"It's hard to wake up from a nightmare if you're not even asleep."
From deep within the rolling tundra of the western Andari mountains, a disheveled imperial emissary emerged, covered in snow and blood and breathing just as hard as his horse. They had rode hard, leaving behind their camp in the snow drift valleys to return to Clasall as swiftly as he could. When he arrived, he was ushered into the Great Hall, while a servant announced his return to the Empress. He presented himself to Her Majesty in the privacy of her study, and in the small hours of the morning, Empress Calla Monriant learned she had come to be a widow.
For the pas
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
The long, dusty roads of the southwestern plains left very little room for error in one’s journey, and yet Wine took a small amount of pride in it. It was bittersweet to feel this kind of freedom now; being a woman of wanderlust had been frowned upon, for having being wild of mind and heart had no place in the orderly, routine ways of a farming community. She had enjoyed listening to the tales of wandering minstrels when they came through, but was banned from seeing them for fear of her running away to find adventure. Now, she found herself with all the freedom in
“An obstacle is often a stepping stone in the right direction.”
They trekked through the thick plains and weathered game trails that the south had in abundance, stopping for rest and supplies in chantries and taverns when they could, until the edge of the desert could be seen.
The Mal’ek Desert stretched far into the north, touching the Andari mountain range in the northeast, where sandy hills melded into tundra and spare grass. The tales that surrounded the Mal’ek circulated heavily in the south, many dreamt up. The most recurring agreement among all who spoke of it, though, was that a great magical battle h
“Talking to an old friend makes you realize how much your life has changed.”
Another full day went by in the Mal’ek when they started to see tufts of dried grass beneath their footsteps once more. The grins on their faces when they reached their first inn just outside the heat of the desert was infectious, and they left behind a jovial scene after sharing a drink and tales. With their food topped up and their water skins dripping, they headed towards Swallowdale, to the residence of Sern Arriksson.
Wine’s last visit to see Sern had been perhaps when she was eight or nine years old. Her uncle - Sern’s fa
"To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.”
The trek back towards Amathas was much less eventful, for which they were all grateful for. Ainwin led them with confidence, checking her bearings every so often before pressing on. They had been walking for over two hours when Ainwin called to them from up ahead.
They found themselves atop a small knoll overlooking Lake Mynael, spread out before them once more. Amathas’ gates could be seen just beyond it, a glimmer between the foliage.
“You can see where the Sists tried to enter previously, just beyond the curve of the lake.” They
"The wanderers are everywhere."
Spires of silver intertwined themselves around trees, like hawks circling the skies, creating elegant homes and shops that molded with nature. Stables lay before the entrance of the city, and a plethora of agile creatures rested inside: white stags, gyrfalcons, and several horses. The stable hands waved to the guards, who nodded in acknowledgment, proceeding into the city. Every elf stared as they passed by, and it wasn’t until they reached the center that there was a commotion.
A woman’s voice cried out over the throngs, and the guards paused to see an elvhen wo
"There is strength in numbers.”
They spoke no words, but Wine took up her sword once more and headed back into the fray, while arrows whistled by her, never touching her but finding their mark in the eyes of the Sist easily. Together, they cut it down in a roar of agony, before Wine pierced its chest where a heart should have been. An unearthly sound exhaled from it, and it gave a shuddering twitch before falling limp on the floor. The first Sist still fought with Samsara and Sern, so Wine and Ainwin joined them and quickly put it down in a similar fashion. When it breathed its last, the smiles of exhausted victory graced their face, u
"The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.”
They made their way towards the tree, picking their way over rubble and vines that lay across the floor. Wine found herself unable to keep her hands from fidgeting, her eyes studiously averted away from the tall elvhen figure that was Cael. Her excitement at his sudden appearance was quickly overshadowed by a sudden dubious feeling. Why had he shown up here, of all places, and in the middle of what was supposed to be their test to prove themselves? Had he come on his own, or has his parents asked him to watch them, certain they would fail?
