Story — (Spark) The Origin of the Wilds

The world wasn’t always like this. This… green. At least, evidence points towards the contrary. The Wilds—the giant forests that cover the planet—are new. Older than any of us, of course, but new in the grand scheme of things.

A long time ago, humanity was widespread. You could walk across a city for an entire day and not see a single tree. And there was no need for walls back then, either, because we had nothing to be afraid of. Civilization might have even advanced to the point where we started looking to the stars.

But then of course, things changed.

The researchers at Trellin believe that the Wilds and its connection to the aether beasts are linked. When the Wilds started to grow and spread, aether beasts began to appear. Buildings that touched the clouds came down, and humanity was forced to run. To flee as the forests spread and ate the planet. Over time we’ve gained a little ground back, but we’ve never been able to answer that one big question.

Where did the Wilds come from?

At first we thought it might have been a rapidly spreading species of tree, spreading like a plague that was nearly impossible to kill. But that theory didn’t explain the aether beasts that followed in its wake. And since aether beasts are made rather than born, knowledge of their origin is even more dubious.

Maybe the Wilds was a biological weapon that got out of hand. A technology too advanced for our science to comprehend. Maybe the aether beasts are a product of that weapon. If that’s true, it was probably far more effective than it should have been. Both the Wilds and the aether beasts adapt and grow in response to their surroundings. This theory, outlandish as it might be, does hold some ground on that front. Rapidly changing the environment of one’s enemies in times of war could be quite advantageous.

But my favorite theory is the craziest of all. It’s not really supported by our current understanding of things, and it doesn’t actually explain where the Wilds came from, but it holds far more intrigue than the other two.

What if the Wilds was an aether beast, and the tree roots were all linked into one giant organism? Aether beasts are spawned from a seed, after all, and trees grow the same way. What if there was one seed that created the Wilds?

All these ideas sound ridiculous, I know. But researchers have been actively studying it for decades, and have very little in the way of facts. There are many who think that learning the secret of the aether is key to reclaiming our world.

Perhaps there’s still a piece of civilization out there somewhere that the Wilds didn’t touch, left crumbling in a state of severe disrepair. If there were, what would be the chances that the secret to the Wilds is there?

This all sounds ridiculous, I know, but there are some questions the world needs answers to. And I won’t rest until I find them.


Prompt — Volok the Timeless

Volok the Timeless closed the portal as soon as everyone was through, leaving the cleanliness of the college behind in favor of the warm, damp swamp he and his pupils found themselves in.

Volok looked up at the giant mossy tree that stood in the center of the clearing, frowning as he inspected it. It was the largest one here, roughly as high as the main hall of the university. This was the right place, he was sure of it. It was just so… mundane. It didn’t have any of the burn marks or slashes he had been expecting. The tree same as always, really. Sad. The new skeletons were a nice touch, though. Most of them had sunk into the mud already, and the ones that hadn’t were covered in moss. There was little chance they would be recognized for what they were, but you never know.

He straightened the collar of his robes before spinning around to address the dozen students he had brought here. Little more than children ill prepared for the arcane arts. It must have been only weeks since they had shed their baby fat. Or maybe years. After a while it was hard to tell, and it made no difference besides. Magic was a fickle thing, and these kids were not ready, but Volok had little else to do with his spare time.

Being immortal had strained his patience with the world after a few thousand years.

“I suppose you’re probably wondering why I’ve escorted you to this dreary place,” he said. He threw his hands out in a gesture halfway between exuberance and indifference.

The toddlers looked not about the green bog that surrounded him, but remained fixated on him, notepads in hand as they prepared to write down what would undoubtedly be a riveting lesson from Volok the Timeless. Not a peep was heard from the bunch.

“Well, I’m half wondering that myself,” Volok stated. “You see there’s nothing interesting about this place. It’s far from any civilization. It has no arcane significance whatsoever, and supports only the most rudimentary of ecosystems. Can any of you lot hazard a guess as to what may make this place interesting?” He had no prepared answer to that. It was a genuine question.

The place was silent for a time, and Volok frowned again. After what may have been seconds or minutes, one of the girls raised a hand.

“Is it perhaps to teach us the importance of simplicity? To show how magic, though complex at first glance, has a simple core that lies in the heart of nature?”

