Prologue

Imynor woke screaming.

Beneath him, his mattress was soaked with icy sweat. His weathered hands shook, struggling to clear the cool liquid from his brow. The old man recalled the events of his dream, eyes sealed shut to keep the image fresh in his mind. The sun set in the distance; it will begin in the west, he garnered. On the horizon darkness spread like ink through water. With a staggering tug, the vision shifted to look upon the world from above, and the black cloud slowly covered the scene until there was nothing left. After a moment, the shroud began to fade, west to east, leaving only a barren wasteland. His whole body shook violently, and he gasped for air. Imynor felt as though he was suffocating, but he could not lose the sight, not now. Focusing again, the seer watched the darkness spread over the land, and saw its first target: Souhal. The first of many. Imynor placed two fingers on his temples and spoke aloud, “What will be the first sign?”


Immediately, he felt as though an impossibly large hand was choking him, and skeletons walked before him with burning red eyes and wicked weap­ons, their bones were completely black. Not charred, he realized, black—as if it were pitch pulled from the ground. He recoiled, begging to cast the vision away as falsehood. But he knew better. Imynor had to send word east—to his daughter, to Souhal. Rising, the seer walked to his desk, cane clutched tightly in his hand as he sat, words forming in his mind. He grabbed his quill, pulling it from the ink­well, and set it to the page. Horror seized Imynor again. As his quill touched the parchment, the ink drained from the point and covered the page entirely, leaving only some small areas untouched; the page was pure black except for the words:


I see you, seer. I will come for you first.

  

Imynor wailed. He pulled another piece of parchment, and the same horror occurred, leaving the same words, again and again. He dragged his palm down his face. He would have to bring word to Souhal himself. With haste, the seer threw enough rations into his satchel for the journey, pulled on warm, winter clothes, and strapped his canteen to his belt. He returned to the desk, folded one of the black pages and grabbed his coin purse. Then, with a grunt and a heave, he lifted himself from his seat.


Thump.


The old seer’s gaze darted about the area around his desk. Nothing had fallen. “I don’t have time for this!” the man groaned. He turned to the threshold. 


What he saw caused the terror of his dream to come flooding back in full force. A skeleton stood before him, its bones black as onyx. In one hand, it held a wicked shortsword of a dark metal Imynor had never seen before. In the other, a small dagger of the same material. Imynor felt himself freeze. The apparition lunged at him. He found the strength to move, milliseconds before the shortsword would’ve caught his neck and ended any hope the Gandari Kingdoms had. The seer squealed in fear. With all the will he could muster, he lashed out at his assailant, a tendril of bright yellow energy striking the exposed clavicle of the apparition. It reeled, a wail of pain echoed against the walls. With a scowl, Imynor lashed out again, summoning the primal magic within him. Another tendril wrapped around the skeleton’s skull and tossed it from the house. The haggard old man picked the blades up and winced as his hand met a coldness he’d never felt. The icy energy gnawed at him as he tossed the weapons from his house into the field outside. 


Imynor found himself against the threshold, the wooden beams supporting him more than his legs. The magic he unleashed had left him weary. He mopped the sweat off his brow with a small cloth that he then replaced at his belt and gazed out into the forest surrounding his house. 


A gasp escaped his lips. More of the black boned abominations were approaching his hovel. Words entered his mind, words in a voice that was not his own. Doom, they said. Doom to all you know. 


Imynor slammed his door shut. A cry of despair found life in the air around him. He was finished. The old seer looked to his right, to see the holy texts of many gods worshipped throughout Gandaraar. Please, he begged, aid me holy ones. Imynor reached out, and his hand found the one dedicated to Solustun. Clutching the tome, he held a hand aloft and spoke the incanta­tion, struggling to keep himself steady, “Alu’he abal’iis solis’tik, alu’he abal’iis solis’tik.” He continued his ritual, looking at every wall in turn, and each one flashing a dim yellow after it was said. “Solustun, protect me from the long dark that I may warn Your children of the sun before they are swallowed into the night and forgot­ten.” The old seer clenched his teeth in a grimace and hoped that would be enough.

image193