara said, “I’m not leaving behind the only kin left to me. I won’t be the one who will visit father’s deathbed and say I left my brother on the battlefield. Neither would you, brother, so enough debating. Are you going to kill this Qin’sar or stand around until Khalnar is blackened rubble?”
   
“Gods above guide my hand,” Aslan replied. “If you won’t save yourselves, then stand here and watch me bury this Carthite in the cold earth.”
   
Ara punched the air with his shield, shouting in approval. He said, “Let the Children of the Sun despair, brother!”

Kendal inclined his head to Aslan. “Good fortune, all of us needed it days ago, but better late than never.”

Voshki cried out as she came rushing back out of the fray to join them. She said, “Break their hearts, and then their souls, Lion.”

Aslan nodded to them all, then pivoted to face the Exalted standing before them from a good distance. Ara knew his elder brother was preparing himself, though he seemed confident in the face of death. The Lion of War held his shield tight across his chest and pointed his sword toward the Children of the Sun’s commander.
   
Almost in unison, both the Exalted and Lion approached the middle ground between their bloodied forces…
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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The Embers of The Past - Completed!
« Reply #225 on: July 3, 2021, 07:13:44 PM »
EDIT: It is done... now to get this beast through the editing process lol.

Have about 2,000 words left for the Epilogue, and then I'm calling it done until after the first appointment with the Editor.

So, I've done thus far:

- Multiple chapter deletions / rewrites
-Narrative revisions implemented across entire Acts of the Manuscript
-Probably wrote 200,000 words at this point, just 100,000 of those in deleted scenes and chapters
- Made several different passes for self-editing throughout the entire manuscript
-Implemented all feedback from writing circles, editors opinion from Version 1.0, and friends.

It's all about to be done lol

Finalized Manuscript Title Page & Table of Contents:


« Last Edit: July 5, 2021, 12:15:08 AM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Alienscar

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Hey up Myen'Tal I have fallen too far behind to offer any real feedback on your story, but I couldn't let you go without saying one last thing.

   
Piercing hazel eyes studied the four warriors with a calculative glare. He noticed Voshki first, then picked out Prince Qallin with an arrogant snort. His eyes finally fell upon Ara with great interest, before they finally locked with Aslan and ceased their wandering.
   
Voshki cried out as she came rushing back out of the fray to join them. She said, “Break their hearts, and then their souls, Lion.”

The sentences I have highlighted above don't gel as Voshki is described as being one of the four warriors being studied. It is odd then that she rushes back to join them later. 
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Honestly Alienscar, we get it... you dont like painting!

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: The Embers of The Past - Completed!
« Reply #227 on: July 5, 2021, 08:58:52 AM »
Hey up Myen'Tal I have fallen too far behind to offer any real feedback on your story, but I couldn't let you go without saying one last thing.

   
Piercing hazel eyes studied the four warriors with a calculative glare. He noticed Voshki first, then picked out Prince Qallin with an arrogant snort. His eyes finally fell upon Ara with great interest, before they finally locked with Aslan and ceased their wandering.
   
Voshki cried out as she came rushing back out of the fray to join them. She said, “Break their hearts, and then their souls, Lion.”

The sentences I have highlighted above don't gel as Voshki is described as being one of the four warriors being studied. It is odd then that she rushes back to join them later. 


Hey Alienscar, good catch! I will correct this  ;D.

Thanks!
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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The Embers of The Past - Offering - Scene I - Final Pass Before Edit
« Reply #228 on: August 5, 2021, 06:40:53 AM »
Manuscript critique in a couple of weeks, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy.

I've made even more passes on the text, and am currently in the final one leading up to the editing process, this time using a great software called Prowritingaid to help me weed out mistakes I've been missing thus far.

I've gotten through the first act so far, but there's still more to cover.

Just wanted to share a more finalized version of the beta manuscript.

~***~

Beneath the sands of the Southern Wastes, Voshki descended into the underground stronghold of Suann. Sunlight dwindled into darkness upon her entrance through the monolithic gates. Torches burned amid the hidden alcoves of underground passages. She rushed by them, crossing crumbling bridges deeper into the abandoned ruins. 

Behind her, warriors of the Obsidian Viper Syndicate shouted as they gave pursuit. 

Voshki shouldered her way through every barred door in her path into cobweb infested rooms. Her footfalls navigated abandoned dungeons littered with the dusty bones of the forgotten dead. Dusty tables and old bookcases toppled behind her to stall her baying hunters. 

Stumbling across a weathered boulder entrenched inside the shattered bars of an old prison cell, she traced its origins through a gaping wound in the dungeon walls. Her gaze swept across the claustrophobic confines of the forgotten dungeon. Committed, she leaped through the opening into the maze of the underground city. 

She came running into the abandoned slums built far from the surface world's light. A hidden figure kicked in a nearby door when she made to pass by. Voshki slid out of the tumbling door's path as it came off the hinges. A lean figure of dark caramel skin came striding out of the shadows toward her. His clothes were of black leathers, layered over fiery robes emblazoned with gold. 

Voshki stumbled, losing her footing amid the muck and debris at the mere sight of the Obsidian Viper. Storming toward her, he grasped the scuff of her collar. Struggling against his iron grip, she regained her footing against his twisting snare. Her trembling fingers grasped for the dagger hidden in her clothes, unable to secure it while she resisted her captor. 

Catching the hilt of the dagger between her fingers, she revealed the weapon, then lunged. A glimmer of steel flashed in her white-knuckled fist. She thrust the weapon into the Obsidian Viper's throat. The blade punched clean through the flesh. Voshki buried the weapon to the hilt and twisted until her captor broke his hold on her. 

The Obsidian Viper staggered onto one knee. Hand pressed against his weeping wound, he keeled over, absent another sound. Surprised, she watched the lifeless corpse as if it would come back to life at any moment. Several voices ushered into earshot. Their labored breaths echoing through the cavern slums. 

Voshki resumed her flight and her hunters gave chase. Their nearing footfalls hastened her to the limit. She left the abandoned slums behind, pushing into the caverns buried beneath even Suann. Grasping the narrowing walls with bloodied fingers, she tried to find her path through absolute darkness. 

A brief flicker of light flashed in the lightless caverns. Shadows caught afire from the intensity of its brilliance. Before Voshki could discern anything from its light, it withered, fading into nothing. 

A maelstrom of fire came surging out of the depths. Gasping, Voshki seized up with horror. She shielded herself with her bare arms as the flames washed over her clothes and skin. 

Yet, the flames did not burn her.

Her eyes squeezed shut, she forced them open again after a period of silence. Her ears ceased ringing after a few moments. Despite the flames' icy touch, she choked on a thick smog of acrid smoke. Burning incense drifted from torches burning along walls of weathered stone. Clear waters coursed within ornate drains, running through onyx doors marked with calligraphic scrawl. 

Hesitant footfalls approached Voshki from behind. 

A grizzled Viper commanded his subordinates. "Encircle her! Don't stand idle!"

Cautious of their enigmatic surroundings, the Obsidian Vipers approached. Voshki noticed a glimmer of fear in each of their eyes. What manner of majestic ruin had they fallen into?

The elder viper snapped again, saying, "don't just look around, fools! Seize her!"

A leather boot connected hard against Voshki's temple to batter her down onto the wet stone. Several vicious lashings from the Viper's boots made her double over in pain. Scarred, mutilated hands seized her by the arms, pinning them behind her back. Feeling the heated burn of rope being pulled around her wrists, Voshki struggled with all her strength. 

A subtle voice came creeping out of the dark behind them. 

"Stay your hands."

"Halt!" One of the younger vipers stormed toward the shadows, coming shy of where the light faded to dark. "Return the way you came, Ashen Blade. This doesn't involve you!"

The elder Viper barked again, "Faris, guard the girl! The rest of you, encircle our brave hero here. Silence her protests."

Several Obsidian Vipers approached their hidden foe. They unsheathed their weapons, brutal blades laced in a dark crimson liquid. 

"Offerings for Alastrine," the disembodied voice proclaimed, her voice as quiet as trickling waters. "The Black Descent awaits."

"Enough, kill her!" Their commander ordered. "Break her limb by limb, bring me her head when you're done."

One rogue charged. His club bludgeoned the outline of a woman eclipsed in shadow. Stunned, Voshki watched the illusion dissipate into shades of mist. A sound reminiscent of honed steel cutting through flesh echoed throughout the cavern. Everyone craned their heads toward the Viper commander in the backfield. 

The Obsidian Vipers watched their leader's head topple off his shoulders. His head smacked the stone with a meaty thump.   

His warriors readied their weapons for another assault. 

A pair of Vipers screamed their war cries and charged. The sentient shadow lifted her blade and parried one of their tarnished blades. She melded into the dark, only to step out again elsewhere. She ended one of her foes with an effortless thrust. His weapon clattered on the stone. The Viper crumbled where he stood, hand over the wound gouged through his heart. 

"Cursed will each of your deaths become." One after the other, each Viper perished. When she next spoke, only a handful of them remained. "Begone from this place… and return on pain of death."

The syndicate warriors heard her threat and returned whence they had come. Faris, the one securing Voshki, spared her a reassuring smile. Relinquishing control over her, he picked himself off the blood soaked stone and stood. He did not retreat with the others, but made to stand beside the sentient shadow who had rescued her.

