My short story The Genesis Mausoleum, will be appearing in the forthcoming Dreams From The Witch House: Women of Lovecraft Anthology. Edited by Lynne Jamneck and published by Dark Regions Press. Further details are in the link below.
We live in an amazing time where even the most novices, of writers and artists are able to freely publish, display, and distribute their novels, paintings, comics, and poems to the world at will. Prior to such sites as deviantArt, tumblr, wordpress etc, an aspiring creator would find themselves faced with the daunting task of approaching publishers, agents, art galleries, and printers in order to plead with them to take up their work and help them in circulating and displaying it. Only those closest to the manuscripts, typewriters, quills, brushes, sketchbooks, and charcoal sticks of a new creative mind could see what potential may lie within them. It’s impossible to know how many truly great literary and artistic minds have come and gone throughout history totally unnoticed because they were simply too shy, aloof, or unconfident to pander to great patrons and distributors of arts and literature, or to even do something so simple as set foot into an art or creative writing class.
In this day and age, the shy ones are able to thrive in secret communities of like minds. These play host to millions of artists and writers novice and professional alike and is stocked to the rafters with people from all walks of life that possess the singular desire to bravely, or timidly, show their chosen corner of the world, “Look at what I can do! Look at what I’m trying to do!” in a marvellously, blessedly-anonymous forum.
The option to request and leave your profile open to critique from those that visit it, may not be ideal for those of a bashful disposition that would like the option to communicate with their favourite artist without their online identity being known however it does encourage a form bravery, and that’s a good thing.
The downside is where anonymity encourages bravery, it also encourages brazenness.
To the armchair art and writing critic, offering up freely-given critique to an aspiring or established professional may seem like a hand of help. It allows you, the critic, to offer the writer or artist of your choice avenues and suggestions for how they may improve their craft and ultimately achieve their goals of perfecting their chosen form of expression. After all, don’t artists and writers pay professional critics and editors to go over their work with a giant, angry red pen? Isn’t critique something every professional and famous person should expect?
Yes, absolutely. When artists and writers step forward and say, “I need opinions!” and offer to pay editors and professional critics to go over their work, it’s so they truly can explore every option toward fine-tuning their project into something perhaps greater than it once was. When a creator is ready to take that step, absolutely should you, the viewer and critic, step forward and offer up your opinions.
But what if an artist, writer, musician, or poet releases a new piece without requesting critique? What if they – as many are wont to do – simply post their work? Are you, the armchair critic, welcome to offer suggestions?
No. Fuck off.
When any of the creative types I have already listed step forward and publish their work without an explicit request for second opinions and thoughts, they are not looking for critique. They are not looking for suggestions. They are not looking to have their work assessed. They do not want you to tell them “how they can improve.”
“But,” you argue, “if they published it at all, shouldn’t they be prepared to have their work criticized?”
Yes, they should. Absolutely, they should. Not because they should desire your criticism, but rather, because it’s inevitable that you, the armchair critic – hidden behind the sunglasses of the gray-faced Anonymous icon – will open your yammering shitfountain and spew your “helpful” comments into their inbox regardless of whether they want you to or not. Then, they have to suffer the agonizing and often-humiliating experience of trying to figure out how to answer you, assuming they do at all:
They can ignore you, and risk your wrath for daring to ignore your seasoned opinions, respond to you telling you that they have no desire for your critique, and risk you bashing them for being a self-important narcissist, or they can struggle with a diplomatic response that simultaneously placates your desperate desire to have your presumed creative knowledge acknowledged by them as well as justifies the choices they made for the work they did. Regardless of what the artist chooses – or is forced – to do, you’ve successfully managed to back them into a corner, threaten them, and shake their resolve.
Artists do not brace for unsolicited critique because it’s “good for them.” They brace for it because armchair critics like you will inevitably come around and threaten their sense of stylistic self.
Artists, writers, poets, and musicians who approach the world of professionalism generally tend to know what their weaknesses are. They already know what they struggle with, because they are the ones to struggle with it. When an artist (we’re all artists, really) steps up and conjures up the courage to request critique, only then is it clear that they simply don’t know where their shortcomings lie. Only then may you offer your suggestions.