Most of her companions seemed
with flowers in your hair
sunflower girl, petals in your hair,
you are always found in the long grasses
waving in the summer air.
dreamcatcher above your bed, you save the nightmares
in hopes that you can tame them,
dispel fear as fiercely as a lion on game.
hemp belt hung with jade miniatures
the eagle, the bear, the stag
your heart drifting on the hazy days
and eagerly captivating the youngsters by campfire nights
with tales of the moon and the hare,
you will always remember the cringing rush of regret
whenever you threw back that wine,
ready to make excuses later, done in the name of the emperor
you will always recall the surge of guilt
whenever you undress a new woman
the lies already on the tip of your tongue
she compelled me to assist her!
the gods pity your half life, your inevitable demise
filled with the petty half lives and full lies
the forge lies before me,
and I kneel before its altar, a sacrifice to the craft;
it is an art to become steel, caressed by fire and carved by water
a process I live and die by
a sacred position, to fold steel for the gods
as I have folded for my wife, my people
I shall not abandon them in times of need
and my anvil shall ring with the thunder of war
but in the stillness of the peaceful era,
where does a master crafter turn to?
I await your arrival, sometimes by boat
sometimes by scream
an endless stream of eternity falls before my windows,
some peacefully, others impeccably morose,
but all agree on one thing:
they are truly in hell.
I tried to reason, give my brothers another task,
but they insist on the constant of mortality
and who am I to discharge their favor?
I was never broken, never fragile -
have you tasted wine so sweet
as one of sun-kissed grapes?
the revelry that flourishes under my hand
we drink deep in thanks every twilight,
and come morn, we lie grateful in the dirt,
the smallest of fires burning inside with pleasure;
the moon never taught me so much about your body before
I must give thanks for the stupor you have put me in
your laurel crown of plenty has smoothed my features
a river of plying kisses and softened beds,
I wallow in the scripts of those who thirst for justice;
give to me your broken hearts, your adulterous partners
a birth of karma in a tidal pool is exactly what they need:
the salacious rumors of the solider's life, his loyalty to his wife
second to none -
his commander ousting him for a tryst in his quarters,
his wife's cold eyes and icy touch, renouncing her ties
the pale beauty he bedded suddenly caught with the black death.
by the moonlight I feast
creatures of the dark lay their heads at my feet
mother of magic, you will kneel before me
before you are aware of the implication ...
in the deep stillness of night,
my best work is weaved
candlelight and runes encircle me
spirits of the other realm heed my call
and the night rises -
if I instill my words with the moon
would you call me witch?
t'was the hour of rising,
my wife in bed, the babe asleep
and my work had begun before the light had slipped above the horizon.
my nets in hand, spear in another,
calloused as the bark that washed on the gravel
I settled myself into the rhythm of the day;
but I was to be blessed that day, as was the wishes of the gods
the sandy bar of my home away from home
was occupied by an old man, sunk halfway into the edge of the river
harmless and quiet, he a
come, bring me your wounded, your broken
let them bathe in my pool
the shattered and bleeding will come to no harm further
care for the sick, pray for the wild
we are all children of the moon here
ancestors guide you,
the gods will watch over you
as I return your pain to the earth,
wretched and tired, overburdened by the thought of forever.
lay your scars at my altar and pray for forgiveness
I shall carry the call of mercy betwixt my
if I had a heart
it would never love you
instead, it would hog-tie you
and run the pony express
over the face that left
my voice cold and gold;
as expressionless as
the pity you gave me -
you haunted me
savage rumbles underneath
my bed frame, and
even my shotgun
only made you flinch,
left me with little choice
but to befriend the wolves -
so if I had a heart,
it would tell you to die
sell your self to sin
for even the devil
can't stand your presence;
but my heart was gambled away
and so I will settle
for observing the dust
making its home on your grave
ClintDeaf cambion (half human, half demon)Left for dead by mother in a desertWas terrified of what her child would becomeReligious motives - sex with a demon, etcRaised by wildlife, highly intelligentCommunicates with hums and sign languageEats a fair amount of meat (wolf packs); doesn't discriminate between humans and animalsPrefers knives and makeshift weapons and/or hand-to-hand combat
Lone ranger/vampireGenerally travels aloneFeeds on the healthy, to not attract attention if an elder/sick victim diesEnjoys hanging out in graveyardsCarries a revolved, named it Tessa after an old flameReally just wants to settle down on a small farm
bones littered the earthen floor
the carcass of a wolf in the
depths of the darkness,
where he preferred to be,
but today he had company;
you had summer in your hair
and jet in your eyes,
do you remember anything from when
you were more alive?