Her savior cooed out of the dark. She asked, "And what manner of stray has come wandering into my domain? Another troublesome adolescent fleeing the Viper's venomous bite. Alastrine, Lady of Sorrow, must watch over you. The sacrifices made here are worthy of her attention.

"Tell me, girl, who are you?"

A woman garbed in quilted armor as dark as black thunderhead clouds stepped into the light. Pieces of polished plate armor reinforced her limbs. Raven black hair fell down her shoulders, ending around the small of her back. Locks of her hair came spilling down her shoulders in a mess of coils. Four scars running over her left emerald eye appeared to Voshki as some form of ritual scarification. Her right eye was a deep veined silver, staring through flesh and bone to find the soul housed within. 

Voshki slipped out of her restraints, picking herself off the blood-slick stone. She ignored the gore splattered on her clothes. She kneeled instead to offer her sacrifices to Alastrine.

She replied, "I am nameless. I am nothing more than a passing shadow. I would join the ranks of the Ashen Blades and learn the secrets of her warriors."

"An aspirant?" She asked. "We shall see how badly you wish for that."

Snapping her fingers, the torches of the wall extinguished themselves by her savior's command.

"I am Shoushan." She called from the shadows. "Do you fear the horrors of the dark? Does your heart quicken with terror when faced with a threat you cannot trace with mortal eyes?" 

Voshki's heart stilled within her chest. She said, "Of course not."

Shoushan's amused laughter echoed through the cavern. An oppressive silence filled the emptiness it left behind. 

"There may be some potential there," Shoushan confessed. "To what degree, we will need to discover. I bid you welcome, Voshki of the Ashen Blades. Never betray forbidden knowledge and avoid death in each of her guises. Those are the only rules you should abide by here. Come, step into these hallowed halls. We will see if the clandestine arts are for you."
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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The Embers of The Past - Manuscript Critique Update!
« Reply #229 on: August 27, 2021, 03:48:07 PM »
So, the first week of the manuscript critique has come to an end - and I've received an update from my editor.

It's a small update, but thought I'd share as it is a sign of good things to come:

Hey John!

Things are going great—I’m really happy with how the story is progressing so far—not too much information shared upfront (which overwhelms the reader—and something that was an issue in previous versions of your book I’ve read). On top of this, you’ve done nice character and setting descriptions with beautiful language. I’m taking notes, leaving comments, and making suggestions as I go.

So far, I’m really pleased with how things are going—and I’m about to dive back in now for another day of reading. Enjoy your Friday!


Excited, hopefully I'll get the deets on everything within the next couple of weeks.
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Dread

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Re: The Embers of The Past - Manuscript Critique Update!
« Reply #230 on: August 27, 2021, 04:19:06 PM »
This is so great. Glad its coming together finally. Sorry been abaent a bunch, life ya know.
"Burning thru the universe in search of peace only brings more war. Peace is an illusion, war is reality, that is the way of things"

                            Farseer Gol'Istria of    the Morea Nebula craftword

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: The Embers of The Past - Manuscript Critique Update!
« Reply #231 on: August 27, 2021, 09:29:36 PM »
This is so great. Glad its coming together finally. Sorry been abaent a bunch, life ya know.

Thanks, Dread, and no worries. I've been quiet on the Western Front myself  ;D . It's been a busy year so far lol.
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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The Embers of The Past - Manuscript Critique Update #2 !
« Reply #232 on: September 6, 2021, 07:30:46 PM »
Been a little while since I've stopped by, hope everyone in the U.S. had a great Labor Day weekend & that anyone in the rest of the world enjoyed their weekend as well :slight_smile: .

I received my manuscript critique for *Embers of the Past* & the first chapter critique for A Sanctum of Swords this weekend. Compared to my first manuscript critique a little over a year ago, I've achieved a marked improvement in about every category!

Back in 2020, Embers' manuscript had an entire suite of issues that needed to be worked out before it could move further along. This time, the issues with the manuscript has been narrowed down to about two individual issues - both originating and isolated in the First Act.

- Not enough establishment of the respective Empires, Kingdoms, and the civilizations that reside in them in the First Act.

- Not enough establishment for character motivations and their roles in each kingdom / empire, and their part in the overall conflict.

I believe the reasons for these issues stem from my decision to weave so much character backstory throughout the First Act. Also, that backstory details events too far in past from the current narrative to be entirely relevant. While it's relevant to the characters and its molded them, it's clear that there is too much origin story and not enough establishment of the current narrative's beginning.

As a consequence, some characters are not as developed as others.

Aside from that though, all the story line essentials were given a green light.

Dialogue proved to be implemented throughout the narrative with great success.

All the characters are likeable, my editor was rooting for all my protagonists and some other characters from beginning to end :slight_smile: .

Reader comprehension is faaar better than version 1.0 and the actual setting descriptions scene for scene received a lot of praise as well. The Pacing was also great throughout most of the book - the part where it wasn't was Act I again.

POV - which I overhauled from Third Person Omniscient to Third Person Character Limited, was consistent throughout the narrative (Yes!)

Finally, Act II & III were given the green light! My editor believes that they were well written, and will sync very well once I've revised (and likely overhauled) Act I.

For the first chapter critique of *A Sanctum of Swords* - the only issue reported with the first 4,000 words is basically the world building I failed to establish correctly in Act I in Embers - as there's some related setting & world info incorporated in that scene.

So, that's my report, as promised!
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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The Embers of The Past - Act I Re-Construction - A Time of Wolves Scene I & II
« Reply #233 on: September 22, 2021, 09:33:13 AM »
Alright, here are the first two scene of our great Act Reconstruction!

Goals:

Provide more clarity & Establishment of the Old Myrian Empire & her Autumn Realms, including her society, armies, traditions, etc.

Also begin more in-depth, revised, and changed character arcs that will establish character motivations, their desires, and a details originally left out a little for most characters, and then way more details for the handful of characters that got left out the first go round.

Of course, this cannot all be covered in one chapter, but the plan is to start establishing more of the world, character & kingdom motivations surrounding it.

Here is the new beginning for Act I. Let me know what you think!


A Time of Wolves


Summer , Month of the Gaia Reborn
Year 887, the Ascension of Kings
Ember Hearth Palace in the city of Annahir, capital of the Old Myrian Empire


"What will you do, Lord Zakarian? Are you going to answer this challenge? Would you weigh the fate of an empire on the gods' scale, and just pray for victory?"

   Lady Sameh Sadoyan banished the silence haunting the corridors of Ember Hearth Palace, reminding Azat Zakarian that not everyone had abandoned the ancient heirloom of the Autumn Queens in its hour of need. He mused to himself, treading windswept corridors built from checkered tiles of alabaster and matte black stone, spiral granite stairwells jutting from the foundations to reach the palace's higher tiers. Looming monuments of Old Myria's greatest legends kept their solemn vigil from dark alcoves hidden in the hollowed out openings in the granite walls.

   The beauty of Ember Hearth seemed like nothing more than a shell of itself, without the families of the Shaira nobility milling through its halls. The epitome of scholarship and education ceased to matter without the children of Lords and Ladies playing at intrigue in the shady nooks outside the academies. Embassies would serve no purpose, without Lords and Ladies wagging their tongues, striking affluent trade alliances and declarations of war within the hour. A queen could never rule an empire without loyal subjects, willing to abide by her mandate and serve her in all things.

   Yet here Azat lingered in the shadow of obscurity, amid the emptied halls of Ember Hearth Palace. All the Autumn Queen’s servants abandoned her stronghold and capital city for fear of conquest, total defeat, and subjugation.

   Azat heard Lady Sameh Sadoyan's quiet voice resound through the dead weight of silence bearing down on them. Every syllable uttered from her lips filled his ears like a queen's royal decree.

   "Lord Zakarian," she called again. "Will you answer the God King's challenge to meet him in open battle?"

   Azat paused, breaking his stride to look at Lady Sameh in the deep emerald of her eyes. Beside him, Sameh also paused, the fluttering trails of her cerulean and pallid white dress bunched between her anxious fingers. Anxiety exuded from her like an infectious energy, making his heart race uneasily and churning his thoughts like a brooding storm. He inhaled deeply, then sighed out a long exhale.

   Azat answered, "I will do what the Autumn Queen commands. You know more than anyone, Sameh, that this decision does not lie with me."

   Sameh glanced away from him, like she could no longer bear looking her forbidden lover in the eye. She said, "And what if it did, Azat? Would anything change? Would the fact alone that your queen left the decision to you... would it stop you from riding out there on those distant battlefields and into your death?"

   Despite the sting behind the accusation, Azat managed the loving smile that usually made her return the expression likewise. He knew the gesture would have no effect this time, but he tried anyway.

   Azat replied, "I could have ridden out there months ago. I could have abandoned you without a second thought to face destiny itself, but I'm still here. Meanwhile, all the Shaira have fled further northwest for their lives and all the warriors Old Myria might spare have ridden out further southeast... those battlefields are where I belong, Sameh, fighting beside my kin for Empire and Queen. I should be out there fighting for you... Yet here I am, waiting in these abandoned halls, where only the royal family and their most trusted servants endure the solitude in hope of better days."

   Sameh interrupted, "And what about your children? Your twin sons!?"

