Four Feasts till Darkness is an expansive and complex work—even I lose track of things without my notes! It would be unreasonable, then, to expect perfect recall from my readers. To that end, I set one of my dear editors—Kyla—to scribbling down all the important bits of the story. Here you are: a refresher of the events of Geadhain’s Great War leading up to Feast of Chaos.
When first entering the world of Geadhain, we encounter a realm of magical smoke and metaphysical mirrors reflecting the darkest and lightest that its inhabitants have to offer. But as the pages of Feast of Fates turn, a deeper understanding of this mystical realm emerges, one that parallels the universalisms found in our own very real experiences in this world. It is a world unlike any other, where science and magic form a mysterious force known as technomagik. It is a land borne of a Green Mother earth, but ruled by the wills—both conscious and unconscious—of kings and queens that wreak havoc on their world. But there comes a time where even a mother must teach her children the hard way, even if it pains her. And so Feast of Fates sees the start of the Green Mother’s tough love, depriving them of her protection for the anguish they have brought to her with their violence; it is the world’s inhabitants alone who can save themselves.
Our story begins with the weavers of fate themselves, the Three Sisters—Eean, Elemech, and Ealasyd—who make their homes in the forests of Alabion. The Sisters represent life, death, and all its various contortions and permutations in the world. There, they both give birth to, and usher death upon, themselves and the world. With each renewal, they shape the twists and turns of our players’ journeys, for better or worse. They represent destiny’s infinite loop in a twisted sibling rivalry that will determine Geadhain’s future. But even the Sisters of Fate cannot control the rumblings on destiny’s horizon—the harbingers of destruction to come in the stormy and ethereal form of the Black Queen.
The scene shifts to the city of Eod—Geadhain’s cosmopolitan metropolis. Nestled within Kor’Khul’s oceans of sand, it is known as the City of Wonders for its host of technomagikal advancements and a skyline filled with flying carriages ferrying Eod’s cultural and social elite. There we find Morigan, a young woman of character and strength who is traveling toward a destiny that was forged ages before her birth, and one that is intimately entwined in tapestries of the Three Sisters.
Morigan lives a simple life as a handmaiden until her world is thrown into tumult as she is drawn to the literal animal magnetism of Caenith, a wolf-man changeling whose initial gruff appearance belies his ancient origins and unimaginable power. The two are instantly bonded, each of them knowing that their attraction goes well beyond “love at first sight,” and is more akin to having been written in Geadhain’s starry skies. The two cannot deny what has been preordained, and the ripple effect of the Wolf and Fawn’s union (as they come to know each other) as bloodmates begins to be felt throughout Geadhain. Their coming together stirs ancient powers of sight in Morigan, and inspires the beast in Caenith to reclaim its role in his life.
Morigan’s nascent visions are a near-constant reminder that whenever there is joy, sorrow remains but a half step behind. She is witness to waves of destruction and death shadowing the realm, making their impending presence known not only to her but to all of Geadhain. In her mind’s eye, she sees that just as we humans wage war against ourselves and the earth that has borne us all, so, too, does Geadhain face a battle against evil forged in blackness, smelted from the depths of all the worst the world has to offer. Chief among Morigan’s visions is the emergence from the pitch of the Black Queen.
This foul, black entity exerts her power chiefly by wielding the bodies of others like puppets. Morigan is forced to watch as the Black Queen overtakes Magnus’s body to mete out a brutal attack on his wife. She is also witness to her use of the Sun King, Brutus, to wage war against his own people, pitting him against his brother in kingship and immortality, Magnus, the Everfair King. The incorporeal figure of the Black Queen has set the wheels firmly in motion to bring drought and death to the Green Mother’s world.