Volok sneered in disgust. “What on earth are you blathering about? The interlocking of how the arcane arts flows through all living and nonliving this is the single most complex natural phenomenon ever to exist. There’s nothing simple about it. It takes centuries to truly master it. Most of you won’t live that long, and you’ll be the lucky ones.” He sniffed and smoothed his eyebrows with both hands. Lucky indeed. Nobody really wants to understand magic, they just want to blow other people up with it.

“Then what was your purpose in bringing us here, great master?” another of the students asked.

“Well, for somebody as aged and wise as I, everything I do and say is for a good number of reasons,” he nodded. Yes, that sounded smart. “Perhaps my primary purpose in bringing you lot here is to define the history of magic. A good starting lesson, I think.”

Several of the children began scribbling on their notes. Heavens above, did they even know how to write yet? Oh, yes, they were just atrocious at it. Volok made a mental note not to look at their scribbling. He would go mad.

“All the other masters of the arcane may teach you that magic began with the interweaving of the life force that connects man from nature. The ability to pull heat out of the air, or bend time to move from one place to another by spiritually communing with the world around you.

“It’s all nonsense, of course. Nobody knows how magic started. I know I don’t need to tell you how many thousands of years I’ve been using it, but it is a practice that has been in use for far longer than that. I think it all started with a man. A god, one might say. Living right in the breadth of nature in a place much like this. This man was the lifeblood of all magic, all knowledge of the universe, you see. Can anyone guess his name?”

The infants scratched their heads and looked about as if deep in thought. They actually believed this stupid little fable. Idiots. Volok hid the grin from his face as he watched them. He tried his best to be the wise master everyone seemed to think he was. More fun that way.

One of the students spoke, probably uncomfortable by the silence. “Was it Unasi?” One of the names for God in the Old Tongue. A dull but expected answer.

“Of course not!” Volok said. “There’s a reason we don’t use the Old Tongue anymore. It’s people died. If they were right about everything the people that spoke it would still be around today, hmm?”

The children nodded as if he had preached some ancient wisdom. None of them pointed out that the statement was riddled with flawed logic. In fact it hardly even made sense to begin with.

He was already bored.

Volok the Timeless sighed. “You know what? Lecture is over.”

Several of the students breathed in relief. They seemed to think he intended to cast a portal to send them all back to the university. He smoothed his eyebrows. No, he had something far more… active in mind.

“Tell you what,” Volok explained. He pointed behind him with a thumb. “You all fight that tree over there, and if any of you survive and make it all the way back to the university in one piece, I’ll graduate you on the spot, got it?”

The children looked at the tree, then at each other. Now he couldn’t keep the smile from his face.

Volok turned to look at the tree as if he was seeing it for the first time. “Hmm. Only problem is, that tree doesn’t look very threatening, does it? Let’s fix that.”

He snapped his fingers and the earth began to shudder. Only it wasn’t the earth. It was the tree uprooting itself as its limbs stretched and breached the surface. Large chunks of bark and branches snapped and folded over, bending into the shape of arms as it shaped into a vague humanoid form.

“Better watch out,” Volok instructed to his crowd of now very alarmed students. “Magic isn’t terribly effective against it. Since this place is so damp fireballs won’t really work.  But I wish you all the best of luck, and if any of you manage to make it back alive, do wash up before you come into my office. I don’t want you tracking mud everywhere.”

Volok the Timeless looked back to the bones half buried in the mire. He probably wouldn’t have to worry about that last bit, but you never know. He snapped his fingers again, opening a portal back to the university and leaving the kids to their own devices.





Story — (Spark) Lady Aimee Calico

“I’m sorry, Zai. It’s just not going to happen. It’s not in our scope.”

“I implore you to reconsider, ma’am. Just think of how much easier all sorts of travel would be If we had a fully operational underground system that connected us to the northern world.”

Lady Aimee Calico put her elbows on the desk and pressed her face into her hands, trying her best to push the sleep from her eyes. Ecco snoozed near her in the corner of the office, not a care in the world. She missed the days when the furry little Ravess slept on her shoulder. Missed those days for a lot of reasons.

She turned her attention back to the young scientist. “You just want a research base to study the Wilds and its endemic life more closely.”

Zai, blushing a little. “I think the research could be very beneficial as well.”

“I admire your courage,” she said. “But a small field base in the middle of nowhere is bound to fail. A subway connecting Redview and Trellin is one thing. Those cities are much larger. Plus it goes against everything Lord Athril believed in. The whole purpose of the foundation of this city was to establish a self sufficient town independent of the north.”

