9.67 (Pt. 2) – The Wandering Inn

9.67 (Pt. 2)

“Serve me.”

It was what Kasigna said again and again, and each time, they refused. Necromancers, masters of death no matter their form, stood before her.

Not a single one knelt.

“Who wakes me from my slumber? Have the Walled Cities died?”

The Gnoll rasped in his coffin. His eyes were black, and he was covered in water. This place…was revealing them.

“You have destroyed my home. Who are you?”

The Village Head of Rheirgest stared at Kasigna, eyes flashing as he gripped a staff of bones. Tolveilouka turned his head away from the apparition swimming in the deeps below them.

The Mother of Graves was not what Az’kerash expected. She was most certainly not…a person. She had no voice he understood, but the rage emanating upwards was kith and kin to the rest.

“W-why have you—how have—I am Regis Reinhart. I will hear you negotiate.”

Some were cowards. Regis Reinhart flinched as Az’kerash stared at him with astonishment. A Fraerling stopped trying to send [Message] spells and Az’kerash saw the tiny [Necromancer] recoil from him.

The Archmage of Death stood there, panting, and looked around. He missed the undead Cat Beastkin hiding behind a bewildered Naga, avoiding his gaze.

There was too much to see. Az’kerash turned his head, and a dead man with white hair and features controlled by his hatred of the living and desire for vengeance—met the eyes of a man who held a rapier in hand, the mark of Silvaria still upon his robes.

They were one and the same. Perril Chandler and Az’kerash stared at each other.

“Two-in-one. Fascinating. A True Lich, but you’ve reanimated yourself differently, haven’t you? You must have rushed it.”

The Gnoll’s voice was still wet, echoing, as if coming from the deeps. He stepped out of his coffin.

“I am waking…I have been awoken at last. You—girl—your body was shattered. Well done.”

He turned his head, and another [Necromancer] bowed. She was a beast of bones, twelve feet tall, yet Hetarria, the dead [Necromancer] who had served on Rhir’s 5th Wall, had survived even destruction of her body with the bones she had possessed.

“Rhir greet thee, stranger. The Necromancer is alive. Foul tidings. Who is she?”

“I do not know. Have they resettled Rhir since the flame of magic went out?”

The Gnoll rasped, and Az’kerash’s head snapped back to him. Tolveilouka snarled.

I know of you—

Necromancers. The world’s mightiest souls drawn together. The consequences—even the Three-in-One seemed aware she was snapping fate’s strings against each other and paused to take in the cause and effect playing themselves out on grand scales.

They ignored her. No—not quite ignored, but the [Necromancers] did not understand her. She had no mana. She had no levels. She was no death mage they understood.

Only the Mother of Graves knew Kasigna and howled a challenge that shook this quasi-realm. Kasigna’s eyes narrowed.

Time was passing. What was happening in the Floodplains?

“That is our foe.”

Perril Chandler called out. Heads turned to him, but more [Necromancers] flinched away from his visage than trusted his words. He cursed, tried to take a step and draw his blade—

I follow thee, death.

Az’kerash knelt. The Lich bent his knee to the Goddess of Death—until Perril Chandler grabbed his arm. He saw the face contort, and the two realized as Az’kerash lifted a finger glowing with death—

We’re connected. The Gnoll nodded as if it were self-evident as mortal man and Lich struggled, conjoined, one being with two desires.

“What are the terms, stranger? You are not a Gnoll, though you smell and look like one across three ages.”

He stared at Kasigna, and the [Necromancers] realized she looked like their species. Fraerling. Naga. Drake.

“Service for my favor. Take my hand. I am Death itself; oppose me and I will turn your very power against you and leave you broken until I take you into my hand.”

The Crone’s eyes flashed. She erred, of course. [Necromancers] of this era were proud. They were always proud. But she could not help it.

She might respect one like Fetohep, who ruled despite death’s touch on him. But self-proclaimed ‘masters of death’? No. There was no olive branch Kasigna would offer.

Her pride refused it. The Gnoll regarded her with heavy-lidded eyes. Even Regis Reinhart snarled, slowly taking count of the people around him and slinking behind the Gnoll. The Gnoll gave him a frown without recognition as the ghost of House Reinhart looked terrified a second.

“I refuse.”

The Gnoll was not the first to speak the words. Rather, it was one of the Fraerlings of Paeth who pointed up at Kasigna.

“Stay clear of the [Innkeeper], Erin Solstice. Fraerlings warn you once.”

Kasigna stared down at the tiny [Necromancer], so affronted that a laugh burst from the Gnoll’s lips.

“I should listen, if I were you.”

