Right, so you thought Infinity, the dara-witch, is the main enemy (for there's always an enemy!), but now I present to you someone far worse! This guy will turn the entire story on its head!!
*Illustration courtesy of Akos Kozari*
Into the black falls the light, into the abyss tumbles life, into the citadel stumbles his soul, and there hope is seared.
~ Calvin’s Dark Epic, Kinsail 19th Cycle
Another world beyond the Rift
Margus paced his chamber, his haven of light in the darkness of the world. White silk hung in folds, ceiling to floor, along three walls. The fourth was mirrored, reflecting the whiteness, reflecting the light. There were no windows, for the view was dismal, sapping energy from the watcher.
There would be mountains, smooth ebony, triangular reflectors, sharp spires, sinister and forbidding. In valleys between slaves lived and died in miserable hovels. They ate each other when there was nothing else and that was daily fact. They lived in near darkness by day, for a grey fog blanketed this world. It was always cold, yet there were no clothes to warm them.
Nothing grew, no fires were built, no food harvested, no meat roasted, and there was no industry. What they could find in the way of flesh was torn from the bone by razor teeth, eyes darting ferally.
The nights were worse. There was no moon and the blackness was thus complete. The slaves could not rest, for they were starving. People were murdered in the dark, and sounds of lips slobbering could be heard all night, every night. All they possessed was a faint hope that one day someone would kill him. That, and sex. Like animals in heat, they pounced and pounded into each other when they were not murdering for survival. Only a pregnant creature was off-limits; there lay the food for the future.
No, the view was not enticing, nor the sounds worth hearing. His chamber was an oasis in this disgusting place.
Margus ceased pacing to stare into the mirror. He was not like them. His gaze flicked over blond hair to his shoulders, blue eyes and pale skin. The face of an angel. He knew the difference, as he knew appearances were deceiving. He tore his robe away, tossing it onto the pale blue carpet. The body of an angel. Perfection.
An eternity ago this terrible world was filled with light and sweet air, beauty, laughter and love. And a people, a civilization, a race.
An eternity ago.
Striding naked to the door hidden in silk folds opposite the mirror, he stepped into a conservatory where he nurtured fruit, vegetables and herbs. He ate no flesh, would never touch anything with blood of this world in its veins. His slaves would tear him limb from limb if they found it; nothing would stop them if they kept coming.
They never dared.
Returning to the white chamber with an apple, he vigilantly hid the door. Sitting before the mirror, he proceeded to eat. When juice dripped onto his naked thighs, he smoothed the liquid in, a nourishing balm. He imagined for an instant another’s hands doing the pleasant duty … and locked that desire away.
He rarely ventured beyond his chambers, feeling comfortable only in privacy, but not content. Claustrophobic, restless, bored. When it overcame him, he went out and watched them skitter; they knew when he showed his face it was to wreak havoc. Someone would die.
The only other times he left his chambers was to confer with his spies over the Valleur, and to descend into the bowels of the earth to commune with the evil he had created, via a route nobody knew of. That evil was his ultimate weapon, he protected it fiercely, and the best protection was utter secrecy.
Soon he would release his host on lumin kindred everywhere.
He smiled at his reflection and licked his fingers.
His spies reported the Valleur of Ardosia whispered of great matters, in consternation.
Rumours of the Medaillon.
Rumours of a she-devil.
Rumours of a last Vallorin.
Something happened in the universe beyond. This morning he sent his specially trained spies through the Chaos barrier and when they returned he would know what to do.
Eyes hooded in the mirror. He would take the light away, but one world he would keep; a world with a benign sun, fertile, where the edges were rounded and oceans sparkled blue. He had earned it after this long wait. This depraved world he would destroy to the smallest speck of drifting dust.
Margus moved away, and abruptly swung back … there, at the edge of awareness and vision … a face not his own, eyes not his … but it was gone and he wondered if he imagined it.
Clear grey eyes stared in challenge.