Remember, artists owe you nothing. When you see them publish their work on creative portals for free, they are sharing. They are displaying their work for no payment or direct benefit to themselves. They publish their art as a gift to those who would appreciate it, and as a show of strength to prove to themselves that they can do it. You sticking your nose into their inboxes and criticizing them for publishing a volunteered display of entertainment and, truthfully, pieces of their very selves, only hurts them.
So the next time you may feel inclined to offer an artist “advice” they did not ask for, take a deep breath, push yourself out of your chair, and kindly, courteously, graciously… fuck off.
Dry, unnatural lightning split the soot-blackened skies of Shadowmoon Valley. Infernals streaked across the sky like so many comets, dropping like fiery rain into the ongoing battles across the valley. The war engines of the Burning Legion and the puppets of the naaru pounded on the gates of the despoiled Temple of Karabor. And inside the temple, the harsh clanging of combat, the battle cries, the sibilance of spells, and the death-cries of dozens resonated.
Yet here, atop the Temple summit, Illidan found he was able to tune it all out. No sound seemed to reach here, or if it did, it was all the sound combined into a soft blur of white noise. Doubtlessly the fallen priests of Karabor had designed it that way, as a meditation aid perhaps. Or, more likely, to allow them to pursue their fruitless attempts to commune with the naaru.
Here, he could reflect.
Most people would say that such a spot would be the place to try and find inner peace. Illidan found that it merely left him alone with his hatred.
Not that he minded hatred. For him, being alone with his hatred was rather like finding inner peace. After all these years, it was impossible to imagine having nothing to hate. It served as a spur. It was the whip he used to drive himself on. Even if he’d been able to exorcise his lust for power, sheer spite would have pushed him relentlessly forward. Blindly forward. Recklessly forward.
His list of grievances was long and distinguished. It read like a who’s who of Azeroth’s mighty. But what made Illidan’s hatred so consuming wasn’t the length of the list, but the intensity with which he hated every person on it, and the magnitude of the wrongs done to him.
Whose place was it to judge him, anyway? For millennia, the driving force behind his actions had been the good of his people. Yes, he gained power in the process, but he had to have power to push the more important agenda forward. It was his right! No, more than that. It was his duty to gain power so that he could safeguard his people. And how could anyone hold that against him?
Yet they did.
His every action was twisted, every motive skewed, every gesture misunderstood by his accusers. “The betrayer”, they called him. But who was more the betrayed? Illidan! Who had slain more demons than he had during the War of the Ancients? Who had saved Azeroth’s font of magic when it was at risk of destruction? Who had annihilated Tichondrius and saved his people’s precious forests? Who was the only person to truly appreciate the threat of the Lich King, and the things that had to be done to destroy him? Who had fought the Scourge and single-handedly saved a huge contingent of night elves from certain undeath? Who had brought salvation to the blood elves and the Broken when they had no one else to turn to? And who had come within a blade swing of destroying the Lich King a second time, only to be let down by his supposed allies?
But no, none of that mattered. Why? Because he hadn’t done it “the right way”? Ungrateful wretches! All the good he had done and they judged him for his methods? How dare they!
How he despised the leaders of his people, mewling and whining as the world crashed down around them. And Illidan, their mightiest champion, their beacon against the dark, was reviled because he was different.
Jealousy. Fear. Those swine betrayed him because they didn’t have the imagination or the will to contemplate the sacrifices he’d made. And they called him the traitor! If not for his intervention, all of them would have had their souls dismembered by the Legion. And still they saw him as the villain!
And Malfurion was the worst of them all.
Precious “Shan’do” Stormrage! Illidan’s hatred of him, alone, was enough to consume Outland. That brother of his… always the perfect one, the leader, the idol. Even Cenarius had favoured him, and why? Because Illidan had a different route to power? Brother, seen as the saviour of the night elves, when it was his battle with Azshara that nearly destroyed the whole world! Holier-than-thou brother, who never thought twice about punishing Illidan for being different, as if he had grounds to be righteous. Next to brother, Illidan was treated like the unwanted bastard.