He spoke mildly as he reached across his chest. The Gnoll was so casual, as one waking from a dream and unsure he was still dreaming—but he was not blind to the threat.

He slowly opened his chest like one opened a drawer and reached between his ribs. Withdrew a heart black and oozing, squeezed it until black ichor ran, and he licked it. Then he spat onto the ground, and the liquid began to bubble and rise into a minion.

“I see.”

Kasigna’s voice was cold and disappointed. How many had she demanded worship from? How many—failed? Necromancers, Khelt, a slumbering god…

She lifted a hand as even the Mother of Graves shrieked and swam upwards. The [Necromancers] backed up as Kasigna glanced down.

An example to be made. She reached down to touch the Mother of Graves, who was so vast even in this quasi-dimension…

Kasigna’s hand touched the raging soul of the Mother of Graves. The hand of the dead goddess, Death, the Three-in-One, touched the Mother of Graves, and the soul flickered—

The Dungeon of Liscor screamed—

And the Mother of Graves refused to die. Kasigna recoiled as she felt the power of death, her power, torn away from her. The Grand Design of Isthekenous!

Impossible. You are my—

The Mother of Graves’ return blow rocked the entire dimension. Kasigna stumbled back for a second, her flesh tearing, her bones shattering as thousands of pounds of pressure mashed her entire being into less than pulp.

—She was the Crone again, hissing, even as an aspect of her suffered the blow. Just like Razia had struck the other dead gods, the blow hit one part of them, and they were a thousand versions of themselves. It was like destroying a single grain of sand in a desert.

Nevertheless—it was still a portion of Kasigna. She still felt it. Incredulity froze the Goddess of Death a second. Then she saw the Mother of Graves rearing back for another blow.

This time, the Three-in-One actually raised a hand to block the attack. But her hand wavered, and someone kissed her on the cheek as he slid a sword straight through her chest.

My master sends his regards.

Tolveilouka impaled Kasigna from behind and vanished as the Mother of Graves struck Kasigna again. The blow destroyed half his ‘body’, but the laughing Revenant reformed and grew.

Now, two titans were attacking Kasigna. Just like the Mother of Graves—Tolveilouka refused to kneel to Kasigna. Sheer spite and hatred let him swing a bloated fist down and send the Goddess of Death stumbling back.

The Gnoll was laughing. Laughing with a wild mirth as he conjured more minions. All the [Necromancers] not moving forward to fight were fleeing in the opposite direction.

Az’kerash and Perril Chandler wrestled with each other as Kasigna shrieked. The dimension was coming to pieces—the man grabbed the Lich and held him underwater.

We fight.

For what? Why are you still dreaming you breathe?

Az’kerash snarled back. Perril Chandler saw a crack run through his reflection—then the world broke apart, and the man reappeared back on the battlefield.


Four voices cried out in relief, and Az’kerash raised his head. He saw Kasigna reappear, stumbling, shrieking, as a figure still clung to her.


One of the Hag Queens turned, horrified, as Tolveilouka drove his blade into Kasigna’s chest again and again. He was giggling—until the Three-in-One caught his hand.

Slay this pathetic minion.

She tossed Tolveilouka through the air, and the last of the four remaining Hag Queens, the only one not battling the [Witches] or bearing down on Liscor, charged the half-Elf with a roar.

He grew as he grinned, and the Hag Queen grew too—until two beings as foul and rotting as the other were wrestling, one laughing, the other screaming, tearing at each other to see who had been made better.

“Ijvani, Venitra, Devail, Oom—kill every undead not under my control!

Az’kerash began casting magic the moment he reappeared. A sword swept across the battlefield, blazing with light, and one of the Hag Queens broke off from dueling the [Witches] and caught the blade between two gnarled fingers a second before it touched her.

Kasigna had returned. She surveyed the Floodplains, seeing four of her generals slain. Yet her appearance proved as much horror as the half-beheaded Draugr; the sight of that foul titan fighting against her, though, provoked a strange hope.

Yet the Three-in-One drove her staff down. The screaming Crone spoke one word, and a third and final time they pulled themselves out of the air as a Giant made of bones crawled across the road. A second one made of frozen ice, steaming with golden flames clinging to it, passed below the cloud layer, and despair returned.


One last army rose to heed her. They appeared in silent ranks behind Kasigna.

Ghosts summoned from Kasignel.

Ser Sest paused and stared at the sword he held, his joy suddenly gone. Bekia stared across the field as Ressa slowed, and Magnolia Reinhart closed her eyes. Tersk looked around, but he could no longer hear the Armored Queen.

