I. KINGS AND GOBLINS
- The Illoni Tree, in which a prince searches the lands for his lost princess
- Old Ran, in which an epic battle between the two greatest warriors rages
- The Madder’s Dance, in which a young woman asks for directions
- The Cave of Illusions, in which a poor maid learns of the castle’s great secret
- The Marriage of Dancing Eve, in which the betrothed woman discovers the evil of her love
- The Prophet of Hevon, in which a sheperdess learns the fate of the world
- Elani’s Trove, in which two adventurers seek the Treasure with no name
- The World Bender, in which a prince must kill a beast most foul
- The Palace of Princesses, in which a princess dreams of freedom
- Cron of the Forge, in which a young boy is cursed with a horrible sleep
- The King of Thieves, in which a kingdom is overthrown into turmoil
- The Mask of Terach, in which a carpenter undergoes a transformation
- The Witchslayers, in which two brothers discover the most strange of rings
- The Fall of Tialin, in which a king has a vision of destruction
- The Gate of Dreams, in which a prince is condemned as a traitor
- The Beggar of Samos, in which a beggar is given an odd gift
- The Godslayer, in which a young man suffers a horrible death
- Children of the Giver, in which two children discover the Queen of Dreams
- The Feint of the Moon, in which two sisters disappear without a trace
- The Dervish of Dakar, in which a spirit is released into the sands of Dakar: a tale of Rumiad
- The Rise of the Red King, in which two enemies becomes intertwined: a tale of Dhavid
- The Tree Mir, in which is described the greatest tree in all the land: a tale of Estelan
- The Mirror of Zai, in which a beggar’s dream comes true: a tale of Dhavid
- Circle of Demons, in which a young girl receives a very special gift: a tale of Dhavid
- The Dwelling of Cats, in which a portrait is painted: a tale of Ayam Khazad
- The Risen Sun, in which the greatest warrior wins a bride: a tale of Rumiad
- The Beast of Samircan, in which two lovers commit a terrible crime: a tale of Estelan
- The Oracle of Kalas, in which a priest is thrown into the nameless prison: a tale of Rumiad
- The Sculptress of Ismil, in which a hunter finds a city of bizarre: a tale of Ayam Khazad
- The Slaver Rumiad, in which a slaver is overthrown by the goddess Eris: a tale of Rumiad
- The Sage Estelan, in which a prince is exiled from his land: a tale of Estelan
- The Historian Dhavid, in which is related the story of the famed buccaneer: a tale of Dhavid
- The Trials of Pilacius, in which an emperor falls in love with a slave
The Iloni Tree
Once upon a time, a prince traveled to the forest to find the famous Tree of the Iloni, in the Forest of Many Whispers. Legend was, that many, many years ago a princess traveled in the forest, then called the Forest of Laughter, and she fell asleep in the enchanted wood. When she awoke, she discovered she could not leave, and since then the Princess of the Cloud Kingdom was trapped in the wood.
It is said that when she did not return, and therefore could not provide an heir to the kingdom, it fell from the sky. Her Prince, sorrowed after the disappearance of his bride, left on a quest to find her, and ever since, his sons and grandsons and great-grandsons have searched for the fabled princess, in hopes of bringing the Cloud Kingdom back into the clouds.
So this Prince, who was perhaps the great, great, great grandson (but we have no way of knowing for sure) was wandering the Forest of Many Whispers and found the Iloni Tree. When he arrived, a forest woman whose beauty outshone even the sun, stood at the trunk of the tree, singing. The Prince, seeing her lie thus, asked what her name was and she said “Many Whispers.” He asked how she came by the wood, and she said she was always here. He asked her if she was the Princess he was looking for and she said no, for she was part of the wood.
He then removed his axe and began to chop down the tree. At once she began to scream and beat her fists against the Prince, crying for him to stop. He would not. And with every axe stroke, she screamed as if in pain. He saw beauty flash before his face as he felled the great and beautiful tree.
At once the woman fell asleep, and the Prince gathered the dead tree and burned it in the wood. The fire did not touch any of the other trees, and when all had burnt, he found a strange necklace in the ash, made of the most beautiful silver and turquoise. He put the necklace around her neck, and she awoke.
She told him of how she was entrapped by the tree, for it was afraid to die so she said she would sing to it, and during her song, the tree stole her necklace, and she forgot who she was, forever singing to the tree.
But now that she remembered who she was, she was filled with such shame, and told the Prince he could take her to wed in the Kingdom, but she would forever be distant, unable to love. Or she could remain in the wood, where she could love him. So the Prince told her he would give up the kingdom and stay with her in the wood forever, and give up his kingdom for her love.
So they lived happily ever after in a cottage by the river, and the legend of the Cloud Princess vanished into the annals of legend, and it is said that she stole her final song with the Prince’s love.
Once upon a time, in a small village, a great fight broke out between the two greatest fighters in the world, Great Sword Ran and Fast Hands Orek. The fight lasted for days and days, and with every day, another house or shop or church fell to the ground. They fought long and hard, and in the end, they fought so hard that the village was reduced to old stones and crumbled ruins.
For this, the angel of justice was very angry, so he sent down a blindness upon the ruins, and Great Sword Ran could not see. He stumbled like an old man, from this stone to that stone. But Fast Hands Orek quickly left, nimbly escaping the angelic wrath.
Now Great Sword Ran felt many hands grab him, and he threw them off like paper. But they kept coming, and finally he was taken to prison for destroying an entire village. For many, many years Great Sword Ran stayed in prison, until he was no longer Great Sword but only Ran.
Then one day, he received a gift from a visitor. It was a vial, and he was told to drink. He had nothing to lose, and maybe it might even kill him, which would be a blessing. So Blind Ran drank the vial, and he could see again. The last he saw of his visitor was a shimmer of an old man. Blind Ran was now Old Ran, and he realized what his prison was.
He saw his leg chained to a tree, and indeed, for his prison was the forest. With all the strength left in him, he broke free of the chain, and under the guise of night, traveled back to his home city.
So now he tells stories of his great life to the children, and they listen to the tales of Old Ran, sometimes believing, most times not, but always listening. And Old Ran lived a great many more years until he grew so old, and died. He never saw Fast Hands Orek again; except he always dreamed of an old man, running through a forest, laughing at the gods.
The Madder’s Dance
This is the story of one very special woman, who for her whole life was hopelessly lost.
One day when she was traveling in the Kingdom of An, she came upon a village of peasants. The soldiers were in the homes, taking the precious items and clothes that these poor people held onto so dearly. She approached the party of nobles and was about to ask them a question, when they almost ran her over with one of their horses.
“Stupid woman,” they said, and then they ordered her out of the way by order of the Prince Alahaz, the ursurper of his brother’s throne. Now this would have been a strange thing to see, for this woman was a kindly woman, and very attractrive at that. In fact, in her realm, she was known as the most beautiful woman to grace man. But these men were corrupt and were thieves, and saw the dirt on her shoes and her dress and thought she was a dirty peasant, as they thought all men were, other than themselves.
But this woman, she did not seem to mind at all the crude insults, nor the violence done to her. She went up to the men and asked them, “Do you know the way to the Kingdom of Zan?” They laughed at her and spat in her face. She grew a little agitated.
She continued through the village, asking the men for directions, but they all did the same, until she came to one man, who was the Prince Alahaz himself, on a great black strider. On his belt was a wickedly curved sword, and his laugh was cruel. When the woman asked if he knew the way to the Kingdom of Zan, of which, because he was a prince, he knew some, he told her she would first need to kiss his boots before he told her anything.
Now the Prince was enjoying himself, for all of the power he had, but when he said this, the woman grew very angry. She said again, “Please tell me how to get to the Kingdom of Zan,” and the Prince kicked her and told her, “Get away from me, you filthy hag.”
The woman’s eyes became bright white, and the sky darkened. Suddenly, around the Prince, the world disappeared except for darkness and the woman and himself. In his mind, she turned into a fiery monster, and the Prince began to run, as fast as he could.
But to his soldiers, they saw the Prince burst into flame and burn to ash. They turned their faces for it was too painful to watch. When they looked back, the woman was gone, and in her pouch, a small frog.
And she eventually found the way back to the Kingdom of Zan, and there she put the frog down in a patch of some grass, but she did not heal him, although she did turn him back into a man. And in that field he stayed and ate grass, lizards, anything he could touch. And forever, as long as he lived, that land near Zan was known as the Madman’s Field, a place where demons haunt nightmares and men eat like animals. And so it was said that whoever entered that land, they would go insane, and join the madder’s dance.
The Cave of Illusions
Once upon s time, there lived a young kitchen woman in the great and mighty citadel of Urmos. She was a young lady, ready to be married to a squire for one of the warriors of the citadel.
One day she heard sounds in the walls of the kitchen and was very afraid. She hid in one of the closets, and looked out from the crack. Two men, some advisors to the King, stepped out from a corner. As they passed, they dropped an item on the ground. After they left, the girl went to look.
It was a fabulous jade key, fashioned into a beautiful design of a four- winged owl. And then to her surprise, a voice spoke from the key and told her about a secret in the castle, beyond the kitchen wall.
She took the key and turned the corner, and then the key showed her where to go. She found herself deep below the citadel, in a maze of rooms. She grew afraid, and went back up, and then told her fiance about the secret.
He told her she should give up, for it surely was dangerous, but she said there was a mighty treasure below. And her family was poor and could not pay a squire’s wedding pay. But he told her not to worry about it. Her life was much more important to him.
But she would not listen, and she went back, deeper this time, below the citadel. This time for many days was she gone, and the squire became worried, so he traveled below to find her without the King’s permission. He stole one of the keys and followed her.
The path was long and treacherous, and many times did she almost die, but the key spoke of a great treasure, so she continued. Finally, she came to the room of treasure, and it was great indeed. Mountains of gold and jewels, rings, necklaces, boxes of silver, more than anyone could ever use. And then she tried to take some of the treasure, and suddenly the room was filled with a great white light.
She could not see! And then she could not feel, for the gold was gone, only cold rock. So she sat and wept for many, many days, for surely now she would never marry.
But the squire heard her weeping and found her, and he took her back to the citadel. The king was very angry, but the squire told the king why she left and he apologized to the king. And the king relented, and at once the two were wed with much pomp, more than any other squire, for the king admired both the girl’s courage to follow the Cave of Illusions and the squire’s bravery in saving her.
And they became parents, with many children and grandchildren. But the mother always remained blind.
The Marriage of Dancing Eve
Once upon a time, there was a kingdom named Dhalan. In the Kingdom of Dhalan lived a king, a queen, a princess, and a small prince, called the Royal Family of Dhalan. In this kingdom there also lived a very powerful and very bad man named Tomas, also a very rich man who hated the Royal Family of Dhalan very much., and he wanted to kill them, for he had an evil heart.
One day, Tomas met a beautiful woman, and they fell in love. But soon, she saw his evil heart and his dark intentions, and she fled from him, going on a journey away, for she was afraid of him. And so on her journey, she came to the Cave of the Seeress Gholem, who was legendary in her craft and some might say, the queen of those who wielded magic. The Seeress Gholem gave the woman, whose name was Rosaline and whom she thought a poor, pretty girl in the confusion of fear, a magic axe, for she knew of the terrible heart in Tomas, and knew of Rosaline’s fear. In all her wisdom, this was the only reprieve, to slay the darkness of man’s heart.
And so Rosaline left the Cave of Gholem, and found herself lost, bound in all directions but home. She met an old man on the road, who saw the axe by her side and an idea sprung upon him. So he told her to go due north, until she would come to a mountain whose peaks were made of glass, and the sky was as blue as opals. So she found the mountains, and came upon a small cabin, wherein she wished to rest. The cabin was nestled in the paths of rose-briars and vine, and the candlelight was bright inside the windows, so she knocked on the door.
A very small man, perhaps four feet high answered the door, and Rosaline looked into the fabulous cabin of ancient things and things unknown, and saw no one, and she was afraid for perhaps the old man had fooled her and sent her to her death. But the small man at the door said, “You! Why did you disturb my rest?” His face was twisted and tired, and he sounded agitated.
Rosaline looked down to find a very handsome man, if he were not so small. She apologized and told him the story of where she was going and why, and how the Seeress Gholem gave her this magic axe, and then she saw the little man’s face light up. And he ran outside, nearly knocking Rosaline over, and then he called out, “Medallin! Ho, you stupid horse, this is the Lox!” And out of the sky a horse soared and landed, and it said, “You should be wary of your tongue, little – oh, so it is, it is.”
Rosaline looked a baffle confused, and she started, “What’s this with my axe?”
And the two smiled wearily, and the little man said, “That happens to be my axe, which I took from the Supreme Elani, that wretched demon woman. But I see you’ve come to return it, and my thanks all the more.” And Rosaline backed away, for she thought these as two thieves and the kind of magical things that dreams were not supposed to be made of.
The little man saw her move away, and he said, “Ho, kind woman! That’s my axe you’ve got! That witch Gholem took it from me, no blessings on her scaly hide.” And he moved forward faster than the wind, for this was Sangred the Strong, the strongest man in the world. But Rosaline, seeing him run thus, thrust out her hand and Sangred flew back, through the wall of his cabin and flopped down onto his bed.
And the winged horse Medallin, seeing his friend fly thus, lifted into the air and flew at Rosaline, but she shouted out some word that is undiscernibly, and the horse fell to the ground, whimpering like a pony. For Rosaline had cut the wings off Medallin, the wisest creature to ever grace the earth. And Rosaline trembled and ran.
Laolin of the Mist, a friend of Sangred the Strong, saw this happening and chased the woman, but Rosaline ran faster than flight, and was not herself. And Laolin rushed at her, beating her tiny wings of light at the mysterious woman, but to no avail. And she sped faster, and faster, and faster, until her breath was coming in ragged streaks, and then Rosaline called out a terrible word and Laolin fell to the ground, shivering. And Rosaline continued to run. And then Laolin understood, and something in her heart leapt, even as her life crept out.
So, gathering the last of her power, Laolin of the Mist flew to the mother of magic, the Seeress Gholem, and the seeress was very surprised to see the little creature for she knew Laolin hated her for what she did. But Laolin spoke out in a fever, and said, “Dancing Eve has come, and she wield’s the Lox, and all shall come to nothing because of you.” And then Laolin of the Mist died, and her light became as dim as night. And the Seeress Gholem understood her folly, and traveled at once from her cave, something she had not done for a thousand years. And she left for the Kingdom of Dhalan.
Meanwhile Tomas, grief-stricken that his love had left, gathered himself and he snuck into the castle one night. And he crept through the castle like a spirit, but as there was only one of him and many in the castle, as he rounded a corner, he heard the sound of pain, and he felt the cold edge of steel upon his head. He fell to the ground, for he felt as if a pile of staves had fallen upon him. Above him was a giant of a man, whose hard eyes burned. And in his right hand, to Tomas’s amazement, was a pan of steel. It was the cook! And Tomas was doubly amazed, for this must have been Fendwick, and he had much more amazing stories to him before he retired to the kitchen.
But as Tomas lay there, a rush of wind filled the hallway, and in a blind of light he saw Rosaline, and the evil in his heart was lifted for a moment, and she told him to come with her, for there was much to talk about. And even in the madness of the moment, he was propelled by her words, for they seemed to dance on water. And even Fendwick the Cook stopped and could not speak. And even the Queen, who had heard the racket and rushed down into the hallway, could not speak. And then they saw Rosaline and Tomas depart as if they had never been there before.
Rosaline brought Tomas to an island, and how, she did not know. The island was beautiful, with trees that sprung bright leaves like gems, and sand the color of gold. But she knew she meant to kill Tomas with the axe the seeress had given her, but she was still afraid. For in Tomas a great evil lay, but for the moment, Rosaline’s presence lifted all that away. But she was afraid that if she were to raise the axe, he would love her no more, and plot great evil against her, perhaps even death. So they dwelt at the island for a time, and then they left the island, for Rosaline knew in her heart that she also loved Tomas, and could never kill him. But she was still afraid.
Meanwhile, after they left in the flash of magic, the Seeress Gholem arrived at the castle and explained to the confused king, who had been told of the incident by his wife, the queen. And Gholem gave the king a key, that would make the evil in the man’s heart disappear, and all would be set well. And there was more to Gholem’s actions, and she understood much.
So when the two returned to the Kingdom of Dhalan, they were brought before the king, and he spoke the words which was the key, and evil man’s heart became good, and the woman realized who she was. And so later, they married, and became great people.
Now the man became known as Tomas the Just, and he did many great things. And the woman, well, she knew her true name, for it was Eve, and in times to come, she did many things as well, and the people knew her as Dancing Eve, for her power was above the Seeress Gholem, indeed, above all people. On nights when the world was sad, she would dance, and the world would feel a love in their hearts. On nights when times were rough, she would dance, and the world would feel hope. And on nights when the world was happy, she would dance, and the world would rise in jubilation.
The Prophet of Hevon
Once upon a time, there lived a young shepherdess, who tended the flock of her father in the Great Grasslands of Hevon. But one day, when she went to fetch a lost sheep, she came upon a bird that was singing the most beautiful song she had ever heard.
So she sat down below the tree, and for three years, the bird spoke to her in song of the danger of the world, and then the bird died.
When the song ended, the shepherdess knew herself cursed with the fate of the world, so for her entire life, she wandered, learning high and low knowledge, and in time, became the greatest witch of the land.
And then she met the curse of the world, the great enemy, and he saw how powerful she saw, and fled as fast as he could, but she gave chase until he fled the world into the outer regions. And then the world was safe, for a time.
Once upon a time, there was a very small man who rode a tiny winged horse. He was the strongest man in the world, and his horse was the wisest horse in the world. This is the story of how Sangred the Strong and his flying horse, Medallin the Wise, conquered a giant, a witch, and received the Blessed Lox Cleaver and the Ring of Worlds.
One day, Sangred the Strong was consulting with his friend, Laolin of the Mist, and overheard a conversation that a giant and an evil woman captured the Treasure that has no name, and stole two very powerful items from it. For all who knew, the Treasure that has no name is located in the land of dreams, and only the most powerful can reach it. Indeed, this woman must have been very powerful, for Adytum was treacherous, but inside lay the wealth of the gods.
So Sangred and Medallin searched the lands for the giant and the witch, and on one morning, they found them sleeping late in a patch of field near the Wandering Brake. He called out to them, and they awoke, the woman first, and then slowly, her giant.
He was as tall as the trees, and she was cruel and beautiful. She wore the most beautiful of dresses, and the giant with his dumb face, wore the brightest and hardiest of armors. The axe Lox hung from his belt, and it huge like a log, with its hurtful edge gleaming in the morning sun.
“Who dares disturb the sleep of the Great Giant Reynaldo and the Supreme Elani?” the giant bellowed, removing the axe with a definitive roar.
Sangred the Strong and Medallin the Wise flew to the ground, and Sangred replied ever so humbly, “It is only a poor man and his horse. Please let us pass, oh great giant.”
The giant guffawed, and flew out his cheeks in grand display, for he was very stupid and did not see the strength in Sangred’s arms or the intelligence in Medallin’s eyes. But the witch saw, and she shrieked most cruelly.
But Medallin the Wise, who knew much of lore and illusion, made her face grow fat with warts, and she hissed and snarled. For she was infinitely wise, but also infinitely vain, for she used the Ring of Worlds to gather the finest of dresses and jewels, but now that she was ugly, they were worthless. Out of her eyes fire flew, and the giant grew afraid.
“What have you done to my mistress?” he called out with urgency and anger. But before he could act, Sangred had flown up to his head and with one swing of his tiny fist, the giant toppled over and the woman saw this and shrieked, for she was deeply in sorrow and had lost her heart and mind. Her eyes and hair turned to fire, and as the giant fell on her, his armor caught the magic fire and burned like the sun. Sangred and Medallin turned their eyes, and when they looked back, the giant Reynaldo and the woman Elani had disappeared, and on the grass was the axe Lox and the Ring of Worlds.
