The New Era
Ragmar carved his path through the ash once more. This Scar? Beaten, bloodied, and scorched by thousands before? Sometimes, he left the biggest scab on its heart.
One boot, two boot, he lurched forward with a quiet weight. The road shortened with each trembling step he took, despite the half foot of black ash filling its cracked grooves. He was almost back home. Ash winds gusted up, as they cascaded across the Black Maw’s ragged banners flapping against the arcing city walls. No one could get through them, geomancers reinforced them from the base to the Unshackled guarded tops. But soon, the late summer storms would be charging upon him—them, his people. Another nasty season of face wraps and extra cloaks. They’d survive all the same. Unfortunately, there was no solace for them.
No solace but the Sun’s hallowed embrace.
He stopped at the city’s outer gates, ones so high, not even the sea leviathans could break through, if they decided to slither on land today. And it was all there, all waiting to burst. He had to keep it together, for all the little-horns in the city. He had to be like steel, even if his heart was breaking like iron shards shattered from his own blade.
It was hard.
It was another mistake he couldn’t undo. It was another chink in his squawking façade.
He remained unforgiven.
Ragmar couldn’t even bring back their volunteers for a proper pyre. Seras? All the little-horns he’d instructed in the Kadran tradition? The same training model he’d created for the Black Maw? They were all dead, rotting on that accursed beach on the dark side of Orenos. Now back in the ash-scarred plains of the aptly named Corianna’s Scar, he and the rest of Mora’s dwindled band had to share the wonderful news with Aratha, Mora’s ‘sister’ (her cousin) and his current Archoness.
Seras, blood and mercury staining her fractured armor, squeezed his hand, while croaking out his name, “Ragmar…” before he executed her according to the Temple’s protocols. He delivered her ‘mercy’. Mercy!? There was never any mercy in that. What was worse? The Scarlet Eyes had come to Orenos, at last. Only Ara could figure out what to do next.
Inside the city, hundreds of aether vapors, gold and black particles exhaling from the brands woven into a Kadran’s hide, of his horned kin swirled through the back alleys of Little Hundmas. Ragmar hurried through the grooved gates of the Citadel’s haphazardly constructed city. No Outriders, no stable master at the four-way crossing to his left, either. Suddenly, he bumped into a wall of olive hued muscles along the crowded path, who glared, then went silent. Ragman, the Kadran Unshackled apologized, as the little-horn disappeared down an alley to his right. Ragmar continued on and trudged through the black ash whipping across the main road toward Ara’s Citadel. He shielded his face from the ash’s lashing kisses. Sometimes, he wished he could soar with the seagulls above the hazy winds. At least, they were free.
Bang. One in the chest.
Bang. Two in the heart.
Bang. Three in the place where aether flowed from, the massacre was still fresh in his mind. Worse, Mora and the others were already inside the main hall, waiting for him, still. As he passed the few Unshackled tending to their duties, training for a war that would never come, and patrolling the former seat of Mora’s mother’s power, Ragmar found that day he was spat out from the Dusk and into this world repeating in front of him, again. So many dead that day the world ‘ended’ but they were all still here: Kadran conquerors, Oreni and Ansharan survivalists, and the little Illyrian gods of the Northern Expanse. All that remained of the wounds Nashandra Aresh inflicted upon Orenos was this arid plain the ash fires scarred four decades ago. The Pale Sun judged all on that day.
The Ragman had come.
His Kadran kin spotted him, as he graced the sprawling, open market covered in tarps, Legion colored streamers, and chiseled, runic signs for all the shops, with his triumphant presence.
The wayward son had returned.
Horns of all kinds, tails wrapping around their sculpted legs (some didn’t, a quirk born of different bloodlines), and a mixture of colors: rust reds, seabed blues, Vorkir ashes, Linerean olives. You could never tell what Marian tribe they descended from since most of them had never seen their homeworld. All were as strong as mountain stone and as tall as their peaks (an exaggeration, of course). But Ragmar was her descendant.
He kept his gaze tall and with a careless indifference Mora drilled into him long ago. Someone stopped him, tugging at his azure coattail. His iron plates creaked, and he gazed down. She was a little-horn. Thick, auburn locks, moon-eyes, too. His sister, nine-years-old again, cocked her head at him, with those eyes that devoured the world. “Are they coming home?” And her phantom glitched out from the world. A dose of black blood would fix the Dusk’s tricks. But no, Shera, none of them are ever coming home.
