by Christian A. Brown | Jun 13, 2021
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Throughout the far corners of the land, people and magical beings alike prepare for the war presaged by the foul star that stains the horizon, the harbinger of the Black Queen. In Pandemonia, Morigan, Caenith, and their brave friends strive to understand the weave of fate and what they have learned through their quest to capture the Mad King. Morigan’s sight reveals the love and jealousy of the Dreamers and the origin of the immortal kings, and she bears witness to the birth of a great evil. She and her companions, fearing all they value will be plunged into darkness without their help, turn to a mythic relic and a sworn enemy as their last chance to return to Eod before it is too late.
The good people of the City of Wonders, meanwhile, must prepare for battle without their leaders. King Magnus, Queen Lila and their hale companions journey to the frozen north to seek the inevitable force of Winter, the power they will need to confront the Mad King, who—bound as he is to the elemental of fire—easily destroys all who confront him.
When the immortal kings clash, familiar heroes join the struggle, transformed by blood into the mightiest of warriors. And Morigan undertakes a lonely mission, transcending space and time to ease the suffering of a Dreamer. This is the battle to end all battles, the fight that will either lead Geadhain to misery, or usher in a new era and an uneasy peace: that of a world without kings and Dreamers.
Feast of Darkness, Part I opens at some distant time in the far Northlands, where the fearsome Kinlord gathers his men for a blood ritual and summons the terrifying Spirit of Winter, sealing the fate of his lineage in exchange for centuries of life.
Meanwhile, the Sisters Three scheme and cast their arcane spells in Alabion, struggling against a tide that appears to have been turned by events in Pandemonia, where Elemech’s daughter Morigan’s efforts have been thwarted by the Keeper Amunai. The Sisters must decide, and soon, how deeply to intervene in the affairs of Geadhain, especially since the Furies—also called the Red Witches, the Sisters’ dark shadow selves—have allied with Aghna, the lupine warmother (and former lover of Caenith), who threatens to enlist the help of Ragnarök, the Dreamer of War, in her obsessive zeal to wipe men from the world. Elemech, in particular, wrestles with dark visions and agonizing choices, debating her Sisters until they become one again, unified in their decision to leave the woods of Alabion at last and move among the people and across the lands of all Geadhain.
On a beach not far from the port of Taroch’s Arm, a geologist named Simon Bochance and his young daughter Muriel explore the shallows and the rocks beside the River Feordhan. Simon watches his daughter play while recalling his late wife, Mary, murdered in the town of Riverton by a mysterious vulpine man skulking within the port’s labyrinthine network of docks and wharves. Distracted by his sinister memories of that crime, Simon is staggered by the sight of the walking dead rising from the waters of the Feordhan. He scoops up Muriel and runs to raise the alarm.
Speaking of the dead—or at least the unliving—the human part of Sorren has emerged from the endless desert sands surrounding Eod. He returned to save his mother, Gloriatrix, from herself, though he continues to battle the voracious, calculating monster of his own madness.
In Eod itself, a torturous triptych of immortal power plays out between the fevered King Magnus—struck senseless by his effort to resist the Black Queen—the tormented Queen Lilehum, and her more recent bloodmate and lover, Erithitek. Brooding through Magnus’s coma, Lila reflects on the newly powerful grip of winter on Central Geadhain, a normally balmy realm. Equally troubling are rumors of the approaching undead hordes to the east. Eod itself has become a haven for refugees from throughout Geadhain but has reached its capacity. Within its walls shelters an uneasy alliance of monarchs, migrants, and mercenaries, of magikians and displaced Menosians. They prepare under the watchful eyes of Beauregard, Galivad, Rowena, Leonitis, Dorvain, Gorijen, Rasputhane, and the Iron Queen Gloriatrix for the coming clash with the Queen of Bones herself: Death.
While the power players of Eod wrestle with how to counter such an existential threat, the handmaiden Lowelia Larson plays tender to the Mind—a sentient crystal sphere—as they negotiate the streets of the City of Wonders. As they wander and communicate psychically, they learn a kind of mutual empathy and respect, until finally, the Mind shocks Lowe with a plan to rescue Magnus from his fugue state. She hurries to inform her queen, and the Mind outlines its scheme: a kind of spiritual vaccination only Erik and Lila can provide via a mysterious and magikal ritual, a second blood marriage, which they reluctantly perform. King Magnus awakes.
Elsewhere in Eod, former Menosians Aadore, Sean, Curtis, Skar, and the infant Ian struggle to shake off their recent trauma and adapt to their new status and the alien lifestyle of their adopted home. Meanwhile, in the King’s Garden, Gloriatrix encounters Elissandra for an awkward reunion, a meeting that is prologue to an even more disturbing reunion of mother and unliving son; at the sight of Sorren, even the Iron Queen faints.
In Pandemonia, as Eatoth and its Keeper Superior Ankha fall and the arkstone is taken, Amkhapet, the shocked Keeper of Intomitath, City of Flames, receives a vision from the Great Mother of the mad king Brutus approaching her realm.
In Eatoth itself, archivist and former Amakri Octavia and her legionnaire husband Longinus decide they are at peace with the troubling presence of Morigan and Caenith before being abruptly plunged into chaos when Eatoth begins to disintegrate due to the absence of the arkstone’s magik. Grabbing her son Reginus, Octavia leads them to temporary safety in a cellar. Amid the rubble and destruction above, Longinus searches for his wife and child, inspiring his demoralized soldiers in the process.
The Wolf and the Fawn suffer imprisonment they don’t have the heart to fight. While the fate of Eatoth weighs especially heavy on Morigan, her bloodmate tries to break her out of her gloom and self-blame. Helpless, Adam and Thackery can only watch the Wolf’s growing dismay and frustration. What to Caenith is a hunt, to Morigan is murder. Genocide, even. Thackery’s intervention and his clear bond with Caenith, however, eventually gets through to Morigan, and though still grieving, she relents and pledges their blood allegiance anew.
In lieu of censure, Longinus decides to recruit Morigan to help search for survivors throughout the fallen city, and for his missing family in particular. Morigan not only leads the party to Longinus’s trapped family, but she also recognizes the mark of leadership in the legionnaire, glimpsing a valiant and fêted future for him and his handsome family in some remade and enhanced Eatoth, one without the hypocrisy and entitlement of its previous incarnation. The companions work doggedly to restore both pride and hope in the many refugees and survivors they rescue, and once they rest, Octavia and Morigan bond. Outsider and local alike strive to begin rebuilding the shattered realm. Thus—gradually, painfully—arises a New Eatoth.
Mouse, Moreth, Talwyn, and Pythius finally arrive at what is left of the City of Waterfalls and are dismayed at the clear absence of elemental magik. Their disquiet at the ruins is tempered by an emotional reunion with their friends, however, as each group is apprised of the adventures of the other. Morigan is especially interested in Mouse’s account of Feyhazir. During their conversation, Morigan realizes she must discover Brutus’s location, whereupon her bees show his terrible army marching on Intomitath, the vast, imposing City of Flames. At first certain the latter will prevail, she soon realizes that Brutus has outwitted Amkhapet, that yet another Pandemonian city has surrendered and a second arkstone is lost. Amunai and Brutus are winning. The companions suspect the arkstones are aiding the pair in the recruitment of a ghastly elemental named Ignifax, the Father of Fire, which in turn prompts Pythius to relate a story of his people, the Amakri.
He gifts them with a lush, psychedelically-inspired vision of the ancient utopian Cradle of Life in the heart of Pandemonia before Zionae, riding the apocalyptic Black Star herself, fell and transformed the Cradle into the Scar. Talwyn realizes that they must discover the Cradle of Life’s ancient secrets in what is now the Scar. They must find a relic of Zionae, of her first vessel. Elemech herself had even hinted at such. While the companions debate this, Morigan’s swarm confirms Talwyn’s insight. After discussing what lies before them, Talwyn and Pythius consummate their bond, while Morigan has a vision of a brown dog and wonders if it might be a spirit guide.
We return to Simon and Muriel crossing the plains south of Kor’Khul in a horse-drawn wagon after fleeing the dead at Taroch’s Arm. Eschewing the dubious shelter of the cities, Simon plans instead to journey beyond Meadowvale closer to the Straits of Wrath where they might find a cabin and be self-sufficient while the horrors of the age play out elsewhere. Before he can reach his goal, he encounters three figures on the rain-sodden road one night who tell him his destiny lies south of there. Three sisters.
Unsettled by the Iron Queen’s unusual display of humanity, her loyal guard Gustavius ruminates on the approaching clash with Death and her hordes. He also recalls the stories of his people from the Northlands, in particular, the legend of Beira, the living spirit of Winter. His pragmatic core tells him that the age of Immortals and legend must be buried if Geadhain is ever to survive and flourish. Meanwhile, he has the odious duty of visiting Camp Fury, where Dr. Gideon Hex heads Project Animus, and where rumors claim that refugees and outcasts are being experimented upon and even reanimated. Within the living ship Morgana—one of the Iron Queen’s fearsome warships, the Furies—Dr. Hex has expanded the size and scope of his cruel experiments. Once Gustavius realizes how the mad doctor is procuring his subjects, he confronts and then beats him, ultimately banishing the doctor from his queen’s service. Once Gustavius leaves, Gideon is assailed by Death herself—acting through the body of one her dead hosts—who tasks him with disarming the Furies.
In the courtly halls of Eod, en route to the war council in which the twin threat of the mad king and Death herself is to be discussed, Magnus, Lila, and Erik come to terms with the implications of their new and unique status, their “unwanted fellowship of hearts” as Lila puts it. The Mind, growing in power, emphasizes the dangers. Magnus and Erik, in particular, are bickering like siblings, but Lila’s intoxicating sorcery soothes their misgivings.