Not ghosts. They had flesh. They had…Skills. A final army moved forwards as the mortals beheld a boundary where sky met land. The mortal world fluttered away.

A curtain parted in the fabric of her shawl. A piece of cloth made of the last innocence even she had remembered trailed across the world and beyond it…was the final land.

Kasignel. They could see it, even walk into that far off land. Harsh, uncompromising, and then beyond it a gentle place to rest that stretched on, the totality of every world until they found an ending.

She brought her home with her, and it trailed across the sky as she summoned the souls to her. Forcing them to war; the greatest disgrace of the Goddess of the Death. For someday she would make no demands of them. She was merely desperate.

So now, the last army poured forwards, dead and the living following her finger pointing at the inn. Armies without end or fear.

There was only one piece of hope. Just one—the [Innkeeper] crying out in rage and hopelessness saw Kasigna stagger. The Crone flickered—vanished, and fell to her knees, and her skin turned ashen and rotted away until it was that of a corpse.

The Maiden knelt on the Floodplains, gasping as if for air. Yet when the army of returned souls whispered, she rose. Her face was rotted, her nose missing. Flesh regrew slowly, painfully, and she panted, trying to…remember…how the air felt on her face. She had forgotten how breathing worked. The Goddess flickered—until the chant began.

“Kasigna. Kasigna. Kasigna…”

She leaned on her staff as she made the mortals one final offer. Then she was the Goddess of Death once more in form. Weary, yet her eyes flashed victory as her power returned.

“There is no end to my power nor this long night. I say it one final time to all those here. Slay my foes. Speak my name and I shall grant you what I have always offered.

What? What? Az’kerash, Tolveilouka, the mortals, looked up at Kasigna, and the Three-in-One gazed across the Floodplains and realized they did not know.

Truly. Truly even the stories…she lifted her hand.

“Serve me and I will return your loves to life. Serve me and I shall undo death itself. Serve me.

Then she clung to her staff, her brow etched with agony. The final moments of the Solstice began with death.

With traitors.

And a scream that echoed underneath the feet of all. A shriek without words as the ground split—and an army poured forth, of horrors.

Suits of enchanted armor. Crypt Worms. Monsters of Liscor’s dungeon. They ignored the defenders of the inn and poured across the ranks of the dead and Kasigna’s summoned souls, biting, tearing. Kasigna, who had acknowledged no foe, who fought no battle herself in the style of old—

The dead goddess took one moment to spit on the ground. The Maiden stared down and spoke with a sneer.

You are no god, failed pretender.




Now they understand what it was to struggle with gods. It was no game designed that you should win.

They were in no way mortal and followed no rules. If they failed six times, they would come back a seventh. There was no mercy, no fairness to how they fought.

Mortal men and women defied gods, but every tale of them has always ended one way: gods remain.

At last, those who saw her finally understood what Kasigna was not by her displays of power, but by how she continued. She stood in the Floodplains, no longer vanishing, for the souls she called back to life required her.

She was the bridge to Kasignel, and part of them all wished to walk up into that land to explore it, to rest. The Maiden wore Erin Solstice’s face.

Then Maviola El’s. She beckoned, and a Drake looked up at her, and her promise made him sink to one knee where no blow had.

Yet he did not, would not take her hand. Drakes were retreating, falling back along with the Humans. Manus was covering their retreat, and Olesm Swifttail saw more lightning falling as Wall Lady Rafaema and Wall Lord Aldonss spat lightning across the skies, Spearmaster Lulv protecting his comrades.

But the undead were reaching the final line, which became the only barrier between them and the inn. Now, at last, Pawn raised his censer overhead.

The twisting skies of Kasignel, higher than the High Passes—flickered. Even Kasigna shaded her eyes as the sky over Pawn’s head became wild and vibrant, as if painted like a dream mixing with the brightest of days, the wildest storms.

An Antinium’s dream of Heaven. The reclaimed souls of Kasigna’s dead slowed where the sky met Kasigna’s lands.

Ser Sest stuck his hand across a barrier of the two lands and smiled. For a second—he turned—then Kasigna pointed, and Pawn’s Skill began to diminish, drawing back on itself. Her aegis expanded—halted—as the Free Antinium began to pray.

[I Walked Under Heaven’s Sky].

Even the undead seemed to grow sluggish as they advanced under a foreign domain. Kasigna’s eyes narrowed with faint amusement.

“A mere priest dares challenge a god? Slay that one.

Hag Queens.

One went for Liscor.

One fought Tolveilouka.

One finished carving sigils of blood into her chest and pointed at the [Witches].

One leapt forwards, leading a final charge down the crumbling walls of stone and dirt towards Liscor’s army.