   "You can tell them I died for their futures should I perish out in those fields. I won't be the father that will watch them grow up, only to one day tell them I stayed behind while the greatest war of our time was raging, and that tens of thousands of their brethren died in my stead..."

   Sameh said nothing. He heard only the subtlest sigh of her shock, but that was enough to drive a lance through his chest.

   Eventually, she gathered the strength to rebuke him. "Then ride out like the fabled hero you believe yourself to be... should you die, no one shall mourn you or remember your name. Should you somehow survive by Jumanah's miracle... maybe one day you'll come to know the children you abandoned here today, but it will not be for many moons. You will not see them for as long as I live."

   Azat opened his mouth to speak, but Sameh shunned him with the turning of her back to him. Before he could say anything, she hurried back the way whence they had come, quickly disappearing into the shadows.

   Despite himself, he had not the strength to tell her to stop. He knew and understood that she would not reason with him. Azat's destiny laid out plain before him, an inescapable feeling driving him toward the last confrontation that would end the five decade long war between the Old Myrian Empire and the tyrannical power of the Carth Dominion.

   He peered through a nearby archway into the sweeping moorlands beyond Ember Hearth and the idyllic city of Annahir. He watched the horizon burn and charred smoke billowing toward the clouds, blotting out the Veiled Mountains in the distance.

   Azat Zakarian promised he would meet the Children of the Sun in open battle, and claim the head of the Carth Dominion's so-called immortal God King...

~***~

   Another dawn crested the Veiled Mountains in the east by the time Azat assembled his retinue accompanying him in Ember Hearth. The Irothian Black Wolves, twenty-five sons and daughters of the Island of Irothis, prepared themselves to ride into battle outside the palace walls. During the last decade, Azat had journeyed across the whole of the Autumn Realms. Irothis, the place of his birth and the only home he could ever dream of, made even the lofty halls of Ember Hearth pale in comparison. It came as no surprise then, that the children of the fabled island eclipsed their Old Myrian brethren in matters of war more often than not.

   Pristine suits of lamellar crafted from hundreds of individual iron scales, interwoven into thick and durable hides, shielded them from head to toe. His retinue of sworn brothers and sisters struck a fearsome visage behind stoic, silver-plated and amber plumed helmets crafted into the visage of their long deceased ancestors, howling in rage from beyond the grave.

   Azat stood apart from his brethren, lingering by the gargantuan double doors of the palace gates, crafted from solid oak and reinforced beneath a steel framework and plating. In patience, he continued to wait for the sun and its golden radiance to strike the glittering spires of Annahir and Ember Hearth palace just right. Instead, the light appeared to vanish into the roiling clouds of smoke rolling over the Veiled Mountains, flooding the Suranna Plains behind them.

   Lady Hazan Sadoyan's question came upon the billowing wind, reaching Azat before he realized she had even sallied from the palace to greet him a final time.

   "You surprise House Sadoyan yet again, Lord Zakarian." she said. "You've shocked me more than any man ever could, and you're no lover of mine. I thought I knew you better than this. I suppose Sameh must have thought the same when you said everything you did to her last evening."

   Azat turned away from the wane sunlight glimmering through the smoke clouds, back toward the open palace gates. He watched Lady Hazan approach through the courtyard, leading an entire procession of Ember Hearth's handmaidens. One hundred in number, the young Shaira women emerged from the dark halls of Ember Hearth. Dressed in all-black attire, the sun's pale light did little to lift their somber countenance or their disquiet spirits. He knew they did not want him to leave, but they had come anyway, each maiden bearing a bundle of handpicked lavender and roses in their gloved hands.

   "Your Grace..." he began, "You should not have come. The Black Wolves of Irothis don't deserve the honor of a queen's royal send off."

   Hazan pursed her lips into a neat smile. She replied, "I am not your sovereign, Lord Zakarian."

   "Your Grace, please, could you cease calling me by that title?"

   The subtle arch of Hazan's brow made him tense with anticipation. She had some hidden point behind her coy dialogue, he realized, something she wanted him to understand before he went charging off into the sunrise.

   Hazan pressed her hidden agenda. She answered, "If you can call me 'Your Grace', Azat, then I can address you as Lord Zakarian."

   Azat did little to hide his puzzlement, shrugging. "The difference here is that the Autumn Queen is on her deathbed while her country burns... and you will receive her crown and take her place any moment now., you always knew the truth... I am no son of the Shaira, but raised on a farmstead, fated to spend my days tilling the black soil on the Isle of Irothis."

   "Fates can change, Lord Zakarian... your destiny as a simple farmer ended the night you took up the sword and kneeled before my mother's throne to swear fealty to queen and empire. You've never set foot on that damn farmstead ever since and at this rate, you never will. You're correct, I am to succeed in my mother's reign of Old Myria and take her crown, but not a moment before her death. As I understand it, you cannot take Sahem's hand in marriage without bearing the title of lord. My first action after I've taken the throne is to gift you with the affluence of a Shaira noble, and a wealthy source of income worthy of it. I will seek to grant Sahem and you some dead Shaira noble's estate or another, hopefully on the Isle of Irothis. Then, you can waste the rest of your days away together, raising your twin sons."

   Azat's stony countenance softened at Hazan's alluring promise, knowing she had little reason to give such favor to him. Azat managed a weary smile, the expression betraying the immense burden he wore. He said, "You are kinder than most to promise me anything, and pure of heart to achieve any of those promises on my behalf, but... I fear Sahem has turned her back on what we've always dreamed of."

   "Lord Zakarian, I cannot think of many who swallow their pride to become a princesses' consort. I'll confess, you were craftier than I thought, gifting her two twin sons before she thought to take another noble's hand."

   Azat sighed, "It wasn't intentional."

   Hazan chuckled, "So I've been told, but the damage there is done. One cannot simply erase your status as the blood father of Sahem's children. Of course, you know the Autumn Queen would accept none of what we are speaking about, but I am not my mother. Sahem is my younger sister, and there is little chance she'd succeed the throne after me or the other elder siblings in line to be crowned before her. In a strange turn of events, I believe you're the only man she's ever truly cared for. I don't think a little lover's spat will change any of that. All you need to do is help our countrymen end this invasion, and come back home alive."

   A glimmer of hope kindled within Azat's chest, but he dared not let the kindling ignite into a blaze. Leaving Ember Hearth behind would become even more difficult then.

   He answered, "I will do all that I can, but I can make no promises."

   Hazan nodded. "That should suffice. Jumanah has blessed you many fold for many deeds of lesser effort... I will have our stable hands remove the equipment from your horse."

   Azat paused, looking to the noble mount waiting patiently by his side.

   Hazan offered before he could say anything, "You should take Mustaphen."

   "That demonic engine of war?" Azat chuckled, "there has never been a warrior who could ride him since his owner passed some five years ago."
   
       Hazan nodded, "True. That is why I want you to take him. A noble mount like Mustaphen was never meant to be punished in isolation. He deserves another master who will care for him and bring him glory on many battlefields. If you are riding into open war and battle, you'd be a fool not to even see if he'd take to you. No other horse in all the Autumn Realms would serve you better."

        Azat considered her offered, sighing out of resignation. "Fine, Your Grace, have the stable-hands bring him out. We will see if Mustaphen believes I am worthy of him. In the rare event that he'll ride with me, the Black Wolves of Irothis ride for the mountain pass of Reaper's Lantern with the sun's zenith."

~***~
« Last Edit: September 22, 2021, 09:35:01 AM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: The Embers of The Past - Come Dawn from the Night - Scene I - Rev 10/9/21
« Reply #234 on: September 27, 2021, 01:35:00 PM »
Come Dawn From the Night

   Even when lost in dreaming, fate's mark blighted the Autumn Realms of Old Myria like the dark clouds of a brooding storm, common throughout the idyllic northwestern lands upon which the empire was founded. 

The northern moorlands, known for the vivid flowers that thrived on their rolling hills, had turned to quagmire beneath the steel shod boots of tens of thousands. Thunder quaked the earth, booming from the grizzled bellows and frantic screams of armies clashing around him, grinding each other into the mud ridden soil. A deluge of spilled blood came raining down on the battle, blinding Azat with every burst from within the maelstrom. A lashing wind battered him, carrying an endless hail of arrows through the rain that scythed down hundreds. 

    Azat committed into the fray, undeterred by the scene of utter horror, something created from the hellish nightmare found in the collective soul of mankind itself. He had no desire to revel in the onslaught, just the drive to see the battle through to the end. His brethren bellowed at his back, every guttural cry a promise of retribution and defiance. Garbed in the dark armor of their homeland, the Black Wolves of Irothis surged into the melee alongside him. Their blades of Alabaster Steel gleamed beneath the pale sun with a ghostly hue, made radiant when struck by sunlight at just the right angle. 

 Luminescence, Azat's legendary blade, struck the first slave warrior to approach in challenge with such force, the ancient heirloom cleaved a diagonal cut from shoulder blade to thigh. The Zar'qin collapsed to his knees; the agony etched into every moment of screaming more akin to the weapon he could no longer wield. As the wound in the warrior's chest came open, Azat ended his suffering with a purposeful thrust through the still beating heart. 

    Around him, Azat's Black Wolves savaged their enemies beneath a hurricane of blows. Crimson blood pooled around the fallen lying broken at their feet, but the children of Irothis fought on. 