Zai frowned, glancing at the portrait of the city’s late founder that hung on the wall near Aimee’s desk.

“No, my primary focus is the safety of Athril’s Edge. Which reminds me, I have to discuss next week’s border patrol with your father. The expansion is going to be happening soon, and I want it to be seamless. So next time you see him I’d like you to send him my way. Got it?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied.

“Alright, assuming you have nothing else you wish to discuss you should be on your way, I’ve important work to be done.” She found a pen and eyed the ever awaiting stack of paperwork on her desk.

“Actually, if you don’t mind my opinion on the matter,” Zai offered.

“What matter?”

“The expansion.”

“Speak your mind.”

He shifted uncomfortably for a moment before taking a seat opposite her. “Now, obviously this isn’t my field of study, but Cadri and I have been discussing the possibility of constructing walls around the lake-facing side of the city as well.”

Aimee grimaced. “Why in the world would we do that?”

“Well, to be honest I’m growing more concerned about the dangers of aquatic aether beasts.”

“It’s not going to happen, Zai. It would be a waste of resources to build that much wall and effective walls would hinder food production. We’ve been over this.”

“I know, but hear me out. We only build walls on the shorelines. The cliffs don’t need them. And we fortify the docks with constant patrols of tamed beasts. Minimal resource loss. Also, Cadri explained that we wouldn’t even have to build them to regulation height because no aerial threats would be coming from that direction.”

Aimee sighed. “We’ve been fine for years. The lake is half the reason we even picked this spot. We only have to defend on two sides and it’s a good source of food. No significant threat has ever come from the lake, and you’ve given me no reason to believe that that is likely to change anytime soon.”

The scientist looked like he wanted to say something, but either decided not to, or couldn’t put it into words. “It’s just a hunch.”

“I don’t have time for hunches, Zai,” Aimee snapped. “I have work that needs doing. And I don’t want you bringing this up again until you show me evidence that I should be concerned. got it?”


“Good. Don’t forget to have your father come see me.”

“Very well, ma’am,” Zai nodded before turning and leaving the office.

“Oh, and Zai?” Aimee said, looking up just as he opened the door.


She returned her gaze to her work. “It’s not going to work out between you and my sister.”

“I’m sorry?”

“You’re not her type. I’m just informing you now. Don’t get your hopes up.”

“Is that an order?” Zai asked.

She shook her head. “No, just an observation. Dismissed.”

The door closed without another word, and Aimee turned to her aether beast, who was still sleeping peacefully as usual.

“Becoming Lady of the city has ruined both of us, Ecco,” she told him. “You get too much sleep, and I get too little.”

She glanced back at the portrait of Lord Athril Mores. His chair was too big for her.

Story — (Spark) The Founding of Athril’s Edge

Athril Mores stood at the edge of the world, pondering the metal grave. Waves crashed below at a slow, thoughtful rhythm, like the heart of Naya breathing alongside him. Athril placed a hand on the grave as he looked out over the Gulf. “I will not forget your kindness, old friend. May you find your place among the aether.”

The sound of footsteps broke his reverie, and he turned to see the Calico sisters in their padded leather uniforms approaching him from the bottom of the slope.

“I hope we’re not disturbing you, Lord Athril,” Aimee, the older one said, saluting. The tiny form of a baby Ravess perched on one of her shoulders. Its feathers were much smaller than normal, almost like strands of fur, indicating an unusual subtype. Athril had seen the girl training with it a lot over the past few days. She was convinced the beast would become one of the next prime defenders of their little outpost. “We have some news to report.”

“No need for the formalities, just tell me what you want,” Athril sighed. The decade he felt like he had aged in the past few days came out as he said that. They were not the words of a leader come to conquer.

“We’ve finished mapping out the area,” Aimee continued. “The masons back at the camp think they have a solid wall design that can house over a thousand people.”

“Oh!” Cadri chimed in, brimming with excitement. “And with your approval, they say they can have the walls built within a month! And I also heard that they’re outlining ideas for future wall expansions, once we reach capacity. Athril’s Edge will be a bustling city in no time!”

Athril glanced back to the gravestone. “It’s called Greydale,” he muttered under his breath.

“I’m sorry?” Aimee said, taking half a step closer.