Lost in his thoughts, he took in everyone, smiling his toothy grin, half confident and half mad, as he searched for anything out of place in the stalls and stands. A basic security check, it was a useful habit to practice when he could. And he played the part of the Legion’s lost vessel for their sakes. Keep them calm. He could have led it with Mora, made his mark upon the Scar, maybe done something right for once in his life.
He denied all their claims, though. And the whole market gawked, gazed, and observed in awe, in fear, in recognition of the path he continued to walk toward the Citadel.
They whispered, nodded, and greeted him as he strode this familiar road. They, no doubt, saw his ‘legend’, one trailing behind the shadow of two giants who eclipsed his own reputation. It was the same nonsense woven by the Old Horn, his sister, and even Mora’s tall tales that made him the most desired mercenary in the Scar and beyond. Hierarch Savaran would disagree with him on his self assessment.
Ragmar stalked up the winding hill. Low roofed, sandstone brick, Lastan patterned houses—they even had corker inspired adornments—dotted each side of the road. At last, he arrived at Ara’s Citadel, jerking to a halt at the towering gates. The Pale Sun was still etched into its faded mountainside. They honored the very sun that had devoured countless souls ten miles west of the Citadel. But that was the Kadran’s way: further strength, further strife.
“Outrider Ragmar has returned.” The horned sentries saluted, announcing him. Ragmar murmured, pointed to Marwen to pick his flintlock rifle up, as he adjusted it for the goofball. The third generation Kadran thanked him, his brown horns started to set in. The kid was built Kadran tough. Ram like pattern? Ragmar cringed inwardly, Menidia must be lurking around inside with her kin on entrance duty today. He slumped through the gates and stopped in her pale maw.
Prayer on the ship with Shera, Ancestor Paytor coming for a blood hunt, and Mother had likely gleamed their escape through the Dusk. Ashera, fifty and not a nine-year-old phantom, was afraid after what they’d seen. She always became sharp-tongued when she didn’t understand what was happening. Or she pretended not to. The irony was most of the Kadran feared Shera for her blood witchery. The Vorkir of a Thousand Faces. He let out a defeated laugh, first in weeks, Ragmar couldn’t tell with her mindgames half the time.
He searched for a spot to have a red grass pipe break. Alone, he was left with his dark thoughts. The Scarlet Eyes appeared on that beach. That meant the Ivory was near. How? Maras was the only one all these years it had possessed. He then cast the past aside. In the pale Citadel, he slunk into a corner away from everyone else. Ragmar checked his usual arrangement: twin Blackblood flintlocks in his holsters, Templar issued sabers with the jagged edges as well. Most importantly? Mercury filled vials and his black blood containers.
He pulled his custom-made Corker style jacket forward, released his hands, and then pounded the wall until his knuckles were bloody. “DAMN IT!” he said, growling in his ancestral tongue. Ara could probably hear his outburst from the throne room two hundred feet above. Ragmar finally stopped. The wall was all the redder with traces of his black blood smeared on it. He then reached into his jacket pocket, knuckles bloodied, and took it out, his nerves calming. He examined his pocket-sized projector: it was a shimmering device that let people communicate with each other. It was old and stank of the mysteries of ancient Karstel. It was also a gift from Uncle Bart. They were strange tools.
Static. Marric wanted to find Dizzie after their port side chat on the journey back. Ragmar nearly wrung Mar’s neck for bringing up what happened between him, Ayl, Dizzie, and Marric in the Dusk years ago. Hard and ruthless was how Marric liked his associates, his smuggling friend had a way with the Dusk’s superstitions as well. Ragmar hoped Snake Eyes was alright down in those Citadel gutters.
Something rippled behind him. Holding in his breath, paranoia crawled up his back, as he reached for his six-chambered flintlock pistol. He held it tight. She was there. His ancestor was near. The Vorkir was likely watching him concealed from her fortress in the astral sea. What’s your game, Josefina?
He snagged a black blood syringe out from his satchel and jammed it into his wrist. He took a deep gulp of relaxation, the first real one in weeks. It soothed his jitters, his muscles contracted, and his jaw snapped back into place. He wouldn’t become a beast today, nor ever, if he kept his wits long enough.
Someone rounded the corner, a familiar, confident clack approached.