 Sweeping aside the vicious slash of a wicked sword, Azat near disarmed another Zar'qin when he cast the obstacle aside. His opponent went with Azat's momentum, deflecting Luminescence on his buckler before pushing into the Black Wolf himself. Falling back by a single step, Azat turned on a heel, coming around the Zar'qin's left flank, before their blades clashed in a flurry of blows. Azat swept his blade upward and parried a downward chop, the light of the pale sun striking Luminescence in such a way that the sword flared with blinding radiance. 

 The Zar'qin staggered but briefly, then collapsed upon his knees. He fell aside like a piece of broken timber, split from shoulder blade to lower rib cage by Azat's superior strength. 

    A formation of Zar'qin, protected behind a phalanx of great round shields, emerged out of the dust and rain clouding the battlefield. Their crimson and cream robes, soiled with blood and grime, sowed a dreadful terror in the ranks of Old Myria, the empire Azat and his island home of Irothis swore fealty to. Out of the crimson rain, shining spearheads answered the Black Wolves, running several kindred spirits, bound by oaths of brotherhood, through the weathered and worn sections of their lamellar. The slave warriors thrust their spearheads with practiced precision, becoming a bastion against the onslaught of those who defied the God King's tyrannical mandate.   

It was not uncommon for the Children of the Sun to unleash their Zar’qin hordes upon entire kingdoms, their actions independent of the guiding hand of their noble masters. Azat loathed fighting against their disciplined, but neglected ranks, bereft of the quality weapons and armor the Children of the Sun horded for their own legions. 

He knew that each of their ranks were eager volunteers, the worthiest selected from among the Zar, the Carth Dominion’s caste of slaves. Young men and women delivered from the cavernous mines beneath the mountain cities of the Khiosian heartlands. Indoctrinated, trained as steadfast infantry that preferred to fight in highly regimented formations that favored quantity over quality. 

But what made the Zar’qin fearsome was their possession of exceptional quality in addition to their vast quantities. It was the lack of support and neglected supplies granted by their masters that often brought them great disadvantage. Yet for a chance of true freedom, the Zar eagerly joined their ranks anyway, and replaced their dead in greater numbers than what they had been before every battle. 

 "Zakarian, on your flank!"  

 Azat realized too late a sable figure, bedecked in the cream and crimson of the Zar, bearing down on him, eclipsing him the moment an unfamiliar battle cry blasted him near deaf. He turned on a heel, knowing he was unable to intercept the bludgeoning blow meant to split him open. The Zar'qin's halberd cut through lashing rains and wind like a fallen pendulum, before he burst from within with a blinding golden light. 

Azat watched, stunned into inaction, as the Zar’qin burned, reduced to burning ashes swept up in the gale. 

The brilliance was overwhelming, shining from an Avatar of Light watching the battle rage from the height of a great hill. His radiance assailed Azat no matter how well he shielded his gaze from it. As the skies became darker still, the ethereal brilliance dulled into a golden haze, banishing dark shadows from existence. 

An entourage of sable-skinned warriors surrounded their liege and God King, guarding him with a grace of poise and effortless strength impossible for any ordinary man or woman to possess. They clasped themselves in armored suits of gleaming scales, their robes the same cream and crimson as their slave warriors beneath great cloaks of sapphire satin. Each clutched an ornate halberd between their leather mittens, their plumed helmets the same shade as their cloaks. All of them were black of hair, wavy in their patterns, and abundant of length. Their eyes glimmered like bright amber plucked from the depths of the seabed. 

The Children of the Sun had taken to the battlefield, charging into the maelstrom alongside their Zar’qin, slave warriors in their own tongue. Azat pried his gaze away from them, meeting the searing gaze of the Avatar of Light, and realized the God King that reigned over both warring armies, watched Azat with eager anticipation. 

    After beholding them briefly, Azat realized the brilliant haze of golden light came from no sun, but exuded from the physical bodies of each of these guardians, adding to the Avatar of the Sun's brilliance.  

 The Avatar spoke to Azat, voice burning like rushing magma, but somehow multi-faceted, like the mortal soul beneath the divinity spoke in unison with it. 

    Soon my time shall end on this mortal plane, like the dwindling lives of your kin… Just like the brief kindling the Children of the Sun cast into the flames of constant war. Tell me, Child of Irothis, did a sovereign command you to ride out against me? 

 Azat shook his head. "I am here of my own accord." 

 "Then you seek the sacred passage of self-sacrifice? You would accept the challenge that I’ve offered, in the hopes of sparing thousands of your Old Myrian countrymen. You would hope to strike me down to bring an end to my reign… to scatter the Children of the Sun to the four corners of Khios, and end tyranny forever? A God King could find honor in such conviction…

 Azat barked, "I seek an end to your madness! You would burn all this world in the flames of your crusade, just for the chance to see it reborn, and your people reborn into gods like yourself. Your ambition is beyond the laws of reason.” 

 “Then you believe you will conquer death? To lift your blade against a true descendant of the God of the Sun, Sirius… it is an obvious invitation to death. If you doubt the truth of my words, look to the tens of thousands of your kin who have perished on these crimson fields. If you seek the glories of martyrdom, then maybe you will yet deliver the souls of these innumerable dead. Should you seek me out at Reaper's Lantern, the clash of our steel could save countless thousands before they even meet their end… 

 Azat answered, "you've mistaken me for a fool playing a hero." 

 If they gave you a choice that would decide the fate of empires and the lives of countless thousands, then why does any of that matter? Would you be the fool and play your part, anyway? Only those born of ignorance would mock a martyr's death. What is humanity if we are anything else when our last days end? It is when the hourglass cracks and the sands of time become finite is when we most often discover the glories of what truly lies beyond death, and the reach of lost souls who cannot understand it. 

 The decision lies with you, Azat. Accept my challenge to a trial by combat. Should you face me and strike down a mortal god, the Children of the Sun shall honor your request and quit our campaign of conquest upon Old Myria. Should you fail and you perish beneath my blade, then the Autumn Queen shall meet with my leadership herself, and grant me sovereignty over the Old Myrian Empire. Choose your commitments with caution, Azat Zakarian. None of your kin will raise their sword against me in your stead.” 
~***~
« Last Edit: October 9, 2021, 07:50:55 AM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: The Embers of The Past - Come Dawn from the Night - Scene 2 & 3- Rev 10/9/21
« Reply #235 on: September 28, 2021, 11:43:11 PM »
Summer, Month of the Gaia Reborn
Year 857, the Ascension of Kings
Ember Hearth Palace in the city of Anahir, capital of the Old Myrian Empire

 Azat listened to the haunting silence in the wintry morning air, a mournful wind rustling through the garden paths, the only song to lure him out of his inward musings. A piece of him feared to know what the new day had brought to the Autumn Realms of Old Myria. A labyrinth of hedgerows separated the small sanctuary hidden at the garden's heart, where he contemplated in silence, almost forgetting he wasn't alone anymore. He could barely see beyond the flickering torchlight burning around the base of a fountain, still overflowing with water. 

 The skies were still dark, only kindling with the soft morning light that came right before the breaking dawn. He tried to remain unconcerned, wanting to distance himself from the thought of grief and uncertainty. Yet Lady Sahem Sadoyan had come by his room in the dark hours of the night and informed him she could not sleep either. 

 So, they had ventured into the blissful haven of the palace garden, when the night had become so black that it blotted out their vision, save for the gentle light of burning torches. They waited for news of the Autumn Queen's imminent death together, in the gardens of an abandoned palace and silent capital city. 

    Sahem eventually broke the silence hanging in the air. The sound of her quiet voice felt like the first words he had heard in months. "It's difficult to believe, isn't it? The Autumn Queen laid down on her death bed after all these years. You used to jest with her, remember, Azat, that after a century of life, you were convinced that death would not touch her." 

 Azat frowned, guilt-stricken by the memory. "Your family has always been unusually long lived. Your mother almost convinced me she would never leave Ember Hearth. Her courtiers were whispering rumors that Goddess Jumanah was her birth mother, and that she maybe immortal." He shuddered. "It's difficult to fathom how the queen has fallen ill enough that death looms by her door each night… I-" 

 Sahem cleared her throat, interrupting Azat's thought. "Enough about my mother. If you're curious about the cause of her illness, just look through any window in the palace that faces south… you can see the Old Myrian heartland burning."  

 She suddenly came to her feet, an unspoken sign that she longed for the familiar halls of Ember Hearth Palace once again. Without a word, Azat stood beside her, just as dawn's first fledgling rays came cresting over the eastern horizon. He couldn't help but notice how fragile every individual lance of light appeared on today of all days. He tried to remember when he had last seen a rising dawn so pale. Azat called on the guards, and they emerged out of the shadows, the torches they bore aloft making their cobalt cloaks shimmer in the wane sunlight. Together, they began their return to the palace. 

 He replied, sighing, "and the blood of thousands feeds the mountain valleys and rolling hills of Old Myria. Your mother saw the Autumn Realms through several wars over the course of her reign. Grief from the destruction would not have laid her low so easily." 

    Beside him, Sahem made a subtle nod. "True, but none of those wars have gone so poorly for our empire like this one has… how many centuries has it been since the Children of the Sun have defiled Old Myrian soil? Since when in our history have their legions come within a week's march of Anahir, capital of all the empire?" 