copper hair hung in low tendrils
she knew he could hear her lips
but no sound fell from them,
her heart hurt a little more for it
tried to mention that it wasn't
she had tried to stop them
but what good was a girl
with pigtails, to a citizen
of the damn depths?
maybe you hear me, maybe
you ignore me, but
clint let me tell you -
you'll always be
a baby brother
fifteen years, dirt and dust
crystals and summoning circles
a bar fight or nine,
there is always a wager against us
eyes avoiding the truth
roulette bets, the pot grows higher
a revolver or three, always there
but we have the queen up our sleeve,
we still have the aces in our boot,
what is high noon to the occult,
what is a full moon to a cowboy;
they say love has no boundaries,
but I say we wrote our own
is that why they don't come 'round anymore?
you think this old woman is going to
let wolves prowl my territory?
married for a reason,
no sheep live under our roof -
so it is written,
so it will be
"I testify, your honour
that this here woman is a
consort of the devil!"
the courtroom was lined
with the witch supremacists
ready to call heresy on
julianna, the post mistress -
a man's pride lay guarded
by wounded others, who knew
all to well the sting of an
ego bruised by 'just a woman';
"your honour, he told me
his wife wouldn't have him
anyways - who am I to say no
to a gentleman?"
replacing adultery with devils,
to set the dogs of war on her -
such was the patriarchy
of a ranching land;
"what have you to say
in your defence, if anything
the air was thick with
reminiscent of brush fire
the sounds of cocked barrels
clicked like heels outside the doors,
while a coin rolled over the knuckles
of a rune-etched hand;
"you're above the bend, now!"
heidi hummed a fiddler's tune
over the sound of the male ego outside,
black-eyed susan tapping a tune
against the rafters she sat in.
"honey, you're two throws
from the boot-yard," she sang,
and her eyes rested over
her cardinal, tucked against the wall;
"look me in the eye and say that again" -
peering down through the dust lay a
man or three, not a tail feather left
of what they used to be in this life -
old world burns in the palm of her hand
made heidi wince as the barn doors r
cacti grew where none wanted to
shading a chicabiddy from her blazing sun;
frozen nights in the desert
warded off by wolves and weredeer
shy by the morn
ravenous by the night,
stalking ewes and dewy-eyed dames
rough and tumble outside city limits
child of tumbleweeds and hawk teeth
he buries his knowledge
in the cavern he calls den
as silent as the world he was born into
the whisper of the wind
doesn't reach his ears, but touches
his fingers, licks his lips
navigating his path with confidence -
clint dwells in the gloaming of the
hills, his reach across the west
like roots from the mother tree;
morsels sought on his behalf
The whisper of her steed’s breath on her neck made Amelia’s skin erupt with goosebumps. She rubbed his nose gently, murmuring soothing words to calm the nerves they both had. Tying the reins loosely to the fence, she started forward, her boots kicking up clouds of dust as the saloon door came into view. Taking a deep breath, she pushed the doors open and headed inside.
The room was in full swing this evening: card sharks gathered around tables, beer bottles and cigars hanging over the lips of bowls and mustaches; parlour girls flitting around the laps of bloated gold miners, and the bartender was pouring drinks as fast as the ord
"etta, I can't stay here, I just can't"
amelia shook her bag full of curses
as her sister watched with a glassy stare
the days of hill-hiding couldn't fulfill her
need to wander, to explore, to discover
"he'll find you out there, is that what you want?"
she knew the answer as soon as she said it
and she didn't know if she wanted that knowledge
to remain or be scraped from her ears
"don't breath a word to the others,
there will be hell to pay -"
"they know you better than you, they guessed."
and the sentence fell like a rope in the sand;
they guessed, and let her go
was it banishment or relinquishment?
her crystal heart ached to know, bu
crowds of mongers were
peddling rage and theories
as amelia was led up the stairs,
the hangman waiting to
take in her last.
spurs tinkled faintly
the creak of a leather belt,
sharp eyes peered out over
the faces of those that
would eat her alive.
"any last words" was the
jeer from her jailer, but
amelia spat at his feet
and the crowds called for
a twist and jerk secured
her neck at a jaunty angle,
but it was the jailer who
screamed for mercy -
blood-lust turned to
bloody horror, and amelia
slid her noose off while
the man behind her choked
on his own words.
"witch!" was the cry, and
she touched a finger to
her lips -