So smooth, so eloquent, so adept at wordcraft, brother. Him and his pretensions that the druidistic magics he espoused were of a different cloth from Illidan’s arcane powers. Magic was magic! But when brother spoke, one became good and one became bad. So Illidan, by definition, was bad.
Made a pariah.
Made an example.
Brother, who never could have defeated Illidan one-on-one, cloaked his words in righteousness. And so he gained the loyalty of those he’d nearly blown up. To cement that loyalty, he turned on his brother, for what greater sacrifice could someone make? Why, that was proof of Malfurion’s sanctity!
So Illidan was vilified.
Punished for no crime.
Made the whipping boy.
And the people went along with it, stupid sheep following the shepherd with the prettier crook. He became the atonement for the night elves’ sins, the proof of their repentance. They forgave themselves for their crimes by offering up Illidan as their sacrifice. Their guilty consciences were bugging them, for they were all complicit in the War of the Ancients… but if they were able to blame it all on Illidan, they would feel better.
So that’s what they did.
And it was all brother’s idea.
Ten thousand years of imprisonment passed. Down there beneath the earth, unable to see, barely able to hear or feel, trapped in the deep, dank dark. It would have been so easy to go mad, so refreshing and relaxing to give in to insanity. But Illidan Stormrage was destined for more than that. He would find redemption or die trying.
He trained. Day in and day out, he honed his skills. Sharpened his demonsight. Practiced. Where there could have been idleness, he carried on. The most brutal training regimen ever devised, specifically to destroy the enemies he knew would return. Those demons would fall by his blades, in the end. And so, when his brother’s weak and inadequate approach failed, Illidan would be there to save the day.
How had it gone so wrong?
Brother again! Brother, always there to slander and blame! Malfurion had not even a word of congratulations or gratitude, after all Illidan’s contribution to the Legion’s defeat. He cast him out as a pariah again.
The hatred emanated from Illidan now. For a being as powerful as he was, emotions could take a physical form. Illidan’s wrath manifested as black heat cloaking his body, and it burned ever hotter as he remembered.
Brother was judging him again! Branding him unworthy, just because his path was different! The power that had warped his appearance made him scary, but did it make him villainous? How could they believe he’d done it for his own sake? Power was needed to stop the Legion, and Illidan’s was the way to get it! It would have been treasonous, suicidal even, to turn it down! And when it was all over and that power was all that stood between them and utter destruction, that was the moment they turned on him.
Because brother said so.
When brother said so, even Tyrande listened.
Illidan’s wrath cooled. She was the only memory he possessed that he treasured. If he had eyes, he’d cry. Tyrande, lost forever! Blinded and misled by brother, slave to her love for him! Oh, Tyrande, why did you choose him? How could you? I was here for you, I gave everything for you, I would let the whole world burn in demonfire but I would burn it all myself before I let it touch you…
Even she couldn’t grasp what he’d done. She came closer than anyone, perhaps; she’d rescued him, given him chances when no one else would. But how could she go against brother?
Tyrande, Tyrande, if only you had loved me! Our love would have remade the world!
But it was not to be. And all Illidan could do was curse the fates that had set the eyes of her heart just a few feet to the left.
Injustice piled upon injustice. Nothing was left to him. No reward, no pleasure, not even a moment of gratitude. Not a kind word or a token of thanks.
Who had betrayed whom?
They had told him so often that he was a traitor he had started to believe their words. So he divorced himself from his people, renounced them forever, and struck for Outland to establish a new home. He would set his will for his own good for once!
And what reward had he gotten for that?
Illidan felt them approach. Mortals. Dozens of them, maybe. The champions of the mortal races had such hate for him, they couldn’t leave him alone.
Illidan’s anger flared like a nova. He’d abandoned Azeroth, left it once and for all. He was content to let the mortals of his old home fend for themselves against the Legion. He would commit no more so-called crimes against that world. But now that he’d quit it for good, they came looking for him?
How dare they!
This was the most spiteful act yet. This time he’d done nothing, and now they were hunting him. And for what? For building a kingdom on another world? Because the naaru told them to? Just because he was there and had power?