A witness to Morigan’s symbiosis is Thackery Thule, a sorcerer who guided her in her youth and through the painful loss of her mother. Thackery forms another piece of the puzzling group that will either pitch Geadhain forward into light or see it crumble before them into darkness. For years, Thackery’s past was concealed from Morigan, but unwittingly, she begins to reveal tragedies long buried. His is a history filled with loss at the hands of those closest to him, the details of which will play out over the tapestry of time. He quickly realizes that Morigan’s powers extend beyond simple fortune-teller’s tricks; she may hold the key to Geadhain’s future. In an effort to safeguard this knowledge, Thackery takes them to see Queen Lila. There, in the royal palace’s Hall of Memories, Morigan reveals that the threat that Brutus poses to the queen, the kingdom, and the entire realm is also manifest in Lila’s spouse, Magnus.
But the sudden emergence of Morigan’s long-repressed powers has not gone unnoticed by other powers that be, and fear that she might pose a threat to the hierarchical order of Menos quickly makes her a target. In those moments where Caenith and Morigan are pledging their blood to each other, others are plotting to capture the Fawn and subjugate her before the Iron Queen of Menos, Gloriatrix, a woman so driven by grief at the loss of her husband that she has ruled her kingdom with a fist worthy of her title. Never content to do her own dirty work, she instructs her son, Sorren, to become a party to the destruction of Eod and capture of Morigan. He sets off a number of explosions that destabilize the city not only physically but also politically and socially, and Lila is struck with the realization of Eod’s vulnerability. For Thackery, Sorren’s indifference to inflicting pain comes as no surprise. As his uncle, the sorcerer was not only a witness to his past violence but a victim as well. As the mysteries of Thackery’s past continue to be untangled, we learn that not only is Gloriatrix his sister, but his nephew was responsible for the death of his wife.
Before the dust can settle, Morigan is spirited away to Menos, a city that breeds its own brand of filth borne out of fear. She is to be held captive there until she is subjugated to the whims of Gloriatrix. But even with her newfound powers still in their infancy, the Fawn is a worthy match for her captors. So, too, is her new companion, Mouse, a member of Geadhain’s underworld network of spies. This diminutive woman has been shaped by the mean streets of Menos, the ones paved with slavery, exploitation, violations, and hate. Mouse had done her time in the city and sought out a new face from a fleshcrafter, only to discover that there truly is no honor among thieves, landing her in the same captivity as Morigan. Like the city of Menos itself, Mouse’s moral compass is one that, accordingly, wavers with the magnetic pull of the tides.
The unlikely pairing of these two women is a reminder of how difficult it can be to cut through the obscurities of a world where appearances are never quite as they seem. Our impulse to simply dismiss the “bad guys” is constantly challenged by being privy to perceptions of individuals both within and without the relationships of all our players. Good and evil are never as simple as they appear. Each player is “othered” by those in opposition. Good is never just good. Evil is never simply evil. Perception is everything.
Neither does “dead” always mean “dead.” There are brokers and fleshcrafters who deal in the undead and nearly dead, and these manner of men are holding the women in wait for Gloriatrix’s interrogation. But even the zombielike slaves of these nekromantic death dealers have deep within them a spark of humanity waiting to be lighted once again. For no one is this more true than Vortigern, the dead man whose shackles of catatonia are broken when Morigan’s psychic bees pierce into his mind. Buried deep below his death mask is a past and present inextricably linked to the group. He was no random victim of Sorren’s psychopathy—they were brothers. Vortigern’s present death was the consequence of having once loved Sorren’s wife and fathered a child with her, Fionna, the mighty Mouse who is now a witness to his deliverance from un-death.
But these women are not stunned into inaction by their newly gained knowledge, for the world of Fates is not one in which women are the meek observers of the world’s affairs, passively allowing events to simply happen to them. And so their escape comes not at the hands of Thackery and Caenith, who have ventured into Menos’s dangerous underworld to rescue them, but through the women’s own ingenuity and intuitive powers. In the process of their escape, they rescue yet another prisoner, Kanatuk—once a malevolent, mind-thralled servant to Menos’s underworld kingpin, the Broker. Although before being enslaved and brought to Menos, Kanatuk was a peaceful wanderer of the frozen North. Through Morigan’s grace and natural proclivity toward reweaving broken souls, he is rescued from his darkness and restored of his past.