Olesm saw the Hag Queens pointing at Pawn and saw the two Giants crawling towards him. Both were half-destroyed already, but he guessed each one was larger than Liscor. One was coming across the Floodplains from the east—the other striking at the air, melting, already half-destroyed from the waist down by golden fire.

Either one would surely slay him, and no Skill nor soldier the Drake had would stop them. He looked at Kasigna, and Maviola El stared back at him. Perhaps they all saw their loves and friends in her face.

Take my hand. 

It would be so easy. If it were anyone else, the Drake might have thrown down his sword, forsaken his oaths, just for another chance. He did believe she could do it.

—But Maviola El. Olesm closed his eyes.

“Not her.”

There was only ever one chance. She had used hers well, even at the last moments. Olesm drew his Kaalblade and stared at the burning magic a second.

Liscor’s army, hold your ground here!

Terrified Drakes and Gnolls looked at him. Liscor’s [Soldiers] were hardy and brave. But no braver than Pallass’ finest or Vaunt’s folk. They gazed at a true Giant crawling down towards them, a Hag Queen from another world, and the undead and people they recognized pouring down the pass.

Olesm shouldered forwards, Kaalblade raised. He came to a halt at the front rank. A stupid place for a [Strategist] to be. Yet—he looked back, and they were watching him.

“I’m right here. I wouldn’t ask it of you if it didn’t matter. Stay with me.”

They did not immediately turn and run. That made them heroes. Olesm heard a whisper of approval as he slowly opened his belt pouch and put on a wristband.

Sands swirled around him, and he jerked as armor materialized out of the streaming grains of black sand. Some ancient metal gleamed on his body, and a voice spoke approvingly.

“Well said.”

Olesm turned his head, and a man with a rapier lifted it high overhead. He pointed it at the Hag Queen in a silent challenge.

“My children. Hold this line.

Perril Chandler pointed a finger, and Olesm saw a shift in the ranks of the undead. They pivoted as a thousand reanimated Draugr under the Necromancer’s command struck them from the side. The Necromancer snapped his fingers, and the front rank of the dead around the Hag Queen disintegrated into dust.

Kasigna’s eyes narrowed, and the dead reformed. Two masters of the dead struggled as she pushed the Antinium’s Heaven back and summoned more minions.

Still, Liscor’s army waited for this final charge as more people threw down their weapons and fled, screaming. A row of skeletal riders lowered their lances, mimicking House Veltras’ charge. Liscor’s army began to fall back one step—two—even the Antinium were watching Heaven being pushed back.

Olesm bumped into someone as he took a step backwards. He couldn’t help it—he was not immune to fear.

Nor was the Minotaur. Calruz was already covered in blood and the gore of the undead. The Minotaur nodded at Olesm, then raised his axe with his one hand as he addressed a rank of Antinium. And they too felt fear, but they listened to his voice.




The Minotaur raised his axe, and [He Left Pride in His Wake].

To the Beriad, it looked like glowing footsteps. Trailing light from his axe that even a Draugr could not smash through. Calruz of Hammerad looked across a single rank that did not fall back and held Liscor’s army as they became the front.

The Crimson Soldier stood between the lines of the Antinium who wore the aspect of the House of Minos. He seemed peaceful, familiar to this moment.

The Beriad were afraid. The Free Antinium had faith, but for once, so did their foe. There was no shame in being terrified of dying.

They looked to Calruz, and the Minotaur put his back to the undead, though they were less than a minute away now. He spoke, raising his voice, heedless of the arrow that struck him across one shoulder or the black bile that splashed over his fur.

“Minotaurs have a saying. ‘Once is bravery. Twice is chance. Three times is courage.’ No one can ask a warrior to face certain death three times. Yet we stand.”

His eyes travelled down the line of Antinium. They were alight, and the Minotaur gazed down at his own two feet, as if belatedly hearing his own words.

“—It never gets easier, even if part of you wants it. That’s how you know it matters. Remember this, all of you: after this moment, you will never be the same. You were already the finest warriors I could ask to fight besides. There is no going back, now. You are crossing a line past which heroes never return from.”

Then he turned, his eyes glowing, and the Beriad lifted their blades high into the sky. Their lives flickered out before a great gale.

Three times. Undead slammed into the Antinium and Liscor’s army, and chitin and armor broke before honor did. The Crimson Soldier caught a Draugr’s fists and skidded back a single pace. One of the Beriad brought a hammer down, crushing the skull of a snake made of bones, and raised it high again as the Hag Queen’s magic vaporized him.