Heaving, his hand on his heart, he approached his bed.
The slaves of this depraved world worth lay in their souls.
Given him with the first breath drawn, they were bound in dark dungeons where no light penetrated, deep within the bowels of his citadel.
There they learned to hate, and need, their time there so long now he could no longer recall how long ago it was that he reaped his first soul.
They were his army, and he would use them. When he last ventured into the caverns, he sensed them feel the proximity of freedom and was aware of their eagerness and fervour. It filled him with a fear, yet he was careful not to show weakness in their presence. If he was afraid, others would cower in abject terror.
The Chaos barrier swirled in agitation. He could banish the illusion at the Rift, and yet he would bring patience to bear one last time. He needed to exit this empty realm. His souls were long arms of doom, but he still needed to seize the means to true freedom.
The answer lay with the Valleur.
Millennia ago the barrier between two universes tore open and Valleur entered his domain.
They chose a viable planet, called their world Ardosia, and began to build. Later, more arrived from beyond and in their wake they created a chaos manipulation to hide the tear.
The influx came as a great shock before it transformed into elation. He saw something astounding, and it changed the future for him. A thread spooled strong and bold between the exiles and those they evidently left behind. It occurred to him, with the thread in hand, he possessed the means to enter that other space.
Unfortunately a singular absence in the layers of his sorcery prevented him passing through barriers unaided.
Patience brought reward. The nature of the thread changed, which stirred a greater interest in its specifics for him.
Thus he learned of a Medaillon able to penetrate any barrier. It was the thread, the connection between this space and that beyond. It was a gift and a promise borne of the love a father bore his unborn son. Separated by the curtains of two realities, this Maghdim Medaillon linked them. With it, he could enter and exit impassable spaces at will. There would be no barriers.
Now the Rift was open.
Margus mulled over the news his spies returned with.
It concerned Infinity, an Immortal. The she-devil apparently.
Clearly Immortality was not unique. And, as he understood it, a challenge was in the making. Seemingly, this creature was bent on avenging the death of her son, murdered on a world known as Valaris.
The Valleur of Ardosia held it sacred as their last home, their final memory of a universe abandoned.
Valaris. Everything appeared to centre upon it. Past, present and future.
A beautiful world filled with light and fertility?
Infinity had opened the Rift. Impressive, but why did the Valleur allow it when they knew how to close it?
Why is Dantian submissive to this witch?
What hold has she on them?
What is this game?
Standing on the glassy balcony, the only open ground around his citadel, Margus gazed outward.
The Keep was built of enormous, black-as-night rocks hewn from the pinnacles of the mountains in the distance. Built upon a natural bridge between two peaks, the only access was a narrow stairway.
Nobody ascended unless summoned, usually his spies. Occasionally a few others would dare, hoping to catch him unaware, coming with murder in their eyes.
He laughed, thinking on it. Murderous intent could be tasty. He knew when a foot not summoned trod upon that first step, and awaited arrival in anticipation. The fear when they found him waiting was a thrill of pleasure. Their deaths were spectacularly gruesome to set an example for the rats below. Generations would pass before another dared the stairway.
He closed his eyes to call forth an image of the thread, checking hourly now. It strengthened imperceptibly over the last few days, and he was breathless with anticipation. Other pleasures paled in comparison to this present expectation.
Were there Valleur on Valaris? The Golden on Ardosia whispered that the last Vallorin, one called Vannis, had achieved Immortality, and that he foresaw a darkness in the future. Tellingly, they murmured that he fashioned a Medaillon for his son to pierce the Rift upon his death, a Medaillon that never came.
It confirmed a continuing link between this Vannis and his direct descendent Dantian.
I must capture the thread … it leads to the Medaillon.
Dantian will lead me to the source.
Margus commenced sober planning of the invasion of Ardosia. It meant nothing to him, as this world meant nothing; there was no pleasure, not even in a foot upon a step.
Pleasure now lay elsewhere.