They would burn for this, this most serious transgression.
He gripped the Skull of Gul’dan, the object that symbolized both his good intentions and his consequent damnation. By its power, all the skills that had been honed to destroy demons would devour these mortals instead. They would know regret.
Well then, mortals. You make me out to be the selfish, power-hungry type? In that case, I will have power! I’ll have it all. Outland will be my citadel, my strength. That’s what he had decided.
If they hated him no matter what, he’d give them something to hate.
He gave the gathering mortals scant notice, but stirred when he sensed a particular presence. Akama! The treasonous worm!
Even now the betrayals rolled in. First Akama, the coward, the bleeding heart. Then Kael’thas, a crazed but weak creature who fancied himself clever, even as he was transparent. Only Lady Vashj had ever been loyal to Illidan, and she’d been the first to die.
Listen to Akama prattle on about freedom. Illidan rose, sneering. Akama’s loyalty had always been to the master with the longest whip. He refused to acknowledge it, though. Listen to his conceit. If Illidan were so terrible, would he have even allowed Akama to live?
Ironic, then. Illidan ruled Outland by the power of the naga, the blood elves, the fel orcs, the Broken, and the demons. They were a collection of beings united only by their love of power and their belief that Illidan could get it for them. And when it came down to it, only the demons had been true to him.
He had the most in common with the demons; perhaps… did that make him one of them?
The mortals clearly had decided. Perhaps, for once, they were right.
There was nothing for it, then, but to play the part with all his might.
They had no idea what was coming for them. They’d driven him too far. No more would he submit to their judgment. He would raise his voice—and his blades—in answer.
And, to face that, they were not prepared.
Apologies to those following Ascension for the late post, other writing commitments have been demanding precedent. I hope to post some new items soon, meanwhile do enjoy the old saga!
‘My King, I bid you greetings and welcome on your successful journey and return’ Mirach stood in the central chamber of Rhomadar. The elevated members of Diak Society all present, word had spread quickly of the King’s return and it was clear much was expected to be learnt from his journey into the East and to the Badlands.
Larion seated himself on Deagar-his royal throne and surveyed the eager expectant populace. ‘Greetings to you all my people’ He proclaimed heartily. All cheered and bowed. Now Mirach stepped forward, waving his hands in the air causing the celebratory to fall silent.
‘Larion my King, reports have reached us that Lord Devron has been killed some say by the hands of your own son, Prince Mortas.’ Shocked gasps came from the parties gathered there hoping to impress upon the King the full extent and magnitude of the tragedy.
‘If that be the case then I will deal with it, do not trouble yourself my old friend, what possible reason can Mortas have for killing my general?’ Larion spoke calmly.
Mirach was not quelled he shook his head saying ‘we are all at a loss as to why his Highness should act in such a rash manner and with such savagery that it most certainly was’ he went on to say ‘what we believe is that he was temporarily blinded and was under the influence of a woman’ he raised his voice on the last words.
‘Gadzara has never created this kind of discord among our people before …’ he was interrupted by Mirach’s raised hand.
‘Forgive me, Gadzara is also dead my King,’ leaning in so that only Larion could hear ‘there is a conspiracy against you and it appears to us that she had some part in it, the woman of whom I speak is not of our clan, she my King, but I’m afraid of angering you on this day, your triumphant return from the Badlands,’ Larion’s eyes glowed bright blue as if on fire.
‘Tell me all that has transpired in my absence Mirach, keep nothing from me, for if I find that you have …’ Larion showed his protracted nails, long and sharp, striking them across the handle of his chair causing the contact to spark brightly, bringing them close to Mirach’s eyes. The other stood fearfully, silently seething with hate. Arriving to the anti-chamber of the King Sophiles and Eon was met by Larion and Mirach, the last shifting uncomfortably.
‘My Lord Larion, we are all here to discuss the best way to prevent war and save our world.’ Eon said to Regal looking Diak sitting astride his guard vedril-it’s monstrous jaws agape.
‘On these affairs of state it is best that you remain silent, if you wish to be seen as my son, you must understand that a King does not hold conversations affecting our world with ones too young to give credence to its worth.’ Larion said looking at him squarely.