So Sangred walked to the axe, and to his surprise, it shrunk to fit his arm. Then he put the Ring of Worlds in the pouch where he also kept Laolin of the Mist, and he continued on his way.
The World Bender
Once upon a time, a prince and his party were wandering in a forlorn wood, in search of the Ruby Boar, a wild beast that was ravaging the countryside. They fought the creature and chased it into the Wood of Teeth, where many other dangerous animals were, but on their return trip, they became lost, and found themselves at a country cottage by a river.
It was nearly night, so they decided to ask if they could stay inside.
An old woman answered their knock, and the Prince asked if he could stay with his men the night. The woman told him only if they would vanquish a monster that had been bothering her for some time in the Cave of Dreams, a little way down the river. She said she would even feed them food and give them fire if they did this. So they heartily agreed.
So they stayed the night, and on the next morning they set out and found the Cave of Dreams. They ventured deep within, and for a few hours, there was nothing but the howl of wind at the entrance, and the flare of their torches. And then they finally came to a pool, where they found themselves very, very thirsty. So they knelt and drank.
But the Prince, he heard a voice that broke him from the spell. It was a sweet song, and he did not drink. And he looked at his men and saw them lying by the pool, for they lived no more. He then grew very scared, and the voice called out to him.
“Aliathor, son of the beauty Aamishla, come forth and let me look at you.”
Now the Prince, whose name was Leshan, was more afraid, for he thought the beast meant evil to him.
“Douse your torch, World Bender,” the voice said, so the Prince hastily put his torch in the poisonous pool. Immediately the room was caked in darkness, and then a horrible green light overcame the space, and Prince Leshan saw the terrible beast – a giant eagle, with six wings and claws like swords.
It said, “My name is Ratachath, and you, Aliathor, son of Aamishla, the one who will Bend the Worlds, have finally, after your long sleep, come to slay me, the Rage of Heaven and the Murderer of Archons. So raise your sword, so we may battle, World Bender.”
So Leshan took up his sword and said, “I know not what you speak of. I am the Prince Leshan of the Kingdom of Man, but as you have murdered my men, I shall cleave you like a cloud.” And he rushed toward the great bird, but as he swung his blade, the bird raised one claw and sent the sword spinning, spinning, into the darkness of the pool.
So the Prince Leshan knelt and said, “I will not escape with the lives of my men on my soul. Kill me now.”
And the creature laughed, and caught the Prince in its huge claws, and then beat its wings, flying up and out of a mighty mountain scarred by fire. And the Prince could see the Wood and the river and the cottage, and he cursed the woman for tricking him. And he fell into a deep darkness.
When he awoke he lay high on a sturdy branch, large enough to fit forty men with ease. And the bird, nestled on the center of the tree, lay sleeping. So the Prince, removing his soulstake Grant, given to him by his father the King Breck, plunged the dagger into the heart of the creature, and the Prince felt his soul leave him, entering the beast and burning inside.
And then he saw a vision, of a young beautiful woman being torn from her own child on the streets of his home city, Guyen Plad, and he wept, for he saw the woman torn in tears for many days. And then she rose and left the city, and found a cottage in a wood with a dangerous shadow. And she lived peacefully for many, many years, until a young man with a group of soldiers came to her door.
And then he had another vision, of that child being brought into the castle, and being raised as a Prince, and he saw that the child was himself. So he grew afraid. For he saw the King, his father, order his soldiers to hunt and kill the young woman, but they returned and said she could not be found. She had disappeared. And he saw that the child’s father was the king, for he also wept those same tears that the woman did.
And as he woke from the vision, he saw the great creature shudder from his holy weapon, and then begin to grow smaller and smaller, until only was there an old woman lying beside him, still with his dagger in her heart. And she opened her eyes and said, “Thank you, my son, for you have freed me from my great pain.”
And there, the Prince wept for many days, those same tears, and he buried the woman in the earth below the great tree. And he took upon the name Aliathor, and he threw the dagger into the earth beside his mother’s grave, and never returned to the Kingdom of Man again, until he was much older and was known as Aliathor, the World Bender.
In the legends to follow, Aliathor, the World Bender, became the only man to prevent the Seventh Cataclysm, and one of the only mortals to ever slay a god. And the world was brought into an age unlike any other age, for it lasted fourteen thousand years, and brought many wondrous things to being. But that is another story.
The Palace of Princesses
Once upon a time, in the land of many towers, in the Palace of Princesses, there lived one particular princess who lived in a tower with a red flag, and every evening she would dream of dancing in the fields, away from the tower she lived in. For every evening, the village peasants would go to the fields, and one particular peasant, a very beautiful girl, would ride a snow-white horse, and on the field of green, the white haired girl and her snow-white horse looked like lightning. This would thrill the princess so much, that in her dreams she was that very lightning, dancing across the fields of the sky.
But she could not leave, for all of the princesses, of which there were many, were kept under strict orders from the Matron, who although she was quite stupid, she was also quite clever and strong. For even stupid people can be clever.
Now why all the princesses? You see, the King had a knack for creating little girls, and he was quite mad. Within the Palace, there were perhaps, oh, one hundred or so princesses. But he could not do away with them, for they were of royal blood, but he also could not marry them off, for they were all his heirs until a male was born, so if one of them was married, her husband could claim the kingdom.
Now this special princess had another problem. She was in love, specifically with a man who came out in the morning and guided the sheep onto the grass. The staff he bore was unique – it was not wood, but silver, and it glittered with power. In the sunlight, she could see the light bounce off the staff. The man, he was also very wise, and when he spoke to the sheep, they listened most closely. The man was also very handsome.
One day, while the princess was looking out of her window, a cottage in the village caught fire, and the princess saw many people gather around the house. And then she saw a man being carried out – that very shepherd whom she so loved. So she wept and wept, until the Matron came to her door. She told the Matron why she was unhappy, and the Matron decided to take action.
The next day, she had the shepherd’s staff brought to the princess, and when the princess saw this she was both delighted and sad, for she was very sorry for his death, but very happy to see that his staff was safe.
As she touched the staff, she discovered an amazing thing. She could hear voices, more voices than ever before.
So at night, she brought the staff to the window, and heard the snow-white horse sing while galloping. And she sung back.
The horse stopped, the beautiful woman on her back perplexed. The horse walked up to the tower and asked, “What do you want, little princess?”
And she was delighted, and said, “I want to ride the lightning!” The horse, then, seemed to smile, and said, “You are a brave girl. This night I will search the skies for you, for you have the heart of the clouds.” And then the horse took off, and the girl on the back seemed to understand. The girl called out as she rode, “You are very lucky to have been chosen!”
On the next night, it was not one horse but two, one of them rider-less. It was also snow-white, but its eyes glistened like the sea. The princess was delighted, and the horse said, “Jump, if you wish to come,” so she went to the window and leapt. As she did this, the Matron saw this, and thought she was to die from her agony of lost love. But to her surprise, a snow- white horse leapt high into the air, and then with the princess on her back, vanished into the sky like a lightning bolt.
And they say that at that moment, all of the princesses leapt from their windows, and were taken into the skies by snow-white horses. For they all had been in love with the shepherd, and in their hearts, they all went with the one who bore the staff.
Cron of the Forge
Once upon a time, there lived a boy in a small village, who often went with his friends to play games in the market.
But one day, the children heard the sound of trumpets, and the market became very quiet. A procession had begun, of the Queen Tonawyn and her Royal Hounds. Now the Queen lived across the sea. She was a very beautiful queen and she had no husband. It happened that her ship was in a storm and landed on the shore of the land of Brenalin, and she needed repairs and a place to sleep.
The people, in order to see the Queen, crowded around the road, and the boys, eager to see the beautiful queen, leapt and ran to get a better look. But this boy, whose name was Cron of the Forge (for his family were blacksmiths), fell as he was running and scared one of the horses, who reared back and threw the Queen off its back.
Cron was very surprised, and the Queen, all dusty on the ground, glared like a hawk at the little boy. And he was very frightened, that he froze in his stead. And the Queen, who was very, very tired, and very upset because of her shipwreck, made a very big mistake. For she was a very powerful Queen, both in politic and power, and she uttered out a curse upon the boy that was most horrible – and the boy was so frightened that he immediately fell into a deep sleep. The Queen’s eyes widened with the horror she had done, and for the rest of her days she regretted those words she spoke.
Now the boy lay asleep for many, many years in a cold, cold sleep. When he dreamed, it was always the same vision, of a blind queen and an axe. The vision went as follows: he was walking on some street, in some city in the world, when a woman dressed in royalty would walk past him carrying an axe shaped like the moon. The axe was huge, and dry with blood. And when he looked back, he saw one hundred bodies littered on the street, smitten through and through with the axe. And then he saw her eyes and she looked back at him, her eyes bleeding and gone. And she said, “You did this to me!” in a scream, and then she would walk away.
The problem with the vision was that every time it happened, it was like the ending of another life, for before she came into the town, he was happy in the dream, as a farmer, carpenter, merchant, vagabond, swordsman, soldier, poet – but on that fateful day when the clouds came over the town and lightning struck the Tower of Memory, and the tower toppled, the Queen would rise out of the rubble with her horrible axe and slay the villagers. And he would always run away and hide, and when everyone had died, she would show her face to him, and he would go into another dream. And it was so real, and so different every time. But in the end, the same, and he remembered everything only when he saw her eyes, and was afraid.
But one day, he was not afraid, for when he looked, he also saw himself as he was before, and knew then that he could wake, and he did.
So it was no less than fifteen years that he was asleep, and when he did, no one noticed when he woke. He stood, suddenly knowing that he must find the Queen, for he knew deep in his heart that she was real.
Now when he left the town, some asked, “Where did Cron of the Forge go?” And the villagers, in their foolishness, thought some goblin had taken him, and were very sad, but that was not the end of it, for Cron’s brother, younger than he by two years, was very distraught, and set out to find him. Of him perhaps in another story you will hear of, for his name was Helm, and later he became known as Helm the Tempered, for his cunning skills and his fiery mind in helping the Kingdom of Jewels in reclaiming their lost treasure, the Waning Rock.
But back to Cron, for he had set out of his homeland in search of the Queen who had plagued him for fifteen years. So he traveled for many years as a vagabond, merchant, blacksmith, farmer, carpenter, soldier, swordsman, and a poet, and all of these things he knew how to do but always with this, he did not know himself.
So, one fateful morning, when the clouds were low and there was a great rumbling in the sky, he gave up all of these things and found himself in a wood. And then he found himself in the center of the wood, in a very beautiful grove, and in the grove was a mighty tree, so high that its branches reached into the heavens.
Buried in the trunk of the tree was a shining sword, with a hilt that changed from one shape to another shape faster than the eye or the mind, but held the images as concrete as a mountain. So Cron, in his wonder, took the hilt of the sword and it bonded to him, and he withdrew the sword from the tree as if nothing had been holding it.
And at that moment, a great crash and a flash resounded in the sky, and Cron saw lightning streak into the top of the tree, and as the tree fell, Cron stood by the trunk, and the tree fell into pieces around him, the leaves descending like snow and the branches burning into ash before they touched the ground.
And when the Queen heard this, she screamed and she woke up in a terror, that the whole castle heard her scream. And for many minutes, all of the village and castle heard her scream, until she took two pins and blinded herself, spilling blood all over her royal bed. And then she stopped screaming, and summoned her Royal Hounds, and told them they were to engage war upon the land of Brenalin. And in the coming month, she gathered her soldiers, and engaged the land of Brenalin, burning every village and hamlet.
And Cron was waiting for the Queen in that same street where she first cursed him. He was alone, and the sword was burning with rage. Cron’s eyes lit up like the morning sun, and the Queen came forward, and threw that same curse upon Cron, but he stood his ground, and then he thrust the deep of his blade into the Queen, and she let out a scream and fell to her knees, still with the sword buried within her.
And she said, “You did this to me,” and then she died. And when she died, all of Cron’s memories came back, of his lives and his visions, and he slumped to his knees and looked at the Queen. And then he wept.
The King of Thieves
Once upon a time, there was a kingdom, and in the kingdom there was a king, who had a wife who was the queen, and a boy, who was the prince. The prince, he was very spoiled, for he had all he could desire – nice clothes, animals and pets to play with, good food to eat, and many, many friends. But when the prince was eleven years old, his kingdom fell to civil strife, and the crown atop the king’s head broke. The prince watched as men killed his father and his mother in front of his eyes, and as he was hidden, he ran away into the night and dropped the title of prince and became a roamer in the streets. He disappeared forever.
After the kingdom was changed, no one could think of what to call it. For it had no name, only the Kingdom of Temus, who was the previous king, but now the name kept changing, from the Kingdom of Green Hills to the Kingdom of Many Temples to the Kingdom of Bronze, but no name stuck. As well, no king stayed, for every few years the king would be overthrown and another would rise.
Meanwhile, in the Great City of Thanos, many thieves arose from the shadows, and the city became known as Thanos of the Thieves. And one great thief arose, who called himself Duradin of the Thieves. Duradin claimed to have been given powers of thievery from a sleeping woman who gave Duradin the Rain Dagger and the Amulet of Air, and then he claimed to have been taught his skills by the Elder Thief Rangan, before he died.
Now some called Duradin the King of the Thieves, for his name above all others was remembered into the legends. It is said he stole countless treasures and caused numerous revolutions. It is said he overthrew ten kings and in their throne, he would always put their crown, broken and twisted beyond recognition.
For one very wicked king, it is said Duradin stole the Axe of Klevar and smote the throne in two. And many more like this.
And in time, the kingdom became known as the Kingdom of Duradin, or the Kingdom of Thieves. But there is one last story I must tell.
For Duradin did not always remain a thief. In his heart, he knew he was much more, so one day he traveled away from his kingdom to a land where beauty is queen, and he fought a battle with one of the Man-Beasts. In the battle, he lost both his Rain Dagger and his Amulet of Air, but he defeated the mighty Man-Beast, and took home a wife who was very beautiful. And Duradin was very happy. And he had many children.
The tale is told in the storyhouses of a prince who fled into the night and became a thief, and then stole the heart of his kingdom, but even all the power he had could not be quenched save by love and a family. And so Duradin’s children, the family Ninear (which means shadow), continues to live, and the name of Duradin and the Kingdom of Duradin has passed into the legends.
The Mask of Terach
Once upon a time, there lived a carpenter in the Kingdom of Scith, who was but a lowly carpenter who worked for the king to build such things as tables, cabinets, beds, and chairs. He was not very bright, nor was he clever, but he was very wise, and he knew things about men that men don’t know, like why a man beats his wife, or why a child bursts into tears. But as he was a carpenter, his wisdom held only how to make a table that would stand or a chair that would sit, and every carpenter knows these things. So he was ordinary, you might say.
Well, one day when the moon was bright, he walked into the night market (for which Scith was quite famous for) and he happened upon a booth that his wisdom told him should not be at the night market, for behind the stall was a very, very old man with silver teeth, and when he smiled, which he did a lot, you could see your face thrown back at you twisted and turned. For the man was one of the Terach, or the wandering sorcerors, and they were reknown for being extraordinary thieves and villains, but the carpenter knew better, for he saw a poor old man who was very lonely. But in the Kingdom of Scith, all Terach were outlawed, and if he was caught, the poor old man would be thrown from the Tower of Heaven into the sea with ten swords of iron tied to his feet.
So the carpenter knew something was wrong, and when he entered the canopy of the tent, he knew he should not, but he felt strangely compelled. And as soon as he entered the tent, he became very frightened and made to turn back and found nothing.
For the night market had vanished, the castle had vanished, indeed, the Kingdom of Scith had vanished. Instead, he found himself on a high mountain, and the wind bit at his hair and tore at his clothes. And so he turned back and found himself facing a terrible monster, one of the Taakashur, a horned eagle with blue eyes and a tail like a phoenix. The eyes of the Taakashur glowed like a blue flame, and the claws clicked, and the beast spoke in a language more beautiful than any other language could have been.
“Only the noblest of your race could enter my tent, and so you are here.” And the carpenter, whose name was Jenan, spoke and said, “You desire a king or a queen, not me, for I am but a carpenter, stupid and frightened, and cannot possibly be this you speak of.”
“You are the wisest of your race, and so shall it come to pass that you will no longer be called Man Jenan, but the Rhuan Jenan.”
The carpenter Jenan had heard such stories, when men are transformed into the beasts of the field, but he had not truly believed them. And with that, he began to feel a great pain, and the world lost all color. He began to smell the fields, the flowers, and the scent of mouse and bird and the tiny beasts. He felt his muscles gain in strength, and his teeth seemed to stretch.
And then he lay on the ground, whimpering a little, and howled, for he was now a Rhuan and knew at that moment his fate had been sealed. And he said, “Why have you done this to me?” But the Taakashur was no longer there. Instead, the Rhuan Jenan heard a voice in his head, and it seemed to repeat, “Search for the City of Shade, and within it, the Tarl of Wisdom, for in the wisdom you will discover the shadow of your being.”
And so he departed, loping through wood and plain, hunting rabbits and dogs and wolves, and coming to city after city, wandering the streets of each city, the hallways of each castle, the dungeons of each keep, and he continued to search. And you may ask, how was he to do this?
The Rhuan are a very special people, for they are like the Taakashur in being legendary. For they look like giant wolves, with a beautiful coat of pearl, and the whitest of eyes. Their jaws are like mighty fists of daggers, and when they open their mouths, even lions are afraid. For they are holy creatures, and the only man who can see a Rhuan is one who has tasted death and been brought back, and there are few of those indeed.
And so he searched every shadow, and finally he came to the City of Shade, and within it there was no people but only shadows of people called the Saen, who lived on and on, only to discover they have died, and they continually roam the streets like lost children. And the Rhuan Jenan was very sad, but when they saw him, they moved against him, flashing their dark teeth and cruel hands. And the Rhuan Jenan knew he could not kill one, or their anger would grow, but he also knew he must find the Tarl of Wisdom, and so he ran, and as he ran through the people of shadow, he bled for their claws were sharp, and the Rhuan’s blood spoiled the streets.
Now the City of Shade stretched out along a mountain, and the Rhuan Jenan kept running, all the way to the top, dying a little more with every step. And at the top was a beautiful temple, that seemed to be glowing like the sun amid all the shadows. And so the Rhuan Jenan stepped inside.
Inside was a man who wore robes of black and grey, and whose face could not be seen. And when he saw the holy Rhuan approach him, he said, “So the Angels have finally sent a warrior?” And he spit onto the ground. And he took a mask from a table of many masks and put it over his shadowed face and he became an ancient beast, whose eyes wickered like fire and whose tail was like a storm of light. And he roared, but the Rhuan Jenan was not afraid, for he saw only a poor old man with silver teeth who was lonely.
And then the voice of the Taakashur said in his head, “He must die, and so release the people of the City of Shade.” And the Rhuan Jenan felt a great sadness, for the old man needed a friend, not death, but he heard the cries of the shadows beneath. His blood still flowing, he sprang forward through the ancient beast and tore the throat from the old man, and there was not even a scream. And the Rhuan Jenan was then very tired and dropped to the temple and slept.
When he awoke, the temple had crumbled to dust around him, and the city had also crumbled into ruins. But he was still the Rhuan Jenan, and knew he would always be. But something had happened, for on the path when he walked, the people would stop and stare, their eyes like curious orbs, and they would see his beauty and their hearts would be lifted. And so he lived.
Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Alaria, once a year when the night was the longest night of the year, a fair called the Midnight Fair was held, when all manner of people with gifts dark and unholy brought them out for entertainment.
It happened that two young men, brothers, came to the Fair on one of these longest nights, and they walked into a tent where a lady who looked kind enough to be their mother, sat behind the table. She was somewhat full, and you could tell she used to be beautiful, but now as age crept on her that beauty was fasting into dust. On her fingers were rings, some fat rings with the huge bespeckled eyes of jewels, and some small rings, tiny rivulets and stars of crystal and diamond.