The great gathering of the war council learns from spymaster Rasputhane that Death’s hordes—somewhere between Taroch’s Arm and Eod—have gone missing, in the sense that diabolical magik and Death’s shrewd knowledge of the landscape have effectively made them invisible. Not only that, but there is a second army heading north toward Eod. Of changelings. Wolves, to be specific.
Appealing to the reserves of honor and valor in the men and women gathered at the council, King Magnus makes an entreaty for unwavering loyalty in the face of the existential threats that approach; he claims no vaunted status in their company and indeed reiterates how much he will be a liability should the Black Queen prevail. He then outlines his plan to travel the Northlands in search of Nifhalheim, Father of Winter, the elemental of ice that will counter Brutus’s harnessing of Ignifax. Once again, though on a far greater scale, Immortal brother is to be pitted against Immortal brother, one with fire and one with ice.
Thirty days until the end of everything—or so say estimates of the time the Black Star will enter Geadhain’s atmosphere. Eod prepares, reflected in the many brief vignettes and fleeting moments experienced by its inhabitants.
After speaking with his king, Beauregard reflects miserably on his place in his family, on the loss of his father, Devlin, on his estrangement from his mother, Tabitha, and even on his ambivalence toward his brother, Galivad, who dallied with Beatrice at the expense of his battle training. His sour mood is partly dispelled by watching preparations for the coming conflict, by his internal pledge to repay the respect his fighting men and women have placed in him. He meets Gorijen Cross’s daughter Edina, who hands him a mysterious letter (handed to her by a mysterious woman, she claims), which promises—shockingly—to introduce Beauregard to his father in the King’s Garden that night. Instead, he encounters Galivad, who it turns out was also summoned to the gardens. After speaking at cross-purposes for a while, Galivad is finally made aware of his fraternal kinship with Beauregard, the spellsong. Their mother Belle (residing within Beatrice) introduces the two men at last to their father—Alastair. At first, Maggie witnesses this strange reunion like a child in the cold—peripheral and uncertain—until she too is drawn into its disquieting bosom.
We find Lowelia bewildered and grieving, not least because her beloved queen will be leaving alongside Erik and the king, whom Lowe regards as a monster. She hurries to meet them before they depart. Lila comforts her with words and passes the Mind back to her loyal handmaiden before setting off in the skycarriage.
Launching eastward from Camp Fury in a crowe, hoping to discover more intelligence on Death’s forces, Gloriatrix and Gustavius—along with a disguised and eldritch Sorren—commune with Aadore, who outlines her ambitions not only for herself but for a remade Menos, impressing the Iron Queen. The latter ruminates silently on the wonderstones she knows Sorren has acquired and plots her advantage. Upon their return to Eod, however, Sorren sounds the alarm: the Furies are under attack from Death at last.
Our travelers in Pandemonia, meanwhile, begin their quest for the Cradle. As the days pass they cross an ever-changing and challenging landscape under skies that assault them with sundry and nightmare creatures, although they witness wonders, too. While Morgan and Mouse (as well as Talwyn and Pythius) deepen their friendship, and while Adam’s nascent abilities and altered diet go largely under the company’s radar, Caenith begins to notice a worrying change in Moreth, who seems to be concealing a growing sickness. Eventually, he confides in his Fawn, and they bicker over how to confront the former Menosian.
Their dawning recognition of Adam’s powers brings the bloodmates back together, and Pythius uses the Amakri term for landspeaker when acknowledging the changeling’s evolution. The company moves inexorably toward its destination. Soon, Moreth relents and shows his wound to the bloodmates—the mark of a blood eater, he claims—and his terrible pain is clear to them. As they wrestle with his desire for continued secrecy, Morigan discovers he’s wearing an amulet the match of one she took from Ankha, a tool that might help them in their search for Amunai, Herald to the Black Queen. Morigan and her swarm treat the company to a vision of another time: the Sun King’s glorious apogee in the hedonistic but once golden city of Zioch. They see his pitiful fall into madness wrought by profound hubris as well as his love for, and jealousy of, his immortal sibling, Magnus. And by the arrival of Amunai and her honeyed poison. The companions watch as if present Brutus’s first journey to Pandemonia and his inadvertent summoning and absorption of Zionae at the deceitful behest of Amunai.
As Amunai considers the confluence of fates, she has a moment of doubt over Brutus’s deterioration. Rex, her favorite Redeye—as the elite conscripted warriors of the Black Queen are called—informs her they’ve tracked the Daughter of Fate and know her destination: the Cradle. Realizing the company is in thrall to Morigan’s visions and therefore vulnerable, she orders an attack.
Elsewhere, in a ship named the Fleet Otter, Lila, Erik, and Magnus cross the cold Upper Feordhan to Valholom in the Northlands. Though they sought to travel incognito, the ship’s captain, Nolan Rosewater, recognizes them from a previous voyage, seeing through their disguises and pseudonyms, but agrees not to expose them. He even passes on valuable information about the Scourge of Winter, an apparent curse whose source is a mystery, but whose ravages have blighted entire villages and vanished many tribes via a terrible ice. Rumors claim that its victims, though frozen solid, remain alive inside their icy cocoons. The Scourge has resulted in an onslaught of refugees to Valholom and the larger coastal cities, leaving them vulnerable to famine. The captain urges the travelers to seek out a guide in Valholom, purportedly a member of the legendary Seal Fang peoples. After some initial suspicion and an inspiring if sentimental pledge on the part of the old sea dog, the party agree to follow his advice.
As they make their tense entrance to Valholom, the Immortals are astounded by its size and grandeur. Erik, and especially Magnus, are shamed by their former ignorance of this diverse place. Lila, however, is revolted by its ill-mannered occupants, even the ostensibly more dignified warrior elite, the Eininhar, who reside in Valhaloch, the towering crimson pinnacle at the heart of the city where the Kinlord reigns.
As for the Kinlord, as he sits upon his throne in Valhaloch he uses a mirror device to see through the disguises of these new visitors and recognizes them for who they are. The Winter Witch, Branwen, and the Eininhar Bjorn Raifemorn vie for the Kinlord’s ear. For Bjorn, this is especially painful given his status as the Kinlord’s third-born son. He attempts to convince his father to forgo hostility towards the Immortals, but rather to enlist their aid against the Scourge, whereas Branwen’s counsel draws upon auguries and portents and indeed upon fate itself. Invoking the White Mother and the power of visions, Branwen prevails in her advice to not make common cause with the Immortals; humbled, Bjorn pledges to ride into the Scourge toward a momentous clash with Magnus, while the Kinlord adds his command that Queen Lila be destroyed too. Even Branwen is perturbed by this, and although Bjorn recognizes it as suicide, he accepts his fate as the Kinlord’s third-born, in keeping with an ancient curse. Privately, the Kinlord admits to Branwen that he is indeed sending his son to certain death.
Within one of Valholom’s many alehouses, the Immortals meet their tracker. He is none other than Kanatuk, accompanied by Macha, who immediately enthralls Magnus. Kanatuk mentions to Magnus his debt to Morigan. He pledges to help the Immortals’ quest in her name. Through subterfuge and distraction, the party elude the Eininhar spies who have been watching them and escape into Valholom’s maze of streets. Soon, they realize their pursuers are not intent on capture. As they make their way, Magnus’s secrecy angers Erik and worries Lila. They share a sense of some sorrowful plan in the mind of the king, while Erik is also concerned that Lila is at odds with the Northlands in some as-yet unvoiced way. For her part, Lila tries to enchant the Eininhar, but her charm doesn’t take and the Kinlord’s men approach. So Magnus releases the ire of ice in a flurry of violent hail and glacial shards. In the maelstrom, the Eodians make their escape and begin their trek into the heart of Winter. To the consternation of the others, the king and Macha the skin-walker continue their mysterious attachment.
In Valholom, Captain Rosewater is paid a visit by Branwen and the Eininhar and spills his secrets easily. Ashamed, he looks upon the unnamed companion of his interrogators and recognizes the kin of Queen Lila. He realizes he is gazing upon none other than the Bjorn Raifemorn of legend. Bjorn begins to appreciate Branwen’s ancient amorality as they plan to follow the Immortals into Winter.
We return to Camp Fury in the midst of an attack by the living dead. Itching to defend their allies on the ground, Aadore and the others watch helplessly from the crowe while Gloriatrix prevaricates. Aadore is forced to disclose the Brennoch immunity from all magik. Sensing gain in the chaos of battle, the Iron Queen at last permits the group to descend and fight, hoping to erase the horrors of Dr. Gideon Hex and Fort Havok and thereby escape without the taint of her complicity.
Sorren, Aadore, Sean, Curtis, and Skar engage the dead with single-minded fury, reigniting the damaged morale of the combatants by whose side they fight. To the five warriors, the deadliness of the attack comes into focus—how the dead, buried in the dunes around the encampment and even within its confines, rose as one and brought fire to the men caught so badly off guard. And how Death’s glamour inhibited and disrupted the Furies and their infernal gadgetry, tricking them into firing a few of their warheads at the camp itself. Sorren senses Death’s presence on the Morgana, so the champions enter that living vessel to seek out their foe. They’re assailed by the aftermath of slaughter and are soon confronted by Death’s monstrous vessel Gideon Hex, who makes to feed on them but instead is torn methodically apart—undefended, having fulfilled Death’s purpose. Sean, who had been tortured by Hex’s experiments, is avenged at last.