‘Yes, my father.’ Eon obeyed. Sophiles stepped forward.
‘Since it would appear that you, my King, cannot be reasoned with as others have misled you in the accounting of the proceedings for some malicious gain as yet unclear, let me say that I fit the criteria for age and understanding, which you so lightly dismiss in others, and I would further say that there is merit in the observations, even from the young.’ As he spoke Sophiles did not allow his eyes to stray from Mirach, standing at his position beside the King’s vedril.
The other feigning disinterest was nonchalant until, it was clear that Sophiles had indicated a less than honorary intent towards the one who had related the affair to the King. Feeling the sting and an obligation for retaliation, Mirach glanced at Sophiles sharply, the other meeting his glare levelly.
‘My King, what possible action could a loyal servant, have which would motivate spite, in a time when allies are few and one’s every decision is open to scrutiny; it will be most unwise to act to the contrary when it benefits none.’ Larion nodded.
‘Easy Mirach my old friend, you are to me as a brother, do not let words direct your will.’
Settling again into his former position, Mirach observed the others silently.
‘Lord Mirach is fully aware that, the affairs of state do not identify the individual, but the matter to which it pertains, attribution is never personal, unless the purpose for which it was given was intended to be. Perhaps I should have said that the accounting of the issue was malicious, in that the matter to which it refers was not fairly deliberated upon .’ Eon smiled, Sophiles was enjoying himself.
‘I see,’ said Larion ‘tell me the consequences as you deem fit.’
‘The Prince has acted within the scope of tradition, namely where a party is invited at the invitation of one of the royal house, it cannot then be deemed fit by another without proper enquiry and consent to action the removal of a guest, without sanction.’
‘Since you were not here present my King, it fell to your next in line to fulfil your duties, perhaps the action taken was harsh, but reasoning would have proved difficult even for the most patient among us where no good cause is given for inappropriate hostility.’ Eon added.
‘But at that time, there were many unknown variables which are impossible to quantify, and to extend an invitation to a stranger at this most dangerous of times is in itself a decision lacking foresight.’ Mirach countered.
‘This will be correct if the decision was taken without first assessing the consequences of the action leading to it, but not where it was thoroughly expounded.’ Sophiles answered lightly. ‘The outcome was a tragedy to be sure, but it could not have been dealt with any other way, Lord Devron had acted inappropriately to a visitor, without behest to the purpose of the visit. As Lord Mirach has observed allies are few and we may consider them a most valued addition and not to be taken lightly for pleasure or abuse.’
‘I am in agreement with Lord Sophiles on the general issue of appropriate behaviour to guests, but I would observe that the tragedy could have been averted if the reason for the presence of the visitor had been openly explained.’ Mirach pushed. ‘But then as Prince Mortas himself had previously stated at our gathering some matters were only for the benefit of the royal ear and therefore could not be privy to all there present.’
‘The Prince would never seek to conceal anything of vital importance to his people, were it not beneficial. I say he would have clearly stipulated his actions, the fact that he has not specified the reason for his visitor being here, must have been due to some other overriding concern.’ Sophiles countered.
‘Perhaps, but he will tell me all.’ Larion declared.
‘As you deem fit my King, Prince Mortas is on his way here and I’m sure all will become clear for your judgement.’ Sophiles nodded.
‘So be it, the matter is adjourned-now to the business in hand, there are many who wish to learn of my journey, I will no longer deny them .’ Larion said leading the procession from the antechamber.
‘Nor will we my King.’ All bowed and acknowledged Larion was right to speak openly with his people. There was silence as Larion entered and all sought to be within earshot of what he was to reveal.
For ANYONE following ASCENSION…THIS WAS my writing style 20 years ago…
Watching the Citadel from Mortas’ arms, Glory Academy was a great fortress on the edge of the Iscarza built on a gargantuan jagged fang of rock, enclosed by the Grand Sandor Mountains backdrop and is the last bastion of the Old kingdom before King Larion’s Effieron was forged. Located in the wastes of the Stride Mines, the Citadel gleamed from the characteristic red, white and black marble. Thorin closed her eyes.