“Ragmar, what are you doing?” Mora came to check on him. She was dressed in blacks and reds washing over her thin shawl, flowing deep cut silks, and ceremonial saber. He shook his head, she didn’t go with her armored leggings, for once. Paper thin, steel armor covered the rest of her form. A good mixture of practicality and fashion, she always did carry war and style together as befitting a former Archon. Still, that distant look in Mora’s eyes as her decade old project went to hell two weeks ago? What was she thinking right now? She’d been tight-lipped the whole trip back, and she loved to gab. He needed to hear her reassurance. He was a blade and she was the hand that wielded him.
Mora approached, studying him for any defects, any imperfections. Her blue eyes always watched him, always observed the world she once ruled. She narrowed them.
“Black blood, now?” she said.
He hung his head; her question was like a knife to his brain. Precise. “A little. Mores, I fucked this up so bad. Seras? All those little-horns? It’s…”
She shook her head, silver locks swaying, and glanced back at their party. They were still waiting. Shera’s Pits tinged cackle echoed from around the corner. “It’s no one’s fault. If anything, it’s mine for taking us on that waste…” Mora paused. Her lips could make seasoned killers yield, and her mind had prevented two separate Consumed uprisings during her reign. Now? She probably felt doubt. A similar doubt Ragmar had lived with since that day.
Mora had her own legend, too.
This was her Citadel ten years ago. She’d ruled it, and he’d built its foundation with her. The others as well. Thye went silent, as an Unshackled passed them. The sentry’s makrat sniffed at thin aether trails rising from the sewers below. Mar was still down there, searching for his ever-faithful partner in scamming, Isabela Disintra Desantos. She’d punch anyone who didn’t call her Dizzie, though.
Mora cascaded across the painted stone, concealed them from her escort, and rubbed his unwashed fingers. Everyone’s blood was on them. She squeezed hard. Her touch was as bone cracking as her grip on the boat ride back to the ship when everything went wrong. He returned her warmth, Mora’s touch always brought him comfort and eased his scars. “We can’t keep Ara waiting. She’s the only one who can deal with it…” She scratched her talons into his brand. It was growing. His bones shifted, damn, he’d have to take an extra dose to calm his beasthood.
“It’s the Ivory, Mores. My mother, Erendar, Paytor!?” He trembled, realizing what it could mean. Peace. The peace he’d enforced, maintained, and enjoyed with Mora, Ara, and everyone he gave a damn about or worked with could unravel today. Thank Odran his cousin, Roderick Amador, still commanded the biggest private navy and had his hands in nearly every financial operation in Orenos. At least, the Company kept the homeworld’s management style the same. Nobody messed with the Eastern Sea Trade Company, not even the seasoned Black Maw.
“This isn’t Oaks Hall or my father. Strength, Ragmar.” She gripped his wrists, making her point clear. “I’ll talk, you mock the situation with that clever tongue of yours.” She strained a smile, her own mask slipping. She let go.
“Put on your iron face.” She adjusted her Archoness façade, learned from her dear mother and perfected over thirty years as an Archon. It was like putting on her Waster style silks for her. Easy. “No weakness, those who thirst for fire…” She touched his cheek, her brand lit up along her body. Her aether, her blood? It calmed him. He was Ragmar Mor, the great Outrider and grandson of Corianna Mor. It was time to reunite with Ara. He’d missed her dour face, too.
“Remember? Bawk, bawk,” she repeated his stupid phrase, smiling her warm brilliance.
He snorted. It was silly coming from her mouth. “Bawk, bawk.” He put on his usual mocking bravado. It was back to Mora’s grand parade.
“Ok.” He relaxed, as he followed her to rejoin the others. He dusted off the aether vapors along his Outrider uniform’s reinforced leathers. Hmm, she’d done a good job picking out his best set. Mores, she always knew how to bring out his broken horns. Ragmar shadowed behind her, he’d always serve as her blade until his dying breath.
They wore their best regalia. Mora led. Ashera stood at her right, Saldren, his longtime mentor and the man who practically raised him from twenty on, was to her left. Aryn—her mother’s first Wrath and now Mora’s chosen Outrider—was behind her. Ragmar walked with Aryn, as he covered Mora’s left flank. He was used to giving Aryn reports and quick chats with her on Erendar’s contracts in his younger days. Now they were guarding—parading, actually—the former ruler of the Black Maw Legion. Marric must still be in the sewers. He’d reek of makrat shit and whatever the Unshackled foot soldiers of Aratha’s regime drank and ate in the Citadel. The cuisine wasn’t all that bad this year, either.