Now she saw that these two brothers loved each other very much, and she brought a golden cae lined with dragons, and inside the case gleamed two rings. She said, “There are the rings of the Lost Twins of Saith, who were once known as the bravest warriors of any land, and when they wore these rings, it was said they could feel the heart of the other, that they could see through the eyes of the other, and that they could touch what the other touched, and they were a marvel to behold, for their knowledge was infinite, their strength doubled, and their hearts unfolded.”
So the brothers thought it over, and thought the rings a very ingenious invention, bought them, and put them away until after the fair, for it was known that the fair was magical and on dark nights, magic went astray.
So on the next morrow, the brothers tried on the rings, and saw that the magic was indeed true. It was an immense feeling, like being born again twice over, for their senses became tuned, they felt the strength in their arms swell, and they could feel the thoughts of astonishment from each in both. And the basked in the warmth of this new gift, and so they lived for many days, living out each other’s lives.
But one day, the brothers came together and tried to remove the rings, for they had felt too much novelty could be a bad thing. But the rings would not come off. Try as they might, the rings seemed to be a part of their fingers now. When they tried to remove the rings by force, it was like pulling skin, and it hurt very much because the pain was double.
And the brothers grew very angry with each other, and this anger was also doubled. This anger turned to rage, and soon the brothers departed company, sworn to each other not to look into the other’s life. But they could not. Looking into the other was like breathing now. And over time, they became used to it, and everything they did, they did together, even across continents. And silently, they both cursed the woman who sold them the rings.
One day, one of the brothers fell in love, and this bothered the other brother, but he said nothing, for he was a long ways off, doing his work with some happiness. And then his brother began to have children, and this also bothered the other brother, for he knew what happened when one had children. So the brother left his work, to find the husband and wife and children, for he could not go on.
When he came to their home, he first saw the wife outside the house, and immediately he felt a longing for her that he had never felt. And he rushed to her with his arms held wide, and he held her very tight. She was very scared, and she called out, and her husband came out and dragged his brother off her. He was crying like a baby, and so they both sat down and decided that they must remove the rings, and the next morning they set off, determined to find the witch woman. And for many years they were on the road, looking for the woman, but she was always on the move.
Until one day, when they came to the Kingdom of Sarene, they found her in her tent with the many rings and when she saw them she was frightened and turned into a bird and flew away. But the brothers would not give up, and they grabbed two horses and chased after the bird, and then the bird turned into a wolf, and the brothers fought back, and then the wolf turned into a rabbit and tried to run to the fields. But the brothers sense of smell and sight was too good for the witch woman, and they chased her all the way to the mountains, where she finally became a storm, and sent the mountain falling upon the two brothers in a desperate hope to kill them.
And they withstood that, and after the storm they found the old woman naked, shivering on the snow. “I am sorry,” she said, and then she died. And as she died, they felt the power of the ring loosen, and the rings turned to dust, and suddenly the brothers were very tired.
And they walked home, speaking much of the last years, and continued their lives. And the story lived on through their children, and children’s children, for the witch was known as the Queen of Souls, and she had finally been brought down by the brothers Rand and Fien, who later became known as the Witchslayers, but only in legend. And the names Rand and Fien became known in legends as protection against evil.
The Fall of Tialin
Once upon a time, there lived a king by the name of King Thulas, who ruled over the most beautiful kingdom in the land, called Tialin. Tialin was upon an island, surrounded by jungle and trees and mountains and rivers, and was also known for having the most beautiful men and women in the entire land.
But one day, King Thulas looked outside his window and he felt the clouds go dark, and lightning reigned upon the land. He saw the ornate towers fall, the mountains torn to fire and the villages crumble to ash, and the people, both rich and poor, curled in their beds, in much pain and sorrow, and then the king saw his own fall, as figures dressed in jade and ruby and carrying blades of obsidian and bronze entered his hall and shattered his crown into dust. And then the king awoke, and was very afraid. And he looked outside his window and saw the peace of Tialin, and he saw the beauty of the mountains, the majesty of the jungle, the trees, flowers, rivers, and all that lay in his power, and he wept so hard that much of the kingdom could hear his tears.
And so the next morning, the King Thulas went down to the darkest corner of his castle, into the hidden passageways and past the curious traps, through the ancient palaces that lay below his castle, for many hours and hours, and perhaps a whole day he walked until he came to the Hall of Orthas, and he knelt before the altar and asked for strength, and then out of his robes he withdrew a dagger and placed it on the altar, for this was his royal dagger, which gave him the crown. And then he abruptly left, leaving his kingdom on the altar of Orthas, and fled back to the castle.
His advisors asked him what he meant to do, for they knew where he had gone, and had tried to persuade him against it. But he said nothing, and then left the kingdom in their charge, and he did not worry for they were worthy advisors and together would be apt rulers, just as he was. and so he came to his Hall of Conquerors, and removed the great sword from the mantle, and he left the castle.
Now he traveled for many days as a common swordhand, keeping his disguise and using his craft along the road. And finally after some time he came to the Mountain Wall, and he entered the tunnel, which led to a cave, which led to the Sealed Room, which had protected Tialin for centuries against the evils of the world. And so the king spoke the words and left his kingdom.
Now deep in Tialin’s forest, a peculiar type of creature existed. They were called Elan, and they were one of the fairest folk of the land, for they were often tokens of luck and good fortune, but they stayed in their forest land most of their lives and dared not journey away. However, one of these Elan was very sick, for she had said she saw a great evil engulf the lands and burn the forests, and then one day this Elan went into a deep sleep, and the other Elan cried out misery. For this surely meant bad fortune, but they waited, hoping for this Elan’s waking. But she not only continued to sleep, but she began to change. Her limbs grew longer as the days passed, her hair turned from gold to black, and from her back sprouted the most beautiful wings on any creature, for they glowed like fire on water. And the Elan grew afraid, and they tried to wake her, and she awoke. And as she opened her eyes, they glowed like all colors, and her wings shimmered, and she stood higher than any Elan, for she was more like a human now. And from her mouth, she tranfixed the elan, and she raised her face to the world, and the village turned to fire, and the elan of that particular wood vanished into death.
And she, who called herself Gloriana, the Star Spoken, traveled to the Room of Seals in the Mountain Wall, broke the seal with a single swipe of her hand, and then sung the song which can only be uttered by the Star-Born. And from the broken seal all manner of creatures swarmed, beautiful and hateful, but all a wonder to behold. And she swept down the country of Tialin, burning villages and calling the mountains to fire. But then she heard a horn, mighty like her own song, and she grew afraid. And on the horizon, she saw the Sword of Conquerors, and it glowed as bright as the sun, and the King Thulas and his mighty army swept down into battle and clashed with the demons, and blow after blow, afraid of the Sun of Thulas, the demons were thrown back to the Mountain Wall, slain and bedraggled, and the Elan Gloriana, the Star Spoken, fought with Thulas, her hands like two bright daggers of light, her song a horrible thing to hear, but Thulas pressed on, until her army had been torn into pieces and only Thulas and Gloriana faced each other in the Sealed Room, which was broken.
And he said, “You knew it would come to this,” and she shrieked, her face now ugly with anger. And she asked like a jagged wind, “How did you know?” And he said, “For you told me, sweet Elan, in my dreamings of the day.” And the king spoke the words which threw up the seal once again, and then he said, “Begone, Gloriana, the Star Spoken, and return never to my kingdom!” And she cried out, “No! If I am to die, then so shall the Kingdom of Tialin, and she shall become but a memory in the sands of time,” and as he swung his mighty blade of fire, she sung and danced and swung her hands of light. And then both of them fell to the floor of the cave, and were felled by each other.
But the king’s men rushed to aid him and brought him back to the castle, while Gloriana, dying in the Mountain Wall, undid the seal with the last of her breath. And the King Thulas told his advisors he would die, and with him gone, the seal would remain open forever, and so he told his advisors how to rule, and then he died.
And so the Kingdom of Tialin was open to the world, but the last boon of the king to his people was the gift of rule, and Tialin lived a good, long life, ruled by the kings of Thulas, for many, many years.
The Gate of Dreams
Once upon a time, a prince had a great secret. Now he was in love with a beautiful princess, who also loved him very much, and they were to be wed in one year, following the Festival of the Black Cape, held only in the Kingdom of Anais, where they were to rule.
But the prince was discovered, and he was taken away, to a prison in the far north, to die as a traitor. His father wept great tears when he found out the secret of his son, and the princess was heartbroken, for the secret was so deadly to the kingdom that none but the king would ever know. For the king had sent his son himself, and the king’s word was law.
But when the princess finished her mourning, she was furious and demanded to be told of what his crime was, but none would say, for none knew, and when she questioned the king, he would not even speak to her, for he had grown very sick and could not speak. And so she set off on a horse, and departed to the north by herself, to save the prince.
She passed through village after village, and all the people saw her and recognized her, for she was one of the most beautiful creatures of the Kingdom of Anais and they all respected her, and they all remarked how she was going off to her death, for now many believed that the only crime the prince could have committed was to be the bastard son of an enchantress or be a horrible beast, for only of those could a royal be sent to the Prison of White, where it is said to be of snow and ice all year round, and cold like a bone.
As she moved further north, she found instead of villages, she came to more and more ruins, old castles and fortresses and villages long abandoned. She also noticed the sky disappear, replaced by a stretch of white ice and crystal, and she drew her heavy clothes on and became a shadow against the icy waste.
And as she came to the Prison of White, she saw why it was feared so, for hundreds of towers of smooth steel, like swords, rose up from the snow as if to pierce the sky. And so at every door, she slammed the sword of her father, the Sword of Gregar, and the lock flew off like she was cutting through chaff, and she ascended, and did not find the prince, and so she continued through every tower. She found no prisoners, and no prince. But she continued.
But at one tower, nothing particular about it, when she came to the top, there was a door and she raised her sword and cleaved the door, and it fell apart like matchsticks. And she stood amazed, for on the tower, beyond the door lay a verdue of green hills bright as sun-grown jade and trees with the colors of the rainbow and leaves smooth as silk. And she watched this, enchanted, and then lowered her sword and she called out to her prince.
And far away, she discerned a city of crystal and amethyst, that hung in the air, and she saw her prince, and he spoke to her, “Come into Adytum my love, and we shall be together forever.”
But she could not at such faith, and so the prince continued, “If you pass through those gates of green, you can never return to the world, and forever you will be with me in the land of dreams.” And she still would not move, and on the grass, she saw beasts stranger than she had ever seen, and she saw a sun and a sky that was perfection, and she wept. And she cried out, “What enchantment has trapped you, my love? How can I free you of it?” And tears were on her face now, and she saw they were like crystals.
She saw the city come closer, as if riding on clouds. And the prince spoke to her and said, “This is the land of Adytum, where nothing dies and all is born. Pass through the green gates and come to me.” And then she felt the prince’s hands on her own, and went over them to make sure they were his, and then he was standing next to her, and he said, “Come,” and she dropped the sword onto the coldness of the tower prison and she went with him, vanishing forever in the land of dreams.
And so it was found out later that in whispers, after the king’s death, the prince was deathly sick, and some say the king could never give his throne to a boy who could not live, and so he did the only thing he could and sentenced his son to a traitor’s death. But others say that the prince was sent to the fabled land of Adytum, so that he could not die, and later, many adventurers sought to find the gate to Adytum in that steel tower. But when they came to the Sword of Gregar, it lay on the cold floor, but of a door, none there were. Only an empty prison cell.
The Beggar of Samos
Once upon a time, there lived a little boy in the house of his father, a very beautiful house, for his father was quite wealthy, and gave the boy all manner of things, from exquisite horses and swords, to fabulous clothes. But one day, his father was arrested and locked away in prison, and his son was adopted by a woman who lived in a cottage on the outside of town, along with several other children.
Now this woman was very cruel to the boy, for she believed that the sins of the father passed onto the children, and she always berated him, calling him stupid and useless, tearing his spirit down. And when the little boy turned seventeen years old, he ran away from the woman, and he held much hate in his heart for both her and his father, who he was told was of the worst sort: a liar, thief, and bad man.
The young man tried to get a job, but he was always thrown out. For many years, he stayed to the streets, but too often he found himself in a cell, and then released with nothing to his name.
Eventually the streets adopted him, and you could see his face in the dirt, begging for money, for one more drink to ease away his pain or bring some temporary giddiness to his dour life. And his face, that of some thirty- year old, had aged horribly, and his hair had grown out, so he looked like an old man.
One day, he discovered a small stone in his hand, and he felt the warmth of the stone immediately. And a voice told him, “This is the stone of the Elder God Samos; swallow this and beg no more.” And when the beggar looked up, his benefactor had vanished, and only the stone remained. And he looked at the stone and thought nothing of it, for the stone was just a pebble, like those of the street.
So the beggar put the stone in his pocket, and thought no more of it. He did enjoy the warmth of the stone, and when he felt very cold, he often held the stone in his hands, and perhaps he considered it good luck.
But one day when the weather was very coarse, windy and chill, he stood on the road begging, when a man kicked him and laughed. And he yelled back, and the man attacked him, and the beggar was bloodied and hurt, and he cried his woes in the shadows of an alley. He felt as if life was not worth then pain, an thought that he should swallow the pebble, for maybe it should kill him, for he could not feel worse than he did. So he swallowed the stone.
And when he swallowed the stone, he felt a strange power come over him. The world appeared more lucid, and he saw the secrets of the shadows, and he stood then, his body like new. And all of the days of his begging faded like a dream, for his arms and his legs felt like they could topple mountains. And so he swung his fist against the walls of the alley, and the ground shook, and where his fist had gone, there now was a dark, gaping hole of bricks, and the building looked like it had lost a mouth of teeth. And the beggar stood amazed.
So he walked into the street and saw a block of stone that lay for horses to be tied to. And he gripped the stone and lifted the stone as if it were only a block of wood. And the people cried out when they saw this, and they began to whisper.
The news soon reached the king, of a beggar who could lift mountains, and right away the king sent for the beggar, who fought and killed a number of soldiers before they convinced him they meant no harm. And the people were very afraid, but the king knew the price for which the mighty had. And the beggar was brought before the king.
And the king told him if he could beat his champion, then the beggar would become the king’s new champion. And so they fought and the beggar crushed the champion as if champions were only boys with sticks. And the beggar was renamed Julas, and he became the most known warrior for one hundred years, and in every battle Julas was at the front, leading victory, and in every challenge he bested his opponent.
But one day, when Julas was walking with the king in the Dungeon of Druve, deep below the surface of the earth, which kept the most dangerous of men, a man grabbed his leg, and Julas looked to whom it belonged, and a voice told him in the dark, “So you did partake the Stone of Samos.” Now Julas was very afraid, for he had told no one of the stone. And the king, who only walked these halls so that the criminals may know their glorious benefactor, and who rarely stopped, stopped and asked Julas what was wrong.
And Julas, mostly humble, demanded of the king, “Who is this man?” And the king replied that this prisoner was the one known as the Blight of Illuvian, who stole the sacred stone of the Elder God Samos and put a decade of pain on the Kingdom of Illuvian. For none knew his true name, only that he was one of the greatest thieves on the earth. And Julas demanded that the prisoner show his face, and when he did, Julas could not speak, for it was his father.
And a great love and pity overtook Julas, and when love and pity are combined with remorse, we become not of ourselves. So great tears welled up in Julas’s eyes, and he gripped the man through the bars and said, “Why did you leave me alone?” And perhaps the man was smiling before in the dark, but now a great shame covered his face, and he crept back into the darkness. And Julas grew angry and ripped the bars from the ground, and the whole dungeon shook as if in quake.
The king’s eyes widened in horror, for he saw Julas lose himself to some unknown emotion, and ordered his soldiers to stop Julas. But he did not, for he plowed through the dungeon, grabbed his father, and pummeled through the guards, until they surrounded him and Julas was bleeding rivers of blood. But he continued, dragging his father behind him, and he left the dungeon, and fled into the mountains, his grip never lessening. And in the mountains, he collapsed like a wounded bear, and his father held him closely, and Julas wept.
“Why did you leave me?” Julas wept, and his father said nothing, but held him even tighter.
“What will happen now?” Julas asked, and his father smiled then, and said, “You are free. You can do anything you wish.”
And Julas asked, “What is your name?” And his father was surprised, but said, “Ghanis.” And Julas said, “Then let us leave this land and find a new life elsewhere.” And so they departed, never to be heard of again in that land, although there were many more stories of them in other lands, of the thief who stole from the gods and of the warrior who could crush mountains.
Once upon a time, a young boy had a dream of a beautiful white chapel, nestled in the woodlands of a mighty vale, and the presence of the holiest spirits dwelt there in the chapel. And the chapel was like a white pillar, glowing in the fronds of the wood, and the spirits sung like larks on a clear morning. But then he heard the sound of dark shadows, and outside was the shrillest sound he ever heard, and then the front door of the chapel burst apart, severed into splinters by the most beautiful sword the boy had ever seen. And a most evil being, composed of shadows, wielded the blade, and the being made all other dark things seem harmless, for it was like an invisible fire composed this creature, made of darkness and the sublime. And the creature began to thrash the chapel, its sword flashing holy vengeance upon the ivory interior, shattering the church into ruins. and the young boy in his dream looked closer, and saw the face of the shadow being, for it was his own, and he awoke and lay stunned and still in his bed for many hours.
And so the boy grew up in a fine man, but the dream troubled him so, but like all things that trouble us, he pushed the dream far, far back, and thought of only good things. And so one day, when he was of age, he set off on a journey to claim his life, eager to make a living and support his family at home. He found himself in the service of a royal court, and during his time, he rose up the ranks to some importance, some mighty even say, too important, for many were jealous of his position and sought his place, but he was a strong, clever man, and stayed his mind and body in service to his king.
One day, the king sent him on an errand, and he traveled by boat to the Sacred Isle of Ash, and o the voyage some had traveled with him who meant him ill. And during one supper, they poisoned his food, but they had mixed the poison wrong, and he felt his insides burning away but his life still remained. He grew enraged and attacked his poisoners, but during the fight he knocked over a lantern and set fire to the ship. The ship sank, and the sailors drowned, for the voyage was never to be heard of again, but the man fell to the bottom of the sea, still strangely alive and dying at the same time. And he was in much, much pain, and cried out, and the whole ocean heard his plea.
And so one of the Lords of the Sea, the beast called Tartalik, came to the man and told him he would save his life in return for service to him, and the man agreed and his life was saved, and in return for his service, he was given the Sword of Riven, forged out of seaglass and sealight and the gold of Tartalik. And as soon as the man embraced the sword, he felt the dream come back to him, and Tartalik knew at once this was his own doom, for the man took the sword and cut the Lord of the sea in twain like the wind upon the water, and the immortal Tartalik died.
As time went on, the man became known as the Godslayer, for he swept through the sea, destroying all of the Lords of the Sea. The whole ocean was afraid of him, for within him the Sword of Riven gained a new power, and he himself changed, but inside, he only felt the pain of the dream, and he did not know why, but he kept pushing towards it, destroying all in his path.
And when he had destroyed the Lords of the Sea, he fled onto land and began to destroy the behemoths of the desert and the dragons of the mountains and the serpents of the plain and the giants of the wood, until he came to the white chapel in the hills. And at once, he grew a pain most horrible and yelled out, rushing to the door and smashing then door into splinters. And he stepped through and began to smash the chapel to ruins, and then he stopped and heard the voices for he remembered them from his dream. And he fell to peace, and lowered his sword. The shadows rushed about him, and he heard the cries of the gods he had slain, for they were with him, cloaking him in darkness. But from outside, he heard the voices, and became calm. And the darkness disappeared, and the man wept bitterly and lay down the sword.
And as soon as he dropped the sword, he felt his life come back and the dream fade. And he walked out of the castle like a ghost, and disappeared.