Mortas was silent moving over the forbidden zone with Thorin in his arms. She was still in shock from her ordeal, but had gradually begun to stop trembling; in her mind’s eye she replayed events in slow motion. Devron’s body being lifted and torn apart the pain and fear in his eyes, the sickeningly bone crunching rips and tears and the blood Oh god, there was so much blood. She sensed Mortas’ gentleness, but she knew that he had another side to his being even though she did not fear him, she understood and respected its existence.
She made a conscious decision to learn all that she could about the Diaks, no matter how horrific, she had begun to suspect that she could not escape and their fates were becoming increasingly intertwined . The question ringing in her ears was did she want to? Her thoughts were broken by Mortas’ query as to her well-being.
‘I’m fine , just a little overwrought’ This was an understatement.
‘I realised that my actions since I brought you here, has raised many questions and answered few, when we reach Kailan and you have refreshed and rested, then I will endeavour to answer all that you may broach in an effort to extend your knowledge on matters I know that are fearful to your mind.’
He answered her unasked question, for this she was grateful that she did not have to raise the subject.
They were crossing the shimmering pools again, and Thorin held her breath, the beauty of it always took her by surprise. ‘You think it beautiful?’ Mortas asked.
‘Yes, I think it’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life.’ She exclaimed with an unmistakable lilt in her voice.
‘I am glad it pleases you’ and more softly ‘Thorin’ her name rolled with a strange delicacy, it sounded unusual, special and familiar.
They arrived at Kailan a servant was waiting for them inside the great Hall, they could hear the voices of others, there was silence as Mortas entered with Thorin in his arms.
‘Brother, you were gone a long time, we were beginning to despair.’ Eon said
‘There was no need for concern, Lord Devron has passed.’
All fell silent and sombre-waiting expectantly. ‘It was inevitable his greed led influence had overtaken him, I saw him leave the silent tower and it was not difficult to guess the rest, when I found Gadzara, she revealed some of her arrangements with him.’ Mortas tone was full of regret, his lips tight; taking another’s life has never pleased him.
‘Where is Gadzara?’ Mortas darkened.
‘It seems a bargain with Devron, was less than pleasing to him and backfired, when he found out who the lady Thorin was, he came to exact his punishment for the deception as only Devron could. On my arrival she was too far gone to be saved .’ He said with pity.
Looking down at the woman in his arms he said ‘perhaps, you should leave us my lady while you are properly attired.’ He set her down and Thorin was escorted from the room.
Thorin was washed and carefully attire, despite her objections to be left alone the female servant Diak ignored her protests to bath in Private feigning confusion, so that the process was not to prove exhausting Thorin consented. The wound on her arm was cleaned and dressed. Wondering what Lila would think if she told her all these things and the others disbelief brought Thorin to the sum thought that she hadn’t considered her friend since she had arrived in Effieron. The thought was further expanded when she considered that the police must be looking for her, knowing her friend they may well be dragging lakes, rivers and any place else in pursuance to her whereabouts . But the need to know what was happening in her life was an ever forward force propelling her towards an inescapable truth about her destiny which was impossible to avoid. Her life with Jake had shown her that no matter how much you wish to avoid your fate in the end acceptance was the only respite, she had learnt the hard way, that a wise one knows their limitations.
She and Jake had met at Sam’s cafe one fresh spring morning, it had been unusually crowded and finding a place to sit was like an expert game of chess. she had finally allowed him to sit after making him promise never to speak to her for the duration of his intended visit but as always Jake had a way of using his charm to lethal effect and Thorin remembered how his devastating smile had made her heart skip several beats culminating in her involuntary response to his queries about general topics until the subject had wound its way round to her. They had been dating for several weeks, when he asked her about sharing his life, the first step was taking an apartment together and Thorin was elated. They had been settled in their new abode when Jake decided to ask for a trial period of being engaged and her heart had soared at the prospect. Then the nightmares began after Jake had suffered an attack while being assailed by thugs he could not recall, overnight the wonderful man and life she knew was rapidly crumbling to dust before her eyes and how she fought to make it better in any way she could, but in the end her most fervent efforts were to no avail, one day the man she loved left and never came home .