The Citadel was quieter. Most of the rising Unshackled were in the other levels of it. Each Archon had their quirks, and no one, not even someone as brutish and strong as Caras, was dumb enough to question an Archoness’s personal arrangements. Ragmar would have had the makrat sniffers patrol each floor with their handlers, at least, on a regular rotation.
“Archoness, Outriders, Strife!” Their local greeter bowed too low for his liking. Shera leered, her moon eyes diluted, (The Dusk probably messing with her sight) at her as well.
Pearl-chained veil. Blue eyes, too many diamonds along her perked ears, her hair braided in a Linerean upper class style looped bun, and a refined chin matching her half-sister, Dizzie Desantos. Menidia lifted her head to meet their gaze. Ashes flecked around her. Was someone using aether nearby? Ragmar shrugged, it was likely a little-horn unable to control their brand properly.
Menidia stood, poised herself like a slinking cat, and beckoned them to the Citadel’s elevator. They entered. The gates shut around the Pale Sun etched into the polished, steel lift. Chains rattled. Shadows draped over them early in the Oreni morning. Seras walked toward the Citadel’s main doors as they went up. Her black blood smeared corpse shambled, and she stared with her scarlet slits at Ragmar. This is your fault, her eyes seethed. You promised—she wasn’t really there.
He’d failed her like he failed all the others.
Creak, creak, creak.
The elevator groaned, ascending the various floors filled with Kadran, Oreni, and people who lived in or served the Legion. He drowned out the world and it all went away.
Bloodstained, sometimes fresh pressed for Mora’s inspection, Aratha and Shera at his side, Caras and Marric behind him after a bandit ambush, he reminisced over all the contracts he’d done for the Legion on the way up. The elevator was his only friend, sometimes. He’d spent entire hours of his life riding it up and down over the last four decades.
“It’s a shame what happened with the Lastan project. But those Unshackled understood the risks. We’ll try to recover their corpses,” Menidia said. That wasn’t going to happen. Warmeat was warmeat. It didn’t matter if it was during a campaign or peacetime.
His right eye twitched, and he scratched his talons into his palms. Understood the risks!? All she does is open her mouth, sing her propaganda, slither through this court, while—Menidia, you…Shera gripped his fists, bringing him back to reality. Menidia noticed out of the corner of her eye, pressed a finger to the corner of her lips, and continued to regale Mora and Aryn about Aratha’s latest alchemic developments.
For a moment—that song, that song!? The Ivory’s song buzzed in his head, whispered to come to her, how she longed to be with him. Mine, you’re mine. The world cracked and then glitched back to normal. Mora made a face, her bushy eyebrows scrunched together. Don’t have an episode, she was saying. Scarlet flickered in her irises. He blinked. Odran, he needed a bit more of the black to fix his senses. Shera would have to do it this time. She’d revel in it, too.
The elevator stopped, the metal railings lowered, and Menidia led them into the throne room. Ashes flecked along the outer crevices of the circular windows. Shera sniffed the air and she shrugged. Saldren went ahead with Mora, who listened with a trained patience. Aryn rested her hand along her blackstone burial blade. She was a Navigator. It was no wonder Nashandra recruited her from Hundmas over a century ago.
“What is it?” Aryn said, trained and obedient to the Pale Sun’s will.
He shook his head, and checked his shimmering projector. No word from Marric. What was taking him? “Nothing, let’s not keep the Archoness waiting.” He marched into the throne room’s center to face Aratha Aresh, Vessel of the Legion.
They weren’t announced. This wasn’t a formal gathering, though. Menidia slithered toward her Archoness up on the throne’s steps. Caras, guarding Aratha with her throat-choking hands coiled around her halberd’s shaft, waited to Ara’s right. Odran, she was half a head taller than last year. She also wore a Marian styled full plate, no cracks, either. She was covered head to talon in reinforced steel, probably commissioned from New Mar out west. Her curved halberd had taken the heads of many dissidents, rivals, and traitors. She likely licked the blood off each kill, too.
Caras lifted her visor. Her long, gnarled horns contrasted with her tied auburn bun. She paid her respects, of course, but leered at Ragmar like always. “Outrider.” Her lips peeled back, revealing her massive incisors. Still had that one chipped incisor, all that power and she couldn’t be bothered to replace it with a silver cap.