He turned around to address them. “This establishment is called Greydale. I didn’t mount this expedition and march halfway down the continent to take orders from the likes of you. There will be no talk of wall expansions. I don’t want Greydale to be a bustling city. It was never meant to be a bustling city. I picked this spot because we only have to defend ourselves on two sides. The further our breadth of walls, the more we area we have to protect and the greater risk we run of a breach and succumbing to the Wilds!” He took a breath and realized how tightly his hands were balled into fists. He had been yelling again. Damn.

The Calico sisters seemed a bit stunned at his outburst. Aimee regained her composure but was careful not to offend him again. “Apologies, sir. We’re sorry to disturb you. Rest assured that the aether beast population in the immediate area has been dealt with. There will be no expected danger to the encampment for the next several days, but we still have trainer patrols running perimeter constantly.”

Athril nodded. “Good.”

“Sir?” Cadri said, avoiding his gaze as she recovered from Athril’s rage. “T-the reason we came to see you. The wall designs? You’re the only one that can approve them.”

“I’m sure they’re no different from the walls at Redview or Trellin,” Athril said.

“Not quite, sir,” Aimee said. “The masons explained that the saltwater from the Gulf would erode the wooden supports in the walls much more quickly than in the north. If we made them using the conventional method they would fall into disrepair nearly three times as fast.” She frowned and scratched the back of her head. Her Ravess squawked in agreement, and she moved her hand to start petting it. “Or, something like that. With all due respect, it’s best you hear it from them, sir. They can explain it better than me.”

“Nothing is ever simple,” Athril sighed.

“Although,” she added. “Maybe you could discuss with them the possibility of making the walls out of pure concrete instead of segmented modules. If we don’t want to worry about future expansions, we don’t need to build the wall to be portable. We wouldn’t have to worry about the wood at all.”

“No,” Cadri said. “Walls aren’t modulated just to be moved. If they’re structured in chunks they are easy to replace in times of need. A portion can be torn down by wild aether beasts and replaced by a new one within a day if the new wall segment is ready to be implemented. The segmentation may make the overall strength of a wall weaker, but the beasts aren’t smart enough to capitalize on it, and the convenience of maintenance more than makes up for it.”

Athril nodded approvingly. That just about summed it up. “Have you ever considered masonry, Cadri?”

The girl shrugged, uneasy at the compliment.

Aimee grinned at her sister, then looked back to Athril. “Either way, you should discuss it with the masons, sir.”

“Alright, alright,” Athril said. “I’ll meet with them this afternoon over lunch. Anything else?”

“No, sir,” the girls said.

“Very well. Dismissed.”

The Calico sisters saluted again and retired back down the hill. Athril returned his attention to the grave and the Gulf beyond it.

“Oh! And sir!” Aimee shouted back. “If you ever need time to relax and… you know… forget… I know a few people. Just let me know and I’ll buy you a drink.”‘

“Much appreciated, Aimee,” Athril smiled as he called back.

Soon, the only sound was the rising and falling of the waves as they beat against the shoreline of the cliffs below. Naya herself voiced her approval of the settlement in the steady heartbeat of those waves. Not Athril’s Edge.


It wasn’t fame he was after. Naming the town after himself seemed ridiculously self-serving. Better to name it after somebody more selfless.

He nodded his thanks to the metal gravestone once more, then made to leave down the slope and into the campsite below.

The foundation of a city newly forged.

Prompt — White Words

(I’ve narrated this story and published it on YouTube! Go check it out if you would rather listen!)


The morning chill in what could only be described as a pathetic attempt of a forest bit through Zyn’s robes, and he tried to remind himself that the day would get warmer as the fog dissipated. The thought held little comfort.

He held the wooden claymore over one shoulder as he walked, script covering the length of the blade. Zyn didn’t read it. The sword never had anything useful to say anyway.

The road flattened after a time, and through the fog the shape of a large log structure came into view. Not the town Zyn was hoping for, but some food would be nice.

“I know you’re probably bored,” Zyn said. “But I want you to stay hidden.  You can’t just assume everyone’s illiterate, got it? No writing.”

The white runes on the blade faded as if the wind had worn the words away. New runes replaced them almost immediately, but Zyn could only read the end since most the sword’s length was behind him. It read …kill them.

He sighed. “We’re not going to kill anyone willing to put food in my stomach. This isn’t a discussion.” It couldn’t be helped. He would just have to try to keep the shifting words from eyesight as much as possible.