From this moment onward although she did not know it and it was not a conscious decision Thorin blocked all and any advance that might have the biggest romantic inclinations. Ryland Richards had been the latest to fall foul of the Parker charm and like others before him found the ever widening chasm impossible to cross or bridge. In the end he too had to cede to defeat and content himself with Platonic friendship .
Returning to the present-she surveyed her reflection in the mirror, her hair had been attended to and scented oil was added to her skin. She was amazed at how radiant she looked, despite her close encounter with Devron; she resolved to put the event from her mind for sanity’s sake. The question now was how to survive in Effieron, and the best methods to employ to ensure survival for it was certain that Mortas required something from her and she knew that she could not grant his wish, nor could she leave Effieron she was a prisoner there again feelings of repression began to surface.
Sophiles, a Diak considered to be the oldest and wisest among them, had made his appearance at the Citadel and Mortas understood the gravity associated with such a meeting for he would never attend unless there was discord in the ranks of royalty. Sophiles unlike Mirach was of a single mind and all actions formed the sum total of his belief-loyalty to his king alone. Eon and Mortas bowed.
‘You can be at no loss as to why I am here.’ Sophiles’ tone was flat. ‘Alarming news has reached me and I have been studying its meaning for several cycles and can only conclude that your enemies have began to mobilise, but towards what goal is as yet unclear.’
He spoke studying the wall chart behind his hosts, frowning suddenly ‘how long has the King been on his current course as envoy?’
‘Twenty four lunar cycles’ Eon answered
‘And your initiation my Prince’ He asked Mortas pointedly
‘Consciously, twenty three lunar cycles’ Mortas answered frowning
‘That is what I thought,’ Sophiles said ‘in direct conjunction with the first diminishing of the Iscarza’ Eon and Mortas looked at each other .
‘What is your thought?’ Eon was defensive.
‘nothing, merely this, many others have been initiated before through the ages, Melfeshos, Larion, Theagar and even the first Ataron, yet the world showed no change, but you as you came brought noticeable degrees as you arrived in Effieron, have you not wondered why?’ Mortas listened intently.
‘Clearly, you understand something of this that I did not,’ the cold logic in his tone had returned, making Eon wonder at the identity of the Diak before him, studying Mortas closely for some sign, that may confirm the uneasiness he felt.
‘Tell me all you recall of your initiation and I will tell you my suspicions .’ Sophiles tone had remained constant.
‘I was in great pain, I used the markings on the Citadel at the far end of the desert, it brought me to the shadows at the ruins I awoke there, how much time had passed was unclear, but it felt like I was always in Effieron.’ Mortas concluded.
‘When we found you, you had been poisoned your human body had died and you had manifested into the state you are in currently but you were weak, and it was necessary to turn you permanently.’ Sophiles let time passed for the meaning to sink in.
‘You were placed before the Tarin Urn in Rhomadar the Citadel of Kings for the pure essence selection to be made and your true nature to be formed, an essence of one of the King’s past had infused with yours of its own choosing.’ Mortas and Eon could not conceal their surprise Sophiles continued uninterrupted ‘only you know the real name of your (counterpart), it was your instinct that brought you to Effieron and your blood all Diak and one other have this ability, a human born of both worlds.’ Mortas whole dark eyes did little to conceal his shock at the revelation laid before him.
‘How else can you explain the lady Thorin presence here?’ Sophiles sat back surveying the disbelieving faces before him. ‘was it knowledge that drew you to her, certainly instinct was overruled or you would have chosen Gadzara .’ this statement served its purpose Mortas rocked as the memories converged and flooded his mind, rushed visions of events past solidified before his eyes only to evaporate to be replaced by others. Thought and vision colliding in an all knowing explosion.
Raising his head Mortas’ expression was inscrutable, ‘I remember .’
‘Yes, I imagine that time would come when you would ask these questions, I merely forced the issue as time is of the essence and you can no longer remain in ignorance of matters unfolding around you.’ Sophiles stared at Mortas directly-’you are that which you suspect, the child of both worlds. It is both your halves in equilibrium that hold Effieron stable, but now change has come and equality has ceased to be the norm of all constants, this is the reason for the diminishing.’ Sophiles concluded.