The Pale Twins, Odran, they made his skin crawl, emerged from opposite sides of the silver, spiraled pillars. They observed everyone, Shera and him in particular. No light in their eyes. Fateless and ancestors, they moved in sync and resembled the murals of Illyrian nobles. No idea who sired them, no one knew. He didn’t meet their gaze. It was just another secret of the new regime.
“Archoness,” Mora said, and the rest bowed. Aratha Aresh, Vessel of the Legion, Sword of the Black Maw, and once Mora’s right hand, strode down her five-ringed throne. White and black with a dash of red along her long sleeves and flowing, ceremonial, armored gown. Her crown was less a crown and more an obsidian mask with two ornate horns. Rings, Odran, she had the traditional Pale Sun style rings adorned on her entire body.
And now she was their only hope to understand how to combat the Ivory. She could match even his mother’s aether ministration. That’s why Mother praised her when they were children. And here she was years later. Mora and Ara stretched a patent Aresh smile across their faces, their affection on display for all, despite their role reversal.
“Rise,” Ara said.
“Cousin—” Mora said.
“Archoness. Formality, dearest Mora.” Aratha had an odd warmth in her voice.
“I take full responsibility for the Lastan disaster. I underestimated the land.”
“You did. But no one has gone there before. Failure gives us pause, it brings strife to embolden our chains. Didn’t you tell me that once?” Ara removed her black crown. She and Mora were almost identical features wise. Ara had a short bob, Mora had back length, puffy, silver locks. Odran, Mora taught her that Archoness façade too well.
Shera sneezed, wiping black blood from her nose. She probably hadn’t prepared the strain right. Damnnit, Ashera, you have to follow the Temple’s protocols. The Twins stared, tilted their heads to the side, and then tried to form a smile. They failed. “Why are they smiling?” Shera whispered.
“The Old Law…well, I can reimburse you for the ship’s costs and compensation for the Unshackled.” Mora clacked her talons together, already running those numbers for her sister Bema in her scheming mind.
“Mora, you’re my kin. I’m not going to ask you for compensation.” Aratha’s voice reverberated. Even under her Kadran silk gown, her brand was more developed than Mora’s or his. Her fires settled heavier than theirs, too. Caras observed the Lastan party. Her dulled face said it all. Menidia smiled at Ragmar and the others, too strained even for her. Ara, still catching up with Mores, slumped toward her throne briefly. She kept her back toward them, held her arms close to her chest, and was she talking to someone? No.
Something’s not right. Where were all the servants? Where was the Oreni huntress—the one who? Ashes flittered outside the windows and along the balconies. Orenos’ pumpkin sun dipped over the Narrows out in the bay. Aryn glanced around, her brand flickered. Ashera coughed up black blood.
“On the contrary, you did exactly what I needed. The first batches weren’t expected to survive, but it means it can be controlled.” Aratha turned around, her eyes swirled with a deep scarlet. Menidia snapped her hand down. Small daggers whizzed through the air, serrated. One hit Shera clean in the shoulder, another grazed Saldren. Caras beamed, her brand flared up. “We fear the Ivory but Ragmar?” Ara turned to him. “You’ve shown me there’s nothing to fear,” she said, clasping her hands together. The scarlet faded.
“Thank you all for your continued loyalty. Caras, capture the others. I want Ashera and Ragmar. Mora unharmed as well.” The once restrained scholar strained a wide grin.
The Twins dispersed. Caras raised her halberd up, Menidia divided herself into ten copies, and the Duskblades materialized from their concealment. Shera brought her black strings out suddenly awake. Mora exploded into a swath of pale fire. Saldren cut down one assassin foolish enough to take him on. Aryn reached for her blackstone catalyst to open a crack.
“We can’t fight them. We need to…” Aryn said, slamming the blade into the floor. What was happening? What the hell was this? All his brooding ashed out from him, the Outrider surfaced, ready once more. Ragmar unsheathed his saber and loaded flintlock, defending Mora and Aryn.
“Caras.” Aratha waited. Caras charged toward them. Saldren crossed his great sword with her halberd, skidding down into the marble. Saldren buckled under Caras’ forward push. Clang!
Aryn prepared a crack in the Dusk. Hopefully, it would be to somewhere outside the territory. Mora stared at her cousin, hesitating to strike. She didn’t pull out her saber. Shera coughed up aether, the assassin’s strike was laced with something. Saldren pushed Caras back and exhaled fire from his throat. It burned her plate and sent her back several feet. The Twins twisted their ashes and sliced through Saldren’s dying embers with thin, black strings. That was a Vorkir technique. Impossible!