But the Sword of Riven still lay in the chapel, and since then, no godslayer has appeared. But it is said that the godslayer is still wandering those fronds of green, unable to die, and also unable to live until he holds up the sword of Tartalik once again in servitude. For it is also said that this was the tithe of Tartalik, and his revenge against the gods for sending him to the darkness of the sea, and his revenge was to be death by the hands of a mortal who could not die.
Children of the Giver
Once upon a time, there lived an old woman in a house on one of the main thoroughfares of the city of Trevain, a mighty and beautiful port city, one of the grandest ports in the land. And the ruler, a queen whose husband had died, ruled the land, one of the harshest queens in the city’s long history. She was known for not being kind, and cruelty seemed all too common a favor she bestowed.
One day as she walked the streets of her city, the old woman was also walking the streets. Now the old woman was very, very old, and her name was Liza, but in earlier times she was known as Lalania, the Eastern Wind. But age had dawned upon her, and the years did not see her well. She was perhaps, happy, in that she lived with a cat, and a few friends of her own devising, but on that very morning when she and the queen clashed, she was not feeling very good, for her cat was sick, and she had fallen while trying to chase it throgh her house to treat it. In fact, she had just come back, on her way home, from the medicine shop, with powder for her cat.
Now, the queen was harsh and cruel, but she was also distressed, and very sick in her mind. She was much too proud to admit this, and for this reason she stole outside the castle at certain times to find medicine for her headaches. And this one day, she happened to enter the medicine shop just as Liza was leaving, and poor old Liza was not watching and collided with the queen. And the queen was very angry, and would not help the old woman up, who had fallen to the ground, and her medicine spilled all across the street. And old Liza was terribly shaken and furious, for the queen had only said wrong things to her and she said so, and the queen was enraged, forgetting everything, cursing the old woman, and then foolishly proclaimed she was the queen. Liza grew very silent, and then threw the darkest of spells on the queen. And she fell onto the floor of the shop, asleep. And Liza gathered up her medicine, and went home to heal her cat.
And so it was known that the Queen Elanor of the Kingdom of Darkness, who ruled in the city of Trevain, became known as the Queen of Dreams, for she lay on her crystal and cloth bed, asleep for hundreds and hundreds of years, perfect in likeness, and the skies of Trevain became engulfed in a forever darkness, where the sun never rose and the stars gave the only light until the moon would come, signalling the coming of true night.
Now one day, when the castle cook’s children were walking about the castle, for they played quite often in the dark hallways and whispered anterooms, they came upon the Queen of Dreams, and they saw her face shining with ageless beauty, and a great longing came over them.
So the next day, they asked their father the castle cook how she was to be woken, and he told them they were foolish to be asking such questions, but really they should ask the castle librarian. So the children went to the librarian, who was a wise old man and spoke like his voice had been crushed by a giant, and he told them of a song the minstrels sang when they passed through the Kingdom of darkness.
Beyond the river, beyond the door, lies the book of the giver who talks like stone, and on the morrow of darkest night, beyond the cave that swims in light, the sun lies hid, amid its flight, and whosoere but speaks the words, the Giver shall give the light to lord.
And the children listened and became entranced, and began to construct a plan to wake the queen, but they were but children, and could not even leave the palace. So they kept this dream a secret in their hearts, and they sang the song, and dreamed of the sun.
So they grew up, and when they were old enough, they spoke again of the sun, and the brother and sister still both desired to see the sun and hear the queen’s voice. For it was said that the queen was hid away never to be seen, for one look upon her face would send anyone on a mad quest to discover the sun, and the children, by accident, happened upon her face and became enchanted. And the father, he knew but said nothing for he knew just as the night would never leave, so his children would be enchanted forever until they saw the sun rise over the city of Trevain.
They left the city and followed the night into taverns and inns and storyhouses, and listened to the minstrel tales of far-off lands and the absent sun. They went to the night festivels, and to the village streets, and to the stone fortresses where sea-warriors sat in circles, played ancient games, and spoke of their travels. And they traveled far, far, and further, and then they found a cave by a river, which inside was a door. And they knew they had found the location, and their hearts stirred. And they sung all of the songs, and the door opened.
And so they entered the door and found themselves in an immense cavern, with a lake of fire. And before the lake of fire was a book, upon a stone pedastal. And they read from the book, and the cavern shook as if waking up. They continued to read, and they felt a great pain, but the song of the enchantment grew and grew to outweigh the pain, and they spoke the words. And as they finished the reading, the sun rose from the lake, and floated up and up into the cavern, and both the brother and sister saw the beauty of the sun, and then they saw the cavern, for it was covered in pictures that moved, and the sun lit all of these pictures and the brother and sister saw all of this and then understood.
So then the sun broke free from the cavern, and the pictures were shattered into nothing. The cavern turned to ruins about them, and they saw the beauty of the blue sky. And then they could see no more, for the sun had inflicted the deadliest of wounds upon then, and they became as blind as the night.
And so it is told of the Children of the Giver, the wisest people to ever sit upon the earth, who saw the stolen knowledge of Lalania, the Eastern Wind, who was so afraid of the knowledge that she exiled herself from it and became an old woman, to die alone by her cats, and how the children of the castle cook discovered the sleeping queen, and then discovered the cavern of the Eastern Wind and became the wisest people to ever sit upon the face of the earth, which they could never see, for they were blind. And so the legends continue.
Of the queen, she awoke and repented, and became one of Trevain’s greatest rulers, kind and merciful and strong. And the Kingdom of Darkness thereafter became known as the Kingdom of the Sea and Sun.
The Feint of the Moon
Once upon a time, there were two sisters who fell asleep and never woke up, until they died and their bodies disappeared on the same night the moon disappeared, which did not return for one hundred years.
Now one of these girls was very beautiful and the other was very ugly. They both worked in the Castle of Gun for the King Dhamos, and they both worked in the scullery. One was named Ramia, and the other, Lalania.
This first story is of Ramia the Beautiful, whose golden hair hung like a sunset and whose eyes glistened like blue diamonds. One day, she and her sister Lalania, who also worked in the scullery, had an argument, a most horrible argument, for Lalania had a terrible gift – foresight of things to come, and she told her sister of their future, but she would not hear it and escaped upstairs, to her small room and cried and cried and cried. For Ramia also had a terrible gift – she could hear voices – the voices of thoughts and perhaps, not what was to come, but what already was. And during the night, she took a lantern and a heavy coat and escaped into the forest, the only place where the thoughts could not beseige her. In the forest were only the purest of voices – those of the animals. For they spoke no lies, nor tempted fate. And so she crept beneath a tree and wept, for she knew her sister could speak no untruth.
In the sky, the clouds were absent, and the lone moon shone like a nightflower, bearing down the horrible silver light upon everything. And the stuff of the wood began to stir, and Ramia knew that no one could escape her sister’s visions, not even her, one of the same blood. And then the forest rose to many sounds, of birds calling and deer running, of the swift passing of animals like a tiny wind. And the sounds of insects and owls and wolves and frogs and stranger sounds even still.
And then, from out of the darkness, the animals descended, and a chorus so mighty blooded the soft ground of the forest, and Ramia saw her lantern swallowed by the throng of beasts, and ignite the wood in flame. And her heart quickened.
She stood still, taken by the animals rushing around her, and she heard the sound of her fate through them, and she heard her sister’s voice as clear as if she were standing next to her. and she felt the fire envelop her, and she cried out.
When Ramia awoke, she lay in a bed, and when she tried to open her eyes, she hurt greatly. “Hush now,” a voice said to her, “You have been badly hurt.”
Now this was the Prince Galios, the son of the King Dhamos, and he had tended over Ramia the entire night, washing her ashen face, cleaning her wounds, and then being amazed by the beauty he saw come out of every part of her. He had been hunting in the wood in the dark, for this was a hobby of his, and when all the animals began to move, he followed and found the fire, and before it could destroy the woman, he stepped in and grabbed her, badly burning himself, but he thought, well worth the price of some hunting clothes.
And for some time, she remained in the bed being tended by the Prince Galios, and whenever he asked her name she refused, but she well knew of him. And he did not leave her side, even when she could see, even when she could speak, even when she could walk, he continued to be with her. And eventually she told him her name was Ramia, but she never told him from where she came. For she could hear the prince’s love for her, and she desired to never lose that love, even though he could say nothing to her for he was a prince.
And then one day, the prince approached her and said, “For many months, I have been in quarrel with my father on who to marry. And I have convinced him to let me marry whom I wish. And it falls to you; will you marry me, and I shall be yours for the rest of our lives?” And at this she was most impressed and gladly said yes. And so they were married. And so they lived for many years together, the Prince Galios and Princess Ramia. And Lalania remained in the scullery, probing fate.
Now Lalania, who was very ugly, was in the scullery, could not really care where her sister was, for she was always enveloped in dreams. During the day and night and her dreams, she was always overtaken by visions of the to come, and it was like a prison around her. On the night when she told her sister of the future, and she had run to the wood, she had had a dream of a sheperdess finding her lost sheep down in a gully, the gut split open by what seemed to be a knife cut, and gold and jewles of ruby and pearl spilling out of the sheep. And Lalania knew what this meant, but she did not tell her sister this dream. But she did tell her of a dream, and it was as follows.
There were two parents on a boat for new land, and the sea they rode was wild. Indeed, it was unearthly for it rose in mist and steam, and fell as it it were continually shedding its skin. And the boat was a beautiful boat, carved out of light and ice. The parents held onto two children, both girls, dressed in gowns made from gossamer, and one of the girls looked like the earth, while the other looked like the heavens.
But then the silk sea surged, and out from the waves, a horde of giants dressed in brightly shining mail rose and grabbed the two girls, and disappeared into the waves. And the boat was overturned, and the parents were no where to be found. And Lalania knew what this dream meant, and because it was such a powerful and potent dream, she told her sister. And her sister fled into the wood and became the Princess of Gun.
Now Lalania had one final dream many, many years later, which was to prove her beginning and the ending of our story here. But first, I must go back to Ramia the Beautiful, now the Princess of Gun.
There were not many happy voices in the Kingdom of Gun, to hear that the new princess was nothing in name, save her beauty, which had captured many more than only the prince. And with each day she remained as princess, she only became more beautiful, and to those who hated her for robbing them of the prince’s love, their hate only grew deeper, for not only was she not a noble, but there were many whispers that she was a peasant of the lowest class, low enough to scrub pots, and be hidden from even the servants of servants. But they did not know for sure, for it was only rumor. But the lack of class and family was enough to set them off, and they refused to be ruled by a half-breed, whoever that would be.
Now the Princess Ramia had many children. After every child, she only grew more beautiful, and her children more like angels. And her children had gifts, like her and her sister, but that is another story.
One of her children, whose name was Teian, this young man was her eldest and he had a voice that could quiet a marketplace. And when she became Queen Ramia, he became the Prince Teian, and many believed he would be the greatest king in one hundred centuries, for he spoke with a passion, and his will was like a lightning bolt. But some dissented and said they would not be ruled by a half-breed and they conspired, and they murdered him as he spoke one day, and his red blood spilled on the fruits of the marketplace, and his body fell upon the crowd. And his mother the Queen Ramia, she mourned for many, many months. And in desperation one night, while she was in mourning, she stole to the scullery and demanded why her sister had not told her of this. And her sister said, “You must be prepared, for the Shining Ones are coming.”
And when she said that, Queen Ramia’s blood filled with ice, for she knew what Lalania meant. And she went up to her bed and felt doom fall upon her like a dark horizon. And she fell asleep, unable to stay awake.
In the morning, she was gone. And strangely, a scullery woman also disappeared. That night, a force of soldiers raided the castle, and overthrew the King Galios, and the children escapes with their father the king, and in later legends became known as the Children of Galios, or the Shining Ones. That night, the moon burned down upon the castle, and it was so full, so bright, that the Castle of Gun seemed to be on fire. And the next night, and for one hundred years, the moon disappeared, and the sky was as black as oil.
The Dervish of Dakar
Once upon a time, there lived a young woman who lived in the city of Dakar, beneath the shadow of the mountain Altair and the Palace of the Sun. She was a weaver by trade, and she wove some of the most beautifiul garmets in Dakar. But one day, two eccentric people, a husband and wife, asked her to spin a hilt to a beautiful sword and knife, and they asked her to use a special silk for the weave. Now this girl was very devoted to her work, and when she received the silk, she began straight away, and a most peculiar thing began to happen, and many commented.
For her workroom was lit up day and night with strange colors, and the weaver never came out. Many began to worry, and were afraid she was too lost in her work. And then on the seventh day of her weave, the lights died, and inside was very quiet.
Some of the townspeople who knew of the girl broke down her door (for it was locked) and discovered the woman not to be found. The husband and wife had disappeared as well.
Seven days later, the Palace of the Sun, which had existed for thousands of years, fell apart like sand. The survivors of the disaster claim to have seen the spirit of a girl in the chaos, who wiueled a sword of fire and a knife of ice, and who danced through the walls of the palace like some divine flame.
Years later, after the city of Dakar fell to the winds of poverty and misfourtune, people still claim to see lights on Altair, where the Palace once stood, and a girl dancing there, lighting the shadows with the colors of the day.
The Dervish of Dakar
Once upon a time, there lived a young woman who lived in the city of Dakar, beneath the shadow of the mountain Altair and the Palace of the Sun. She was a weaver by trade, and she wove some of the most beautifiul garmets in Dakar. But one day, two eccentric people, a husband and wife, asked her to spin a hilt to a beautiful sword and knife, and they asked her to use a special silk for the weave. Now this girl was very devoted to her work, and when she received the silk, she began straight away, and a most peculiar thing began to happen, and many commented.
For her workroom was lit up day and night with strange colors, and the weaver never came out. Many began to worry, and were afraid she was too lost in her work. And then on the seventh day of her weave, the lights died, and inside was very quiet.
Some of the townspeople who knew of the girl broke down her door (for it was locked) and discovered the woman not to be found. The husband and wife had disappeared as well.
Seven days later, the Palace of the Sun, which had existed for thousands of years, fell apart like sand. The survivors of the disaster claim to have seen the spirit of a girl in the chaos, who wiueled a sword of fire and a knife of ice, and who danced through the walls of the palace like some divine flame.
Years later, after the city of Dakar fell to the winds of poverty and misfourtune, people still claim to see lights on Altair, where the Palace once stood, and a girl dancing there, lighting the shadows with the colors of the day.
The Rise of the Red King
Once upon a time, in the city of Mabruk, near the southern depths of the Asan Sea, there lived a child who ruled over the entire land, from the eastern steppes of the Altair to the eastern furls of the Asan Sea, over the Golden Plain and the Fallen Stars and the Sea of Ghosts. And this child was very evil, and he ruled for thousands of years, and he was known as the Red King, for the blood he spilled.
Now it was said in the land, that there was one woman who knew the secret of the child, and why he lived so long, and why he held so much power, but that she lay in the darkest of dungeons, deep below the earth, in the center of a great prison, with only one door. And it was said that the Red King extended her life, because he could not bear parting with her. For we all have secrets, and to live, we must keep those secrets or else we will vanish. Or so that sages have told me.
Now, on the island of Tadesh, there was the Chapel of Wind, which housed the great treasures of the fabled sailor, the ghost of the seas and a priest of Midian. For as a priest he served the seamaster Midian, who had ten eyes and was as large as an island, who could swallow ships and sink islands with his broken teeth, and this sailor, Longknife Laos, had captured the enemy of Midian, the beast Rodan, cut out the largest and sharpest tooth, and forged a sword, calling it the Sword of Rodan. And when Longknife Laos passed into the depths of Asan, he gave all of his treasure to the Chapel of Wind, on the island of Tadesh, and instructed the Midian chapel to forever protect these relics, for they were sacred to Midian and to the sea. And so the Chapel of Wind, on the rocky island of Tadesh, which is one of the easternmost islands of the lands of the Red King, founded an order called the Warriors of Midian, and for thousands of years have protected the treasures of Longknife Laos.
But one day, the Red King descended upon this remote island and plundered the Sword of Rodan, and the Chapel of Wind vowed to reclaim the item. Now this was not surprising, for the Red King often plundered the islands, to keep them in his remembrance, but to travel so far to steal only a sword seemed unlikely, and so the priests of Midian said so, and in retribution, the Red King burned the Chapel of Wind to the ground. And then they left, taking with them all of the treasures, and the priests who remained were very troubled.
At once the Warriors of Midian set off to do battle with the Red King. And they might have succeeded, except for a great storm that brewed in the sea, and the battle was scattered.
Most of the warriors on both sides descended into the sea, and it was said later in island tales of a leviathan with teeth as long as trees and as sharp as the moon, ripping throgh ships amid the storm, tearing both sides into the darkness of the sea. For it was said Midian was in rage, and sought retribution, and Midian’s wrath is great, and no one survived, not even his warriors. But of another story, some speak of, this may not be so, for thgere were, they say, three survivors: a man, a woman, and a shadow.
And so the man and woman awoke on the beach of a foreign land, one a warrior of Midian, and one a warrior of the Red King. And they were taken in by a kindly fellow, who nursed them to health, and then asked them their story, and they told him, one by one, unaware of each other for many days. And when they found out, they were very angry with one another, and wanted to kill each other, but the old man begged them to reconsider, and then he told them that a great shadow had passed over the land, and there were many stories of nightmares and fiendish thoughts. For it was said that a shadow walked the earth, who held a sword that was glossed in blood, and held nightmares about it like clothing. And the two warriors knew this must be the Sword of Rodan, and agreed to set their differences aside to find the sword.
And so they departed, searching town after town for the mysterious blade, held by the shadow. So for many years, they passed through the land, meeting a strange assortment of peoples, for this land was indeed very strange. The people were wild people, who lived in strange dwellings, spoke in strange tongues, and wore strange clothes. But unknown to the warriors, they were at peace, and sought no ill towards them. The warriors were given food and warmth, clothing and safe passage wherever they went, and they because known as the Seekers of Shadow, for the shadow was an unwelcome in this land, perhaps more so.
But finally in one town, they ate at the sleeping house, and were told of the shadow’s ascent into the Tower of Man, in the center of the Jungle of Darkness. And the Tower of Man was a grand place, and there was no one who truly knew its secret, but lights always surrounded the tower, and it was like a mountain of glass, lifting into the sky and past the clouds, and it was beautiful.
And so the warriors, Sema of the Midian Warriors and Danos of the Red King, set off to find the Tower of Man. Now by this time, they had stopped hating each other, but rather, loved each other very much. They were very close, very good friends, but they still continued this vain quest for it remained deep on their hearts, perhaps all that kept them in memory of who they were.
And when they found the Tower of Man, they were amazed, for it stretched wideside like a mountain and upward like nothing they had ever seen. And inside the Tower of Man was man – thousands of man. It was a tower of people, and upward in the tower, the thousands thronged, content and not at feud with one another. They wore lavish and alien dress, drank and ate food that looked like jewels, and walked among palms and trees and rushing water and things these warriors thought unreal. Perhaps it was an illusion, for such a thing could not exist, and yet, there they were. Partaking the air, drinking the wine, relishing the food that tasted like raw honey and sea-bred grapes.
But there was a disquiet among the people, for what they regarded as an ancient evil had reawakened, and when the warriors told them of the quest, they were told of where the shadow had fled – to the top of the tower, where time was said to stop. And so Sema and Danos ascended the tower, and found the shadow waiting, as if it had always been so.
And then, before their very eyes, the shadow disappeared, and the young image of the Red King appeared, his childish face innocent, virgin, and ageless, and he threw the Sword of Rodan towards Danos, who knelt. And the child said, “I am the dream, and you are the dreamer.”
And Danos said, “I do not understand, my lord. Instruct me as you will.” And he did not touch the sword, nor did he rise. And while he knelt, Sema saw this and grew angry, and she ran forward to the sword, to grasp it and kill her enemy who had slain her family. But as she bent to swift the blade, the child raised his arm, and Sema was thrown into the air and thrust against the wall.