 Azat grimaced, "never in our history. Yet the Autumn Queen I've always known is strong of heart. If she could, your mother would be on the battlefield, encouraging her warriors while watching them drive their spears through her enemies' hearts. She could always stir the meekest of men to commit to the ferocity of battle. I've seen her stare down the Dominion's God King once".    

 Sahem asked, "And what about you? That God King challenged you to a duel meant to decide the fate of an entire war, not my mother. He challenged you, Azat. The Autumn Queen's obscure champion. My mother's stalwart blade, keeping vigil over her Autumn Throne." 

 Azat stepped around Sahem, opening the heavy oak door before them to allow her first entry. He said, "Sahem, the Autumn Queen begged me herself from her death bed. Anyone who has faced this Sun Caller King has fallen before him. I know not if he is a god, but I must face him." 

 "Then what will you do, Lord Zakarian? He is undefeated. Your death would be just another self-sacrifice. You cannot save anyone by getting yourself killed. Would you weigh the fate of an empire on the gods' scale, and just pray for victory?" 

 He didn't know. Killing a mortal god would be of some difficulty. It mattered little how much he thought it through or answered every question about how feasible it was. 

    Lady Sameh's burning demand echoed through the halls of Ember Hearth Palace. Shocked gasps from handmaidens hidden in the gloom reminded Azat Zakarian that not everyone had abandoned the ancient heirloom. They tread windswept corridors built from checkered tiles of alabaster and matte black stone, spiral granite stairwells jutting from the foundation to reach the palace's higher tiers. Looming monuments of Old Myria's greatest legends kept their solemn vigil from dark alcoves hollowed deep into cobblestone walls.

 The beauty of Ember Hearth seemed like a shell of her former glory, without the families of the Shaira nobility milling through its halls. The epitome of scholarship and education ceased to matter without the children of Lords and Ladies playing at intrigue in the shady nooks outside the academies. Embassies would serve no purpose, without Lords and Ladies wagging their tongues, striking affluent trade alliances and declarations of war by the hour. A queen could never rule an empire without loyal subjects, willing to abide by her mandate and serve her in all things. 

 Yet here Azat lingered in the shadow of obscurity, amid the emptied halls of Ember Hearth Palace. All the Autumn Queen's servants abandoned her stronghold and capital city for fear of conquest. Unattended, Ember Hearth's windswept corridors dimmed, becoming dark like the clouds of a brooding storm. All the Shaira nobility were fleeing into the west for their lives, while all the warriors of the Autumn Realms fought a bleak defense in the Southern Reaches. 

 Azat heard Sameh's quiet voice resound through the dead weight of silence bearing down on them. Every syllable uttered from her lips filled his ears like the declaration of a royal mandate. 

 "Lord Zakarian," she called again. "Will you answer the God King's challenge to meet him in open battle?"    

 Azat paused, breaking his stride to look into the deep emerald of Lady Sameh's eyes. Sameh paused beside him, leveling her expectant gaze with him. She stood before Azat, unwavering. The fluttering trails of her cerulean and pallid white dress bunched between her anxious fingers. Anxiety exuded from her like an infectious energy, making his heart race uneasily and churning his thoughts. He inhaled deeply, then sighed out a long exhale.  

 Azat answered, "I will do what the Autumn Queen commands. You know more than anyone, Sameh, that this decision does not lie with me." 

 Sameh glanced away from him, like she could no longer bear looking Azat in the eye. She said, "And what if it did, Azat? Would anything change? Would the fact alone that your queen left the decision to you… would it stop you from riding out there on those distant battlefields and into your death?" 

 Despite the sting behind the accusation, Azat stood firm, unable to turn away from his oath to the Autumn Queen. 

He replied, "I could have ridden out there months ago. I could have abandoned you without a second thought to face destiny itself, but I'm still here. Meanwhile, all the Shaira have fled and every warrior sworn to Old Myria has ridden south to meet the Dominion's approaching hordes… I should be on those battlefields, Sameh, fighting beside my kin for Empire and Queen. I should be out there fighting for you… Yet here I am, waiting in these abandoned halls, where only the royal family and their most trusted servants endure the solitude in hope of better days."    

 Sameh interrupted, "And what about your unborn children?"  

 "You can tell them I died for their futures should I perish before the end of this war. I won't be the father that will watch them grow up, only to one day tell them I stayed behind while the greatest war of our time was raging, and that tens of thousands of their brethren died in my stead…" 

 Sameh said nothing. He heard only the subtlest sigh of her shock, but that was enough to drive a lance through his chest. 

 Eventually, she regained her composure. She answered, "then ride out like the fabled hero you believe yourself to be… should you die, no one shall mourn you or remember your name. Should you somehow survive by Jumanah's miracle… one day you'll come to know the children you abandoned here today, but it will not be for many moons. You will not see them for as long as I live." 

 Azat opened his mouth to speak, but Sameh shunned him with the turning of her back to him. Before he could say anything, she hurried back the way whence they had come, disappearing into the shadows. 

 Despite himself, he had not the strength to tell her to stop. He knew and understood that she would not reason with him. Azat's destiny laid out plain before him, an inescapable feeling driving him toward the last confrontation that would end the five-decade long war between the Old Myrian Empire and the tyrannical power of the Carth Dominion. He could see little reason to decline the God King’s challenge when he could save the lives of thousands by his acceptance alone. Even should he be defeated, and Old Myria surrendered… the chances of his countrymen winning the conflict through any other means dwindled with every passing hour.   

 Fifty years of pointless death, Azat thought, plaguing all the continent of Khios from one end to the next. The Children of the Sun sought the resurrection of their fallen deity, faithful that their constant pursuit of war would grant him life once more. Sirius, the Solar God, who reigned from his sunlit throne, a golden burning star shining in the void. The God King who ruled them possessed some measure of his blood and divinity. A mere man elevated far above mortal capabilities… immortal and imbued with an otherworldly strength and shining radiance. 

God King of the Carth Dominion, Firstborn of the Children of the Sun, and Sun Caller King of Tushik – City of Grand Canals. 

The Children of the Sun desired their share of the Solar God’s divinity, of which he and his descendants in the Sun Caller Kings offered freely, to those devoted enough to drive darkness and night from all Thearus, and grant Sirius the foundation upon which he would usher in the final age of humankind. The children of man would be reborn, and the Children of the Sun recreated first to reign among all the civilizations therein as gods among men. 

 A foolish tale meant to frighten children, Azat knew, or an excuse to hide behind their relentless conquest in search of long dead gods, forgotten from bygone eras, now buried deep beneath the soil of Thearus. 

 He peered through a nearby archway into the moorlands beyond Ember Hearth. The idyllic city of Anahir swept across the rolling countryside, cloaked beneath a shroud of frost and powder snow. Past the capital city, the southern horizon burned, the fertile provinces of Cressa's Lantern and the Suranna Plains reduced to scorched earth in the Children of the Sun's passing. Thick plumes of charred smoke drifted toward the clouds, blotting out the Veiled Mountains in the distance. 

    Azat Zakarian knew what he must do and promised to meet the Children of the Sun in open battle, and claim the head of the Carth Dominion's so-called immortal God King… 

~***~

Another dawn crested the Veiled Mountains in the east by the time Azat assembled his retinue accompanying him in Ember Hearth. The Black Wolves, twenty famous champions from the Island of Irothis, prepared themselves to ride into battle outside the palace walls. During the last decade, Azat had journeyed across the whole of the Autumn Realms. Irothis, the place of his birth and the only home he could ever dream of, made even the lofty halls of Ember Hearth pale by comparison. 

 Pristine suits of lamellar crafted from hundreds of individual iron scales, interwoven into thick and durable hides, shielded them from head to toe. His retinue of sworn brethren struck a fearsome visage behind amber plumed helmets and silver masks crafted in the visage of their deceased ancestors, howling in rage from beyond the grave.  

 Azat stood apart from his brethren, lingering by the gargantuan double doors of the palace gates, built from enduring oak, and reinforced beneath a framework of steel plating. In patience, he waited for the dawn's golden radiance to strike Anahir and Ember Hearth palace's limestone spires exactly right. Instead, the light appeared to vanish into the roiling clouds of smoke rolling over the Veiled Mountains, flooding the Suranna Plains behind them. 

 Princess Hazan Sadoyan's declaration came upon the billowing wind, reaching Azat before he realized she had even sallied from the palace to greet him a final time. He knew her words pertained to her younger sister, Sameh, Azat’s bride in waiting. 

 "You surprise House Sadoyan yet again, Lord Zakarian." she said. "You've shocked me more than any man ever could, and you're no lover of mine. I thought I knew you better than this. I suppose Sameh must have thought the same when you said everything you did to her earlier this morning." 

 Azat turned away from the wane sunlight glimmering through the smoke clouds, back toward the open palace gates. He watched Lady Hazan approach through the courtyard, leading an entire procession of Ember Hearth's handmaidens. One hundred in number, the young Shaira women emerged from the dark halls of Ember Hearth. Dressed in all-black attire, the sun's pale light did little to lift their somber countenance or their disquiet spirits. He knew they did not want him to leave, but they had come anyway, each maiden bearing a bundle of handpicked lavender and roses in their gloved hands. 

 "Your Grace…" he began, "You should not have come. The Black Wolves of Irothis don't deserve the honor of a queen's royal send off." 

 Hazan pursed her lips into a neat smile. She replied, "I am not your sovereign, Lord Zakarian." 