Calruz’s axe cleaved the air, a shining beacon that refused to vanish as the lines held. One second. Two…





Like fireflies. The Free Queen had seen the silly insects, just once, when she had made the painful journey to Liscor. Insects who signaled each other with glowing abdomens.

The souls of the Beriad were vanishing. The Free Antinium, the Silent Antinium—she tried to reach for them all.

Antherr’s soul was in her grasp, and she was trying, oh, trying so hard to hold onto it. But the Beriad, the [Knight]’s very being, were being pulled away from her.

She could not see Kasigna, deep underground, but she could have drawn a perfect picture of the Three-in-One.

The Goddess of Death was pulling all of them towards her. The Free Queen reached out and caught the Beriad’s fleeting souls. She held on with all her might.

In her throne room, Deferred Sustenance and Garry saw the Free Queen’s massive form shift. She was holding onto the air, and they thought they saw something in her feelers. Then…they heard a groan from her.

Her abdomen and body left the ground. Being pulled up by a force she was struggling against. The Free Queen held on as her limbs began to crack.




Magnolia Reinhart had fallen back to the last line where the army of Liscor was now taking the brunt of the fighting. Tyrion Veltras was signaling his intent to charge, but not down to the aid of Olesm’s forces.

“Take out key bones in its structure.”

“You will die. I forbid it.

Lord Xitegen snapped at him. Tyrion Veltras aimed his lance ahead at the Giant of Rheirgest. His lance wasn’t even capable of snapping a single bone as the Giant ploughed towards The Wandering Inn.

“Someone must.”

A flying shape was darting around it, trying to cut or burn the Giant with a glowing black blade—but even the Faeblade was just too tiny to begin to damage it. Tyrion was aiming.

“That bone, at the elbow. It touches the ground every time the arm falls. Take it down piece by piece.”

His lancers were shuddering. Xitegen had his hand on Tyrion’s shoulder. Magnolia Reinhart interrupted the arguing [Lords].

“Leave that one to me. The one from the High Passes will never get to Liscor.”

She looked up at golden flames engulfing the titan still crawling down. A Dragon’s promise on it. 

Tyrion and Lord Xitegen turned to Magnolia Reinhart without looks of incredulity. They just didn’t believe they’d heard her correctly.

The Lady of House Reinhart sighed as she gazed at the ancient Giant. She walked forwards a few steps as Ressa pivoted.


She didn’t say ‘don’t do it’—she just cried out as Lord Tyrion stared at Magnolia, uncomprehending. The [Lady] closed her eyes, and be it so silly—she did let a tear or two loose.

“I am sorry, Izril.”

Then she opened her eyes and saw the Giant of Rheirgest. It had been harvested over generations by the [Necromancers] of that village. But it was mostly intact. The ribs had been cut away, but she realized the skull was different.

This was no Human Giant. Maybe this one had been a Drake? She couldn’t tell from the worn skull, only that it belonged to a different age. Whoever this being had once been, it had belonged in the age of Dragonlords and myths. Its bones had been enough for the greatest Necromancer of his age, the Putrid One, to use as one of his greatest minions.

Someone had to stop it. Gently, Magnolia Reinhart lifted her hands. And first—she undid a Skill she had kept active for half her lifetime. She pointed at the Giant, gently, and spoke.

[The Binding of House Reinhart].

Lord Tyrion’s head turned from Magnolia to the Giant. First, he saw pieces of fabric unrolling in the air. Pink, of course. Ribbons, shimmering faintly, and they multiplied by the hundreds of thousands. Criss-crossing. Unrolling without end as they looped around the Giant.

It clawed towards her, raising one arm as ribbons anchored themselves in the sky. The other arm rose—snagged—as it was enmeshed in fabric. Magnolia Reinhart watched as that jaw opened, and the huge, flaring crimson eyes of the undead focused on her. It tried to pull itself again—and the arm was snared in the air now.

The ribbons refused to break. Tyrion was hesitating. How long would it last? She was going to—

He looked at Magnolia, and she lowered her hands softly. No nosebleed. No sign of stress, of the Skill cracking.

What did you do? Her capstone was supposed to be [Aegis of Grace]. He had never heard of this one. Why was she—weeping?




In the mansion of House Reinhart, old Regis was cowering in the basement again. The rest of the family had not paid much attention to the Winter Solstice.

Why would they? Magnolia Reinhart was the head of their family.

The Reinharts largely ignored the rest of the world, even for the Five Families. A few of them whom Magnolia trusted would represent them abroad—the rest indulged themselves with the riches they could eminently live off of.