Joined by Gloria and Gustavius, the party set about reversing the damage to the Morgana and the other two Furies, the Malabeth and the Maeg. While they do so, the Iron Queen denies ever knowing this Gideon Hex when the Brennochs inform her of his demise. In this moment, Gloriatrix senses a shift in herself, small and subtle realignments of her morality. She is shaken from this by a fable in the guise of a dream related by Elissandra’s son, Elineth. In reaction, she murders the engineers who overheard their conversations regarding her relationship to Sorren, thus reasserting her Menosian iron. Though Sorren balks, Aadore feigns compliance.
From their encampment among the Arhad outside Eod, Lowelia and Rowena spot the smoke from Camp Fury and raise the alarm. Seamstress Dorothy informs them the attack is over, which the Mind confirms. With Dorothy’s spy status out in the open, the others—Dorvain, Leonitis, Rowena, and Lowelia—try to assimilate the rumors and the complex loyalties that tie all of them together. Dorothy shocks Lowe with her suspicions about the Iron Queen, including her clandestine investigations into current and historic Eodian luminaries, and also missing records, such as those of Lowe’s former husband.
Within Dream, Maggie meets her old friend Ben again, a cruel reunion given his decade-long absence from the world. Almost enchanted, haunted by nostalgia, she checks herself and realizes he’s an impostor, a Dreamer, in fact: Estore, Dreamer of the Rising Heart, there to enlist Maggie as a key yet hidden piece in the coming war games in exchange for a mystical and eternal future with her lover beyond death. She accepts and is given a wonderstone. She is told to protect Fionna and to “leave the stone in the grave of the king.” She awakes to Alastair’s fumblings and bluntly ends their sexual partnership.
Another council meets in the Chamber of Echoes. Tensions and suspicions between the various factions are high: Gloriatrix clashing with Rasputhane and Rowena; Beauregard painting a vivid and demoralizing picture of the horrors that await should they fall to Death’s army. Finally, Elissandra breaks the gloomy spell and whips them into action as each brings his or her experience, wisdom and talent to the table. The Iron Queen proposes the most deranged of plans: to offer Eod itself as bait and lure Death to be unmade amid the mostly evacuated grave of the city. Essentially, if Death’s army were to make it as far as Eod’s gates, the allies would use the Faire of Fates to corral the dead and obliterate the undead army with the Furies’ warheads.
To her horror and shame, Lowelia learns from her intuition, confirmed by the Mind, that the infant Ian was the child of the woman she murdered, Euphenia. At that moment, and to her great discomfort, Skar introduces her to the child; holding him, she is flooded with emotions.
Retiring to the White Hearth, Alastair’s strange new family—the spirit of Belle in the form of the blood eater Beatrice, and his newly reunited sons, Beauregard and Galivad—elevate the spirits of the citizenry with their eldritch beauty and effervescent energy. From the inn’s kitchen, only Tabitha is skeptical, dwelling on her recent estrangement from the spellsong, until she storms over to remonstrate with the group for their unbecoming revelry at such a time. Beatrice breaks the tension, and Beauregard and Tabitha have a frank conversation, long overdue, about family. Tabitha goes from open rage toward Alastair to ruinous grief when she realizes her sister Belle is somehow a part of Beatrice. Aware that she hasn’t grasped the entire scenario, she leaves on an abrupt note. With Tabitha gone, Beatrice falls into a sudden sickness.
Also sick—with secrets and the harsh reality of clandestine operations—Tabitha meets with her comrade in espionage, Dorothy, and they discuss their grim mandate. Tabitha recalls an earlier episode in which Dorothy had instructed her to visit Cheshire Street, a less salubrious area of Eod, and follow a man. Her transparent brand of tradecraft had led her to an engineer of technomagik named Bill, who informed her of the existence of a telemetric harmonizer being sought by Gloriatrix. The two women know they must inform Rasputhane of these developments.
As for the Iron Queen, we find her in her chamber contemplating the sheer potential of harnessing Magnus’s machines and devices, and fantasizing about whether, as a woman, she could elevate herself to the ranks of immortality through wielding such power. Gustavius informs her they’ve found the man to create the telemetric harmonizer, the key to ascension: Bill. Even when the device is built, Gloriatrix knows she will require a sorcerer sufficiently powerful to perform the ritual of transference whereby she can become a living vessel for the entire sum of the technomagikal power contained within the Hall of Memories. Fueled partly by her understanding of Sorren’s plight, her ambition knows no bounds. While Geadhain rips itself apart, she is willing to risk everything in her mad scheme to become no less than a Dreamer.
Grief-stricken at his mother’s deteriorating condition, Galivad is visited by Rowena, who comforts him despite her initial confusion over Beatrice’s identity. She also recognizes, and is less impressed by, Galivad’s self-destructive use of the powerful narcotic witchroot. Her honest love breaks down his barriers, and he tells her everything about his mother and how she came to dwell in the monstrous vessel of a blood eater. Unburdened, he finds further succor in Rowena’s sudden ardor and the long-repressed roar of their mutual lust that turns to fierce eternal vows.
The companions in faraway Pandemonia continue to experience Morigan’s vision of Brutus’s original fall. They trail the Immortal King through the ruined City of Screams, Aesorath, halfway entombed by the desert and a mere echo of the musical haven it once was. Within Dream, Adam glimpses his mother in the ruins of the city’s lost wonders before the party catch up with the mad king in a far sanctum of the city where Amunai awaits. Beautiful and deadly, the Herald of the Black Queen proceeds to seduce Brutus in every imaginable way, telling him of Ignifaks, the Father of Fire, and of Nifhalheim, and of Aegyr, and of Njornd, the elementals, all aspects of the Great Mother and far more ancient than the Immortal Kings. Brutus and the companions watching in Dream are stunned by the sheer span of the ages of Geadhain. Amunai tells the king of his parents: Zee, the Father of Light, and Onae, the Mother of Darkness, the latter of whom has returned to avenge all of creation. With tales of fragments of the arkstone that powered the Anemorax—the Gate of Wind—and both Ignifaks’s and Onae’s terrible power, the Herald traces the coming doom for Magnus at the hands of his brother. Through Morigan’s visions, the companions witness Brutus’s return to Zioch, his corruption of all within its walls, and his embrace of the fire elemental who once slept beneath the city’s gold and stone.
Still in Dream, the companions are devastated by the apparent inevitability of Brutus’s rise, given how long in the making it has been. Adam once again is distracted by a glimpse of his mother, the wolf with the star-shaped tuft of white fur. As his pack fades, she speaks to him in Dream, revealing she is indeed his Mother but not the mother he misses, urging him to heed and wake to their imminent danger. As landspeaker, his power is unleashed and is great enough to shatter Dream itself. The company wakes on the hard ground outside the Cradle. Morigan is astonished, both by Adam’s nascent power and her realization that they’ve lost three whole days in the grip of Dream. Caenith is first to sense the danger Adam has woken them to face: Red Riders, sent by Brutus. As the sky explodes, Adam summons a drakagor, whose immensity and impossible brawn lays instant waste to Brutus’s forces.
Shocked by the presence of a landspeaker among the company, Amunai nonetheless hatches a new plan: send Brutus himself to take care of Adam first then destroy the others. Rex, her Redeye captain, balks, anxious his mistress is underestimating her enemy, but the Herald’s desires prevail even over her own secret qualms. She sets Rex on a course of chaotic, random violence intended to confuse Morigan while Amunai herself prepares to activate the Anemorax and fill Brutus with the awakened Ignifaks.
In the Cradle, now the Scar, the travelers stumble over increasingly precipitous and deadly terrain while Morigan wrestles with Rex’s seemingly senseless acts of violence. The company as a whole, awed and not a little frightened, choose not to discuss Adam’s newfound power under the imposing shadows of an accompanying flock of drakagor. Moved by words of fellowship, the group swears an oath of eternal friendship. Further discussion of the Covenant, the chalice held by Mouse, reveals Talwyn’s reluctance to fully apprise Pythius of Feyhazir’s possible machinations. Morigan herself is unable to fully read the chalice while Mouse feels the unease of the Dreamer within her. Suddenly, Feyhazir appears to the group. His dazzling display fails to daunt them and they confront him, demanding answers. Ultimately, he fades away leaving Morigan with a sense of uncertainty. The companions continue their challenging journey toward the Scar, becoming increasingly aware of the presence of the cannibalistic Magmac, the Stick Tribe. Morigan discusses her misgivings about her father Feyhazir with Mouse, who comforts her friend. In contrast, Talwyn’s belated decision to spill everything to Pythius backfires badly, shattering the latter’s heart. Tension also arises between Moreth and Caenith until they all realize as one that Moreth has withdrawn from their circle, leaving the smell of a blood eater—as a result of having been wounded by one of the creatures—and a trail of ichor. The Wolf sets out after him.
While Caenith hunts Moreth, Talwyn shares with the others his idea that the Menosian is evolving. He also outlines his developing scientific theories surrounding the Dreamers themselves, and of the possible link between the two. His ruminations lead to a startling thought: perhaps Moreth himself is key to a cure for the Dreamers!
Caenith’s epic pursuit of Moreth culminates in the full revelation of Moreth’s new form and his barely contained bloodlust. The Wolf challenges his altered companion to rein in his beast, but Moreth attacks in a fury. Knowing via his Fawn’s new information that killing Moreth would be a terrible choice, Caenith wavers on the boundary of man and beast, which dulls his power in the face of the creature Moreth has become—whom he now calls the Blood King, once the Wolf’s moniker when he was a rabid pit fighter—and its frenzy of violence. Their fight is brutal and perilous until, after somehow eliciting Moreth’s own defenses against Beatrice, the Wolf begins to sing a Ghaedic lullaby. The monster in the Blood King is transfixed, and his aspect returns to that of a man. Their clash is finished, both men’s bodies healing so quickly they are bewildered by it. Moreth makes peace with Caenith and they return to the comfort and welcome of their pack.