“No!” the child cried. “This is not your battle, enemy of Rodan.” And then the child said, “It is time to end the dream, and begin the awakening of blood. Slay me, warrior of my own.” But Danos did not move, but said, “You know I cannot.”
And so the child grew angry, and fire was in his voice, and he, from across the room, began to kill Sema, throwing her back up to the wsall and stranging the air from her life as if an invisible force.
“Then you shall have to watch your lover die,” the child said, and Danos saw her dying, and he wept and said, “Forgive me,” and thrust the sword and rushed toward the child, his master, his king, his life. And Sema was released and the child became shadow, and then writhed into being, that of a monster whose skin was like stone, whose wings glowed like starfire, and in whose eyes spun universes. And Danos swung the sword and it lay within the chest of the great beast, and in its dying moment, it flung one of its teeth into Danos, and he screamed as if struck by the fragility of his mortality. And the beast sank and whispered, “And so Aldruis is passed on, to greater things,” and it died.
Sema rushed forward, and with all of her strength, withdrew the teeth of Aldruis from Danos, and he screamed most horribly, and then wept on her shoulder.
As they descended the tower, with Danos on Sema’s arm, none spoke to them, as if they had become like ghosts, strange and foreign. And they whispered things, but the lovers heard nothing – only the silence of what is not understood.
And so they began the long trek home, and they become bound to one another, and she became with child. And they found the coast, and set upon it, the Sword of Rodan at their side.
And they set sail, and found themselves in the heat of a storm, before mighty waves and the face of Midian. And when Danos saw Midian, he howled most horribly, gripped the Sword of Rodan, and plunged into the waves. And Sema was afraid,for she knew not what came over her husband. And then a great shriek was heard, like the cry of a hurricane, and Midian in anger caused the waves of the storm to grow louder. For Danos, Sema realized, was protecting her and their child. But the battle left Danos sunk to the bottom of the sea, and Sema and her unborn child into the unknown of the storm’s path.
And when she awoke, she was on a ship, being tended by a group of sailors, and she gave birth. And the sailors saw the beauty of her child, and were spellbound, for his eyes glowed with power, and his tiny years forced all to weep who heards him.
When Sema asked the sailors to take herself and her child to the Temple of Wind, they knew nothing, and she feared it had truly been lost forever. So she asked them to return her to the island of Tadesh, and they did, and left her there, and it was a rocky island of nothing. Not even the building stones of the old chapel. None had heard of it.
So in desperation, she desired to see safety for her child, and set upon a ship, but on the voyage, the ship was attacked by a horrible beast, and the sailors cried out that the beast must be Rodan, and from the depths of the sea, Sema heard a stirring of her heart and the tears of a love long lost in anguish, and as the ship sunk, she and her child were separated, and she continually searched for her child for many years, but he found her first.
And he put her in the darkest dungeon, in the center of the prison with only one door, and he fed her the Waters of Life which can only be found beneath the Golden Plain, and she lived forever, and he became known as the Red King, who ruled for tens of thousands of years, until one day when he dissapeared on the borderlands of his country, never to be heard of again.
And so the lands became wild, and pirates reigned upon the land, and chaos spilled like blood on a battlefield, and the Untouched rose from the desert and thus the War of Akhaso began.
The Tree Mir, a tale of the Slaver Rumiad
Once upon a time, in an old tavern on the borders of the steppes of Kuh, I met an old woman who told me the story of the only surviving forest in the desert, and of the tree that was the tallest tree in the world, which fed the Waters of Life. And then she told me the story of the sorceror, who in his home of towers and temples, hid the knowledge of the tree from all save his bloodline, who would know forever of the secret of the tree. And at such time when his bloodline was as wide as the sky, they would reclaim the empire stolen from them, for the wars that decimated the ancient kingdom thousands of years ago, was their bane.
And so we begin, for once upon a time the land flourished beautiful and green, with a tempest of trees and wind as sweet as mint. But the people on the land, like all men, were greedy and desired nothing more than power, and power is a terrible thing to desire. And so they were given what they wanted: power, and in exchange, they were to become servants to that power. The land grew weak and the wind became as odorous as ash, filling the mouths of men with death.
And in the end, the land grew as pale as skin, and as empty as the surface of the sea. But as power is given to men, such is power born of men, and the land was not. Deep below the plain of sand, life flourished, that which the men could not see. And a single tree, Mir, grew in the pit of the great mountain Kal, and it was the tallest tree in the world, and surrounding it was the forest which crept into the dreams of men. This tree fed the Waters of Life, which both preceded men and lasted them. And through the suffering of men, there became a hope born of life.
And this is also a story of the man who stood against men, for when the men grasped that power, he stood against them, but he was only one man, and although legends may tell of that single man who broke evil, he was desperately alone and his strength was like ten swords against a thousand swords. And so he receded into shadows, and he crept into the place of towers and temples, the sacred city Amun-Kal. In the ruins of this ancient city he worked his charms, and he created a flower in his blood that would spring to immortality. For this flower was the knowledge of the tree and the hope left for men.
So I asked the old woman if she was of that bloodline, and she told me she was not, so I asked her how she knew of the legend, and she told me the empire has already come to pass, an empire beneath the sands.
The Mirror of Zai: a tale of Dhavid
Once upon a time, there lived a beggar in the city of Dakar, near the Coast of a Hundred Teeth. The city of Dakar was a tired city, thriving on shadows and thieves, ruled by both the Temple of Fath and the Guild of Hashan. This beggar was called Swollen Eye, for he begged on the Street of Eyes, and he protected the image of the street for he was an ugly, ugly man, with broken teeth, a scarred face, and clothes that smelled of Darab beasts, the sand carriers. But within this beggar, he dreamed of cities with domes of golden pearls and women who attended on him, beautiful as silk birds, with voices that rang like tiny bells. He often lay beneath the steps of the street temple, listening to the roll of the priests’ voices, as they sang the hymns of Fath, and he dreamed of blue sky, fair oceans, and the rolling of wind through a vast sea of trees, and in the center, he lay on a couch, in his palace on the hill, listening to the sounds of birds sing, and drinking the Elixir of Suri, the honey drink which only the Temple Maidens can partake.
But one day, as he huddled on the surface of the dirty street, he was grabbed and thrust into the shadows. A man collapsed onto him, clutching an object. Covered in blood and breathing very quickly, he spoke to Swollen Eye: “My beautiful, beautiful, precious girl. I am sorry, sorry,” and then with one last breath, he died. Swollen Eye had the wildest look in his eye, and he pushed the dead man away. Out of his cloak fell a shiny object: a mirror.
The sound of men shouting rushed past the shadows, and Swollen Eye took the mirror and ran as fast as he could to somewhere no one would find him. And then he looked into the mirror, and he saw not his own ugly face, but that of a Prince, whose oiled hair curled like clouds and whose face shone of fresh sand, smooth and without edge. And he fell into this image, and he saw further things.
He saw a great mountain surrounded by trees, and upon the mountain was a palace that glittered like gold. Surrounding the mountain was a city of golden domes and labyrinthine streets. And within the glass windows of the palace, he saw the Prince relaxing on pillows like soft rubies, surrounded by the most beautiful women in the world, who wore starlight in their hair and sunlight on their face. And then he saw that this Prince was him, and in his hand he held a mirror, upon which was the face of a dirty, ugly man, with teeth like a reef and hair like bush. And he pushed the mirror away in disgust and surprise.
And the ladies beside him said: “Kiarash, what ails you?” And he replied: “I have had a most horrible dream, and I will not speak of it. How fares you, my darling Yass?” And the girls giggled and caressed him.
And so he hid the mirror in the Dungeon of Zai, deep beneath the mountain, and he ruled the city of Dakar with the hand and mind of a ruler blessed by the gods. His people adored him, for he gave them festivities and wealth and the beauty of a land which could be found nowhere on the earth. And in return, the people gave him trust, and sang songs for him and worshipped him as a Blessed One, given greatness by the Goddess Zahr, who loved mortals and would give them everything if not for her brother Fath, whose greed could not be quenched.
And he tore down the Temple of Fath and took the priests and blessed them to Zahr, and in years to come, the city became even more desirable. The thieves departed and disappeared into other shadows, and the city of Dakar became a glorious place.
But one day, a horrible fire broke out. The flames covered much of the city, from the Merchant Quarter to the Diamond Harbor. In his palace, Kiarash watched helplessly as the fire tore through building and street and man and woman and child. He saw with his keen eyes, families torn apart and wealth extinguished and he felt a great sadness. He spent the rest of the week in mourning for the people lost in the fire, and he retired to a quiet place.
On the first day of the week after his mourning, his guards came to him with the people responsible for the fire. Two men bound in chains and wearing the garments of Zahr, were thrown to the ground before him. And at this sight, Kiarash cried out.
He said: “You are priests of the mother of life, the lover of mortals, the sun of the gods! How could you take so many lives? How much venom is in your hearts, that you could do such a thing!”
And they replied: “We are servants of Fath, not Zahr, and these gifts of rich robes and Temple Maidens and wealth and food, they are nothing to us. Fath is the eternal enemy of Zahr, and thus we must protect the wishes of Fath.”
So Kiarash replied with tears in his heart and anger in his voice: “You know nothing of the gods! You know nothing of what is good and what is bad, and you know nothing of the love that all things contain! Did you not know that although Fath and Zahr might be enemies, they still love each other? That perhaps, when things are good, even the gods smile?”
But the men said: “We will stop at nothing until the enemies of Fath are crushed. This city belongs to Fath, and all who worship Zahr must be forced to acknowledge the truth. Even you.” And with that one of the men spoke some words and threw a field of light towards Kiarash. One of his guards, however, threw himself before Kiarash, and the guard exploded into blood and light.
When Kiarash looked up, the priest who had called forth the light lay on the ground, twitching, with a dagger in his neck. At this sight, Kiarash could not contain himself, and fled the palace in tears.
He ran down to the Dungeons of Zai, took hold of the mirror and ripped off the cloth covering. He exclaimed: “What little power this has!” And he looked into the mirror and saw the face of Swollen Eye, and then he felt the dirt on his neck and the flies on his face. He smelled the grit of the street.
And when he gathered himself, he saw he was in the old alley, except the thieves had disappeared, and the streets were garnered with flowers and trees. And he looked up and saw the golden palace on the mountain, and perhaps he understood, and perhaps he did not. Holding the mirror tightly, he ran towards the Diamond Harbor, walking through the burnt wreckage of the fire, until he came to the dock. He took out a boat, and rowing out into the sea, he stared into the mirror one last time, and saw the face of the Prince again, but at this, he broke the mirror into a thousand pieces, and saw in each of the shards of the mirror a different vision. And he was overwhelmed, and he let the shards fell to the bottom of the sea, and Swollen Eye fell onto his back, his mind too overwhelmed to think.
And so it is said of the lost mirror of Zai, which the ruler of Dakar held in the Dungeons of Zai, was destroyed by the beggar Swollen Eye, in the Bay of Diamonds. But that day was a strange day, for around the entire land, buildings never before having existed rose up, and temples and palaces and cities were created and destroyed. And all of this happened in an instant, and most people claim it was a storm of sand, of visions. But for the beggar Swollen Eye, he still begs for money on the Street of Eyes, but every night when he goes to the tavern, he tells the most wondrous stories, about when he was a Prince on the island of Tannaz, and fought against the beast Karim, who could hold ten daggers in his hand and fight with his teeth, or about when he was a priest on the oasis of Zal, and he saw the Goddess Zahr in a vision, giving her jewels to all men, and much, much more.
Circle of Demons: A tale of Dhavid
Once upon a time, young mothers told a story passed down generation after generation, to their children to frighten them so that they would not be reckless on the sea. It is said by many that the sea swallows souls, and for the old sailors who still wear their sails until their dying breath, it is said they are cursed to forever follow the stars until they have been embraced or been thrown down into the neck of the deep. This story, like the other stories of the islands, is not so much a story of bravery and courage against all odds, for true stories of that nature do not appear in books and are not written down, but rather it is a story of love, of loss, and of time. And of those, there are many.
For once upon a time, there lived a wicked sorceress on a forbidden island of demons. It was said she was the queen of all who lay there and they did her bidding. And all sailors who passed by those seas became entrapped by her spells, and for thousands of years this island was known as the Circle of Demons, for no ship could enter the island or sail close to it. The waters surrounding the island were riddled with the husks of ships, and the bones of brave sailors could nary pass the waters before being stripped by the demons beneath.
But one quiet night, an old sailor swore by the gods that he had conquered the island, and in the city of Thaking Rol, he stole an audience. In the audience was a bright-eyed girl who was enchanted by the old man’s sea- speech, for his tongue was riddled with waves and his eyes were slashed with salt. And he spoke of his adventurers in traveling to the island, and of slaying the demon within and finally destroying the sorceress, laying her body on a bed of silk, closing her eyes, and then setting her sail into the beyond, freeing her from her burden of evil.
And then the sailor began to speak of other stories, of traveling the twelve seas and of being a pirate and an adventurer, of being a prince of diamonds and of finding the lost treasures of the maiden Janise the Blind. And the girl was enchanted, and she begged her mother to stay until the old man had finished, and indeed, they were the last to leave.
When the audience had vanished, only the old sailor and the mother and daughter remained. And a look of becoming glanced in the old man’s eyes, and he smiled at the little girl. And he said: “Goodness, me, what have we here?”
The girl looked up to her mother, and with an allowing nod, the girl burst out: “You have the most wonderful stories! Won’t you tell another?”
At this, the old man smiled, and he knelt down, and held the girl’s hand. With his other hand he took out a pendant of amber, and put it in the girl’s hand. “This belonged to the one woman I have loved, and forever I will love. Would you like to hear her story?”
The mother nodded her approval, and the girl beamed with light.
So the old man continued: “I met her on an island, a fabulous island, filled with treasure beyond your imagination. She was a wild woman, her hair like an unfettered sun, and her eyes like two blazing orbs of the ocean. I saw her from the prow of my ship, standing on the beach as if she owned the world. And around her neck this little amulet hung, glowing with warmth. When I approached her, she ran away, afraid of me, but I pursued her and I found her by a cove, staring at me. So I spoke to her and asked her from what part of the heavens did she come from, and she told me she came from the darkness of the heavens, and I think I believed her. It was at that moment that I fell in love with her, standing by the crashing waves, her hair gliding along the air as if it was made of clouds. And so life went on, as it does, and when she passed, she gave me this amulet, and swore it would keep me safe from the darkness of the heavens. And so I have kept it with me ever since, never doubting. And I sailed from that island, not looking back.”
“And now I shall give this to you, my dear,” the old man said. “Let’s try it on, now,” and he hung the necklace around the little girl’s neck. He smiled. “It looks perfect.”
The little girl giggled with joy, and hugged the old man. And so she and her mother left the old man, and went home, and many years passed.
A few years later, the island became poisoned with revolution, and the rulers were overthrown, and then were replaced by the Temple of Kora. During the battle, both of the girl’s parents died by the sword, and the young orphan, pitied by the high-priestess Inis, took to raise the child herself and train her in the arts. Inis was a hard woman, but her heart was kind. Nevertheless, the girl, who was renamed Kalara, held much hate in her heart for Inis, and although she learned the arts very quickly, she was always adamant and stoic with her feelings.
Once Inis found the amber pendant in her room and mentioned how Kalara should not use such things until she was initiated, and so Kalara kept the pendant a secret, hiding it away. By the time she was eighteen years old, Kalara had achieved enough of the priestess skills to be anointed as a high- priestess, but she did not desire such things.
And then one night, the people revolted against the Temple of Kora, and a great fire broke out in the temple. In the rush, Kalara escaped the island onto a ship, sneaking away. But during the night, she heard the voice of the high-priestess call out to her, and she felt the anger of Inis. Outside of her cabin, the sailors cried storm, and a fantastic wind shook the boat. And then the wind began to tear at the boat, piece by piece, and Kalara felt herself being drowned in the waters of the sea.
When she awoke, she lay on a strange island, but could remember nothing. Around her neck was the amber pendant, and it glowed like the sun. And then she heard sounds, the shuffle of strange things. And out of the wood of the island came the oddest of beasts, grotesque and beautiful. And they bowed before her, their horns touching the beach, as they knelt before the woman with the golden heart. And she commanded them to disperse and leave her alone, and they did. And so the woman who forgot her name lay on the beach, trying to remember her name.
Some years passed, and stories grew. Sometimes she saw sailors on her beach, and the demons rose out of the jungle and devoured them. Some retreated, swimming into the sea, grasping onto the remains of their boats or onto a spare branch to escape. And the stories spread of a strange woman who ruled over an island of demons, and so for thousands of years brave sailors attempted to sail into the island, but more often, they were overturned by a horrible storm that had the sound of a shrieking woman, and few escaped to tell the tale.
But one man, a demon-hunter named Galvis, who was famed across the twelve seas for being a slayer of Krevengians, the demons of the deep, and for slaying the mighty Mattoc, who ruled over the ninth sea for three hundred years, he heard of the tale and set sail into the Circle of Demons.
He passed through the storm, for he was the mightiest sailor of the land, and he passed through the shallow shadows, the demons that haunt the bread- waters before the beach, and then he began to slay the demons of the jungle, and the whole island shook in fear, for his blade was like an avenging angel, thirsting for the blood of darkness. And so he hunted the darkness, and slew every one of the demons, and when he had finished, the woman stood before him, her amulet and pendant shining like the sun. He felt his body go weak, and the blood of the demons upon his skin forced him to drop his sword.
“My lady,” he said.
“You have slain my people,” she said. “So now I belong to you, so take me if you will.”
The demon-hunter Galvis looked up at her, and saw her beauty, and saw her wildness, and said, “I do not deserve to have such beauty as this.”
But she said, “I am of the darkness, demon-hunter, so either take me or slay me.”
But he would not move forward, but stayed on his knees. “I will leave now, on my ship, and I ask you to forgive me.” And with that, he stood and went to his ship, and set sail away from the island, and an emptiness in his heart soared. And from the prow of his ship, he looked back, and saw her standing on the beach, her hair like magic, and her eyes like the sea. And with a sudden groan, he turned back, and he watched as she fled from the beach.
And so he pursued her, and found her at a cove, and she was crying, her sobs tearing her body apart. And Galvis went close to her and asked her where she came from, and she told him: “Only the heavens know from what darkness I come, for my soul reeks of lost memories, and only demons love me.” And Galvis held her tight, and she sunk into his arms.
For many years they remained on the island together. Galvis did not leave the island, nor did he ever board his ship. He stayed and loved her, and together, they lived for many years. But one night, she woke up with a fright.
“I’ve had a vision,” she said, the fear in her eyes. “This island curses all who touch it, and you must leave Galvis. You must leave.”
He shook his head and told her he would never leave, but she took off her pendant and put it around his neck.
“I know who I am, Galvis. Please do not ask me why, but you must leave. Please, leave, if you love me.” And then she told him her true name, and where she was from, and told him that if he wished to find her, he would go there.
And so that night, the demon-hunter Galvis took his ship into the mist of the storm, and departed. He told her he would be back for her in one year, and hoped she would change her mind, and perhaps she would come with him and witness the world.
And in one year, he did return, but she was not there. She had disappeared.
For on the night when she had her vision, she discovered she was pregnant with the child of Galvis, and she saw a horrible future. So when Galvis left into the storm, she stayed on the island and had the child, and then she took a boat of her own and set off into the storm, and took the boy to safety. But during the storm, her boat fell and she drowned, but her child survived. The child was discovered floating in the sea by a band of pirates, who took the boy and raised him.
Whenever the boy would ask where he came from, the pirates would always tell him “from the pit of demons, my lad,” and no more would be said. As he grew up and learned the ways of the sword and the knife, he was named Galvis, and he became a famous demon-hunter, who did a great many things.