Cecille Reinhart, Magnolia Reinhart’s aunt, worried more about her weight or whether she had been invited to the right functions in First Landing. Or her son and stepdaughter, Wernel and Damia, whom she suspected were still seeing each other even after she had forbade it.

If you asked her if life was good, she would have complained all day. But Cecille didn’t join the Circle of Thorns or dally with more…interesting…pastimes. She couldn’t have told you why if you asked. Only that Magnolia was everywhere and knew everything, and her wretched niece was a dangerous woman.

Always had been, ever since she took the family from her very father. What a thing.

Cecille Reinhart was reading a book when she glanced down and noticed something odd on her red dress.

A pink ribbon? She hated pink. She brushed at it, annoyed. Then realized there was more pink on her.

Ribbons on her arms, legs—Cecille shot to her feet. In the dead of the night, she heard cries of alarm from the mansion, and servants rushed into the parlor to see Cecille tearing something off her.

“What is—what is—

Her mind hurt. Cecille was tearing at the pink ribbons she had never noticed before. No…they were fraying. Disintegrating. She lifted her shaking limbs, and her head—

Screamed. Cecille put her hands to her temples and began shrieking. It was the same sound coming from Damia and Wernel. She heard a shout from upstairs—her cousin Lotor—

The Reinharts were going insane. Servants backed against the wall.

“Mother! What’s happening? Mother!

Her son and daughter stumbled into the parlor. They had no idea what was going on. They hadn’t been born when—

Cecille remembered. She was clawing at her face. Looking around. What was she doing? Reading a book? Her? How long had she been sitting in this mansion? How long had it been since she poisoned someone for offending her?

She threw things at her servants. She hadn’t fired one for over a decade. No servant of House Reinhart had died in over fifteen years. A record.

“Magnolia. Magnolia!

Cecille began shrieking. Upstairs, she could hear Lotor beginning to laugh. Cecille was screaming—then laughing as servants backed against the walls. The old ones—the ones who remembered—half of them were running. The other half were grinning as pink ribbons fell away from them as well.

Cecille Reinhart had never hated her niece more. She had never loved Magnolia more. She was a Reinhart. Dead gods! Dead gods!

“Free! Free! House Reinhart’s snakes are unshackled once more!”

The [Lady] laughed in the faces of her son and daughter. They didn’t understand what had happened. Not yet. Even old Regis looked up as Cecille looked around—then strode down towards the vaults.

She wanted her heritage, now. That dottering ghost saw her and the rest of her family as fangless, idiots who gave nothing back to the family. She would happily admit to the latter—but she was free, now.

She would not be bound again.




Every single Reinhart was shedding Magnolia’s ribbons. Some were cursing her name, others applauding her even as they howled in agony. Their minds—

One of them was on the floor trying to pick up the ribbons.

“No. Nonononono. Stop it. Stop it!

Calidus Reinhart was hitting himself in the head with a hammer he’d found; the [Assassins] had to use their strength to restrain him. The bloody-faced [Lord] stared up at the sky.

“She’s unbound us. We’re going to devour Izril until they put us down for good.”

Then he began laughing hysterically until he passed out.




A Giant halted in the Floodplains. Magnolia Reinhart’s final gambit. It tried to move, a titan large as a city, and she refused to let it budge.

It was—easy. She’d held worse for longer.

“To Liscor’s aid. Now.”

Magnolia Reinhart saw Xitegen and Tyrion turn. Liscor’s army was buckling. The [Lord] mounted up without a word.




What curious powers. That was not any gift they had ever writ into Isthekenous’ plans, nor he himself, unless he had kept secrets.

No…he had been honest to a fault.

Kasigna knew this was the work of his rogue creation. Yet Magnolia Reinhart’s Skill did not displease her; only that there was no guidance. Even the Goddess of Death studied how the effects might move the future…though the darkness around the Floodplains made seeing the threads of fate difficult.

What moves fate in the near future such that even I cannot predict it? That servant of the Faerie King alone cannot be doing this. 

Nor was it the obnoxious pile of bread that clouded her vision. Kasigna, in her way, was blinder than her Hag Queens…yet sight was but one component, and she had many means. Each god had ever been different.

Kasigna was speaking to the air as she rested, regaining some of her expended strength. She was calm, impartial, the Mother offering…

Her brows creased.

“No. It shall be no requirement save worship.”

The Goddess of Death paused.

“Nor mark. Nor obligation in any hour. Others would ask it of you. I?”

She stared briefly into the air, considering it.

“What need have I for loyalty? Service. Speak my name, and that is all. Know me. That is all. I have taken servants who pledged and committed great deeds in my name.”

Her eyes lingered on her remaining Hag Queens.

