“There is no pain more excruciating than bleeding in a world so beyond reason that poetry is blasphemy. The prevailing order is foul! It must burn, burn and burn some more, until the three kingdoms are all ash!” Maron bellowed at his audience.
He moved his hand from his bleeding wound, opened his red palm, at the center of which rotated a ball of fire.
“I can now create worlds in my palm. Suns and galaxies… Imagine, darling, what we could’ve created.”
The group stared at the miniature sun, which despite its tiny size, lit up the gloomy valley of shadows that was the dig site. So deep the undead had dug, the expedition were surrounded by stone pillars and structures from ancient times. As the waves of light licked them, the runes on the structures began to flicker. The robed reaper wiped a runaway trickle of blood from her cheek.
Continue reading “Chapter 10 – The Final Star Goes Dark”
Battles between mages had a formula that had formed during the violent centuries. As much as the kingdoms attempted to quell the rise of unsanctioned speakers of the language of creation, new prodigies appeared constantly. But these men were often jealous, prone for one-upmanship. An unofficial dueling etiquette formed around their destructive engagements. As every spell had its direct counterspell, the element of surprise was often the tie-breaker between equally matched speakers. Secretly developed techniques that no other speakers knew of ensured the dominance of a magi. Without trump cards, every duel came down to chance.
Skilled speakers feared each other, as talent posed too much incentive to kill a rival mage and steal their research. Alas, the most important part of the etiquette was to avoid direct confrontation, until one had successfully forced an opponent to reveal the extents of their study. Nothing was more dangerous than a magi who concealed what they knew until the last moment.
Continue reading “Chapter 9 – Poem to Lady Death”
The putrid smell of burning flesh was everywhere, there was no escape from it. The carpet of carcasses stretched towards the far end of the sand valley to the other end, growing thinner from the sides, like its threads were unravelling. The killing fields were being devoured by the fire, purged from horror, only the pace was dreadfully slow. It was an absurd nightmare, more absurd than any maddened mind could conjure. To see so many battle-mutilated carcasses at once, the visage grossly clashing with what a mortal mind considered normal, your reaction would not have been to scream. Any man or woman to see such a thing, would have been gripped by awkward laughter instead. Charred ribs and skulls trodded randomly in the most awkward of angles, many stuck in the sloppy mass of other corpses, like skeletons having rough, bloody intercourse. The brush strokes were countless, the golden canvas of the killing fields was the stage for a comedy of bones.
The corpses posed not just a sanity test, but a physical challenge for those wishing to traverse across this red line. The desert had effectively been cut in half for a second time in its history. The indomitable colossus stood still on his post, unfazed by the carnage.
Continue reading “Chapter 8 – A Comedy of Bones”
Tarot stood his ground, whereas the royal army was a mess of vomiting men. The most physically fit, combat-hardened men in the entire kingdom of Sharam were vomiting their guts out as they dreamed their own bloody deaths repeatedly, but not Tarot. He had already died a thousand deaths and would die a thousand more.
Unshaken, step after step, he approached the giant that had crawled from unnamed depths. It did not breathe, nor pay heed to his presence. Curiosity, it showed none. Fear, it showed none. Its size and physique, the four tower-like arms protruding from its torso, possessed unquantifiable crushing power. None could say if a beast not of this world of such awesome stature could rip apart the very planet. But where it had punched the ground, deep cracks certainly showed. Tarot jumped over them, no heed to the potential fall.
A rumbling and cackling from the digsite poured into open air, like a sudden thunderstorm. Racing in the burning shadow of the colossus, the rotting army was caught on fire.
Continue reading “Chapter 7 – Battle of The Burning Dead”
The translation work was nearing completion. The diggers were clawing, shoveling, reaping the sand off hungrily and relentlessly. The stone stood in a deep hole, and he sat on its edge. With a mere paper and pen in hand, he wrote words that had not been read for countless generations. It was the ending of the great story, the climax of the journey of life in the universe. The fate of every star, every soul, every war and struggle, was written on the monumental slab towering before him. As he scribbled, his mind and body hovering in a strange middle-ground of this life and the next, he felt at peace. The the sheer act of writing gave him profound joy.
Behind him, at the edge of the digsite, the nameless gargantuan monstrosity awaited still, its lumpy, veiny back like a wall of rocks. He couldn’t see anything past it. Like a loyal guard, protecting the excavation process, it paid no heed to what he was doing. Its unholy presence was almost comforting.
In his life, he had been a soldier, rising the ranks with hard work and determination. In battles, he had blocked blades, cut down men, for gold and food, in defense of the provinces of Sharam. But deep down, attending wars and lesser skirmishes had never been about gold or status. He had lived according to his nature as a man. That weighed most.
The air turned cold behind him, and in the next instant the necromancer named Maron appeared, carrying in his left hand the severed still-bleeding heads of four people by their hairs.
Continue reading “Chapter 6 – Trial of Severed Heads”
Shovels, pickaxes, carts. Borrowed from nearby farms and mining towns. The workforce was borrowed as well, without an expiration date for return. The racket at the digsite was infernal, as thousands of walking corpses tinkered with their many tasks. For any work more complicated than shoveling sand and dirt and rock, they would’ve been unfit for. But for monotone, repetitive work, the dead were ideal. They knew no exhaustion when doing their master’s sinister bidding.
Continue reading “Chapter 2 – The Dead Are Digging”
“You come from Sharam… a city besieged by sand, and more recently, the living dead. Your past, my dear boy. I see death in there. Unshed tears, frozen in your heart, growing darker by the cycles that consume your youth. You carry a heavy burden from which you have no salvation. I’m afraid you won’t easily shed this weight…”
The short hooded figure barely nodded, but the elderly woman noticed regardless. The difference in age between them was easily decades, but it wasn’t so obvious. Whatever other arts she was dabbling in seemed to be preserving her appearance. Her deep voice betrayed her though. She drew another card from her black deck.
Continue reading “Chapter 1 – Necromancer in The Desert”