The building looked warmer and more inviting than the forest surrounding it. Perhaps it was the the log walls that were made from trees too dark and too thick to have grown anywhere near here. Perhaps it was the smoke billowing out from the chimney, fading into the fog out of sight. Perhaps it was the promise of some modicum of civilization Zyn so desperately needed. Either way, it didn’t matter. Anyone that could hold a conversation better than a bloodthirsty sword was worth spending time with.

“Hello?” Zyn called, opening the door with a tentative push.

“Hiya! Come in, come in!” a voice replied, much higher pitch than anticipated.

Zyn pushed the door far enough to allow him to walk in, stepping sideways as he was careful not the brush the sword against the threshold.

The warmth of the interior washed over him, and he let out an involuntary gasp of relief. The hand that held his sword was freezing, so he switched hands and breathed warmth into it.

The room was dark and small. A bar on one side of the room housed several cupboards and bottles behind it, though there were only two chairs at it. Hardly a tavern. To his right was a more open area that surrounded a fireplace like a stage, which was lit by a roaring flame. Further away from the fire, an empty table with a bowl of fresh fruit waited patiently for him to take a seat.

Movement caught his eye, and he turned to see a little girl peek out from behind the bar, her golden hair tied in a neat braid. She grinned. “Business or pleasure?” she asked.

Zyn frowned. That wasn’t where her voice came from before.

“Siba, nobody comes here for pleasure,” somebody said from behind Zyn.

He spun around in surprise to see a boy standing there, golden hair kept short. He seemed of very similar age to the girl in that both had reached the end of their adolescence. He had probably come from a side room Zyn hadn’t noticed at first. He grabbed one of the fruits on the table and bit into it.

“That’s what Gramps told me people say, Siben,” the girl replied. Their voices were so similar Zyn could hardly tell them apart.

Zyn’s uneasiness grew. There was one person on each side of him. One of them was bound to see the words on the sword sooner or later. Luckily he was much taller than them. He shifted the sword to lay flat on his shoulder so that the words pointed upwards.

“Yeah, but we’re in charge now,” the boy said in between bites. “So we can say whatever we want.”

“You mean whatever you want,” Siba shot back.

Zyn sighed. After all this time, this is what he got?

Siben, the boy, was now waving the fruit in the air to emphasize his point. “All I’m saying is—”

“Excuse me,” Zyn interrupted. The two of them shut up to look at him. Maybe they had forgotten he was there. “What sort of place is this?”

“It’s Siben and Siba’s Restful Resort!” Siben said.

“It is not!” Siba argued. “You can’t change the name just because Gramps retired! Besides, my name should come first!”

“Your name? Why your name?”

“Gramps says I’m older than you!” she stuck her tongue out at him.

“That doesn’t count!”

“It’s Siba and Siben’s Restful Resort or we don’t change the name at all!” Siba said, folding her arms.

“Please,” Zyn sighed. “I’d just like a place to stay for the day.”

“You got money?” Siben asked.

“Siben, that’s rude!” Siba scolded.

“It is not! We’ve got a business to run!”

“I don’t,” Zyn confessed. “But I can make it more than worth your time by sharing the news from the west.” That was the deal he often made with establishments like this.

“What would we want news for?” the twins said in unison. Their similar voices added an eerie air to the words.

“Surely you’d like to hear how other lands are faring.”

“Not as much as I’d like to hear coins in my pocket!” Siben shrugged.

“And what would you do with said coins?” Zyn asked. “I can’t imagine either of you have been to the nearest village more than once in your lives, given your age.”

“But merchants come through here selling wares,” Siba said. “If we had money we could buy stuff from them.”

These kids clearly hadn’t been doing this sort of thing for very long. “But in that case you can just trade wares for services,” Zyn explained. “Likely they’ll want to stay for a while, too.”

“He drives a good point, Siben,” the girl said.

“Yeah, he does,” Siben replied, finishing the last of the fruit. “But it still seems like he’s getting a free bed just for some dumb news we don’t care about. What else you got?”

“What about that sword?” Siba asked.

“Not for sale,” Zyn said, tone final.

“Looks weird,” Siben noted as though he was seeing it for the first time. “What’s it made of?”


“A wooden sword?” the girl said.

“What’s the point?” the boy nodded.

“It’s not really a weapon,” Zyn shrugged.