“…Yet I have never needed nor asked it. It is a gift. That is what is divine.”

A third time she paused, and her brows furrowed. Kasigna hissed through the air.

I am not Tamaroth. Do you think I require a thread upon you? One day, all will meet me, and this I offer that the world may see my power. Behold.”

She lifted her hand, and something shimmered in her grip. Mortals stared at Kasigna amidst the fighting, but she refracted their sight so only two might see it. Then the Goddess of Death smiled.

“Yes. Show me aught that I may smile. I shall give you more than you deserve. For that is my nature. It has always been so.”

Then she slowly, laboriously began to draw something from Kasignel itself. Proof of her intent. She did not lie, nor cheat, nor manipulate as they did.

She had always been the grandest of gods.

That was why Zineryr had loved her.




“The Ants’re dying.”

“So’re the regulars. Poor bastards.”

Three companies of Liscor’s 1st Army were licking their wounds. Even Ancestors-damned Manus was retreating, and 4th Company, 6th Company, and 9th Company, the forces sent to support Liscor, were bandaging injuries.

Watching as Liscor’s lines buckled. They were veterans, and at least two of the three companies looked placid, even content as they watched the Antinium die.

4th Company was restless. Wing Commander Embria was glancing at Narkr and Xith, her counterparts.

“They’re going to buckle without support.”

“Yep. Damn shame.”

Narkr, Wing Commander of 6th Company, the Bull Bastards, spat. Xith, the Drake leading Arrowstorm, Liscor’s 9th, glanced at Liscor.

“We should reinforce the city. The gates are buckling.”

“Good. More Ants are biting it. Dead gods, but they don’t quit.”

Embria was restless on her horse. She rode back a step.

“Our job—”

“Liscor, right. Let’s bail out home. Bastards, with me!

Narkr whirled her mount. Xith pointed, and Arrowstorm headed for Liscor’s gates. Yet they slowed as they realized they didn’t hear a third voice joining in. Embria?

Embria wavered. She heard an argument from her command squad. Most of her officers, from Wikir to Veil, Pielt to Igissi, were silent in the presence of fellow [Captains]. But one of the new [Captains] wouldn’t shut the fuck up.

“Hey. Are we bailing them out? Or—or what?”

Captain Gna’s voice faltered. She had been looking around, waiting for the order. Even members of Liscor’s 4th looked at her askance, but a few were shifting from foot to foot as if they had wondered if anyone was going to say it.

[Soldiers] in 6th and 9th stared at Gna as if she had horns growing out of her head. The Gnoll gazed at them. Then at Wing Commander Embria.

The Drake was staring at her spear. [Spear of Glory].


Her fellow Wing Commanders were giving her looks of suspicion. There was no going back. Wing Commander Embria looked at Liscor, which needed her. Then at the front. She hesitated, then pointed her spear down at the lines of Drakes, Gnolls, and Antinium.

4th Company—Skywalkers—prepare for a [Lightbridge] charge.”

Embria! Are you out of your Ancestors-damned mind?

Xith barked at her. But Embria kicked her horse into a gallop, and 4th Company—split.

A fifth of them halted in their tracks. The rest hesitated a second—Gna was already blowing a signal horn. Then they were charging down the slope. Embria waved her spear as a [Lightbridge] appeared. She left her comrades behind as she plunged forwards.

4th Company, charge! Charge!

Liscor’s second army looked up as a ramp of light appeared over their heads, letting 4th Company charge over them straight into the thick of the undead. Then Wing Commander Embria heard a voice in her ear.

This is Tyrion Veltras. Requesting command for three-dimensional tactics.


Tyrion Veltras? Wing Commander Embria heard the enemy of the south addressing her [Mage]—then she felt her attention focus. She curved out of her charge and linked with a stream of [Riders].

With me.

Tyrion Veltras saw Embria’s [Soldiers] join the vanguard that did not take the [Lightbridge]. Instead, they were peeling around the fortifications, moving to box the undead in from behind. The first [Lightbridge] shimmered, redirecting itself to cross over the heads of the soldiers, instead of down into the fighting.

Half of 4th Company split. Embria saw her [Soldiers] charging onto their [Lightbridge] over the heads of the undead and the Hag Queen dueling a single Human with a sword. Drakes and Gnolls fell to one knee aiming their bows and crossbows down, and Humans, the Marshrangers of Oswen, half blind from the tears, ran onto the [Lightbridge].

They aimed straight down and started firing at point-blank range at the undead from above. Wing Commander Embria saw Tyrion glance at the skies.

Fliers. Countercharge!”