Gaining on the party, a regal yet troubled Amunai—saddled with a deteriorating Brutus to whom she counsels stealth—contemplates her enemies and their growing strength. She is wary of the powerful alliance of Doomchasers, landspeakers, and now this new creature, the Blood King. She even harbors hopes that the cannibals will do her job for her, but she is prepared to strike the Daughter of Fate herself, if necessary, at the grave of the Mother of Creation.
Morigan and her friends follow the spirit dog deeper into the blasted landscape of ash and glass until they encounter at last the starving, cannibalistic Magmac.
Far to the north, the other party of travelers, in need of respite from Mother Winter’s grip, approach a silent village in a frozen valley. Entering a tavern, they discover the appalling truth about the rumors: every last person has been struck by ice and frozen in place, yet the madness in their eyes proclaims their sentience. Frozen forever by the Scourge of Winter, yet conscious. Shaken, the travelers nevertheless secure their shelter, Magnus and Macha resuming their mutual fascination to the irritation of Lila. Magnus tries to explain it, pronouncing Macha to be an ancient being who destroyed the Mortalitisi ten thousand years prior. The companions piece together what they know, and Magnus realizes there will be a symmetry between his approaching clash with his brother and between the wyrms of fire and ice. The party eat, drink, dance, and swap tales under the strange gaze of the frozen villagers. Lila opens up at last about her heritage, how her golden eyes and hair have always belied her Arhadian ancestry, and how her search has led her to believe she shares blood kinship with both Taroch of old and with Beira, the White Mother. She also passes on her knowledge of the Kinlord’s sacrifice of his three children in exchange for longevity, the third of whom is most cruelly damned by knowledge and awareness of his fate. She reminds them it’s a curse that can be—and often has been—broken. Believing she is one of these third children, she divulges at last her deepest and darkest secret, learned when she’d voyaged to Valholom previously in search of her mysterious past. She had encountered a ritual in which two children were being prepared for a horrible death by fire. The Kinlord, as she knows him now, was preparing to light the columns to which the screaming feral boys were tied. She defeated him and rescued the children, which was when she first encountered Branwen, who further cursed the third-born to an even more agonizing death because of Lila’s intervention. The party realize the two boys rescued by Lila became Dorvain and Leonitis.
The third-born is Bjorn Raifemorn, who has long harbored doubts about the Kinlord traditions of which he is a key part, and which will ensure his agonizing demise as Queen Lila’s would-be assassin. Both his doubts and his courage are bolstered by Branwen’s guileful words.
In the village, Magnus believes he can undo the Scourge with his Immortal sorcery, an act of hubris that only succeeds in briefly waking the frozen villagers before plunging them into suppurating, agonizing deaths. The Everfair King is mortified by his failure, only to be outdone in guilt by Erik and Lila’s reminders of their own genocidal shame. This is new information to Kanatuk, who questions them about the fall of Menos, a culpability from which Lila, in particular, refuses to shrink. The huntsman and the king vie over their route north, with Kanatuk making the stronger case for the haunted Helheim, the Black Road, ancient bane of the Lordkings, although one Lordking withstood Winter’s fury and established himself as part ruler of the realm—the first Kinlord. Kanatuk relates how his people became the first sacrifices to that Kinlord, and how their ghosts—the Wendago—now haunt the realm and walk the Black Road. He tells Erik the only way to thwart them, albeit a temporary one: fire and beheading. He relays the dark, sad mantra of his people: What She Wills, She Wills. Even Erik is moved by Kanatuk’s tale and as a Kree declares brotherhood with the huntsman. They continue north.
Aware of the Eininhar on their trail, the company seek shelter in a cave carved by human hands in the ancient ice-locked mountains. Assailed by capering smoky wraiths, Erik becomes his other self, the obsidian warrior within, yet only partially, so as not to surrender to complete bloodlust. The Wendagos attack and Kanatuk is gravely wounded in the mêlée. Distraught, Erik sets out in pursuit of the Wendago while the others tend Kanatuk’s wounds, but this seems to require healing beyond even their Immortal reach.
Bjorn, Branwen, and the Eininhar gain on the company, the former indecisive over whether to confront the Immortals on the Black Road or wait until they make their way to the throne of the North. The mysteries of his role suffocate him. Abandoning their spooked mounts, the Eininhar follow Branwen into a small valley. Just when it seems the Wendagos will attack, another figure supplants them: black-skinned and partially bestial. Erithitek. Branwen speaks with him, and Erik realizes she is the witch of Lila’s earlier tale. She offers to save Kanatuk, dismissive of the Immortals’ abilities to do so, and Erik puts aside his pride in granting her permission. Alone amid the drama, Bjorn senses the Eininhar withdrawing their fealty from him in favor of the Kinlord.
When Erik returns to his companions, Lila resists Branwen’s intervention until she glimpses a moment of kinship with the witch, which deflates her. While the witch tends to the huntsman, Bjorn marvels at Lila’s likeness to his lineage, to his own countenance, and wonders some more. Lila does likewise, shaken by the Northman’s resemblance to Leonitis. Branwen begins a wailing incantation and lament that awakens the cave’s ancient murals, brings them almost literally to life, the sweeping history of her people made animate on the walls around them—the entire history of the Lordkings and their clash with the White Mother and the sacrificing of fairest Beira on the Throne of Winter. A reanimated and hideously transfigured Kanatuk rises from the altar as Branwen continues her tale of the Kinlords and their deadly dalliance with and corruption of Mother Winter. At last, Branwen addresses both Lila and Bjorn:
“The law of inheritance that was made in darkness can be rewritten in light by the brave children of tomorrow. You are those children. One lost, one still bound by the ancient Lordking’s deeds. Can you be the cure to this poison? Can you atone for the murder of the Three Tribes? Can you even understand their rage? Can you scream into the night that has become Mother Winter and make her hear? Make them hear?”
At this, the Three Tribes of the Wendagos return, tens of thousands of them, and Queen Lila implores them in a bout of cathartic regret and sorrow for their forgiveness in the name of her personal actions and those of her lineage. The scales fall completely from Bjorn’s own eyes and he perceives the empty horror and senseless naked power behind the rule of the Kinlords. He pledges to indeed become the sacrifice he was destined to be, only not for his father, but for the Three Tribes themselves. Then, eschewing the immortality promised by the Halls of the Hereafter and defying his enraged father who hears it all unfolding through the Eininhar, Bjorn falls on his sword.
In Eod, Project Phoenix has begun. Gloria’s plan is to lure Death’s avatar into a sector of the city and then bombard her forces with the supposedly spent Furies. The citizenry draw in from the edges of the city, putting a strain on central Eod, leaving the outer ring largely empty. Gloriatrix and Rasputhane discuss various treacheries and harbor a few of their own, contingent on how this war plays out, before the spymaster leaves the queen alone with Sorren. Her son confesses his and Vortigern’s history as vessels of Death and insists he can save his brother by using the wonderstones in his possession. He thinks his mother’s approval is based on the possibility of reuniting her brood, but it isn’t; she now has a better plan for seizing power from the Hall of Memories: a single wonderstone will suffice.
Galivad, relieved that Beatrice seems to have recovered, realizes he has taken Rowena’s loyalty to him and his ailing mother for granted. Rowena is a Makret, a warrior mother, and should be with her comrades-in-arms on the eve of war. Beatrice attempts to articulate to the lovers what she thinks of as her “unmaking,” and they are awed by it, and further amazed when Beatrice claims to know of Rowena’s nascent pregnancy before the sword of the queen herself is aware of it.
Meanwhile, Beauregard lies with Edina Cross, helpless and ashamed, for she is betrothed to Paracelsus in a loveless union. Yet Beauregard knows of Paracelsus’s violence and wishes to expose him. She won’t consider it, not wishing to embarrass or disappoint her father, Gorijen, who had chosen Paracelsus. Soon her own shame makes her flee from Beauregard’s faith in her.
Tabitha meets with the Secret Circle of Dorothy, Dorvain, Leonitis, Lowelia, and the Mind, all of whom are drunk except for the latter, who informs Lowe of Death’s latest advance. While Tabitha is almost trembling with the urgency of the coming violence, Lowe and the others talk her into relaxing for the few hours they have left, in which time the Secret Circle apprise Tabitha of the Mind’s existence and extraordinary qualities. Distressed by Lowelia’s resolve to fight on the front lines, Tabitha tries to paint a picture for the others of the horrors she experienced in Bainsbury. Unmoved, Lowe informs her that she, Tabitha, will be the new caregiver of the Mind. As the cheer begins to leak from the room, Tabitha decides to boost their spirits with a speech about the virtues of peace and courage. While they drink to it, the bells of war ring out over Eod. Death has arrived early. The gathered rush to their stations. Even the Mind, with its growing attachment to the people of this realm, seems sad, and Tabitha, newly alone with her charge, cries for what is to come.
Aadore leaps from Curtis’s bed at the alarms of war and demands help donning her armor. Curtis realizes the others—Skar, Sean, and Aadore—have conspired to fight in the war while leaving him to care for Ian. He is heartbroken, having believed they’d resolved to stay safe, far from the battlefront. He elicits a promise from Aadore that she will return to him, and the three of them leave for the clash with Death’s army.