“It’s a sword,” Siben said, tone flat.

Zyn sighed. “Not just a sword. Can you two read?”

“Sure can!” Siba perked up.


“How about I tell you about me and my sword in exchange for a bed for the night?”

“I don’t know…” Siben frowned.

“Oh shut up, what are we gonna do, make him leave?” Siba said. “Tell us!”

Zyn relaxed, taking a seat in the table that overlooked the fireplace. Siba hopped onto the bar and threw herself over it, sitting on the counter and rocking her legs back and forth as she waited for Zyn to settle in. Siben grabbed another fruit from the table and went to sit, legs crossed, by the fireplace.

“This sword is an ancient heirloom that has been passed down for generations in my family. Legend says that it was used as the vessel for a powerful spirit that could command people with just the sound of its voice. They trapped it in this blade so that none could be controlled by its power ever again, but over time, it found a new way to exert its dominance.

“You see, the spirit inside the sword can write along its blade. You could have a conversation with it. You merely say something to the sword and the text on it will change in response.”

“Whoa,” Siben said. “So it can, like, hear us now?”

Zyn nodded. “The spirit is evil, and even though it can no longer physically speak, it has been known to control the minds and thoughts of others just through its words. My family has proven to be the only one that is unaffected by the spirit’s influence, and thus we have become the bearer of the sword.”

“Why not just leave it somewhere and forget about it?” Siba asked.

“Yeah, like couldn’t you just throw it in the ocean?” Siben said.

“I could. But Cinderbark is one of the hardiest woods ever discovered. The tools used to carve this blade have been lost to time, and I know of no other way to destroy it. By leaving it unattended, it is forcing trouble on future generations. I would not want to be guilty of such a travesty.”

“So the words are magic?” the girl said.

“As far as I know,” Zyn nodded.

“But you’re immune?” the boy replied.


“What’s it say now?” they both asked.

“I don’t read it very often. Mostly it just tells me to kill those around me. It tries to persuade me to follow its bidding nonetheless. But don’t worry, I won’t harm you, even if you do throw me back out into the cold.”

“Cool,” Siben said.

“Read it!” Siba nodded.

“That’s not a good idea.”


“Because it can hear this whole thing. It’s a wise and powerful being. Anything I tell you it says could influence your actions into causing something horrible.”

“Oh come on, it can’t be that bad,” Siba laughed.

“Read it or you can’t stay the night,” Siben said.

Zyn sighed. Children. “Alright, but you can’t look. And I won’t be held responsible for this. There’s no telling what horrible images it wants to plant into your mind.”

They nodded in agreement. He raised the sword from his shoulders and pulled it from around his head, holding it with both hands as the white script on the blade changed.

As soon as he read the words, he shook his head. Now he was forced to make something up, or look like an idiot.

“It says,” he began. “‘Siba and Siben’s Restful Resort’ is a good name for this place.”




Spear Gate — Chapter Thirteen, Pt. 3

Varra threw her hood back as she reached the wall that divided Lower Terrace and the Meadows. She looked back to the raised city in the distance, and let out a sigh of untold emotion. As much as she hated it, Eathe was right. This was the only way. If their plan worked, she would become a target. Already was a target, in some ways.

As she watched, the ground beneath her began to hum. The deep, familiar rumble of the Spear Gate opening was more distant now, as the horn blaring of an incoming army, but she could still feel it in her bones. Soon a beam of blue light shot upwards out of Upper Terrace, heading straight for the sister-planet.

She remembered her mother describing how the Gate opened back when she was the Hand of Defense. She said that the light came from Eranos and landed on the obelisk as lightning drawn to a metal rod. That was when Rozire had come through, from Eranos to Asamos. The Gate opening now meant the plan worked, and Maelys would now be going from Asamos to Eranos. Which begged the question…

From which side was the Gate opened the second time, while Varra was visiting Maelys in Xan’s infirmary?

Of course, there was no point dwelling on such questions. As far as she knew, nobody went into or came out of the Spear Gate that day. It could have been as simple as being opened on Asamos with nobody passing through at all.

Varra frowned, sitting on the inner edge of the wall as she stared at the beam of light. She was a fugitive, now. The other Hands probably wouldn’t waste much time looking for her, but she would never be able to come back here. Not even to Lower Terrace, once she passed through. Beyond that, she’d have to wait here for a few hours for the Shadow to come to enter Lower Terrace. She couldn’t enter the main way, of course. She would have to slip into the city unseen. The rags Eathe had given her would help.

