Conquest of Eretsu: A Failure of Diplomacy

By Martin Souza

Dasra willed back another shiver under her thick furs. The breath of the chill winds reached her even inside this grand, little-used holdfast on the Empire’s northern coast. If she shivered, the tiny golden bells lining her lush mantle chimed quietly, betraying her discomfort. Vairin knew she wasn’t comfortable in his cold climate, but Dasra refused to let it show.

Read more

Ascendant

By J.C. Hutchins

The night was divine.

Izvari stared up into the cloudless inkwell sky, her eyes focused on a single star: Netra-Bala, the Crow’s Eye, its gaze an arrow for all, a great finger pointing the path to the north, pointing past the burning cities of the Dominion and Empire, pointing to the ice-capped mountains at the top of the world, where the other half of her people’s heart-mind lived, where the other clans lived, long separated, misunderstood but never forgotten—and as she stared into its glittering form, she bit back a laugh because she was certain she was losing her mind. She was a leaf in a cyclone, ever flailing, never stopping, swirling on and on and on.

Read more

The Endless Cycle

By Chris Rogers

Even at midday, a gloom remained over Prishta. The swamp’s fog never truly lifted, just retreated into the sky for a few hours each day before settling back down in the late afternoon. By early evening it was impossible to see from one side of a narrow alley to the other. The weak lanterns that lined Prishta’s streets didn’t help, but only left bright smudges in the misty shadows. It was busy now in the market square, but still somehow hushed, the people going about their business in dark robes, bargaining in the market in whispers and low tones. By nightfall, there would be only empty flagstones in the mist and a few scurrying figures hoping to go unnoticed.

Read more

The Great Weald

By Ryan Schapals

The Preveza hummed as refugees from the the outer wealds swarmed around it. For once, the rustling of men drowned out the voices of the forest. A single screech echoed above the treetops, and a shadow soared against the sun, but there were only reminders of the life that had fled from the Wildwood.

So many Zikia gathered in one place should have meant celebration, pranks, and laughter. While there was laughter and joy as families were reunited, it seemed too quick, too loud. Their lips rattled with rumor and warning, praise and excitement, often in the same breath.

Read more

Visions of Fire

By Ryan Schapals

“Vision is necessary blindness,” Ziksana said, turning toward the Circle. The elders had gathered in the glow of Harrow, her Earthfall. The buds on the golem’s arms and legs had blossomed into wreaths of light. Shimmering petals drifted, catching in mossy hair and vine-woven shawls. The lights reminded Ziksana of the Revel of Kajit-Ura, when summer came and you had to doubt everything you saw, lest you end up doused in honey and chased through the woods by nettlescamps—not that such ever happened to her.

Read more

Marrow Crows

By Chris Tihor

Under different circumstances this could be quite a lovely night, Izvari considered as she stood in the open air and watched the clouds pass over the moon. If only for a few small trifles were different. The wind could be a little less intent on pulling her tent away, for one thing, and the dust a little less insistent on blowing into her eyes…

Read more

Beneath the Gaze of Ancients

By Ryan Schapals

The glint of burnished copper scales ahead stopped Vanya in his tracks, but it wasn’t his only reason for pausing. Crouched low in the wild grasses, he was glad for the chance to regain his balance as a wave of nausea and pain passed through him—and something else too. Maybe it was the wind blowing through tall grasses, or maybe simply a trick of memory, but he could almost taste the Wildwood….

Read more

Savage Friendship

By Nate Weisman

The orchards of suna stretched across the horizon as far as Ava could see. In fact, they were all she had seen in some time, and though they were beautiful, they were also monotonous. The boredom was all the more agonizing because Ava knew the choice that awaited her at the end this journey.

Three days had passed since Ava left Raga Dasra to deliver her letter to Lady Luja. She had traveled the distance on a large litter pulled by a Sentinel golem commanded by her Sworn Sword, the Lady Bhavati. Behind her rode a small entourage of two bodyguards and her own handmaiden…

Read more

The Tama Pass

By Chris Rogers

Kitra woke to another of Mags’ tricks.

It was cold, though this high up in the mountains it was always cold during the night. He had taken refuge in a copse of twisted pines encircling a spring. The large, pale moon called the Mother hung low and large in the early morning sky. The pale bark of the trees looked withered and dead except for the occasional thick bunch of pine needles at their tips. A few ragged prayer flags hung limply from the limbs closest the water. Up the rock face, just an hour or so on foot, was the bare scree of the Tama Pass…

Read more

The Necessity of Ruthlessness

By Nathan Weisman

Ava’s feet ached. It had been six hours since the procession of dignitaries and royals began. If she could just stretch her foot for a moment she might be able to find some relief—but she quickly shook the thought from her mind. If she distracted Raga Dasra even in the slightest, her sore feet would be the least of her concerns. She focused on the man kneeling before the Raga. The man was a walking paradox, dressed in the highest of Durani fashion, yet with pale skin betraying him as clearly Zikia. A scion of House Vahni, Ava concluded.

Read more

Crow’s Flight

By J.C. Hutchins

She reeked of smoke, sweat and soot. Gods, when was the last time she’d smelled of anything other than sweet kumari perfume and dala-rose oils? She couldn’t remember.

She cowered in the nighttime shadows here in the the city’s bazaar district, panting, desperate to remain unseen. The fat, full moon conspired against her. The alley was empty, but that meant little in Kutastha, her home for the past fifteen years. Here in the Gudanna Dominion’s capital city, eyes were everywhere … especially those of the Araska, the city’s elite guard.