Swimming catatonic in one of Gloriatrix’s feliron equilibrium casks, Elissandra dreams and recalls the timeworn and largely forgotten prophecy by the ancient seer Sesquanet: “When the white sands of Eod wane to ash, the fires of the apocalypse will have been lit.” More ghost than mortal, Elissandra soars over Eod in spirit form, where she spies the unliving hordes as they approach. Toward the rear of the swarm, she witnesses the pull of Death herself and recognizes something new in the waft of the Dreamer’s thoughts: Geadhain, the world and its children, frighten Death. She also senses something good within, a different presence wearing away Death’s Will: Vortigern. Elissandra is moved, a recent convert to the power of love. She returns to the Fury that houses the cask.
Xalloreth, eater of worlds, better known as Death, arrives avid with anticipation, knowing the denizens of Eod will have prepared traps for her. She has experienced every trick by every doomed creature over eons of her glorious reign. She might not know their exact nature but she knows such feints await. She wonders about the Furies, which appear lifeless though crackling with technomagik.
The soldiers in the watchtowers are assailed by the stink of the unliving. So begins the siege of Eod. Death’s first fusillades are powerful beyond the despairing imaginations of Leonitis and Dorvain, who locate each other amid the mayhem and head for the one small watchtower that still stands. Realizing their peril, Lowelia heads for the ruined wall to save them or die with them. Powerless to stop Lowe, Dorothy joins her Arhadian comrades to defend the city as the gates themselves crumble to dust and Death’s horde pours in.
Aware how crucial the timing will be, the Iron Queen and the spymaster watch as Death breaches Eod’s defenses faster than expected. They decide to awaken Elissandra earlier than planned, though they need most if not all of Death’s forces inside the city’s walls to execute their plan. Looking to the east, knowing Elissandra has kept her vows, they see the Furies come alive. Orders are given via farspeaking stones for Eod’s forces to draw back, but Rasputhane’s heart sinks at the silence of Leonitis and Dorvain in response.
Hysterical, faced by the onrushing dead, some of whom pursue her, Lowe enters the damaged gatehouse and climbs the stairs. Beginning to accept her death, she is suddenly assailed by the Mind’s entreaties for her to not give up. She is both bewildered by this new ability of her former charge and moved by its concern for her. The Mind informs her that Leonitis and Dorvain still live, and helps guide her to them. Until she realizes the Furies are about to unleash their hell right where she stands. Sensing her despair, the Mind urges her on. In the ruined watchtower, she begins to dig through the rubble. With the Mind’s guidance, alert to the noise of the Furies’ impending assault, she levers a beam away from where her friends are trapped and finds them alive. They run to take shelter from the coming strikes in a service passage. Safe for now, Dorvain surprises Lowelia with a kiss. The onslaught begins.
Watching from the King’s Garden, Tabitha is entranced by the surprising beauty of the Furies’ fire. Around her, she senses hope, even from members of the war council, but the Mind warns her that such declarations are premature, that Death has tricked them and is leading her decaying throng beneath them, in the sewers and the subterranean tunnels of Eod. She rushes to inform the spymaster and the Iron Queen, the latter immediately suspicious of her source. They tussle, and Gloriatrix manages to seize the Mind. Ever calculating, however, she relinquishes it for the time being, having already gleaned its power and forming plans to acquire it at a future date. Abetted by the Mind’s calculations, Tabitha convinces the Iron Queen of both the veracity of her intelligence and Death’s current location, as well as the likelihood that Death has been fortuitously slowed by the need to recuperate. This might be their only chance. Gloriatrix orders an assault on the undercity.
Speaking with Beatrice in the wake of the attack by the Furies, Beauregard is swept by a sense of futility, and the sense that the fight is not done. He rallies his strange family.
As the Mind has gleaned, Death is indeed temporarily weakened, and on a number of surprising levels. The longer she has remained on Geadhain, the more she has fallen prey to human states of mind like doubt and fear. Distracted and musing on the eon-spanning clashes between Dreamers—and, in particular, on Feyhazir’s disastrous introduction of desire into these weak mortal vessels—she tries to focus on the now. Her current vessel—Vortigern—is proving especially vexatious, demanding to be reunited with his daughter, Fionna, reminding Death of such troubling concepts as love and kinship—of what she herself has lost.
Again thanks to the powers of the Mind, the Eodians in the undercity hear Death’s appalling howls and follow her beyond the known underground network. Behind them, the Menosian group also marches through the stench and filth of the tunnels. Skar, recalling his former wife Gwen and how he failed her through stupidity, drunkenness, and neglect, vows silently to die for Aadore if necessary. Belatedly in his long life of hedonism, Alastair recognizes the gift of parenthood. He shares a moment with Beatrice, and therefore also Belle. They come upon a place in the filth that’s strangely mystical, and the two companies meet and descend farther in pursuit of Death’s legions. Sorren, and even the Mind, are unable to fully decipher this enchanted place.
Death confronts the defenders of Eod, her violent grief at the loss of her father Zee tremoring the tunnels to raining shards. She blames his loss on the mortal men and women of Geadhain, whom she refers to as maggots, and curses them with her mother, Onae, who will remain once Death herself returns to the stars. The battle between the unliving and the combined forces of East and West commences. As the Ironguard clash with the dead and the new vermin recruits, Tabitha is kept safe by the Mind’s adept instructions. Skar fights like a demon, his acceptance of his own demise in the protection of Sean and Aadore calming his center. All of our heroes find strength or acceptance in their epic skirmish with Death’s onslaught, none more fiercely than Sorren, who fights to reach his brother. Alastair too, subsumed and superseded by Charazance, is a living frenzy of violence. But still the soldiers fall, and once fallen, become vassals for the enemy. The Lady of Luck urges Alastair to sing, and he forms a physical bridge with his sons. Together they sing an ancient melody of peace. For a moment, Death’s army is silenced and cowed. Then Death hurls a crystal at the spellsong, and Tabitha is forced to witness the almost certain loss of her son. Revitalized by Death’s replenished Will, the army of the unliving swarms with renewed ferocity. Then Sorren reaches Death and cannot be shaken, finally managing to force-feed her vessel a wonderstone, releasing Death whence she has come, and freeing Vortigern at last. The corpses of Death’s army fall as one, bereft of animation. The two brothers stand in an embrace.
The Mind absorbs all of it. Rowena is whole, as is the child within her. Tabitha and Beatrice too. Alastair is not conscious but perhaps will live. But Beauregard barely clings to life as he holds the hand of his stricken mother, and Galivad is almost gone. Rowena holds him and they manage words of love in the shadow of his looming death. He makes a quiet suggestion that is relayed to Beatrice, who howls at the outrage. Yet the others agree on what she must do—consume Galivad and so preserve his spirit within her.
Its matrix evolving exponentially amid these portentous events, the Mind learns about beauty, about the poetry of sunlight and the silence of death. Unable to reach Lila, it focuses instead on Grandmother Lowelia, finding her alive but still in danger. More alert to human nuance than ever, the Mind holds off on speaking to Lowe, mindful that she grieves for Dorvain, who was mortally wounded in the Furies’ attack. As Dorvain dies, the Mind sees an essence of him, a wisp of his matrix, merge with that of his brother, Leonitis. Now the Mind intercedes and leads them from the death trap, away from Dorvain’s burning corpse, all that remains of the man who’d stolen a kiss from Lowe before the terrible fighting and in doing so had given her a brief hope of happiness.
Once Elissandra is birthed from the equilibrium cask on the deck of the Morgana, she wakes Elineth and Tessariel in the other Furies and they unleash that firepower over Eod. She exhorts her children to aid her in the spell that will release her from her body so she can join Morigan in her distant conflict with Brutus and the Herald. Frightened yet stoic, the children do as she asks. They watch as their mother, no longer a being of flesh, takes flight, streaking in a speck across Alabion and beyond toward her destiny.
In Pandemonia’s Cradle, the Magmac have captured Morigan’s band of travelers and now lead them into the tunnels below and within the monolith of melted onyx left behind by the cataclysm at the dawn of Geadhain. Perturbed as the party are by these tribespeople, they sense that although they’re not welcome there, they are not yet considered food. If anything, the Magmac recall for our travelers the changelings of Briongrahd. As Talwyn and Pythius reconcile their differences in the face of possible doom, the scholar observes that their captors are either extremely young or are oddly small adults. As they arrive at their destination, the companions witness the ceremonial slaughter of passive, willing individual Magmac at the hands of their own people. The group are led to the Skeleton Woman, a shamanic leader who addresses Adam, who more than anyone senses the pain and tragedy of the land and its people. The Skeleton Woman tells him she believes Morigan’s party are there to heal the wrongs the tormented cannibal people have suffered for eons. Morigan’s visions reveal the truth: the Magmac are indeed children, eating only those who have bred.
As Adam explains their quest to stop Brutus and the Black Queen, the Skeleton Woman demurs, explaining they are here to expunge something far older than the war of kings: the original sin of desire that led Zionae to be summoned from the heavens, awakened by the creature the woman calls the Serpent. Feyhazir, the Lord of Desire.
Dream shows Morigan the Scar as it was before the Mother and Father of Creation were dragged from the firmament, and it is beautiful, teeming with the fecundity and strangeness of primordial life. She sees the first carving of the chalice by her father, Feyhazir, as he pledges dark magik to another: a landspeaker by the name of Arimoch, with whom the Dreamer merges.
The friends discuss the unfortunate conflating of myth and history, the revelations about Zee and Onae, about Feyhazir, and the possibility that Arimoch was a sorcerer king of the Mortalitisi. Weary, Morigan asks how they will discover Onae’s remains, and the Skeleton Woman indicates an abyss. Undaunted and preparing to leap blindly into the chasm, the Wolf catches his father’s scent and checks himself, until Moreth transforms and plunges down in his Blood King guise, after which Caenith prepares to join him. Morigan, realizing Amunai must also be present, takes sudden leave of her companions and disappears.