Elsewhere, in their efforts to rescue Morigan, Caenith and Thackery also encounter a young changeling girl being exploited at the hands of the seemingly insane Augustus and free her of the bonds of child bride-dom. A skin-walker without a skin, Macha is a sister of Alabion, and like her changeling brethren, she is possessed of visions of other worlds. Her dreams are ones that foreshadow the presence of an unknown, fanged warmother who has ushered an era of conflict and violence into their homeland. They form a troop of undeniable misfits that eventually makes its way out of Menos toward a destiny whose grandeur and importance is made increasingly clear through Morigan’s visions and buzzing mind hive. She alone bears the full weight of those visions and the horrors that unfold within her mind’s eye. Even the mental and spiritual link with her bloodmate do not fully spare her of that burden.
In an effort to secure what she believes is her rightful place in the halls of power, Gloriatrix has formed an alliance with Elissandra, a powerful sorceress and seer. She believes that the prophecies have foretold that when brother rises against brother, she will find her place in the resulting power vacuum. But even the Iron Queen is unaware that the powers that run deep in Morigan’s veins also run in Elissandra’s; we learn that they are both Daughters of the Moon, sisters in the providence of Alabion. And so Gloriatrix’s plan to wage war against the immortals may be undermined and her suspicions of Elissandra warranted.
Meanwhile, King Magnus and his hand, Erithitek, have been leading the troops of Eod’s Silver Watch forward toward Zioch, the City of Gold and host to Brutus’s throne. Magnus begins to appreciate the scope of his brother’s burgeoning depravity, unleashing terror and chaos upon his own people. It also becomes clear that there is every chance that his journey is one from which he might not return. He thus elicits a hard-won promise from Erithitek to return to Eod and keep safe his Queen Lila.
But not unlike the two women who use their strength and cunning to escape Menos, the queen that Magnus left behind is no manner of shrinking violet. Shaken by Morigan’s prophetic revelations, she is no longer certain that the man she loved is as virtuous as she once believed, and whether the choices she made were truly guided by love or something more sinister. She sets out on a dangerous journey upon Erithitek’s return, steeled to protect her people against any offensive from Gloriatrix. Yet love of husband and love of kingdom drive her to commit acts of terror against those who would threaten either, reminding us that each one of us believes we are “the good guys.”
As Magnus continues the Watch’s advance, he knows that his brother is lying in wait, hunting him. Once the two are face-to-face, Magnus comes to understand that just as Brutus has transformed his kingdom into a wasteland, so, too, have the feelings of fraternity they once shared been transformed into intense hatred. Empowered by the Black Queen, Brutus overtakes his brother in a firestorm of destruction. Lest mortals and immortals alike forget: even with all the accumulated powers of the world, complete control over one’s ecosystem is always an illusion. Magnus’s vanquishment by his brother shakes the foundations of Geadhain, and the land spews forth a natural disaster, a storm of frost and fire that sweeps the world from end to end, triggered by the outcome of the battle between brothers.
It is a battle that produces no winners, since it takes place in a realm where even the very concept of death is malleable. And death, or that which resembles it, is the destabilizing force it always is, bringing with it both chaos and clarity. Thus the Black Queen’s reign of terror begins with the fall of Magnus and the rise of her corrupted avatar, Brutus, from the ashes of that climactic battle.
When the smoke clears, a world lies in ruin. The line between coincidence and fate is wholly blurred. And the Three Sisters reveal that they are adding a new sibling to their fold—one by the name of Morigan…
P.S. Next week, expect a recap of Feast of Dreams. Then, forgoing any literary disasters, you should be able to jump into Feast of Chaos soon after. Also, you’ll find the complete “recap” of events, as well as an updated glossary and map in Feast of Chaos (later to be retrofitted into the first two books). Finally, the featured image this week is one of Leo’s latest works: “Big Man, Little Baby”. So brilliant, great tone and technique–see if you can guess the characters!