 "Your Grace, please, could you cease calling me by that title?" 

 The subtle arch of Hazan's brow made him tense with anticipation. She had some hidden point behind her coy dialogue, he realized, something she wanted him to understand before he went charging off into the sunrise. 

 Hazan pressed her hidden agenda. She answered, "If you can call me 'Your Grace', Azat, then I can address you as Lord Zakarian." 

 Azat did little to hide his puzzlement, shrugging. "The difference here is that the Autumn Queen is on her deathbed while her country burns… and you will receive her crown and take her place any moment now. You always knew the truth… I am no noble, but a farmer's son, raised on a quiet farmstead. Should I survive to see better days, I'll spend them tilling the black soil on the Isle of Irothis." 

 "Fates can change, Lord Zakarian… your mundane life ended the night you took up the sword and knelt before my mother's throne to swear your fealty. You became a companion of the Black Wolves and even earned the respect of the Sworn Brotherhood. You've never set foot on that damn farmstead ever since and at this rate, you never will. While I am to succeed my mother's reign of Old Myria and take her crown, it won't happen a moment before her death. As I understand it, you cannot take Sahem's hand in marriage without bearing the title of lord. When I become the next Autumn Queen, my first action will be to gift you with the affluence of a Shaira noble, and a wealthy source of income worthy of it. I will seek to grant Sahem and you some deceased lord's estate or another, hopefully on the Isle of Irothis. Then, you can waste the rest of your days away together, raising your twin sons."    

    Azat's stony countenance softened at Hazan's alluring promise, knowing she had little reason to give such favor to him. Azat managed a weary smile, the expression betraying the immense burden he wore. He said, "You are kinder than most to promise me anything, and pure of heart to achieve any of those promises on my behalf, but… I fear Sahem has turned her back on what we've always dreamed of." 

 "Lord Zakarian, I cannot think of many who would swallow their pride to become the consort of a royal princess. You were craftier than I thought, gifting her two twins before she thought to take another noble's hand." 

    Azat sighed, "It wasn't intentional." 

 Hazan chuckled, "So I've been told, but the damage there is done. One cannot simply erase your status as the blood father of Sahem's children. Of course, you know the Autumn Queen would accept none of what we are speaking about, but I am not my mother. Sahem is my younger sister, and there is little chance she'd succeed the throne after me or the other elder siblings in line to be crowned before her. In a strange turn of events, I believe you're the only man she's ever truly cared for. I don't think a little lover's spat will change any of that. All you need to do is help our countrymen end this invasion, and come back home alive." 

 A glimmer of hope kindled within Azat's chest, but he dared not let the kindling ignite into a blaze. Leaving Ember Hearth behind would become even more difficult then. 

 He answered, "I will do all that I can, but I can make no promises." 

 Hazan nodded. "That should suffice. Jumanah has blessed you many times over for many deeds of lesser effort… I will have our stable hands remove the equipment from your horse." 

 Azat paused, looking to the noble mount waiting patiently by his side. 

 "You should take Mustaphen." 

    "That engine of war?" Azat chuckled, "there has never been a warrior who could ride him since his owner passed some half a decade ago." 

 Hazan nodded, "True. That is why I want you to take him. A noble mount like Mustaphen was never meant to be punished with isolation. He deserves another master who will ride him across distant lands and bring him glory on many battlefields. If you are riding into open war and battle, you'd be a fool not to even see if he'd take to you. No other horse in all the Autumn Realms would serve you better." 

 Azat considered her offer, sighing out of resignation. "Fine, Your Grace, have the stable hands bring him out. We will see if Mustaphen thinks I'm worthy. If so, then the Black Wolves will ride for Reaper's Lantern with the sun's zenith." 

~***~

« Last Edit: October 9, 2021, 07:50:29 AM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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The Embers of The Past - And May the Golden Sun Reign - Rev. 10/9/21
« Reply #236 on: October 7, 2021, 11:07:33 AM »
This chapter isn't necessarily in chronological order... might be a chapter and a half away from where it should be. We will see.

And May the Golden Sun Reign

Summer, in the month of the Gaia Reborn
Year 857 A.H., in the Ascension of Kings
Tushik, the City of Grand Canals, in the province of Zurish of the Carth Dominion

 Shoushan watched the golden dawn break over the ruins of the forgotten eastern kingdoms. A cold desert wind came billowing from that direction, streaming through the lavender silk veil draped over the open entrance to the balcony. Glimmering rays of dawn light pierced the billowing folds of fabric, the silk blinds dancing in the soft rush of air streaming into the Royal Palace. From the high summit of the Golden Mountain, the city of Grand Canals spread out beneath her throughout the Valley of the Sun.

      Breathing in the fresh air, she caught the scent of blooming flora from the palace's hanging gardens, mixed with an alluring incense created from Gnarled Summeroot, Rosewood, and blackberries. Despite the entrancing aroma cloying the air, Shoushan could taste the acrid smog produced wholesale from the industrial centers of the Zar District, or slave quarter, she thought in the plainer terms of outsiders. 

      Golden light filtered into the Celestial Observatory, banishing the shadows hidden through the laboratory's concealed nooks. Birdsong called from the palace roofs, where the hanging gardens thrived beneath the open sky and a glaring sun. Entire flocks took to the skies, dancing through the wind like graceful creatures of light. 

      From within the observatory's heart, Grand Disciple Tabia whispered gentle words to the infant child cradled in her arms. In the spacious, quiet room occupied between the three of them, the Disciple of Heaven regaled her young daughter with the myths of the Ascended Pantheon. The ancient gods of humankind, that once tread the primordial realms of Thearus, and brought humanity out of their age of darkness. 

Shoushan's quiet voice dispelled the tranquility woven within the observatory's gold pleated walls. The wind carried every syllable across smooth sandstone floors, weaving every word through the odd contraptions housed within. Past the gallery of strange looking glasses, scrying mirrors, and gnarled oak desks drowning beneath scrawled over scrolls and elder tomes besides, the sound of her voice filled the void of silence.

Shoushan asked, "Aren't you tired of boring my dearest sister to death with your sermons? She cannot understand your overwrought parables. She can make no meaning out of the origins of this world… you should let my dear Voshki shut her eyes again and fall gently into the dreaming world.

"Gods know it is a kinder place than this monument of hubris."

Tabia answered, the zealous flame in her voice kindling even when lost within the moment's serenity. 

"Hubris lies with the audacity to deny the ancient traditions of your kindred, Shoushan. It is an alteration of thought. A change of heart that separates a woman from her siblings so thoroughly, she cannot look at those who would call her loved one or cherished family, unable to realize we all share the same blood in our veins."

A smirk pulled on Shoushan's lips until they tightened into a coy smile, feigning ignorance. She replied, "Am I marked by such vanity, dear Aunt-in-law? Have I sinned against the Children of the Sun and fallen into the snare of darkness?"

Tabia said, "Pray tell, Shoushan, that you could look me in the eye and say it isn't so? You're the daughter of a God King. An Heiress to the Sun Caller Kings of Old and the firstborn descendant of Erasyl himself… how many mere mortals are so fortunate to possess a father a millennium old? How many are so blessed with an undying life?"

Shoushan said, "none of them, I know… but what does any of that matter? Are you going to just sit there, cradling my youngest sister and your child, and tell me you won't have her shining light eclipse me, a Daughter of Darkness?"

A derisive snort echoed across the observatory, emanating from Tabia's direction from the other end of the ornate tower. 

Tabia confessed, "I've wished for something akin to your fears for many decades… but I am powerless before your father when speaking about you. He never listens to anyone's concerns about his firstborn daughter, not even when her soul is steeped in the darkness of something treacherous and dangerous. 

Shoushan said, "I'm surprised the irony behind your confession appears to be lost on you, Tabia. Do you think he called us here together because of anything I've had to say about you? Your husband and my father seems just as reluctant about any issues surrounding you, just as he ignores my transgressions."

Erasyl, Firstborn of Man, Sun Caller King of Tushik, and the God King of the Carth Dominion, filled the spacious observatory with the sound of his patient voice. He did not shout, Shoushan knew he never did. Not unless he found himself on some distant battlefield or another, crushing everything unworthy of Sirius, the Solar God, beneath a legion of slaves and noble-blooded warriors. 

"Should a father's undying love be called reluctance?" Erasyl interrupted, striding through the open oak doors leading into the observatory. "All I ever wish when I bring you two together, is for both of you to put aside your stark differences and aid me in my coming reign of the Carth Dominion."

Swiveling her head away from the breaking dawn toward her father, Shoushan noticed a heavy burden weighing upon Erasyl's shoulders. She replied, "So the rumors were true? Grandfather has finally met his end on the edge of an Old Myrian blade? How is that possible?"

Tabia paused in her gentle bouncing of the infant child in her arms. Before the swaddled baby could cry out, she hushed her back to sleep with a simple calling of her name.

"Hush, Voshki…" Tabia cooed, then fixed Erasyl with her usual demanding glare. "So this Azat Zakarian truly slew your father–an immortal God King with two thousand years to his glorious reign… the thought beggars belief."

"Azat Zakarian?" Shoushan asked, "who slew him? I'm ashamed that I've never heard his name spoken before by anyone. Who is this fabled Old Myrian hero?"