Knowing their ambush has been discovered, Brutus and the Herald wait by Onae’s grave until Moreth, Caenith, and finally Morigan appear. Commanded by Amunai, the mad king targets Morigan. Moreth attacks but is swiftly repelled by the colossus. Then Brutus, an enraged mountain of flesh and power, descends upon his son and rends him appallingly. Morigan is aghast at how quickly their adversary has sidelined her beloved friends. She attempts an escape into Dream, but Brutus is too quick, too strong, too filled with magik of his own, and he catches and brutalizes her. Helpless, she calls out a last declaration of her love to her bloodmate, and Caenith rises, his shattered bones resetting, his countenance radiating gold. The Wolf’s feliron chains strike Brutus and unbalance him, causing him to release the Fawn, and to recognize their kinship at last. Their fight is extended and brutal, and Amunai feels a sliver of doubt when she sees the Blood King return to the fray. She picks up Morigan’s dagger and holds it to Morigan’s exposed neck, an impending execution that Caenith sees and tries to prevent.
“Stop.” A whispered voice halts the combatants in their tracks. Elissandra in pure spirit form, a phantom vision of glory. Her whispery essence envelops the Herald and speaks to her. Brutus flees her incandescence and Amunai is undone—the magik of the Black Queen erased from the tormented woman’s mind. Elissandra then counsels the three on their destinies, especially Morigan, who now recognizes her own silvery kinship with the witch. With the Herald a weeping heap on the floor, the Wolf bears his mutilated bloodmate, with the help of Moreth, to the altar, where Morigan can grasp the skull of Onae while Amunai wails anew, despairingly certain of the visions Morigan is about to be shown.
Now the vessel of Ragnarök, the warmother Aghna finds the Red Witches—with whom she has formed an alliance—on a scorched rock in Mor’Khul and declares her desire to slay an Immortal. Spooked by wise Morgana’s unease, in particular, the sisters reconsider their coalition, but in the end direct Aghna and her lupine forces toward Willowholme. The vengeful sisters, however ambivalent, follow the warmother. They anticipate the end of Brutus, Magnus, and the Black Queen herself. Then, without warning, they sense the approach of their shadows, the Sisters Three, now able to exist beyond their realm of Alabion, coming for a confrontation that will make all Geadhain’s wars seem like child’s play.
Once per month, I will dedicate an entire post and week-long Facebook advertorial to my over 6000 followers, to promoting someone who isn’t myself : )
I will accept physical (digital), musical or literary art; stuff related to the genres in which I work. If you’re a master of pointillism flower portraits, mine probably isn’t the best platform for submissions. Why do this? What’s my angle? There isn’t one. Just trying to be a nice person–novel idea, that. Anyway here’s a quick checklist before submissions:
And finally, as those artists among you hopefully know, dealing with rejection is part of the creative process. Because this is a personal space, with defined visitor tastes, I will choose the work that I feel will be most appealing to my readers. That’s not a judgment call on you–the artist–or the quality of your work. But curation ultimately comes down to taste. So if you’re new here, I’d suggest looking around, seeing what I like, what my readers like, and determining if your stuff is a good fit. If your creation is accepted, I will email you with a post date that you can share on social media.
Often rejection is simply not knowing your audience, and I want the artists who use this service–which is entirely free of charge and limited only by spots and demand–to feel encouraged, to grow roots and to climb that damnable wall even I’m still scrabbling up after four years. I don’t care if you pass me on that climb; another’s success shouldn’t define our own. We all share in the struggle. We need to work together, especially in this age, toward assisting others in that climb rather than shoving them down.
Take the plunge, and submit. All best for 2017.
Having partially lifted the veil of secrecy surrounding Morigan’s place in the universe as a Daughter of Fate, the mysteries of the Black Queen, and even the dark revelation that Caenith’s father is none other than Brutus, the stage is set in Feast of Chaos for our travelers to go beyond illusions and visions, to facing their foes up close. Still, as a blood moon rises over Geadhain, worries grow that Morigan might not live up to the savior status the Sisters have bestowed upon her. A shadow of hate is overtaking the realm, its gloom affecting even the impermeable willpower of the Sisters Three.
In their midst now, is Sorren—whose role in ushering in this immutable blackness leaves the Sisters conflicted about their hospitality in allowing him to recuperate under their auspices. What vestiges of his old life as a psychopath and murderer might remain within the mangled skin-suit of one who once acted as the vessel of Death is a mystery to all. And he is sent on his way, his external injuries not so much healed as stayed, while uncertainty remains as to whether his newly professed humanism is simply a guise to conceal his fevered and angry internal wounds. As a parting gift, for reasons unknown, the miscreant Ealasyd gives Sorren custody of three “old stones,” whose providence and future utility are equally cloaked in obscurity.
Unaware of Sorren’s resurrection, Morigan, Caenith, Mouse, Thackery, Talwyn, and the unlikeliest of allies Moreth of El have set their sights on a region whose shifting landscapes and mysterious creatures that populate its climes do honor to its name: Pandemonia. It is a land of dreams and nightmares incarnate, wherein a million manners of death exist. There, even those accustomed to wielding magik are left agog and aghast at its unpredictability. The borders bind this land in a perpetual spell that warps the laws of nature, rendering even the most skilled sorcerer virtually impotent. Survival in this land requires that most difficult and elusive of skills: the capacity to truly listen and humble oneself. Simply to survive, let alone thrive, travelers of Pandemonia must be able to filter out the din of the world—to distill from noise its greater meaning.
As they venture deeper into Pandemonia’s frigid terrain, Morigan is newly besieged by visions of such ferocity that they leave her begging for the easement of her incessantly humming hive. For within this dream world, she has been transformed into a witness of, and prey to, a Dreamstalker. As the herald to Zionae, this hunter lives with Brutus in the physical world, as well as inhabiting that ethereal otherworld of blackness and potential that is Dream. Together these villains realize that to vanquish the Daughter of Fate and return Caenith to the protection of his father, they must find and capture an arkstone, one of Fate’s cornerstones. In the dawning of the world, these wonderstones hurtled down to earth as a single meteorite forged from Zionae’s essence before shattering into four pieces. They are known to work miracles beyond imagination and horror, but so too is their power easily corrupted.
Meanwhile, having absconded to Carthac, Erik and Lila temporarily safeguard themselves from the ever-expanding fields of battle by hiding as a sellsword and a peasant woman. But their newfound isolation is bittersweet; they find no joy in the meeting of flesh, and their passions play out painfully and joylessly as though a punishment for their crimes against Menos. Their lustful encounters are cloaked with Erik’s anguish over his once-hidden desires and Lila’s intense guilt over the holocaustic rampage she set in motion. But when the sanctity of their temporary refuge is violated and their identities exposed, everything changes. Their attempted escape sees Erik grievously injured, and Lila—reluctant as she is to use magik, knowing how cruel a path it has led her down—seeks to heal her lover. Little does she know that in knitting his wounds, she inadvertently weaves their essences together, enmeshing them as bloodmates. Bound together, Erik’s strength surges, and Lila reclaims her former name, Lilehum, and her former strength.
The marriage of these two souls marks the terminus for the illusory spell Lila had cast upon Leonitis and Lowelia back in Eod. As all magik is born of, and powered by, emotion, the spell had been weakening with every moment of bonding between Erik and Lila. So in that peak moment of spiritual commingling, the incantation dissolves before an angry Magnus’s eyes. Thus alerted to what Magnus perceives of as a betrayal of his and Lila’s vows, he annuls what tatters remain of Lila’s illusion and the two—soldier and servant—are restored to their erstwhile physical forms. The revelation to Gloriatrix that for lo these many weeks she has been speaking to impostors unleashes in her a fury that sees a tenuous truce with Magnus strained to the limits. Together, he and the Iron Queen agree to a bargain that would see Lila punished and Erik executed.
There are those, however, who are still entrenched in the detritus of Menos’s fall, such as the siblings Aadore and Sean, whose miraculous survival is made all the more astonishing by the fact that they have emerged from the quaking waves of destruction that leveled Menos with a babe in arms. The landscape grows more treacherous by the minute, with ragged, infectious shadows of former beings mindlessly amassing as legions to fight for one of the many omnipotent alien forces seeking dominance in this war. The Queen of Bones, however, is no one’s ally. For she is Death herself, and her swift resolution to the conflicts at hand would see all life transformed into ashes.
Joining their small but formidable contingent of warriors braced for battle against the source of Menos’s dark infection are Aadore’s bodyguard, Skar, a former mercenary whose physical dimensions harken back to a world where ogres roamed, and the man long-enamored of Aadore, Curtis. It becomes apparent to their compatriots that Sean and Aadore share a resilience toward the violent strain of infection that sees its victims transformed into monstrous undead slaves to the Dreamer of Death. They and the others are also left to wonder what other strengths their shared legacy may reveal that renders them immune to Death’s powers. Their external fragility seems to belie an incredible inner strength. Sean’s wounds are not strictly the by-products of a battle well-fought as a former soldier in the Ironguard. Rather, his many painful scars and aberrations are the product of torture beyond that which anyone could imagine and remain sane—the cicatrices from his incarceration by myriad fleshcrafters and demented men of medicine are fused to his soul. And despite a primarily peaceful past as handmaiden to the Lady El, Aadore is no coward, either, and steels herself to become a fighter alongside her brother.