Read More

Negotiations

By Chris Rogers

On the edge of the Great Waste, south of the ul-Napur Mountains, squats the miserable Durani outpost of Tel Najar. To visit Tel Najar is to yearn for another place.

In Tel Najar Nandanna has unexpected guest waiting for her with a proposition.

Read more

Web of Thorns

By Ryan Schapals

In the heart of the Wildwood, not far from the Mahatavi, where the trees cluster so thickly that only a child can fit between them, there is a door that is not a door. The limbs of two towering ironoaks clasp one another, and from their boughs hangs a tapestry of glittering leaves more beautiful than any Durani emeralds.

Ziksana says no axe can pierce this foliage, for it is blessed by the Ancient Ones. Only an offering of one’s true intentions will gain a visitor entry. All I know is none have entered without Ziksana, and believe me, I have tried.

Read More

Prelude of Flames

By Katherine Walker

The pilgrim caravan plodded slowly into the small town of Arati, wagons pulled by the lumbering olinphs of the southern plains. Azas looked dispassionately at the low-lying buildings of the Zikia border village, just another stop on the pilgrims’ journey toward the Forest of Forests, the very heart of the Zikia world. The forest bordering the town shifted with strange shadows as the evening drew on. The architecture and the people of the village struck that strange note between the traditional tribesmen and the Zikia of the modern day, who had learned to build cities and farm the land from their Durani and Gudanna neighbors and lords.  There was a small shrine built beneath a dvitra tree by a well in the village commons, adorned with antlers and trinkets ranging from hand-carved wood fetishes to finely wrought jewelry…

Read More

Between Sisters

By Ryan Schapals

Waiting is not difficult I remind myself. It’s the main duty of a soldier. Wait here. Wait for the signal. March there, then wait. This is what a military campaign boils down to. Who can wait longer? Who can wait better? Yet, no matter how long you wait, you’re never ready. The killing begins and ends before you know what’s happening and the victor is rewarded with more waiting.

In the mess of battle, the coherency of events is lost as easily as fresh recruits. The mixture of fear and exhilaration ignores the comforting confines of language. Like a shattered blade, we can piece these memories and sensations back together. But as the story forms and takes shape, it becomes more unlike the original though better suited for its purpose.

Read More

The Untamed

By  Ryan Schapals

Vanya strolled through Nandanna’s bustling war camp whistling “Dip in the Moaning Well.” Heads turned to regard him, but their interest quickly returned to their dinner. The day’s light dwindled and cook fires burned bright. He passed warriors draped in furs, covered in scars and tattoos: little appeared to unite them beyond violent intentions. Anywhere else, Vanya imagined, these barbarians would have been fighting over supper. Thick-armed and thick-witted, he mused, but they weren’t to be trifled withwell, not by any but a master trifler.

The army was situated just outside the batteries of a Durani fortress, just one of many along the Line. On this border between the Durani and the Gudanna there were fifteen castles, seven Gudanna and eight Durani, each built as a reflection of another. The Shining Citadel loomed to the north, a jewel on the horizon.

Read more

A Catacomb of Lies

By Dennis Detwiller

Night had fallen over the canyon pass of Mahtis, cloaking Archa and Pilu’s advance over the rocky terrain. The Durani were in retreat from their failure to capture Two Rock, but that didn’t make them any less deadly. The Empire’s rearguard would almost certainly have patrols seeking out any overzealous Gudanna force that ventured out alone after them in the darkness. The darkness held more than war though; it held the mystery of the Khan’s death, hiding somewhere in the ancient, ghost-filled Caves of Mahtis.

Read more

A Trail of Riddles

By Nathan Weisman

As the Battle of Two Rock begins, Lord Archa pursues the murderer of the Great Khan to the city. Time is running short however, if Archa can’t find the sorcerer responsible soon there is a good chance they could escape into the Durani Empire.

Read more

The World of Eretsu

The Great Khan is dead, and the world of Eretsu is once again flung into war. Now, the Khan’s rivalrous children- the Gudanna- and his vanquished enemies- the Durani- vie for control of the vast dominion he built. They battle with Golems – towering behemoths born of magic and forged for destruction. This is the world of Eretsu.

Read More

First Blood

by Nathan Weisman

In the aftermath of a brutal battle two brothers test each other’s loyalties to the Dominion.

Read More

As the Embers Die

by Ryan Schapals

During questioning a shepherd reveals more than he intended about the battle he had witnessed.

Read More

Forsaken

by Chris Rogers

Vhal Kitra and his band of mercenaries, The Forsaken Five-Hundred, underestimate the power of the defenders of an Urugal Temple.

Read More

A Legacy of Blood

By J.C. Hutchins

The Great Khan lies dead in his own Palace and it falls to his loyal retainer Archa to uncover the mystery of his death. Meanwhile the most powerful forces in the Dominion begin to prepare for the succession to the Saddle Throne.

Read More

Mercenary Kings: Whom Do You Serve?

by Dennis Detwiller

The Urugal merchant Raza Osa Bin Beleem is ambushed by Zikia warriors. Where some would be bargaining for their very lives, Raza Osa sees a better opportunity.

Read More

The Durani Empire: Clarity of Rule

by Dennis Detwiller

The young knight Dahr learns an important lesson from the beloved hero of the Empire, the Durani Raja Sudhamra.

Read More

The Gudanna Dominion: What is Said

by Dennis Detwiller

In the aftermath of the Khan’s death the Dominion must choose how to meet the Durani threat. The formidable Raga Nandanna has one plan, but will the assembled powers follow her?

Read More