Tabia affirmed Shoushan's demand. "A mortal man possessed of some divine power, perhaps?"

Their questions nagged at Erasyl, Shoushan knew when the God King dismissed them with an irritable flick of his wrist. 

Erasyl inhaled, the deep intake of the morning air exhausting the fury building within him. After a moment, he continued, "It matters little who he is to anyone… I've heard several rumors about him. That he is some young Lord from the Isle of Irothis or some destitute farmer… Far be it from me to dishonor his origins after fighting with such valor. Should he be capable of laying an Avatar of Light like my father low, then the Children of the Sun should strive to match his great example."

Shoushan cocked her head without thinking. "You're just going to accept your father's death as if it were nothing?"

Erasyl nodded. "it was an end worthy of your grandfather, my daughter. His kindred should let him lie beneath Old Myrian soil with the honor he reaped throughout his life. Feuding over an honor-bound trial by combat would only dishonor the legacy of the Sun Caller Kings and all the Children of the Sun."

"A shame then," Shoushan sneered, "Of course, of all the injustices and mistakes of the past that you've always dreamed of correcting… and it is the greatest man I've ever known that you would let lie without any challenge."

Tabia interrupted, "A lost war cannot be won after the dust on the battlefield lies still, nor the blood of slain heroes is already spilled."

Erasyl agreed, "Tabia's words are wise, Shoushan… I won't waste anymore time on my father's hasty ambitions. The Dominion is strained from constant war and many internal issues of civil strife are becoming rife in certain areas of my conquered realms. It is time that the Dominion forgo the Solar God's wrathful aspect and become tranquil like the evening dusk."

Shoushan folded her arms, "Did you call Tabia and myself hear just to disappoint me?" 

Erasyl said, "one reason, but certainly not all of them." His hearty laughter resounded through the quiet observatory. "Come, Shoushan, why are the three of us standing here as if against one another? Take a seat by your younger sister, Voshki, and hold her in your arms for a while. Tabia, come rest beside me. A new epoch is being ushered into history even as we speak… and I will need wise council when determining the fate of my Dominion. It is time to look to the plight of the Zar caste and the decadence rotting within the heart of my realms… all shall change, and Carth will shed the vanities and frailties of its haunted past, and burn them like so much kindling. Out of the fires that will blaze from the sacrifices that we must make, the Dominion shall arise anew, like a burning phoenix…"

~***~
« Last Edit: October 9, 2021, 07:42:08 AM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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Rev. 10/11/21

Though Long are the Shadows Cast Far From the Light
   
A flaming dawn came cresting over the Golden Mountain, distant on the eastern horizon. As the skies bled vivid colors, Kalb thought it symbolic of the lifeblood of Khios. The same blood that flowed through every mortal man, woman, and child upon the face of this mundane world.
   
A cursed bloodline, Kalb thought, humans were forever cursed with omens of their own creation.
   
As another contract of assassination unfolded in the palm of his hand, dangling in the wind, he wandered when the final dawn would come when he could fall gently into the gentle dark of death.
   
An assassin that did not understand the Hourglass Game with the Lady of Fortune made a poor killer.
   
Kalb traced the tattered parchment unraveled in front of him, piecing together the cryptic calligraphy into something sensible. Beneath the blinding glare of the open sun, he could hardly read anything. The breaking light of dawn proved too stark a contrast to the gentle dark of his homeland in Su'khan, straining his vision. An unbearable desert sun was nothing unfamiliar to him. The searing heat plaguing the Valley of the Sun paled in comparison to the infernal sands of the Southern Wastes, the barren sea of his birth.
   
At least, he thought, concealed beneath the shade of an empty hovel in an abandoned village, the strange, enigmatic peoples of the surface built their buildings to reach toward the skies. A man could find haven in the shadows cast by every settlement from the relentless golden light saturating everything above the underground.
   
Accumulating sweat dribbled down his heavy brow in a pattern of beads, pouring into recent scars until they stung like the bite of a scorpion's tail. A searing desert wind came coursing through the unblemished hovels created from sandstone and clay. The billowing breeze brought the stench of death straight to Kalb, it lingered over the entire village like a plague. Still, he continued decrypting the message scrawled over the parchment, unraveling the command sent from the Den of Vipers by one strange phrase at a time.
   
Take the Sudhari blade hidden within the forgotten well.
   
Claim the divine heads that reign behind the golden paradise of Tushik.
   
Break the chains that confine your actions… see it done before the next crescent shape of the moon.
   
Good hunting, Severed.

   
Kalb whistled into the billowing wind, beckoning the shadow waiting by the shallow oasis in the village's heart to him. Concentrating, he listened for the faint sound of hooves pounding the arid soil at the subtle command. Through the whispering wind and wandering sands, the quiet sound grew until the earth quaked beneath his feet. The hovel Kalb sat outside of shifted slightly, like a tremor in the earth caused its battered doorframe to splinter at the hinges, then collapse backward into the morbid dark housed within.
   
"Killmonger…" Kalb shouted before the gargantuan horse could storm by him. Like a demon of the storm, Killmonger came to a sliding halt, gouging great grooves in the parched earth beneath his hooves. Beneath the golden sun, the Sudhari mount's hide, blacker than volcanic soot, did not gleam in the shining light. Daylight appeared to dull around the wicked horse like a damp aura, obscuring Killmonger's physical presence until he flickered and faded like a dark miasma. The creature's eyes gleamed a bright hazel, weighed down underneath the same heavy scale mail barding draped over his imposing physique.
   
The stench of death lingered about the spectral horse, greeting Kalb the moment Killmonger came galloping from the dead village's heart. He heard the familiar sound of iron chains, ground against one another with every unrestful move the mount made, before he glimpsed the sound's source. Where the miasma grew weaker, thinning enough for mortal eyes to peer beyond its darkness, Kalb gleaned the grisly sight of a hundred human skulls in various stages of decay, impaled on the length of about twenty individual chains. Champions of many kingdoms and creeds, each a trophy added to the Severed's tally of successful contracts.
   
Killmonger neighed, the sound like a tyrannical warlord's blackest war cry.
   
Kalb said, "It is good to see you, old friend… I hope I was not absent overlong… Let us not linger in this place of death any longer. Come, show me the hidden well in the village."
   
A thick geyser of mist sprayed from Killmonger's snout when it snorted derisively, like the task was beneath it. Yet it obeyed without question. It's wild charge to come find his master had now calmed to a casual trot, making the earth rumble beneath them. Curious, Kalb set off after the beast, following in the Sudhari horse's wake from a respectful distance. His thick leather boots tread upon dirt roads, the blood once slathering the mud baked into a coagulated dirt. The bodies of the deceased littered the village like a dead plague of rats, all of them killed by some brutal raid Kalb had missed entirely by coincidence.
   
Venturing through the maze of humble squalor, a notion of regret kindled within Kalb's chest at the morbid graves, greeting him around every corner. He almost desired to take the Sudhari blade from the hidden well, and briefly pause his mission to ride down the bandits who had struck this place out of nowhere. Though he knew none of the people who called this backwater their home, Kalb couldn't escape the feeling that someone or another had put the village to the sword to send him a message.
   
Turn back, Ashen Blade, and never return…
   
Undeterred, he desired nothing more than to test his skill on would-be challengers. The Goddess of Sorrow knew all too well that her rotting trophies were finite treasures, made brittle in the scorching desert heat until they crumbled into dust in the hands of her disciples. It was almost time to reap more for Alastrine's collection, an endless mound of skulls stacked high before the Gates of Her Palace.
   
Killmonger's neighing cut through the whispering wind like an ominous warning, the dark steed glaring off into the eastern dawn. Kalb paused where he stood, craning his head toward the high dunes overlooking the dead village at the bottom of the nameless basin, where the foliage grew light at the village heart, lured into growing by the small oasis where the hidden well rested. A cavalcade of armed horsemen came cresting the high dunes, riding out of the shroud of dust created by the wind's passing. Observant, Kalb noticed their cream and crimson robing, draped over chain-mail and the padded silk armor that lay beneath.
   
Realization dawned on him after determining their attire as that of the Zar'qin Guard, that the chance for bloodshed may have already come not a moment too soon. Glancing to the wrist of each slave warrior sworn in service to the Dominion, Kalb noticed vermilion silk bands tied around the wrist of every warrior. He did not know them by the bands they wore, and he could tell none of them knew him either. A single glance from their inferior warhorses at the ominous sight of Killmonger halted the unit.
   
He mentally noted out of genuine surprise, when the war band of vermillion totting Zar'qin leaped out of their saddles and came storming toward Kalb and Killmonger anyway.
   
Kalb shouted above the wind as it swelled into a howling gust. "Are you arresting me on charges of mass murder, brethren of the Zar? I fear you've arrived far too late if you sought to bring anyone to justice for what has happened here."
   
A lithe warrior, covered from head to toe with scars so deep, Kalb spied patches of white bone exposed within, shouted back in answer. "And pray tell, my brother not of blood, why the Zar should think anything different of a lone Su'khanite, standing in the heart of one of their raided villages?"
   
Arching his brow, Severed asked, "this is one of your villages, brother? I did not realize the Zar were given reign to live their lives so free of their overlords?"
   