Back in Pandemonia, Mouse, Talwyn, and Moreth are spirited away through dreams and somnolent magik—the tools of their supposed ally and Morigan’s father, Feyhazir. They are taken away from the safety of their pack and into the regions ruled by Indigenous inhabitants of the region known as the Amakri. Here they must learn to abide by the rules of these people and discover the reason for Feyhazir’s machinations. The hulking, blue, and horned Doomchasers—a unique and powerful race of the greater race of Pandemonian natives—are a people focused on treading the path toward reclaiming their place in this land. And to that end, Mouse’s debt to the Red Witches comes due, and the being with whom Mouse must share her corporeal power makes his presence increasingly known. Feyhazir, the starry father of Morigan, begins regularly inhabiting Mouse’s body, and without her consent.
Once, as a vessel in times immemorial and as an adoptive member of the Amakri, Feyhazir had shared with the fierce blue warriors a drink from a chalice, and with them made a covenant that gave them the strength to resist the influence of Zionae’s and all other magik. For as soon discovered by the ever curious Talwyn, the Amakri’s strength is waning, and quickly; children are being born plain as any man, without horns, scales, or a resistance to dark forces. The promise of the chalice is a restoration of the tribe to its former strength. Feyhazir, claiming to play peacemaker while acting as abductor, takes pains to appear to Talwyn and Moreth in Fionna’s skin, and to commune with Morigan, to assure them of his intent to use her vessel to vanquish their common enemy. But Mouse’s inability to recall Feyhazir’s actions when in her fugue state leaves them with little to go on as to his trustworthiness. She cannot fight off Feyhazir’s violations, and she feels those infractions changing her piece by piece, beyond tinges of gray appearing in her hair or small wrinkles about her face that appear after her possessions.
Newly pledged to assist in vanquishing the Black Queen, Moreth is one of the few who is able to navigate Pandemonia’s terrain, and he becomes a valuable asset, adding to his already considerable contribution to the group in the form of tutelage on magik and control to the companions with whom they are now separated. The unexpected vulnerabilities of this once Menosian overlord are revealed to his traveling companions. While his proclivities induce cringes among those who lend an ear to his story, beneath the depravity lies a soul that still knows a simulacrum of love in the form of the blood eater Beatrice. His sexual sadism did not preclude him from a deep desire for comfort hard-won through years of inflicting pain on others who were—mostly—willing. The twisted creature that is Beatrice, a blood eater, was propitiously suited to meet his needs. But the ability to tame, or at least train, the blood lust within Beatrice through music and visitations to the Blood Pits, is not something that is shared with others of her kind, a lesson the Amakri encampment soon learns. And as Moreth teaches them of the true nature of these blood beasts, separated from her partner in bloodlust, Beatrice, now returned to Eod, stalks Alastair to reveal a near incomprehensible truth to him. The man whose dalliances numbered in the countless is forced to face a painful memory from the past—one that repudiates his long-held belief that he was infertile. In fact, a woman named Belle had the unique magikal physiology to propagate with an unnatural creature such as Alastair. The harrowing truth is that this woman—who eventually became one of Beatrice’s victims and whose ghost now acts as a faint beacon of humanity within the blood eater—begat Alastair two sons, one of whom is none other than Galivad.
As Talwyn communes with the Amakri’s leader, Pythius, he comes to believe that at the very least this people’s intentions are honorable, even as his faith in Feyhazir’s motives wavers. Through this cultural exchange, Moreth and Mouse also grow to more fully appreciate the scholar as they realize that his desire for knowledge extends beyond intellectual curiosity. They learn that his intellectual curiosity is both a blessing and a curse. His mind’s absorption of information is pathological; he has little control over the information that filters into his mind, forcing him into an incessant state of analysis and calculation. The strength of will required to harness it all often pushes him beyond his emotional capacity. But even Talwyn’s intellectual prowess cannot wholly forewarn them of the fact that Feyhazir’s promises are predicated on deceit; the chalice they have long sought is cursed, and he has manipulated others into coveting the arkstones for his own nefarious purposes.
Elsewhere, with distance in space but not spirit between them, the rest of Morigan’s pack continues its journey to Eatoth. This quest, bestowed upon them by her father who claims the city will be under siege from Brutus, is his justification for cleaving their fellowship in two. However, Morigan is beginning to resent the callous manipulations of Dreamers, increasingly believing that her father isn’t too different from his flock. Meanwhile, Adam struggles with the beast within and without, shamed that while he is considered one of the pack, he is not of the pack—no great sorcerer or warrior. Yet as time wears on, a newly developed talent within the young changeling rears its head. Desperate for a way to connect with his adoptive pack, Adam had previously begged Elemech to bestow upon him the gift of communication. Little did he expect at that time, however, that his gift would also allow him to decipher and communicate in languages once completely unknown to him. This realization provides him not only with a greater connection with his compatriots, but renders him an invaluable ally in working to achieve their greater goals.
Their arrival at the glittering city of Eatoth takes all the travelers aback. It is an expansive vista of prismatic glass, its towering panes reflecting sunlight onto the landscape in every direction, concealing the dark foundations upon which the city was established. Once there, the secret behind the Herald’s resurrection in darkness is pulled from deep within Eatoth’s bowels. Its Keeper, Ankha, is so attended with hubris that she believes she holds dominion over everyone and anything that exists within the city walls. And so it is only after much resistance that she is forced to explain that Zionae’s consort and Herald—Morigan’s Dreamstalker, Amunai—was her sister. Once a woman of peace, she had trained to be a Keeper alongside her. When Amunai had professed her expanding views on the equality of all and the Green Mother’s one true voice, her sister deemed her a heretic. She punished Amunai by killing her unborn child and mutilating and banishing her lover. It was in these darkest of moments that the Black Queen engulfed the former Keeper, embracing her with dark promises of revenge and shielding her from the pain of her past. So now, not only is Amunai an accomplice to the Black Queen’s rampage, but she is an assassin with her sights locked in on the sister who tore from her all the joy she had ever known.
But the Herald’s goals extend beyond sororicide, as Ankha is also the unlawful keeper of an arkstone. As with all of the self-declared “cultured” Amakri—these grotesque technomagikophiles who wall themselves away from Pandemonia’s influence in great bastions of comfort, who have built an entire religion to sustain their hubris—Ankha’s abuse and misuse of the wonderstones has made her a clear target. Realizing this, and that Brutus will be the weapon to strike Eatoth, Morigan and Caenith forge a plan to bind Brutus in technomagikal chains or, failing that, to end him completely, in order to protect Eod and the world beyond. Alas, on the eve in which they gather to await Brutus and to execute their plans, Amunai appears and overtakes Ankha’s body. In those moments incarnated in flesh, Amunai challenges everything Morigan believes to be true about her role in Fate’s plans. Not least of which is the assertion that Morigan herself is responsible for the city’s fall, by weakening her sister’s will through her incessant prodding of the past and hunt for the truth—it was through those kinks, formed by Morigan, that Amunai at last slipped into the Keeper’s mind. Knowing they have but moments to act, Morigan and Caenith are forced to kill Ankha in an effort to banish Amunai and protect the arkstone. But their efforts come too late, and Amunai—the Lady of Wind, she calls herself—escapes as an incorporeal ghost with the stone in tow.
Lilehum, in the meantime—through coordination via farspeaking stones with Lowe, Leonitis, Rowena, and Dorothy—has fomented a rebellion. Lilehum’s evolving identity, one that is increasingly predatory, is now also entwined with that of an ancient relic found on the ancient Menosian ship she and Erik used to escape Carthac. It is an orb she calls the Mind—an entity whose genius connects her to an expansive network of knowledge spanning all manner of space and time. All the while, her spiritual metamorphosis is being mirrored by a physical transformation. Lilehum is changing at a molecular level into a being whose fearsomeness is bound up not only in her resolve to denounce and punish those men who would subjugate women and the marginalized, but in her newly discovered reptilian form, replete with poison sacs and feline-like incisors. She is emboldened to advance against the man who betrayed her; she sees clearly that Magnus’s rape was, in fact, what drove her into a madness that saw her overtaken by the powers of the Death, which loosed upon Menos the destruction from Taroch’s Arm.
In the nick of time, and just before Eod’s gates are sundered, Aadore and the others arrive at Eod to inform Gloriatrix of all they have witnessed; their revelation of a new and wicked Dreamer’s role in the destruction of Menos brings with it the possibility of reprieve for Lila and Erik. But as with all political negotiations, success is always predicated on the existence of good faith between the parties. This is something that is sorely lacking on both sides, and there can be little question of the presence of backroom machinations on both sides of the table. Gloriatrix’s longing to see a Geadhain bereft of Immortals is hardly in line with Magnus’s vision for himself or the realm. As Lilehum’s troops breach the city of Eod’s walls, a moment of silence, of listening, allows a peace between Erik, Magnus, and his former queen that holds back the fog of another impending war.
In the east, however, the theft of the arkstone sees another storm brewing quickly behind, promising to breach any peace that might be found in such moments.
In Feast of Dreams, we are greeted by the Three Sisters of fate who reveal that despite their best plans, the threads of fate have been broken, and by none other than our own Hunters of Fate: Morigan, Caenith, Mouse, Thackery, and Vortigern. We join the pack as they venture through the land of the Untamed, deeper into the protracted quagmire of a great war.