And one day, Galvis sailed into a storm of the Circle of Demons, and was forgotten from history. For it was said that the Circle of Demons swallowed the demon-hunter Galvis, and ever since then, no man has dared pass the storm, and the stories continue to be told. For time is nothing what it seems, on the islands of the twelve seas.
The Dwelling of Cats: a tale of Ayam Khazad
Once upon a time, there lived an artist by the name of Azbar Ismair Dhalhes, who lived in a miniature little room, near the southern end of the Hashin Stretch, in the glorious city of light, otherwise known as the Dune of Alia. This little street, filled with the bazaars of hawkers and the strays of Madame Zelazny, those shadows beneath the stalls, was the crease in the Dune, and within this line were the strangest of characters: the villain Rat, who lived above the shop of hair, who compiled grotesque animated statues and every beginning of the new month, allowed the city dwellers to browse his collection, and even the Justice Farquas lived here, in his stone castle of knives and parapets, at the corner of the Hashin Stretch and the Blade of Baba, the infamous street that led to the Temple of Kir, where the high priest Abas dwelt with his three hundred priestesses. This was a mighty city, stretching along the rift of the range of Altair like a scattering of gold. The temples rose into the clouds, and beneath the city, the endless horizon of the desert loomed, and the shadows of the Darab beasts danced on the dust of the Golden Plain, storms of glass surrounding their wake.
It is said that this artist, Azbar Ismair Dhalhes, could paint the very soul into being. The high priest of Alia commissioned the artist to paint his portrait, and so for many days and many countless nights the artist painted, working as if struck with a fever. And when he finished, he swore it was his greatest work ever, for the very soul of the high priest seemed to inhabit the painting.
When the high priest saw this painting, he much desired to take it back to the palace, but the artist would not relinquish his work. When the high priest grew angry, the artist became violent. And then the high priest lost himself, and went forward in force to take the portrait. They both fought, and slew each other.
As time passed, the Dune Alia was forgotten. The glorious buildings fell to broken stones, the people of Alia traveled into the Golden Plain, and the legends of the fabulous and beautiful city became as whispers in the mouths of travelers. It was said a curse had been brought upon Alia, and it was dwelt by creatures of the night.
The hunter Jhaldin heard of this tale, of the golden city inhabited by creatures of the night, and he traveled there. And upon entering the city, he discovered that it was a city of cats, so the some of the old legends must have been true, for cats had been the favorites of the high priest of Alia, once upon a time. So then this must be the fabled city of cats, which had been spoken about in many legends.
And then the hunter came upon the portrait of the high priest, and when he looked upon the portrait he became possessed, for the soul of the high priest entered him. And when he awoke, the high priest looked at his city, and he saw his people, and it was as if his time spent in the painting was but a second in history. For he saw his people walking the streets, dressed in the dress of Alia, wielding the riches of a city grown on the greed of merchants and the bellies of bulls.
So he walked among his city, and he built his city even grander. He built the most fantastic of structures, of the Temple of Zaz, with its golden- filigreed pillars and the archways that disappeared into the smoke of incense. And he built the tunnels beneath the city, which led to the Cult of Daran, where his people would celebrate the feast day of the founding of Alia by spilling the blood of a newly born Ghoultan, one of the Altair skybeasts, whose wings were as clear as crystal, and whose bite could paralyze even the Darab. And of even greater things, he built. And as time passed, the high priest grew older, and he saw his glory pass from him to the next generation, and he died a happy man.
And so the stories tell of the hunter Jhaldin the Swift, who during his life traveled from one end of the Golden Plain to the other, gathering the twelve stones of the desert, and also of how he conquered the Shrubs of Tankrin, where the dangerous sand snakes dwell, protecting their jewel, the Eye of Yannis. And it is finally told of his demise, and how he entered the City of Cats in the Altair Mountains, and was driven mad, taking up residence with the cats. And how he used the vast treasury of the ancient city to build the strangest of tokens to the city. It is said he spoke to the cats, and that until his dying breath, and he lived among them. And so the legends pass on, into greater legends.
The Risen Sun: a tale of Rumiad
Once upon a time, in the marbled hallways of the House of Swords, there lived the greatest warrior in all the lands. His name was Khoman the Curved, and he led the armies of the Dune Hrabi in many wars, the most famous being the War of Red Sands. All warriors knew of his swordsmanship and his ability to use the fabled weapon Jesan, and the tales of him went far beyond his country. But he desired one thing above all fame and honor. He desired a family, and so when he heard of a contest in the far lands for the hand of the most beautiful maiden in the entire desert, he set out at once, even though this contest was held in the hands of his unconquered enemy, the Dune Ultan.
And so he arrived at the Dune Ultan, in the Court of the Nine Magicians where the contest was to be held. And he wore a hood and a dark robe, so no one would know him. And in the Court were the finest warriors in all the land: the archer Kirnas, the sorcerer Saad, the swordsman Hijaz, and the hunter Masrur, to name a few.
The contest began, and he was instructed to remove his hood. When he did, there was a gasp in the whole court, for they all knew of him. And the warriors knew him as well, and a great fear entered their hearts. The sorcerer Saad, who was blind in one eye because of Khoman the Curved, cursed the day he saw the image of a woman, and the hunter Masrur sharpened his blade, for he thought this was to be a day of fortune and glory, for he saw before him the finest warrior, whose blade he would wear at the beginning of the new moon.
There were many trials: the falling of the rocks, the pairing of swords, the lifting of fire, the brandishing of spears, the grappling of the Yeton, the knife field, and the tempest of storms. And in the end, the only two that were left were Khoman the Curved and Masrur of the Jesan, and after the trials, they fought. And for many days, not one was the victor, and they wielded the Jesan, the steel plated double sword, and it was a legendary fight, for they fought from the Dune Ultan into the Firepit Mountains, where it is said the breath of the underworld resides. They fought on the cliffs of the Firepit Mountains and felt the heat and shadows of the land beneath, and they fought on the beaches of tar at the bottom of the mountain, where the lake of oil is said to reside. But in the end, it was Khoman the Curved who won; he did not desire fame and glory, as did Masrur of the Jesan. And Khoman the Curved took the head of Masrur back to the Dune Ultan, and that night he was taken to the chamber of the maiden Fasma, to be shown the glory of her beauty.
When he saw her, grief shook him, for the lady Fasma was slain on her bed, and her blood was stained upon his own Jesan. And then the guards of Fasma took away Khoman the Curved, for it was said the enemy of Ultan had slain her finest treasure in revenge.
Khoman was taken far into the desert, and he was thrown into one of the dark wells, where it is said nothing ever returns, and is forgotten forever. And so Khoman the Curved was vanquished.
That same day, strangeness occurred. The beauty Fasma disappeared from her bed, and the priests of Ultan could not say where she went, for they did not know. Later, it was said one of the night ghouls, the Yemeni, stole her away and took her into the lands above, where she would reside with the gods in their valley of the clouds. But as of the reality, none knew.
A few months later, the priest of Ultan sensed a change in the earth. The people of Ultan began to disappear. The warriors disappeared first, and then their wives and their children. They could not understand it. And then on one dark night, the entire city was slain, the blood of the people smeared across the streets, and the screams of the priests echoing into the sky. And the Dune Ultan was no more.
And such was the birth of the two who would eventually bring down the Kingdom of Blood, which ruled all the land from the mountains of Altair to the eastern border of the Asan Sea, and it is said that these two would incite the War of the Untouched, for the man was known as the Changer, who was not fully a man and not fully darkness, but something in between, and his love was the Risen Sun, for she was the most beautiful of all the Anointed. And together they broke apart the palaces of the Red King and stirred the chaotic swords to battle. Together they united the Anointed and began the War of the Untouched, and the War of Akhaso truly began.
The Beast of Samircan: a tale of Estelan
Once upon a time, two people loved each other very much. But as I’m sure you know of many stories like this, I shall endeavor to tell a different story of lovers, for both of these people were forbidden to love one another, for one was a priest of the god Shah and the other was a priestess of the god Shah, and it those times it was forbidden for a priest and a priestess to love one another.
They lived in the city of Samircan, on the edge of the Golden Plain and the Blasted Plain. This city was built from the stones of Abbas, which only come from the dead mountains of the Blasted Plain, so the city of Samircan shone green during the day and disappeared during the night. Many called this city the City of Darkness, because of this curious gift.
They worshipped the god Shah, who it was said built the mountains on the Blasted Plain from his own hands, and sculpted the beautiful stones of Abbas over a period of one thousand years. Then on the first year after the stones were created, it was said man crawled from inside the stones, and populated the desert, spreading to the corners of the world. And the city of Samircan was founded, and the high priest was given the first rod, which contained the power of the Shah, with the ability to control fate and wealth. And so this is the reason given for the city of Samircan’s wealth, although she rests on the border of the place many call the Fields of Death. For in the Blasted Plain is nothing of life, but rather, the unlife. But that is another story.
As I have said, the priest and priestess shared a forbidden love. For the priest was given to the high priestess, and the priestess to the high priest. This was how things always were, and they are how things always are to be.
The priest was named Banu, and the priestess his love, she was named Bassora. As their love grew, they became afraid of being separated. Many nights, they fled from the temple in which Shah was given gifts, and they shared each other under the moonlight in their secret place, a grove outside the city. But as with all things, they were seen, and this man, the merchant Zama, spoke to many people of his encounter with the two people who left the city during the moon’s rising and returned under the call of the crow, when the sun filled the city of Samircan with jade light.
So one night, the merchant could not abstain his curiosity, so he followed the two into the darkness of the grove, and he overheard them speaking.
“For on the night of the red moon, shall we sing,” they said. “And when our flight is heard, the whole world shall rejoice, for ourselves will be twined as two who travel the forests of the north, and are bound to each other like the sea is bound. And we shall we untamable, two lights in the sky, sleeping, but within each other, for all of eternity.”
“It is the dream all man shares, I believe,” they said. “But ours will be the mountain of that dream, and not one man can take that from us. So we will grasp the power of that which jars our love, and we shall rend it piece by piece, until only our love remains. And not even the shadow beasts of the Blasted Plain will stand in our way.”
So the merchant took his story back to the taverns, and amazed all men for it, at least for one night.
But greater things were to happen, for the priest and the priestess, the next night, took a blade into the hallways of the Temple of Shah, and cut the voice from the high priest, and then flooded his room with his blood. At this, a great alarm was cast into the temple, and the high priestess awoke from her bed of priests with a great horror in the air. As she rushed to the high priest’s room, she felt the agony of the priestesses, and the terror of death, and as she entered into the room, she saw the body lying lifeless on the bed, and no one was to be found, except an open window, and the wind from the desert.
The priest and priestess escaped under the shadow of night, and fled to the ancient grove outside the city, filled with ulema flowers which glow in the moonlight, and kneeled on the altar of the Magian, the men who it was said first made a deal with the god Shah for the mighty rods of the desert.
There, fear took the lovers, and they held to each other, even as the high priestess and her guard armed with the Satanas Blades, which are also made of the beautiful Abbas stones, glittered into the grove and took them away.
And so the priestess was taken into the deep of the Blasted Plain by the beak of one of the Shahyrar, the winged servants of the god Shah, and the jeweled beak left her to die among the once-alive, and all that remains of her is in two places: in the books of Samircan, which tell of the priestess who defied her god and was called to the place of shadows, where she was devoured by the shadow-men and her soul passed into the archaic world, and in the diary of a traveler, the honored Hammal of the Four Winds, who while lost during a sandstorm near the borders of the Field of Death, heard a voice calling out, screaming, saying the name, “Banu, Banu, won’t you save me?”
And of the priest, he was taken into the mighty Tower of Mahmud, on the outskirts of Samircan. It is said that before time, the god Shah raised the Tower of Mahmud from the pits of the Blasted Plain with his teeth, in order so his enemies may know the fury of his wrath. But after the first men of Abbas came from the glorious stones, he deemed the tower to be of no use, so he sealed it with the power of the rod, and so only the rod itself could open the door. And so, in her fury and jealousy, the high priestess took the priest Banu into the tower and then used the power of the rod to transform him into a beast with no name. When she did this, he screamed, and screamed, and it was said the whole of the land trembled, and the walls of Samircan shook. And then she locked the door to the Tower of Mahmud, and sealed it, trapping the beast inside the labyrinth forged with the same metal that transformed him.
And so for many, many years, this beast prowled the passages of the Tower of Mahmud, guarding a treasure that held more power than any artifact on the earth. And so the high priestess returned to Samircan, and she ruled the city alone, and the city began to fade. For without the rod of the high priest, the power of Samircan was nothing. The winds of the Blasted Plain rose and conquered the walls, and the people fled to other cities. The streets became like hollow halls, and the palaces and temples like empty vases. But the high priestess remained, her heart finally having left her, and she became a relic of the ancient city.
But at the end of her life, she traveled back to the Tower of Mahmud, and she entered the tower of the beast, for she believed that the power of the rod could revive the glories of Samircan. And when she entered the tower, the beast took her in his giant maw and devoured her in the darkness. And she was never heard from again, and of her death, all that is known is from one account, of the pirate Barmaki of the Sandsnake.
Four hundred years after the discovery of the abandoned city of Samircan by the explorer Yunan, the pirate Barmaki of the fearsome ship Sandsnake discovered the Tower of Mahmud, for he had heard stories that one of the lost rods was imprisoned within the tower. After ascending the stairs to the top of the tower, he discovered the rod, and he was set upon by a shadow, thus disappearing forevermore from the annals of legend, but not before his men abandoned him to the beast, and fled to the desert with tales of the beast of Samircan, and the bones of the high priestess and death of Barmaki.
And that day, another extraordinary thing happened, for what was later to come known as one of the shadow beasts (or what was considered to be one) began its quest, and thus the beast of Samircan was set loose upon the world.
The Oracle of Kalas: a tale of Rumiad
Once upon a time, there lived a man named Kalas. He was a priest of the Temple of Zahr, and he lived in the city of desire, the city of the red flame, the mighty citadels of Mihrgan. The priest Kalas loved his goddess deeply, but he was something of an eccentric, for on the streets of Mihrgan, he was called the Khalia of the Night, for his voice was as beautiful as the most powerful of the Khalia who inhabit the night palaces and sing the maidens of Zahr to sleep with the songs which, it is said, can drowse even the clouds to longing, and he wore the body of the Sanaa, the legendary slaves of the gods.
But as he was a priest, and could only give his love to his high priestess, the lady Saadat, he conspired his guiles beneath the moon, under the shadow of trickery, and while the night fell and his high priestess fell asleep, he would feed her the Seeds of Kulub, and she would fall asleep into a slumber of golden trees and sweetfruits. And every third night of each month when the high priestess was to have Kalas in her arms, he would give her the seeds which can only be found on the branches of the Kulub trees, deep in the depths of the Asan Sea, and he would flee into the night lights of the city of red love. And in the morning, she would awake, and he would be in her arms, and she grew to love him intensely with such a desire that although he had the gift of a high priest, she would never allow him to leave her. And so he remained a priest, and when the time came for a new high priest after the beneficent Nakir fell to the harvest of time, another was elected, and not Kalas.
Kalas become wrought with ill, for he believed the high priestess Saadat to be an ugly thing, wretched as her power wore on her like a garment of heavy cloth and wore away at her soul and her body, until she was like an old maiden who had drunk too much wine, and he grew depressed at his position. As a consequence of his temperament, Kalas spent longer periods of time in the city, and tempted fate often, returning before sunrise, sometimes just as the seeds wore their dreams away.
But one night, Kalas met a woman who captured the glory of the sun, and she took him in her arms and told him to escape with her to a land of uncompromising joy. Kalas looked deeply into her eyes, and he saw the beauty of the mountains there, and he saw himself running down the hills and bathing in the streams, free from the promise of Zahr and free from the prison he was bound to, like an animal to a pen. But he also saw fear there, and at nights, he saw himself shivering under the shadow of the moon, afraid to look in the sky for his goddess watching, waiting to strike him and cast him into the sands of which nothing returns save the bones of ancient beasts. And this fear overwhelmed him so, that he hurried back to the Temple of Zahr, to the bed of the high priestess Saadat.
But when he arrived, he realized he was too late, and she lay awake on the bed, staring into the rising sun on the horizon. And she cried out: “How could you do this to me, my beloved? I am caught with the illness of a woman sold, cold with the ice of a winter I cannot possibly know.”
Not being able to hold himself any longer, he told her the truth, of how he hated every moment with her, and how he wished he had never sworn his vows. And it came out as a stupid, ugly blind rage, and when he had finished, he was sorry.
But the tears on Saadat’s face judged him, and with that judgment the priest Kalas was thrown into the shadows of the prison with no name, the prison of which all who were sent there were forgotten, and the prison for which there was no escape. This was also the prison where the Red King, in his rule of blood, imprisoned the Eternal Lady, who it is said is still behind that one door drinking the Water of Life, even after forty centuries of life.
For many years, the man Kalas lay in the darkest of his life, sucking on the air that was not to be breathed, and eating the gruel of his guards, who made the sounds of screeching steel and the blabber of beasts, as they would patrol the halls of the underground prison.
And then one day, while wandering the darkness of the labyrinths below, he met a little boy with the brightest of eyes, colored like sealight. The little boy was weak; his limbs shook, and his tiny hands were like bones, and when he saw Kalas, he fell into his arms and began to cry. And from that day forward, Kalas took care to feed the boy his food that was the best, and to tell the boy stories as he fell asleep, and to hold him when he was sad. The boy would not tell his name, for he was afraid of what Kalas would do. And so, he remained as the boy to Kalas, and only the boy.
One night, the boy awoke with a scream, and Kalas held him very close. He asked: “What is wrong, boy?” And the boy did not say anything until the next night, when he told Kalas of his trouble.
And he said: “I saw a man dressed in darkness, and he sailed on a boat with no sail, under a night with no sky. And he spoke to many people, although they were not people. He wore the robes of a priest, but he was no priest, and he spoke like a man, although he was no man. And then he lifted one of the holy rods, although it was not a true holy rod, and he commanded his people to rise, although they could not rise for they were not men. But he continued to chant this, and they did rise, and then they marched through the night that was not night, and into a land of infinite sun. And when they marched into this land, it became as dark as night, for darkness reigned upon the land.”
And then he said: “I do not know what it means, but it is terrible.”
So Kalas replied: “Do not think any more of it, little boy. Think of beautiful women and eternal life.” And he smiled at the little child.
But then the child said: “I know a way out of this prison, Kalas. I have seen it in the guards hearts.”
With that Kalas was surprised, and he asked: “How it is that you know this, boy?” And he looked deeply into the boy’s eyes, and some recognition came to him, but it was faint, as if a dream from long ago.
The boy said: “I have seen it; that it all.” He paused, and studied Kalas. “Please, we must find the Fallen Cave, of which I have seen.”
And then Kalas knew, and he said: “You are the boy, Durr, who is cursed by the god Maghrib, who is the bride of Zahr, and you are the one who slew the city of Kut in a single day and set fire to the holy book of Jann! You are that boy!”
And the little child lay on the knee of Kalas, his face weeping and his soul turned to stone. And Kalas soothed him, and said: “Do not worry, little one. Zahr has abandoned me, as well, and I no longer follow the goddess of love, for her love when faced with opposition, turns to hate, and she has turned her face from me when she cast me into this pit. So do not cry, little one.”
And the boy Durr said: “I did not wish for death. But after Maghrib promised me that I could ride the horse Kilabah, who only existed in my dreams, in exchange for the death of his brother Jann, he abandoned me, for he did not understand the essence of Kilabah, nor its power. And so when I took the mane of Kilabah in my hands, and rode him into the Temple of Jann and destroyed the book that held the god imprisoned, Kilabah did not disappear, and when Maghrib saw that Kilabah did not disappear, he tried to destroy her, but I fought back. When the fire from the city had settled, I discovered that Kilabah was no longer real, but now was within me.”