This begged the question: what was the next step? She still felt a duty to Terrace. The threat of what lay on the other side on Asamos was only growing more real with how often the Gate was suddenly opening after centuries of silence. Hand or no, her knowledge of the danger made her responsible for anything that could go wrong.

And then there was Maelys. If there really was a threat on Asamos, he would now be alone to face it. She hated that he had been thrown into this, but his success in opening the Gate meant that he had a competency to him.

And then there was Eathe. Brilliant as he was, he had no real allies now. He’d have to fend for himself. All the more surprising that he was the one that suggested this plan. He could be executed within a day for all of this. Maybe he was already dead.

Darkness fell upon the trees as Asamos eclipsed the sun. The Shadow had come.

New horizons awaited.

Varra stood, vaulted onto the wall between Lower Terrace and the Meadows, and faded into the city.


End of Part One

…Draft One

Spear Gate — Chapter Thirteen, Pt. 2

The inner courtyard of the palace was large. The stage of his execution was near the front, and cobblestone paths made beelines towards the Spear Gate, which loomed in the very center of the area as an ominous guardian to the carefully cultivated foliage around it.

He had no idea how to open it. Wasn’t even conscious when it had opened a few days ago. The only person anyone had ever known to open the gate was Rozire, and even that was hearsay.

His life depended on his use of magic. He didn’t even have any proof it existed, and now his fate would be the result of his trust on people he hadn’t known for a week.

But he couldn’t hesitate now.

He approached the bronze-colored obelisk in a huff. People were after him, but his surprise had gained him some ground.

He inspected the monument, looking for any monuments or handholds, or anything that looked suspect. He doubted there would be a hand imprint that would cause the portal to open once he touched it.

There wasn’t, of course. The surface of the entire object was smooth, and the dark reflection of a terrified young man stared back at him, willing him to hurry up.

Shouts came from behind, commanding him to stop. A quick glance behind him revealed that the half dozen guards running after him already had their weapons drawn.

“There’s no time to meditate,” Maelys muttered to himself. “Mind projection is out. Varra said I ignited Rozire’s staff when she first found me, but I don’t have that now.”

What would Rozire do? Open the Gate, of course, but how?

He closed his eyes and pressed both hands against the obelisk. The cold, smooth metal seemed to push back against him, as if it was a wall testing his resolve.

He thought about the Spear Gate. He envisioned it opening the way Varra and Eathe had described. A blue beam of light shooting into the sky as the obelisk shattered and reformed into the shape of a doorway. When nothing felt different, he pushed harder against the Gate.

The clamor behind him grew louder, and he could feel his heart speeding up along with it.

“By the Maker’s five hands, I command you to open!” The stone remained silent. “I’m going to die making a fool of myself,” he muttered.

Maelys tried for the thousandth time to think of any hidden meaning in any of Rozire’s lessons. He tried to think of an often repeated phrase, or a suspicious hand gesture his master might have employed.

Nothing came to mind.

Helpless, he lowered his arms and turned back to face the approaching guards. They raised their weapons with intent to use them.

He looked up at the sister-planet in desperation. The dark spot loomed in the sky, gazing down at him in disapproval. As if he had failed the test.

The first guard finished closing the gap, sword raised to slash down through his shoulder.

What would be the point of raising his arms in defense? He couldn’t fight six armed soldiers unarmed. He doubted he could even win a fight against one soldier, even if Maelys was the one that was armed.

In that moment, two thoughts popped into his head, slowing time as if they would not allow Maelys to die until he had considered them long enough.

The first thought was Rozire. What had happened to him? He wasn’t one to turn back when things got difficult. If anything, he pressed on with more determination. Varra was fairly certain none of the constructors had killed anyone the night she found him dying of Red Teeth, but since Upper Terrace was literally on a platform raised high above the Meadows around it, nobody could have entered without being spotted.

The second thought was what Rozire had said to him on the last night Maelys had seen him. His master was looking for his mother, and commented that he had been searching for her ever since she left Upper Terrace. Maelys had never known his mother, and in that moment he had first brought it up, Rozire had instilled a dream in him that he had never known he had.

He wanted to see his mother. To at least know who she was and why she had left.

The sword came down, and the world went white around him.