Morigan’s mind has become a virtual hive of visions. The bees of her dream-walking are beating out a nearly incessant rhythm of prophecies that are becoming ever more burdensome. Her waking dreams show her that she is, indeed, of immortal origin, and that the woman she called her mother, Mifanwae, did not give birth to her but rather was a willing pawn in destiny’s game. In many ways, Morigan has become a silent Cassiopeia, blessed with a second sight full of images she cannot, or dare not, share. With every passing day, she comes to realize that much of what she sees is unchangeable. She also peeks behind fate’s curtain to reveal more about the woman in Caenith’s past who once held his heart. Aghna, herself a wolf-changeling, had long ago ended her life when faced with a future of untold suffering. Morigan herself felt she had little to fear from a shadow of the past until she and her friends suddenly found themselves surrounded by an even greater legion—led by the long-departed Aghna.
Once again, it appears that death represents little more than a temporary transition for the lycanthropic being who now governs Briongrahd, the City of Fangs. She is no longer wrapped in the loving glow Caenith remembers from their last moments together but by a shroud of violence and hate. The changeling to whom Caenith had once devoted himself bears little resemblance to their glorious past, and he is forced to reconcile the woman he knew in life with the woman she became in death. Aghna has become the warmother of which Macha had warned, leading her species toward a battle against the Kings in which victory will represent the domination over other species in the realm. And much like Brutus allowed himself to be moved to slaughter his own kin, Aghna now appears possessed by a power that lives only to satisfy its carnal desires and lust for domination.
Unsurprisingly, there is little honor among those who are singularly focused on the advancement of their own—a kind of species-based nationalism—and Aghna betrays her former lover, killing Vortigern in the process. This is a death from which he will not return, and while the survivors escape, Mouse is scarred by the untimely loss of a father she had known only in his afterlife.
All the while, the undefinable, ethereal evil of the Black Queen continues to overshadow the land, reminding Geadhain’s inhabitants at every turn that in the battle of man versus the forces of the universe, they are always the underdogs. Yet the machinations of the Black Queen and her cabal are not the only threats to peace in the realm. With Magnus either missing or dead after the battle with his corrupted brother, the Iron Queen, Gloriatrix, intends to launch an offensive against Eod, using all the forces of her technomagikal arsenal.
Gloriatrix’s past has been so marred by loss that when her son, Sorren, suddenly disappears, she takes it as a signal that she is destined to live a life bereft of love, cementing her ire against anyone who would deny her the singular pleasure remaining to her: power. But Elissandra, who shares Morigan’s gift of insight, knows that Sorren’s disappearance was not of earthly origin. His essence has been given over to a power greater than anything Gloriatrix could imagine—that of Death itself. And while Gloriatrix is almost singularly focused on capturing Morigan and her fellow travelers, she is blinded to the dissent that is fomenting in the halls of Menos in her absence. The Iron Sages begin staging a revolt, targeting Elissandra and her one vulnerability: her children. The sorceress barely escapes with her life and fails to impress upon Gloriatrix the growing futility of waging war against Eod.
Queen Lila, Magnus’s wife, has left the kingdom with her husband’s hammer, Erithitek. She leaves in her stead her hands, Lowelia and Leonitis, who will serve the kingdom in her absence, both wrapped in a spell of illusion that tricks whoever looks upon them into seeing the appearances and voices of their departed queen and Magnus’s hammer. Believing Magnus to have perished at Brutus’s hands, Lila has taken it upon herself to acquire a tool of untold power: the arm of Taroch. Conjured out of the ashes of Magnus’s despair, the ancient relic, like every tool of magik in the realm, possesses power that is easily abused and will extort a steep price from its user.
Approaching madness, Lila gives barely a thought to her once-beloved Summerlands or to those she left to safeguard its borders. She is blinded by her loss and pain, and Erik—her silent admirer and stalwart protector—is the only thing keeping her physical and spiritual being safe, as she wrestles with a faltering morality that is dizzied by grief. Both she and Erithitek—who is increasingly struggling to keep silent his intense feelings for the queen—are unaware that Magnus, in fact, exists in a kind of purgatory. There, Brutus has opened a window into his mind through which Magnus can view his rampages, in the hopes that he might seduce his captive brother into joining him as a vessel for the Black Queen. And so visions of Magnus that push Lila to the brink of sanity represent more than simple nightmares from which Erithetek must awaken her.
All the while, Rowena and Galivad, Queen Lila’s Sword and the Master of Eod’s East Watch, respectively, have been watching Moreth of El—a trafficker of all things dark and depraved in Menos. Also under their purview is his new bride, Beatrice, a woman not unfamiliar to Galivad. Beatrice, with her angel-like appearance and glowing aura, is more akin to a viper in her actions, her need for self-gratification finding purchase in the indulgent devouring of bodies and souls—one of whom was Galivad’s mother. The couple are kindred spirits with Gloriatrix, both taking relish in exacting their own sick torments on those who have the terrible misfortune of crossing their path—and Lila’s envoys are exactly such misfortunates.
Also caught in their web is one working for an invisible authority, guided by forces unknown in the corporeal world. Alastair, a man who had once granted Mouse her freedom from indentured service, appears to have a mission that extends well beyond that of underground trader of goods in Menos. His intrigue with Maggie, the owner of the Silk Purse tavern, leads him to pull her into his plots as well—the goals of which seem to shift along with his loyalties. While Alastair is another of Geadhain’s citizens for whom dying simply represents a bump on the road toward his next death, there is little question that he takes no pleasure in seeing Maggie tortured at the hands of their captors.
As the pack’s journey continues, Caenith comes to see that Aghna’s treachery is but the first of many shocking truths he must absorb. Deep in a cave, the pup that grew into a great Wolf is reunited with his mother. There in the darkness, the great Mother Wolf divulges a secret about his father’s identity that eclipses all the Wolf thought to be true about the world and his place in it. Brought face-to-face with the woman/beast who bore him, he learns that his father is none other than Brutus, the creature who would see the world’s destruction as a vessel of the Black Queen.
But while the immortals are faced with challenges of an otherworldly nature, most inhabitants of Geadhain cannot shake their mortal coil. Amid Menos’s murk, there are civilian casualties of a war they are simply trying to survive. A simple observer, Aadore does not see herself as a party to the jingoist frenzy into which Menos is being whipped. She seeks only to reunite with her brother, Sean, a man who has been ravaged by not only time but life’s savagery. At the moment of their strained homecoming, the city is rocked by explosions, and rising up from the detritus, these new players reveal themselves as the sole survivors.
Another unwitting player in fate’s grand theater, young Beauregard has a past that remains a mystery. But in the present, he and his father, Devlin, have been entrusted with knowledge that may secure the future of Geadhain’s most precious and beautiful region: Sorsetta. They leave the Summerlands—a land now scarred by Brutus’s fury—to act as messengers of the war that is bearing down on Sorsetta’s peaceful land. But more than that, they bring with them a tool of magik that offers one of the few glimpses of hope for defense. As Brutus appears to them, he is cloaked in the shadow of Magnus’s trapped spirit. Knowing that his son is strong enough to survive the hardships that await him, Devlin sacrifices himself so that Beauregard might wield their weapon: a wonderstone—a shard of condensed, ancient magik. Doing so releases Magnus from his purgatory, banishes Brutus, and propels Beauregard forward from peaceful poet to warrior of fate.
Meanwhile, as our travelers venture through the Pitch Dark groves of Alabion, they are met with three sisters of another kind. The three red witches whose taste for blood would see a meal made of each them can sense Morigan’s ascendant power. They foretell that hers will not be a path paved by peaceful light but with crimson. They also sense within Mouse a growing resentment for a fate that would drive her further into darkness.
The immutable nature of that which is preordained becomes ever more apparent as the Hunters of Fate finally meet with the sisters whose shaping of destinies makes them both friend and foe to all they meet. There, Morigan’s true calling as a Daughter of Fate is confirmed, born of Elemech and sister to Eean and Ealasyd. But the sisters also reveal that the darkness overtaking Geadhain is more terrible than the anthropomorphized version of the Black Queen could have led them to believe; she is The Great Dreamer, Zionae, whose roots run deeper than anything in their world. She is devouring Geadhain, and even immortals cannot halt her frenzy. Their only hope is to return to the cradle where life began to find a trace of Zionae’s fall from grace that might reveal a weakness. Despite the incredible losses they have incurred during their campaign to find the Sisters, Morigan and Caenith know that their destiny is to take up this mantle.
Recognizing that he, too, bears a burden for Geadhain’s fate, weary Thackery strikes a bargain for time. As an old man nearing the end of his days, Thackery declined across the miles, an effect made even more glaring in the company of immortals and beings who are seemingly beyond death. Each night as the travelers rested, he was enveloped by a vigil of companions wary that each breath might be the one that ushered in the end. But to add time to one life, it must be taken from another’s. And as a now youthful Thackery emerges from negotiations with the sisters, the origins of his newfound years are unknown.
Mouse—seemingly unable to deny the dark roots that were nurtured during her life in Menos—also readily accepts a deal, albeit from the three red witches, that would see her avenge her father. She is so blinded by her grief that she fails to realize that even for the purest of hearts, it is all too easy to be led astray when the desire to exact revenge rears its head. There is always a price to pay for such caprices, whether in this realm or another, and early indications are that Mouse may pay dearly for acting as the messenger for a spirit of retribution.
Even knowing that much of what lies ahead is unchangeable, the Three Sisters pull at wefts and warps here and there, keeping the fabric of fate intact, but all the while subtly changing its pattern. They cannot help themselves from crafting deals designed to test the travelers’ characters and push the limits of their virtues. Nor can they remain untangled from the affairs of beasts and men, even when their own existence may depend upon it. Even as sisters of fate, they make these bargains, largely unaware of the impacts they might have on the final tapestry for the future. But then again, these are not concerns for beings who are reborn as easily as a snake sloughs off its skin.
The only certainty that remains is that the Green Mother is angry, and what she wills, she wills…
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.