“And so the world I see, I see with the eyes of Kilabah, the spirit of truth and vengeance.”
Kalas said: “I, too, have been tricked by the gods, for as I gave myself to Zahr and to her rhapsodies of eternal love, so have I been thrown aside by my own muse, to be given to the darkness of a past now forgotten.”
“What of this Fallen Cave, child Durr?”
And the child Durr responded: “Wrought by the hands of the ancient ones who built this place, it exists as only a dream, but I have seen the hearts of the guards, for although they are creatures of another time, they are also bound to this prison, perhaps more deeply than us, for they were brought by the Red King from the unknown. And they know of the Fallen Cave, and every night they dream of visiting its terraced gardens of sabur trees and fountains of gold. And I know of where this place is, but it is perilous, and when we arrive there, you may that the world you once knew is no longer the world now.”
And so with a single and simple nod from Kalas, they departed, in search of the Fallen Cave. For seven years they searched, and as they searched, Kalas saw that the boy did not grow any older, and Kalas saw that his bones did not strain from the search either. And one day, they found the crack in the wall of the prison, and they entered the Fallen Cave, to be forgotten even by the prison with no name.
The cave glittered with the gold of ancient sunsets and the silver of the elder rivers. And then they came upon a dusty mirror, and upon looking within it they saw a scene of a beauteous land, covered in the greenery of forests and the parchment of clouds. And Kalas felt the breath of the wind on his cheek, and he saw that the cave had disappeared, and a blue sky shone above him.
And old man approached him, coming from behind pillar, and he was dressed in the garb of a sorcerer of the lands of Munkar, which is said to be the oldest land of sorcerers in all the land. He wore a sad face, and a brow wrinkled by the pain of something great. And he spoke to Kalas, and said: “You are my descendent, Kalas of the land beneath, and today you shall come to understand your fate.”
And Kalas stood by, amazed at what he heard, and he felt a boiling in his head, and then a resounding memory came streaming back to him, a rush of feeling, of forgotten sensations. And his life became as a single stone at the bottom of the lake, and he became filled with the water, and then he knew the names of all of the stones in that lake, and all of the creatures, and even the name of every wave that passed onto the beach of the lakeshore. He stumbled back and fell onto a pile of gold, and he struggled to maintain consciousness. But the old man walked forward, put his hand on the shoulder of Kalas, and his mind became calm once more, and the lake was no longer a storm.
The old man finally said: “You have a great task ahead of you, Kalas of the land beneath, for you must find the tree Mir, beneath the mountain Kal, and you must take the branch which is to be entrusted to you and revive the lands of Ad. And only once this is done, then you shall be free of your burden, and then you may return to the city of Amun-Kal, to receive what is rightfully your freedom.”
Kalas replied: “I understand, father of Ad. It shall be done as you say.”
And then Kalas awoke from the dream of the mirror, and he stared at the boy, and Durr knew what was in his heart. And the child Durr said: “I shall not travel with you, Kalas of the land beneath, for my destiny lies elsewhere.” And a great sadness filled the voice of Durr, and he held Kalas once more. “Perhaps now, you will understand the vision I have had, Kalas.”
And Kalas said: “Soon, I shall.”
And so they departed that place, and when they came to the room which split in two, with two staircases, one going to the world of men, and one going to the world beneath, the child Durr held Kalas one last time, and ascended the stairs to the world of men. And he said: “I shall disappear now, Kalas, and no longer will you know me. The child Durr will no longer remain, but with rejoin the world of man.”
And Kalas said: “I shall meet my destiny, boy. I wish you the best.” And then Kalas set to the world beneath.
And Kalas walked and walked, until he came to the River of Life, which flowed beneath like fresh honey, and he drank of the water and knew where he was to go. And so he walked upwards, to the center of the river, along the bank of darkness, with only his vision to guide him.
And so it is said in the night palaces of the desert, by the Khalia who sing songs with their lips and play the strings of the jaded jadim with their hands, of the man known as the Anointer, who was the first man to taste immortality, and to give it to other mortal men.
For myself, this story is what the Anointer himself told me, in the last years of his life, during the Serpent Wars when the desert united against the Serpent Army of the south, and so this story is as accurate as the words from his mouth. However accurate that is, you must judge for yourself.
The Sculptress of Ismil: a tale of Ayam Khazad
Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Budan of the house of Hazrakmut, who was so ugly that his parents, upon seeing his face well up in tears, abandoned him on the oasis of Jinnmad, in hopes that a traveler would raise the little boy in a home of warmth, something his parents could never give him, for his ugliness devoured their souls.
So, he lay beneath the shadow of sandal trees, sucking on the breath of the oasis, his tears dried up by the sand of the Dinas Desert, which held Jinnmad like a mother caring for its young. He face was like that of a beast whose face had been torn apart by the Shahyrar, and his hands were like that of an adult, giant in stature, and his feet were clumsy blocks of bone and skin. And as men passed by the oasis of Jinnmad, they swore under their breath, cursing the parents for forcing them to such mercy, and they passed, afraid to look. Although upon sensing his hideous form, they would toss pieces of bread and jewels of fruit to the boy, trying to impress a sense of mercy on their own soul.
It was not along after this that the boy disappeared from the oasis of Jinnmad, and when the parents returned, they believed he had been taken by a family, and were content at last.
Many years later, a rumor grew of a monster who lived in a city of ancient towers, who was the greatest in the arts of sorcery since the age of Loman, the legendary sword sorcerer who ruled the lands for one thousand years, until he died at the hands of his lover. It was said that this new sorcerer could revive death to life, and how he could control the winds in the sky, but it was also said that he was a monster, giant in form, with the wings of a demon, the claws of the Ghoultan, and the voice of fire. His habitat also remained a mystery, for no man who searched for it ever returned.
One day, a hunter found his way to the legendary city, wearing a sword on his back, and a handful of daggers in his hand. His name was Jhaldin, and he was a young man in his prime of life. He carried with him the pride of a newborn hunter, and upon entering the mysterious city of stone he heard a voice howling in the wind, howling an indiscernible thing.
From the shadows appeared the strangest of creatures, as if the very sand had been raised. And there was a beast with three tusks and the feet of tree trunks, and there was a bird with a beak like the moon, and in whose eyes shone the fire of the sun. And there was a wolf, who when he growled, the very sand shook. And there was a giant man, whose arms looked like bands of steel, and whose head was like a tombstone, with thousands of green eyes. And upon seeing this band of supernatural things, Jhaldin ran, taking out the sword of his father, the sword Kazinur that belonged to the legendary soldier of the Sitt Conquest, and he ran until he could run no longer and he was hidden at the bottom of one of the towers.
And so he looked into the darkness above, and saw that it was not darkness, but lit with torches. For thousands of torches glittered up one staircase which ascended the interior of the tower, on the interior walls of the tower, and continued into a faint, grey smoke. And upon hearing the rustle of the sand outside, Jhaldin took the staircase up, leaping through the flame-lit darkness, hoping to abandon his foes.
At the top of the tower was a room with mirrors on the side, and from what he could see, spread into an infinity of space. And on the floor stood the most amazing of creations, from machinations of steel and wood, to sculptures of crystal and iron, to even stranger things still, alien and foreign. He saw a tiny sword spinning in a small orb, as if a wind stirred within the globe, and he saw a light emanate from a piece of green wood. And then, from out of the shadows, came the shadows, whose walking sounded like the rusting of armor and the clanging of pans, and Jhaldin froze, for there was nowhere he could go.
And he saw the strange beings of metal, and as they moved toward him he took out his sword. And so they pushed forward, and he fought back with what energy he could spare, but his sword did nothing, bouncing off their bodies as if he were throwing rocks at a mountain.
As he lay on the ground, his face bleeding, his arms like broken twigs, and the sword of his father laying on the floor of this strange lab a few paces away, a voice said in the shadows: “Why have you come to steal my children?”
And Jhaldin could not answer, for he had not come to steal any children. And he replied: “I come in search of the sandstones, from which were taken from the sculptress Kalanda. Please, I mean you no harm.”
And the voice replied: “Why it is that you attacked my children?”
And he said in reply: “Please, I am sorry. Please, let me go.”
And the voice in the shadows said: “You must leave at once. Take the weapon of your father and never return.”
And so the beings receded into the walls, and as Jhaldin looked up, he saw that the room was bare, and a door of light lay in the wall. And then he realized he was no longer in the lab, but below, at the base of the tower. And so he walked from the tower, and once outside, he saw that the city had vanished, and when he turned back, he saw that the tower had vanished as well. And so he traveled back to the city of Ismil, and he told the sculptress Kalanda of his discovery. But there was still much shame in his heart, and he swore that he would avenge his shame, for he was a proud man and did not take to begging for his life.
So the sculptress Kalanda followed the words of the hunter, and she set out in search of this fabulous city. And when she came upon it, she was amazed, for the towers were like dreams of a forgotten past, and the inhabitants of the city of towers were her own creations, walking like living things. For they were her sculptures, but now they lived and breathed, and she could not understand how such beauty had been brought to them.
So she cried out: “Who is the man who has done this?”
A voice from behind the towers replied: “It is I, oh most beautiful lady, but it was not I who gave them the beauty.”
And she said: “Show yourself, so that I may know who has done this wondrous thing?”
And so from behind the towers came a roar, and a beast made of shadows and fire walked, his wings so wide as if to block the sun, and his eyes made of burning ash. And he said: “It is I, the sorcerer Bhuhn, who came from the blight of the gods and now wanders aimlessly among the dead seeds of past thoughts.”
But the woman Kalanda said: “Show your true self, poet, for no beast on any earth could understand the essence of life that you have given.”
And the beast did not say anything, but stood upon the sand of the desert, the shadows around it coalescing into one another, and his eyes still burning. And he said: “But this is my true form, beautiful lady, and I-”
But she interrupted him and said: “If you do not show your true form now, I shall leave and never return.”
And at once, the beast faded into the sand, and a pile of grains stood where once was the beast. From within the mound, a figure rose, and he showed himself before the woman and said: “How did you know?”
And she said: “I did not know, but since I have stepped into this land of life, I have fallen in love with you, and I had to find out.”
And as he showed his face to her, she saw that he was most ugly, with a face as if torn apart by the claws of the Shahyrar, and the body of a giant, whose ungainly arms and gangly legs made him swerve and limp like a sick thing. But upon seeing him, she rushed to him and held him closely and said: “I have been searching for you all my life.” And the man Budan began to cry, and held her in his clumsy arms. “Never let me go,” she whispered to him.
And so they lived together, in that place of dreams, and she became with child. But on the third month of her pregnancy, her husband set her in one of his creations and told her that his fate was coming to an end. And she swore against this, and told him she would never let him go, but before she could protest further, he shut the gate of the machine, and launched it into the clouds.
For it was a flying machine, and Kalanda could feel the weight of the clouds pass beneath her. And when she looked down at the desert below, she saw a great battle taking place, and she swore on that day that whoever had done this would be cursed to live the end of his life as a stranger to the world, just as she was bound to be now, and as her husband was also bound to be now that she had left. And so Kalanda fled into the clouds, and was the first woman to discover the home of the gods. And in the peace of the gods, she had her child, a boy, who would later become known as the Hand of Heaven. And while in the dunes of thunder, she found herself with child once again, and gave birth to the girl Eris, who would be the first mortal to ever become a goddess.
And so it is said of the hunter Jhaldin, who later became known as the Swift, that two years after his discovery of the ancient city of Iram, that he returned with an army of mercenaries from the gilded ranks of the high priest of Ismil, and that he tore the city to the bare of the earth, leaving nothing for salvation to take into her ivory hand.
But of Budan, nothing is known except the stories passed on by his son Badar, the Hand of Heaven. It is also said that Badar saw his father once, walking among the glittered coves of Hatal, by the shores of the Asan Sea, bringing to life the rocks beneath the waves, and then disappearing beneath the sea. But of further stories, none are known.
The Slaver Rumiad: a tale of Rumiad
Once upon a time, in the land of the slaves (which was called Ijli), there lived a young boy who grew among the slavers of the desert whose name was Rumiad, son the Abi Jarat. The Abi was the leader of Jahli Sanctuary, one of the largest caravans of slaves in the history of the Black Road, on which many sanctuaries led their wheels. The Abi Jarat was the 307th Abi in the history of the Jahli Sanctuary, and his son, Rumiad, was to be the 308th.
The Abi was known for his ruthlessness, and the Abi Jarat was one of the most ruthless. His son, Rumiad, learned from his father well, for when his father died, and he became the next Abi at the tender age of seventeen, and he was rumored to be the most ruthless since the 32nd Abi, the Abi Shad. The Abi Rumiad made no exceptions to the treatment of his slaves, and all his slaves were to act in submission according to the Commandments of Ishat, the oldest tradition of slavery in the desert, which spoke of absolute selflessness and submission to all forms of authority, be it a child or a dog. If they failed at his orders, he left them in the desert to die, and whenever he would pass by their remains, he would show the bones to those in his caravan, as a testament to his law.
However, one day during his 11th year as the Abi Rumiad, there was a stirring in his sanctuary, rumors of dissent. The previous month, he had passed by the city of Hindalas and taken a party of criminals from the local jail, in exchange for a handsome bag of bloodgems, which he personally put up from his coffer. The story was this band of criminals was knifelords, or wandering thieves, who hide on the duneroads and stole from unsuspecting travelers. Fairly common and plentiful, knifelords were usually forged from individuals who chose not to fit into the society of the dunes. Most knifelords were headed by one man or one woman, but never both, which made this band of knifelords Rumiad had bought special, for this band was ruled by both a man and a woman. With both a woman and a man, he would no doubt make a kind profit at the Heraz Games, held in the city of Heraz. But if rumors of dissent were spreading among his slaves, he would never be able to sell them. So Abi Rumiad investigated the rumors, and began his retelling of the Commandments of Ishat, in such a way they would understand.
However his strict policies continued to fail, and some of his subtans, the men who manage the individual caravans of slaves, were found dead one morning. Three subtans, the three men who managed the caravan five of the Jahli Sanctuary, were found with their throats ripped out and a message written in blood, which read: “The Jahli Sanctuary is no more.”
When Abi Rumiad saw this, he was furious. Immediately he halted all movement, and made a sweep of his sanctuary, holding executions daily for a week, until the 8th day when a voice called out from the slaves, the voice of a woman, and Abi Rumiad was taken from the execution platform, and the fingers of his left hand taken off with a power he had never seen performed, even by a sorcerer. The woman stood above him, and as she touched his fingers, they turned to ash, melting into sand, until only the stump of his hand remained. And then she bound his eyes with the skin of one of his dead slaves, and took him into the darkness of his blindness.
When his blindfold was removed, he was in a vast, stormy plain of sand, and the woman stood over him. And he asked: “Who are you?”
And she replied: “I am your slave Eris, and I have overthrown you slaver. Your legacy ends here, although if you have the will, you may yet survive. I have granted you the mercy you could never give.”
And then she walked away from him and disappeared like a cloud of sand, and he was alone on the soft earth, in the place of despair.
And so the man Rumiad, the one-handed, began his long journey into the east, for he knew of the holy city of Kirdan, which was bordered by the white walls of the sea. Rumiad had family in the holy city, for he knew his slaver days were over, for his shame overwhelmed him.
But as he walked, the desert continued. For many days he walked and walks, but he came not to anyplace or anything. Neither did he encounter one man nor a place to hide his face from the sun. During the night, he hid beneath his cloak, and during the day he wore it over his face to protect his skin from the fury of the sun. He felt his death coming, and with every step of his shadow, he could almost hear the sand call to him, but he kept on, for his life hung on the very words of Eris, “the mercy you could never give.”
And then one day, his body gave out, and he collapsed to the ground and died. He felt the affects right away, as his heart turned to sand, and his skin became coarse and grainy, like rough paper. And he felt himself sliding into the earth, and his vision grew dim, dark with his coming wind. But something happened, for his hand without fingers glowed with a particular sound that he could not distinguish, and would not enter the earth.
Rumiad coughed, and coughed, and struggled. He felt his body grow strong again, and he struggled out of the sand. At that moment he cursed the slave Eris, for this was magic, true magic. She would never let him die. He knew that now, if he knew nothing else.
So he continued to walk, having given up, and his thirst burned him with a thousand fires, and his body hurt, and his mind grew numb. But he continued walking, and felt himself slide into shadow. And into this shadowland he walked, chasing the light on the rocks, and hearing the voices in the wind. He heard his voice crying out, over and over, “Rumiad, Rumiad,” and then he stopped and realized it was his own voice, calling out for his waking. And then it began again, and he became a spirit in spirit, controlled by the fate of the darkness, following these mysterious shadows.
And then one day, he stepped into water, for he felt the coolness upon his skin. He fell to his knees and began to drink like an animal, and the water filled him so completely, he awoke from his dream as if he had never been asleep. He was in a great cavern, and of light there was not. He heard the sound of a river, although this should be impossible, he told himself. But of a river, there was.
He followed the river for many months, walking along the embankment. His eyes became accustomed to the darkness, and fear entered his heart, for he saw the great tunnel through which he walked, and he saw shapes moving in the darkness.
For Rumiad had entered the Halls of Ad, where the River of Life wanders like a fruitful valley. About six months into his wandering, he came upon the House of Abalah, where the Untouched reside. He learned of the Untouched, of their immortal and perfect life, and of the Anointed, who are like spirits in this underworld, drinking of the river like ugly creatures starved, and how their greed for the thirst has taken even their souls. And he learned of the progenitor, the man who calls himself the Anointer, and of his disappearance from the lands of Ad.
The Untouched Adsum told Rumiad that the chaos of Ad was spilling into the world above, and only if the Anointer were to return would the chaos be healed. But the hope was gone, for the gods were thrown to the earth, and the realm of man was embroiled in a conflict that would engender the world into a new age. And once this war was finished, the Anointed would rise from the land of Ad, and bring about an age of fear in the world above.
So Rumiad set forth, gathering the tales of the Untouched from the corners of the desert, and searching for the man called the Anointed. And while near the steppes of Kuh, he learned of a story, of the birth of the world and the tree called Mir, and of the city nearby called Amun-Kal.
When he arrived at the city, he found the Anointer, walking the halls of the ruined place, and he told him what he knew. But it was too late, as the Anointer told him. He said: “I have brought about the ruin of the world, traveler.”
And Rumiad was saddened, and he fled from that place. From there he fed his stories into the caravans and the traders, and when he finally did return to the holy city of Kirdan, he found it to be ruined, burnt away by the fire of the serpent.
What is known of Rumiad in further tales is that he joined the army of the gods, but beyond that is unknown. It is assumed he died during the war against the army of the serpent, killed in battle.
As of the slave Eris, she was the daughter of Kalanda, but when Kalanda bore Eris, such an upset was released into the heavens, that Eris was thrown to the earth and forgotten. Of Eris, that is another story.
The Sage Estelan: a tale of Estelan
Once upon a time, on the island kingdom of Salen (which was deep in the southern reaches of the Asan Sea), there lived the Prince Estelan of the family Dalintal. He was a mighty prince, beautiful and strong, who could shoot an arrow into the crack of a tree, twist the arm from the man-trees of the shallow waters, and cut a sword in two when he held the hilt of any blade. His powers, many said, came from his blood, for before the Dalintal family was kings, they were pirates, and the seas surrounding the kingdom of Salen were riddled in the blood of their swords.
When the Red King threw off the mantle of the island kings, the Prince Estelan fled. As his father was already dead and the decree of the island kings made null, he had no right to anything but death, and so the exiled prince found himself on a boat under the light of the moon, escaping the Sea of Ghosts, where his island was.
On the mainland, Estelan abandoned his title and his family name, for the armies of the Red King were hunting him. He found residence in a small village outside the city of Dinah, and work with an old fisherman named Kah. He was a stubborn personality, who found pleasure in the drinking of his mornoch under the new morning sun, the pipe that the city of Dinah was famous for, and in his afternoon sailing into the nearby bay to hunt Dracken-drew with his net, the fish who swam in a body of glass, and sang songs as they floated along in their flocks of hundreds.