“Go, now,” Ragmar said, fending off a Blade. He booted her in the face. She had that creepy glaze in her eyes, as she thumped back ten feet and went limp on the marble. Ashes hissed from his brand.
Aryn grabbed Shera. “Ragmar!” Shera yelled, clawing for him. The Dusk’s crack howled, pulling aether between the Oreni space. Mora rushed toward Aratha.
She screamed, “What are you doing!?” Aratha didn’t smile, as she closed the gap between her and Mores in an instant. Ragmar wedged between them, tossed Mora into the rift, and Aryn hesitated.
“Go!” Master and pupil shouted, giving them time to escape.
The crack closed. Saldren slashed his talons along his great sword. Shera’s black blood dripped on the marble. He had a good amount to work with today. Ragmar would use her sacred blood as a back up catalyst for his pistol. “I’ll take Astrada, you take…” Saldren whispered.
Ragmar shifted around his mentor, defending his front side. His eyes moved, and he calculated his adversaries’ aether discipline trajectories. The world slowed as Ragmar’s muscles hardened. Everything went still. He raised his flintlock, aimed, and shot six rounds off. Bang. Bang. Bang. The mixed metal bullets whirred slowly through the aether field. Ragmar emptied the mercury ball onto the marble. For the Duskblades, Caras, and the Twins, time sped up for them.
Three Blades skidded into the floor, The Twins scratched at their burning wounds, and Caras barreled forward. Fire scorched Ragmar’s backside and a piercing pain tore through his shoulder. He stumbled back, Saldren fell under Caras’ reinforced blows. Menidia’s copies circled, The Twins drew close, and Caras swung her halberd over her shoulder.
Aratha held her talons to her face, licked Ragmar’s blood off, and then sighed. “The Vorkir truly have the best aether. Ragmar, all I need is you. You’re so clever hiding it. You, Shera, and your mother.” There was no madness in her eyes. None of them. The Ivory resided in their gazes, but nothing was different about them. How was this possible? Not even his Vorkir kin could do something like this.
“Fools, you’ve damned yourselves. You’ll waste to nothing,” Saldren said, spitting, and crossed his blade mid-guard.
“Ara, what did you do!?” He couldn’t believe it.
“You denied me. You denied us all. You should have become Archon when Nashandra died. You spit upon your father’s name. I—” She tried to convince herself, holding her hand against her chest. “—I am Corianna Mor’s true heir.” She grinned, as her face twisted into a grimace. She then sliced her blade into his other shoulder. Ara cradled his face, her eyes glowed with the Ivory. “Goodbye, Roeland.” She welled up, a trace of their shared past lingered in her teary-eyed gaze. Ara, why would you do this? It didn’t make sense.
Saldren kicked her in the gut. She spun across the floor, Caras caught her. Saldren ignited his ashes, a black fire exploded, and sent the Archoness and her acolytes flying back. “Aratha!” Caras withstood the heat.
A faint hand pushed him forward toward the main balcony, whispering to show her. Black and gold, an outline of a feminine silhloutte leered but her eyes they were nostalgic, familiar…it wasn’t Josefina. Then who?
Ragmar fell over the Citadel’s main balcony. Saldren tumbled after him. Ara raced toward the balcony. She reached down to him—tears in her eyes—and screamed at someone this wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. Ara, what have you done? As he freefalled toward the city below, he tried to slow the world, so he could catch the Citadel’s edge and somehow escape. He laughed, life could be such an uncaring joke. Forty years he’d wandered, struggled, and avoided his grandmother’s mantra. Corianna’s Law proved true even now: Death comes for the wicked and the just.
The world reverberated. A familiar, bloodstained castle loomed below him, its reflection shimmered between the cracks of Orenos. A woman sang a Vorkir dirge from there. Odran’s black moon suddenly swelled on the Narrows’ horizon. Josefina beckoned Ragmar to her sanctuary. Had she seen this coming? He wouldn’t put it past her.
The astral sea washed around him. Ragmar recalled how the sound of silence was like the stillness of water that day and all the days he’d wandered this unforgiven world. It didn’t matter. He deserved this. No, he wanted this. No person can go unpunished, unchallenged for all these years.
Remove the stories, the half-truths, and the Legion propaganda. What are you left with? A man who lost that innocent dream on the day the world died.
Ragmar fell into the Dusk.