‘Why have such drastic changes occurred?’ Eon asked.
‘Ah now you are asking the optimum question, I believe the answer lies in the death of one half of your being and now its whole composition here in Effieron, by diminishing your being, Effieron is itself diminished.’
‘My query is who would attempt such an action, knowing the consequences of it?’ Mortas asked slowly.
‘I do not believe prior knowledge of the consequences – the resulting diminishing of Effieron – were known, and thus I conclude the attempt was to end your life, but instinct prevented the task from reaching its completion, why else should the desire to end your life be attempted in your weaker human element ?’ Sophiles questioned. ‘What interests me is who should attempt such a task, is the threat still existent and since you are King after your father what outcome will these conditions pose the Crown ?’ Sophiles was thoughtful as he spoke.
‘We must now be ever vigilant’ Eon stated, all nodded in agreement.
‘On another subject of unease , the Princess Gadzara revealed to me her dealings with Lord Devron, and I cannot conceal my thoughts but would ask you brother and Sophiles, who I hold in the same esteem as my father the King. Tell me what your observations are on the evidence I shall shortly lay before you.’ Mortas’ attitude had changed; clearly there was some connection on the preceding conversation that had combined with the discovery which now fired the imagination .’ The Princess was badly beaten her body was broken and torn, it was clear whoever was responsible had used notable force and it was also their intention to kill.’ Mortas paused. Eon and Sophiles attentions were rapt. ‘She was quite weak and a little delirious from her injuries but still lucid enough for me to catch some details-Lord Devron it seems had approached her some thirty moons before, requesting that she should consider an alliance of our two lands, citing the benefits of such a joining among which would be the strengthening of our forces against the Cayjuns .’
‘Ah’ Sophiles interrupted ‘this was the time when the attacks were spurious and did not seem to be centred against us but our chattel and properties’
Mortas nodded ‘yes, she was to inherit her father’s kingdom after his age was complete, but she would not rule without a suitor as Melfeshos had decided not to pass his crown as was tradition, but interestingly had considered the unification of the land in favour of sovereign rule.’
‘So the proposition from Devron was a tempting one-to rule all the land, it was the ultimate combination.’ Eon said nodding Mortas added
‘Why would they have planned such an alliance, before consulting with King Larion, it was he who needed to decide, whether he wanted such an alliance.’
Sophiles smiled ‘I do not believe the alliance was to be with King Larion, despite his virility, experience and power all of which would prove attractive to the female, the Princess has always had a serious failing for the young and beautiful among us.’
‘Then the curiousness of her attachment is explained, but not the matter of how she suddenly and untimely became the ruler of her kingdom only to abandon it to soldiers and generals, for she revealed to me that Lord Devron was placed in charge of the security of the Borders, since we were fighting a common foe. She confirmed that it was Devron and another who had persuaded her to leave the East, Melfeshos would never have allowed such an action had he been alive, the people came first, and as leader he would have stood his ground unflinchingly .’ Mortas concluded.
The smile had vanished from Sophiles lips he had a thoughtful frown. ‘it seems this goes deeper than I first suspected and now caution is necessary at every step-you cannot underestimate the magnitude of deception, so I would advise that none but us three should know the contents of Gadzara’s confession and in fact to all it should appear as a contest battle for the right of Lady Thorin’s favour and no more. Swear that I have your silence .’ Sophiles looked at each seriously and they consented to his wishes without further question. They were interrupted by the brisk arrival of another .
‘My Lord Sophiles, your Highnesses, your father King Larion calls for your presence at Rhomadar, he has returned and wishes that you should attend immediately.’ A messenger Diak had arrived and read the orders sealed by Larion just as Sophiles had finished speaking.
‘We will go on ahead, perhaps you may wish to inform the lady Thorin.’ Sophiles added to Mortas who acknowledged with a slight bow each thinking the single thought as they left, who was behind the facade and whether there was enough time to unmask the players, for surely they were clever and more dangerous than Devron .