Every afternoon, Estelan would prepare the boat and the net for the old fisherman, and then he would watch as his master floated out into the bay. For ten years, from the age of twenty-three until he was thirty-three, Estelan worked in the village. When he was twenty-five years old, he worked as a sailor for the town harbor, and he always returned to help the old man with his nets. Then when he was twenty-eight years old, he was appointed harbormaster, to supervise the ships coming in, carrying the shipments of izmas, the golden-shelled aquabug, and the loads of terronis, the rare seagrass that lay only in the far reefs beyond the bay, which was used as a material for the high temple robes. And still, every afternoon, he returned to the fisherman.
And then when he was thirty-one, he heard a rumor that some of the Red guards were coming to Dinah, and he said his goodbyes to his friend the fishermen, and departed for the city, hoping to hide himself in the shadows of the high walls. Before he left, however, the fisherman told him to do him a favor.
His son had left the home twenty years ago, and never returned. The last the fisherman knew of his son was that he traveled to Dinah to look for work, so he asked Estelan that if he did find him, to send him home to his old father, so that he could see his son one more time before he passed on.
When Estelan passed before the gates, he was asked his name and from where he came, so he gave his name as the fisherman’s son, and his location as the fisherman’s village. The guards grew angry, and locked him in chains, and then took him to the dungeons of Dinah.
He was thrown into a cell with another man, who upon seeing him laughed and asked: “How did you know my name and the name of my father?”
Estelan saw that the man in his cell was the image of the old fisherman, and he smiled at this. “How much is it worth to you?”
And the man in the cell might have grown angry, but he suppressed himself and said: “I will get you out of this cell.”
“More,” Estelan said. “I am useless in the city, for there are many who hunt me.”
“Then perhaps,” the man said, “we can be beneficial to each other. If you tell me how you know my name, and the name of my father, then I will teach you to be me, and you will be like a prince in this city, with wealth, fortune, and the glories of a thousand women to your name.”
“You lie,” Estelan sneered. “You have a tongue of silk, cell dweller.”
“No one knows my name, stranger,” the man said. “And I shall make it so no one ever does.”
With that, the man jumped towards Estelan, and out of his shirt he took a sliver of a knife. Estelan saw the light of the torch, and he moved aside, and threw the man to the ground, the knife touching his throat.
“You have not learned from the guards,” Estelan said with a smile. “You have much to learn.”
“Husar, son of the soldier Etannar, has nothing to fear,” the man said. “So kill me, but you will get nothing.”
Estelan withdrew the knife from the man’s throat. “Your father is a fisherman now, prodigal Husar. He tells me for you to return to him, so that he can give you the blessing of an old man.”
Husar grunted, and lay against the wall of the cell. “My father was always so melodramatic. Why didn’t you just tell me to begin with?”
“I had to make sure it was you,” Estelan said. “Any man can claim a name, and no one would question him.”
Estelan looked at the Husar, and said: “Will you keep your word?”
Husar nodded. “I have always kept my word, and I will continue to keep my word until my death. Perhaps that is my only salvation.”
The following day, the two escaped beneath the eye of the guards. They fell to the tunnels beneath Dinah, of which Husar was proficient, for he was known as the Priestbane, the First Thief of Dinah, and the Counselor of the Night. And in the darkness of night, they escaped into the true city of Dinah.
And so for three months, Husar taught Estelan the knowledge of the underworld. He taught him the signs, the lore, the names, and the ways beneath the city. And then he did a final bestowment, and gave Estelan his name. And on a dark morning, on the first day of the fourth month, he told Estelan: “And now, I must go. I swore to my father that if he should ever need me, I would return, and now I shall. Take care, stranger.” Then, as the sun rose over the streetways of Dinah, and the shadows grew long along the boulevard, Husar disappeared and left Estelan as the Prince of the Dinahrian thieves.
For three years, Estelan remained in Dinah, living in the shadows and the night, seeking the wealth of the city, both material and spiritual. He learned many things then, of how people truly are beneath the skin, and he also discovered that no one knew his true name, for he was the greatest thief of Dinah, and no one questioned him. And no one even knew of Husar, much less Estelan. And so he remained, but the royalty in his blood thirsted for more, and his lack of presence ruined him. He wanted fame. He wanted respect.
And so on the second year of his reign he began to tell the people his name, or rather, the name given to him. Now the Priestbane had a name, and he was hunted. But he was smart, for he was taught by the best, and for many months he eluded his captors, at once enraptured by the thrill of being hunted in a city he owned, and also moved by the terrifying notion that every name he had was not safe. And it was said during those few months, the Priestbane Husar grew more and more daring, until he even made to break the traditions of the temple and steal the holy artifacts within.
And then one morning, as he lay on his bed of dreams, with his garments of wealth and beauty surrounding him, he awoke, and he remembered his true name. The pain and shame came upon him, and he left that place, and gave up the name of Husar. And it was said the Priestbane died that day.
Two years later, he found himself in one of the rain spillways, a bowl in one hand, and a dirty rag in the other. He was wiping his face, trying to get the mud from his eyes that continually seemed to fall from the bakery he slept beneath. He scratched his face and felt the twining of hair hanging from his chin.
He did not know how much time went by. Of that era, he only remembered the rain, which seemed to last forever. On days when the sun came out, and the clouds cleared, he slept in the shadows, and when the rain came again, he would venture outside to get the smell off his body. Every evening, the baker would throw him the extra bread that had not been sold that day, and after he ate, he would take himself to the corner tavern, where the island vintages were served all night long. And he would tell stories to the men of how when he was a prince, he once skinned a man alive for spitting at him, or when he was offered the island of Farsk’s best maidens, that night he slept with all of them, and in the morning had them executed, sending their heads back to the island with the notice that they were becoming part of the new kingdom, and he hoped this would satisfy their curiosity. And so he became known as the Prince in that particular tavern, but men took no more notice of him as they did the next man. All men who went there had a name, for it is only through shame that we desire such things.
But one man who also visited that tavern was a potter, and he would never drink. He traveled to that tavern for the stories, and the stories of the Prince enthralled him. So one night, he asked the Prince if he would be willing to learn the art, and at that moment Estelan’s vision seemed to clear and he saw where he was. And he began to cry on the potter’s shoulder, for Estelan was sick and sad.
And so the potter took the poor beggar to his home, gave him warm food and a good wash, and then in the morning told the beggar he needed an apprentice, for two months ago his previous apprentice had been accepted by the city guild. Estelan agreed, and the beggar became a potter. And a very good potter, Estelan became.
For two years, Estelan worked the craft, working day and night in his study, moving his hands through the clay. The people of the city were marveled at his work, of the art of this potter. He not only made the most magnificent of dishes and vases, but he was a potter of forms, and he transformed the earth into faces, animals, and even elaborate scenes. His master was proud of him, and on the day when his apprenticeship was over, many came to him for his employment in their stead.
One man, an old man with two long eyes, who carried a staff of nightrock, came to the apprenticeship ceremony. His name was Khaliel Adan, and he was one of the prestigious Sages of Junis, the goddess who governed over the beasts. He was a Master of the Library of Dinah, and he wanted to have Estelan in his work to sculpt the new annex to the library, which was to contain images of the entire pantheon. He spoke to the master potter in a whisper, and the master potter’s eyes lit up with happiness. And so Estelan became the new sculptor at the Library of Dinah, and this news spread across the whole city, for not in fifty years had another person been allowed to work inside the sacred archives.
Once inside the library, Khaliel Adan spoke to Estelan: “You have the art within you, my boy.”
Estelan said: “Yes, but that is not why you have brought me here, is it?”
Khaliel smiled. “You are very wise for someone so young in the world, Prince Estelan.”
And Estelan had the look of a man who would plunge a dagger in his heart if he had it. “How do you know my heritage!” he demanded.
“Ah, it is not so difficult, one being like me,” Khaliel replied.
“What is the true purpose for which you have brought me?” asked Estelan.
Khaliel lost his smile, looked Estelan deep into his eyes, and said: “You have the gift, my son, and I aim to teach you.”
Estelan gasped at this, for this was the very meaning of heresy. “That has been outlawed for many, many years, sorcerer.”
“Please, please,” said Khaliel. “It is not such a bad thing, and there is much you can learn from me.”
Estelan shook his head. “It was the arts that took my father from me, and I have sworn since that day to never be at the mercy of sorcery. Besides, if anyone knew, you would be killed immediately. So do not tempt me.”
Khaliel laughed. “It seems we are in a situation, Prince Estelan.”
And Estelan understood then, for they were bound to each other forever. He could never get away from this, for Khaliel knew his true name. And so he began his tutelage under the sorcerer Khaliel Adan, and for ten long years he studied the arts.
But the sorcerer was found out. It is said he grew weak in his will to hide after he taught Estelan his arts, for he had passed on his knowledge and now he could leave this world to better hands. And when the Temple of Junis found out, the illegal sorcerer Khaliel Adan was sentenced to death, and his body burnt into ash, and the ash taken to the Red King for delivery into his Den of Sorcerers.
Estelan grew angry, for in those ten years he understood that Khaliel Adan was a good man. But he also understood that once a man touched the arts, he could never turn his back, and so Khaliel Adan, even if he wanted, could never turn his back on being a sorcerer, and the Temple of Junis had condemned him from the beginning. So Estelan took his revenge upon the temple, and disappeared once again.
Three years later the priest Jafar murdered the high priest Tophah. When the guards came for the renegade priest, they saw a great light, and for the rest of their lives they were blind. The priest Jafar left the city of Dinah forever, never to return. And since then, neither the name of Jafar, nor Estelan, nor Husar, was ever heard of again, save in other tales.
Estelan fled back to the village where he began, and he entered the house of the old fisherman. But no one was there, and the house was decrepit, as if a strange ghost had passed through the place, gathering the dust of the desert and settling it upon the air. Of the fisherman, he was gone, save a diary that he kept. And then Estelan learned a horrible secret, and a great sadness came upon him, more than he had ever known, even while he was a beggar in the city of Dinah. For his past had returned, and taken those he most loved. So he set out from the village, to try and make things right, if he could.
And so Estelan found himself on the path into the Golden Plain. He took up an instrument, the three stringed Bilash, and traveled throughout the land of the dunes, visiting city after city, searching for his past, and following the road that led to the Wielder of Fate.
And then he came to the Plain of Empty Towers, where the ancient sorcerers once ruled the entire land, and he found the Wielder of Fate wandering among its legendary columns. And he said to the man who wielded Fate: “If you wish to bring doom upon the world, then do continue.”
But the man, who held the fire of the heavens in his eyes, and who glowed like the airborne clouds said: “The Tree of Thorns must die, sorcerer. The Tree of Thorns must die.”
But Estelan said: “Husar, give me back the sword. Find your fate somewhere else.”
But Husar, the son of the fisherman and soldier Etannar would not, but said: “If you want this sword, then tear it from my hands.”
So Estelan gathered his powers and the desert shook. The towers awoke, and the magic within them began to glow like a thousand lighthouses. And the light was too much to bear, but within himself, Estelan felt his own power growing, and so he centered his thoughts on Husar, and the warrior-thief brushed it off as if it were nothing but sand. And so Fate defeated Estelan that day, as Husar cleaved through him and cut off his right arm.
The pain was too much to bear, and Estelan fell to the ground, silent tears falling from his face. And in the light of the towers, Husar, the Wielder of Fate, departed for the Tree of Thorns. At that moment, Estelan knew that for whatever reason destiny had, he was saved once more from Fate. And however hard he tried to convince himself from that moment on that he was not a pawn to the powers above him, he always remembered the face of Husar, and the fire along the sword Fate, which was bound to his arm, like a woman to a man. And Estelan felt a pity for him, at the same time as he felt his own doom creep and devour his soul.
And so for thousands and thousands of years, the sorcerer Estelan lived on, his life extended by the powers of both his extraordinary gift and the innate light of the towers. He lived through the reign of the Red King, the War of Akhaso, the Serpent War, and the Age of Chaos. Later, it is said of the sorcerer Estelan, that he was elevated to the position of Ambassador to the Light Demons, or as they reclaimed their title, the Szu. But that is another world, and another story.
The Historian Dhavid: a tale of Dhavid
Once upon a time, on the fabled island of Rataan lived the buccaneer Dhavid, of the House of Farnas. He lived in the splendor of wealth atop Rataan’s highest cliff within a castle of jewels. It is said that some of the greatest treasures of the world lie within this castle, buried deep within her foundations, in the miles and miles of caves in the cliffside, delving even further into the sea.
From a young age, this sailor desired the wind of the sea. When he was ten years of age, he set sail with his father, a wealthy merchant sailor, and found himself the in glorious court of the high priest Tajadim, in the capital city of Dakar. It is even said that in his father’s travels he visited the foreign lands above the northern forests, the forests that no man has ever emerged from alive, for it is said the trees are alive and the earth has a maw.
And so from the tender age of twenty until he was forty, he sailed the Asan Sea. His ship, the White Sun, set sail on his twentieth birthday (the proper age for sailors), and he made his first merchanting shipment that very year, taking a load of rare ilithium flowers to one of the midsea islands. However, when he returned, he learned that his father had taken off to the east, by command from the priest of Rataan. Upon questioning the priest, Dhavid learned that his father had been sent to make contact with the east, and so he set his course and followed his father.
Ten years later, Dhavid returned from the lost lands of Tiabar, or so he said, carrying a boatload of jewels, cloth, and a wood he called arethal wood, which was as strong as sword steel and as heavy as the stalks of high grass growing on Rataan. But he did not return with his father.
Upon returning to Rataan, Dhavid disengaged his crew, save a few who could sail the ship, and set off, not saying a word, not even to his mother. When he returned four months later, he had changed. His hair had grown out, and he carried on him the scars of a man destined to roam the sees forever. The sea had been embedded into his face, the waves marking his cheeks, and the foam filling his eyes. He returned in the night, greeted his mother, and then departed as quickly as he arrived.
Rumor grew of a new buccaneer in the waters, who piloted a merchant ship that was so strong, not even the hardiest of storms could break her sails, and if pressed to fight, could outstrip any ship before she even saw her. Sailors mentioned that when the ship came into the light, she glowed with anger, and that the captain of the vessel carried a flaming sword in one hand, and bag of rain in the other.
Dhavid returned to the island of Rataan, although whenever he returned, there were less people to greet his ship. As time wore on, the people moved away, and the island became the hostel of lost sailors. The island still had one tavern, where straggling seamen could find a bed to sleep, but the people had moved on, for without the merchanting of Farnas, the island sank into a depression of shadows. Some of the tales said that as the years went by, the castle atop the cliffs of Rataan grew heavier and heavier, with tunnels and passageways of gold beneath her foundations. Then after the widow who lived there passed away, stranded men bore their way up the cliffs, but never could they find the secret treasure.
Dhavid of Farnas sailed from the southerly isles within the Sea of Ghosts, and even to the lost lands of Tiabar in the farthest reaches of the east. But what he is known most for is his travels to the Frozen Sea, from which he never returned.
For one day, Dhavid heard of a mysterious ship passing through the northern waters, and it was well known that the northerners did not build many ships, as they did not travel the waters much. But the description of this ship was the very same description of his fathers ship, and upon hearing of this, he sent his tome of writings, “Sea of Blood,” to one of his many wives, and then disappeared into the north, never to be heard of again.
Of the buccaneer Dhavid, it is said he was a rowdy, inconsistent man. He was a bravado, who on an instant would be willing to sacrifice a man for gold. But above all things, he was a man of charisma, who could convince a man to die on a bed of spikes, and the man would be happy for it. It is said he sailed the waters with a drawn sword, and the name of his father was coated across the tip of his blade.
He had more than forty wives; to them he kept supplied with his stolen wealth, and women uncountable. He was not a pleasant man; for he enjoyed his drink too much, and often the only way he knew to end an argument was by the charge of a point. He, however, was an ambitious man. For twenty years, he garnered the islands with his name and the name of his ship, the White Sun. And after his death, the stories passed on in the “Sea of Blood” remained engrained in the attitudes of the islanders for years. For none understood the isles as well as the historian Dhavid.
The Trials of Pilacius
Once upon a time, there lived an old woman locked away in tower for all time, and it was said she was the insane Lucia, who could make mountains crumble and cities fall. Long ago, it is said, she beguiled the wisest of Emperors, and caused the entire land of the four princes to fall before the blade of war. For once she was a young thing, free and beautiful, and she lived in the Solis of Virgins, and she was the prize possession of the Emperors’ own garden. It was thought she was to be the next Empress, but she was a woman before her own time. This story begins during the age of wonder, when the glories of the city of glass could not be surpassed, and all who passed through the land saw the beauty of all time. The Emperor Pilacius and the Empress Salia ruled, and it was the time of the 13th dynasty, of the family Cisa dal Tyan. The armies ruled the borderlands, and the trade ships flocked the seas like birds.
But one day while the Emperor and the Empress were traveling on a skyboat to the skysolis of Taranas, a horrible storm arose and the cloudjumper broke apart. The Empress managed to escape, but the Emperor was lost in the crash.
He awoke later on a mysterious island in the sky, in a ruined solis. Also on the island was one of the Empress’ slaves, the beautiful and powerful Malania, who had the ability to become the next Empress. Now these ruins were special, for they were very, very old, and contained the knowledge of the Ancients, those who built the city.
The Emperor and slave saw each other, and clung to each other. Above in the sky, they could not recognize one another, for the magic of the mist had departed, and they remained only as ordinary, foolish people, without the finery and exquisite power which the land below gave. And they learned of the past, of the truth of the city, and they also fell in love, for this place also made them forget who they were, in a sense, as they didn’t need to cling to their past.
And so they found themselves in a fantastic palace, and in there they learned of the greatest trap to ever foul man. And they spoke of what they would do to prevent it, and how they would change the course of the land to prevent such a horror. And then they fell asleep beside each other, and when they awoke they were separate, and the island had disappeared. And he was the Emperor, and she the slave. And they wondered if it was all a dream.
But the Emperor felt an emptiness, so he searched for her. He put out spies, and searched the whole land for her, and then he saw in her in the court of the Empress, and he went to her, and she also wanted him badly. And for many years, they shared a secret love, and in those years the empire prospered, even more, and the Emperor brought about great changes, bringing peace to the borderlands. But when his affair was found out, the slave Malania was sent away, exiled from the land and the Emperor broke. In the years to come, his policies became weak, and the Empress grew poisonous, jealous and wicked. Malania then disappeared, forgotten by all.
Then the Emperor had a dream, in which he saw his land besieged, the city of bone crushed, and the dynasties lost forever, and he saw this with the dream of a mountain of mist burnt into dust and ash, and on the mountain he saw himself, tearing his own land apart. So for many days, he would not come from his bed, but remained, sleeping and dreaming, afraid of himself, and his growing madness. And the land continued to fall.
So this continued until the day when Lucia arose from the depths of the land, and she brought with herself a revolution that tore the land apart. For she was a sorceress, some say the most powerful, even over the Empress, and because of the Emperor’s failing health and fame, many of the cities followed her, breaking away, refusing to admit the soldiers and guards. And the north began to trickle in, like a drop of water, the armies invited by the people, out of fear.
And this happened continually until the Emperor was roused, and he gathered his militia and went forward to crush the Lucian peoples, and he lost many men, and in the end when he met with Lucia, he discovered she was none other than Malania, and with his empire crumbling about him, he faced her, but she did not recognize him, but saw him only as an enemy.
And seeing this, the Emperor leapt into the Bay of Tears, and was crushed on the rocks, and the armies of the north swept down and conquered the land. Of Lucia, she founded the Order of Ilon, which has continued in her legacy ever since. And in the city of Ilon, the Tower of Lucia stands, and it is said she never truly disappeared, and her spirit remains in the tower, howling in madness.