As the Zar'qin approached, the scarred warrior replied with a calm retort. "Well, you could hardly be a brother of mine, Su'khanite, if you know so little of the Zar and their ways… So why not begin with telling my friends and I who you are… and why you're hear at precisely the wrong hour, in precisely the wrong place. Depending on your answer, I may or may not have my righthand man here, literally tear you in half."
   
He gestured with a point of his chin toward a teetering tower of sinew and muscle, all pinkish, pallid skin and rough spun cloth decorated with intricate, swirling patterns. The Demi-giant stood seven and a half feet, entire heads and shoulders above anyone else present among Kalb. His hair was rough and unkempt, a golden blonde that seemed at odds with any lineage on Khios.    
   
His pallid skin, too, was like a complicated tapestry of scars, an entire history of battles won and wars fought from the front of every conflict.
   
Kalb acknowledged the Half-Giant of the Kharan clans with a subtle nod. To his surprise, the Demi-giant nodded back, the facial expression stoic enough to match Kalb's placid one.
   
He said, "Of the Kharan Tribes, I've only heard wild tales that have birthed many legends this far west. A strange thing to find that they may all be true."
   
The brutish barbarian hawked and spat, sneering with such weight behind his facial structure, Kalb thought it reminiscent of actual stone statues becoming animated with life. The Kharanite rasped, "Answer the question, assassin." His shoulders heaved with malignant laughter. "I swear you won't like the result if I must come over and pull your intestines asunder when I'm tearing you in halves."
   
"And what is your name, brother Kharanite?"
   
The giant shrugged, "what does it matter, Su'khanite? It won't mean anything when you're dead. And I won't care enough to remember you when you're crushed from this world."
   
"Perhaps at this rate, we should forget formalities, and cut to the point of the matter then."
   
The scarred over Zar'qin interrupted them both. "Gabhan, enough!" He shifted back to Kalb. "I am not in the habit of asking twice. Among the Zar, it is unbecoming if generosities must be requested twice from anyone, guest or even blood brothers, it matters little."
   
Kalb shrugged. "then we stand at an impasse, Zar'qin. If you desire information about the raiders who put this village to the sword, I'd be willing to help, maybe even offer my services. But if you're going to ignore the obvious and demand questions from me, then to the Gates of Her Palace with all of you…"
   
The Zar'qin leader glanced once to Killmonger, noticing the Sudhari horse's deathly stare upon his entire war band. Prying his gaze away from the unnatural horse, he turned back to Kalb. "A shame that formalities have to be forsaken this one time… brethren, claim this Su'khanite's head… bring it to me when you're done. Gabhan, crush that monstrosity of a steed into the dunes. Attack!"
« Last Edit: October 11, 2021, 08:41:00 AM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: The Embers of The Past - Though Long are the Shadows... Scene 1.5 10/11/21
« Reply #238 on: October 11, 2021, 08:42:38 AM »
They drew swords from their scabbards, glinting in the blinding light of the day. Shouting guttural cries, the Zar'qin came charging through the dune sand. A billowing gust came whipping around them, cloaking Kalb's foes behind an obscuring cloud of dust. Amid the chaos animating before him, Killmonger's black shadow danced throughout the choking tide. The Sudhari mount almost melded into the pollution, appearing and fading like some intangible apparition, desperately trying to break free into the physical world.
   
Kalb waited in silence, unmoving amid the tarnished gale lashing about him like the breath of some raging deity. As the wind surged again, loose sand became caught up in the current. At once, the burning skies over the dead village became bleak, the Dominion's golden sun blotted out by an all-consuming tsunami of wind-blown sand. Choked of daylight, the Ashen Blade waited, cloaked in the long shadow cast by his distant homeland.
   
From out of the windblown sands, a familiar voice called him by name, the same Zar'qin who had thought him a brother not of blood.
   
"Kalb of the Severed Hand, I remember your name now, Su'khanite…" He said, "I pray Alastrine will find your maggot-ridden corpse worthy, when it eventually washes up to the Gates of Her Palace - Encircle him, brethren, grant the Ashen Blade no respite! Run him down!"
   
Kalb answered, "A pity you possess no name to remember your legacy by, brother."
   
Hazed figures came bursting out of the darkness, taking shape amid the sandstorm like apparitions of the arid wastes. Glancing to the left and right of himself, Kalb counted nine black outlines closing with him, tying an invisible noose around his neck. Hand tensed around the sheathe dangling by his waist, the Severed Hand pushed off his back foot into a loping run. Thumb tucked beneath the edge of the sheathe, the Sarunite gladius housed within came loose by mere inches with a casual flick.
   
Kalb unveiled the hidden blade. A jarring impact upon the dark weapon's thrust into chain-mail, rattled the fingers beneath their black leather gauntlets. A hideous screaming deafened him upon twisting the gladius with abandon. A warm liquid pooled between his knuckles upon tearing the shortened blade free. Staggering, darkness sloughed away from the Zar'qin, near enough for the Ashen Blade to look him in the eye. Without warning, the Zar retaliated, parrying the gladius' whirling arc out of the air. A shoving hand connected with Kalb's chest, pushing him backward toward two other hazed shapes charging in from behind.
   
Becoming weightless, Kalb let the howling gale steer him aside of their hacking blows. Weaving between both opponents, he let the gale guide the direction of each sweeping cut upon passing them by. A jarring impact of Sarunite steel upon chain-linked mail rattled his fingers. Guided by his momentum, he heard the keening cry of armor sundered upon the razor edge of his blade. A hot liquid streamed down the length of his gauntlet. It flowed into the gaps of Kalb's armor, soaking through the robes beneath.
   
Kalb pried the blade loose, certain to stab back down into the vulnerable meat between the jaw and shoulders. A gurgling cry answered back, before the hazed outline crumpled to the arid earth. Still animated, Kalb retreated by a single step. He heard a blade hurtle by him, feeling the air come apart a hair's breadth from cutting his left eye out. Still locked in the movement, the Ashen Blade hacked downward. He heard the rattling gasp of breath upon the gladius' departure from living flesh. Swaying heavily, the other Zar toppled aside, hand clasped around the wicked wound sliced across his throat.
   
Kalb blinked. A third warrior stumbled backward and tripped. Leaking blood from the previous stab wound, the battered armor around the impact site came apart upon the second thrust, and the tearing force that followed upon the blade's exit.
   
The Severed Hand heard his brother not of blood screaming curses at the remaining warriors left to him.
   
"Fools, I said encircle him!" The Zar'qin shouted. "strike together and from separate -"
   
Kalb plucked one of the eight barbed javelins from out of the quiver fastened upon his back. He did not throw it, but rammed the hooked spear through the back of another Zar'qin's knee when he made to charge past. Locked into the movement, the slave warrior's machete struck Kalb dead in the chest. The honed edge split the black leather open, parting through the thick silk layers, cushioning the blow from underneath. Staggered, the Ashen Blade sank down onto his knees. Crippled, the Zar whom had struck him, crumpled down with him.
   
The Ashen Blade reversed the trajectory of his blade, slamming the Sarunite Gladius up straight through the fallen Zar's gullet. Winded, Kalb pushed the blade in deeper, until it sprouted out of the dead man's skull.
   
From somewhere out of the sandstorm, the earth itself quaked beneath the crushing strength of Killmonger's charge. Coming out of the bleak light, the Sudhari mount tackled another pair of oblivious Zar down to the arid sands. Horror marked their screams, just before Killmonger trampled them both underfoot. Kalb heard plain their bodies being reduced to gory sludge.
   
Mobilizing, he took advantage of the ensuing chaos. Defiant, the remaining Zar survivors, three, turned their blades to the demon in their midst. Recalling the Kharanite riding with the Zar'qin, he knew nothing about his whereabouts or his fate.
From out of the darkness, the Severed Hand's brother not of blood, called to his men.
   
He cried, "Enough! Fall back and withdraw from the area!"
   
Kalb had already plucked another barbed projectile from his quiver. From this distance, the retreating back of his brother not of blood became obscured, shrinking into the arid storm until it became difficult to align his aim. Without wasting another moment, the Ashen Blade cast the barbed weapon through the air, considering the dying gale, the billowing tides of sand lulled into a thick shroud of dust.
   
He studied the arced trajectory the javelin created, soaring through bleak skies, before descending onto his mark with unerring precision. Surprised, Kalb winced the moment the rounded blade of a gargantuan axe swatted the barbed javelin away from the Zar'qin unit's commander. Charging out of the choking miasma, Kalb could barely follow the Kharanite's beguiling speed until the giant was upon him…
« Last Edit: October 11, 2021, 09:36:15 AM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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The Embers of The Past - Quality of Life Update - Map, Illustration, & Website
« Reply #239 on: October 12, 2021, 08:53:05 PM »
Hi 40k online :),

Quick update here!

I've kicked off the process on the map creation of Khios continent in particular - I thought I'd share what is happening during the process.

First here is the hand drawn map that I've created for Embers!

This is the baseline for the map creation process.



The artist that I'm coordinating with is going to bring this style of art to my map, and will detail a lot of the special locations!



Also going through the vision and concept discussion for getting some illustrations done of my characters! I'm looking at getting some single character portraits and some group portraits done!

When I get a few of these illustrations and the map done, eventually going to get the branding and website for my series up and running!

Super excited to kick all of this off and finally announce it with you guys! Been some highs and lows since this point, but it's starting to come together  ;D
« Last Edit: October 13, 2021, 05:19:43 AM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

 


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