His vanguard split away from the lancers pinning the undead, and then they were galloping up a road into the sky, yellow light stretching upwards. Time slowed around Tyrion and Embria as a wave of flying specters and another bat horror twisted in midair and saw the couched lances coming at them.

Humans, Drakes, Gnolls, and Antinium fought together as Wing Commander Embria and 4th Company left their comrades behind.




They could do this. Lord Xitegen saw the [Lightbridge] spell activate. The Forgotten Wing company was pivoting, and he was assessing the battlefield.

Both Giants were halted. Even that dead goddess seemed surprised by it, and he glanced around and saw more than one figure pointing at her.

Lord Xitegen Terland’s eyes were on Liscor, though. The Hag Queen was at the gates and smashing into the city. He addressed the allied command briskly as he tensed to begin running.

“I am going to defend Liscor! Terlands, with me!”

He took two steps, fell over, and landed on his face. Controller Lectara had been pulling a wing of fast-moving Golems to follow Lord Xitegen.

She saw the [Lord] of House Terland hit the ground, roll slightly, and jerk. He tried to get back up. Felt at his back.


A dagger was in his right shoulder. It shouldn’t have taken the man out, but Xitegen’s arms collapsed, and he seemed unsure how it had gotten there. He looked up stupidly, and a woman spoke in a slightly breathless, yet unapologetic, voice.

“It’s a paralyzing venom. I say, does that count? I shan’t survive making an enemy of House Terland itself.”


Xitegen’s mouth moved as he stared up at the [Lady] who looked around. Lady Bethal Walchaís stepped back, smiling.


Controller Lectara began to shout until she saw a blur. A Rose Knight tackled her, knocking her flat. The other people around Lord Xitegen didn’t even know what had happened. One of House Veltras’ [Strategists] was gasping. She reached for a stone, and it shattered as a sword struck.

“Bethal. We have to run.”

Chevalier Thomast stepped back, grabbing her arm. The [Lady] nodded.


Lord Xitegen just stared up at her as the [Lady] spoke down to him.

“I don’t understand why you didn’t take her up on it.”

He had no ability to speak. Bethal clasped her hands together and looked across the Floodplains. There was no guilt in her expression. Just longing. Fear—oh, yes. That she’d been tricked. But all she whispered was…

“Will that do, Lady Kasigna or whoever you are? Please?”

Her voice was lost in the dark night. The Knights of the Petal were moving away from their posts, reforming towards her fast. Magnolia Reinhart was still making sure the Giant was locked down, but her head was moving as she sensed Xitegen’s aura fading and pulsing a warning.

—Across the Floodplains, the Goddess of the Dead’s head rose.

Then she smiled.





That was all the Maiden craved. She understood why it had taken so long. The youthful aspect of the Goddess of Death realized that necromancy was all this world knew, the paltry kind that raised corpses.

Not the old way. They expected a trick, a half-life granted by a powerful [Witch]. A curse.

They did not understand her.

One of them did, or had taken the risk. So the Goddess spoke.

“One, for now.”

She listened to a heartfelt plea, tilting her head, as the mortals stared at her. Kasigna shook her head.

“Your service I shall reward. Name the one.”

Not all of the souls were under her aegis. But half? She listened as a [Lady] whispered a name like a prayer. Kasigna stood taller, and her head turned. She looked into Kasignel where every soul she had ever taken stood once more, worshiping her.

Her hand outstretched, and she beckoned.

A single figure slowly walked from the throng of countless billions. She was just a girl, no more than fourteen, still wearing the garments of House Walchaís. She walked uncertainly onto the palm of the goddess, and Kasigna pulled her slowly across the divide between life and death.

It was not easy, even for Kasigna. Unlike the souls she called forth to do battle, she slowly conjured blood and flesh, gave the soul the full body she had lost.

A future. A present.

The Goddess of Death’s presence—faded—and the grass around her feet rebloomed slightly. The air blowing past her was just that. Her skin mottled—yet Kasigna’s eyes flashed, and she lowered her hand across the mortal world. Standing upon it, walking forwards from the final land…

Thricia Walchaís stumbled and looked around uncertainly as Lady Bethal reached for her. Slowly, Kasigna bent down, and the titan of ancient days placed a soul on the ground. Alive once more.

“Thricia? Thricia—

Bethal felt at her younger sister’s face. The girl stared up at her.

“Bethal? Wh-where am I? Where’s the Goblin King?”

Thricia’s older sister was a decade older than she remembered. The girl remembered nothing of the lands of the dead—she looked around, jerking at her sister’s face, staring at Thomast uncomprehendingly as the [Chevalier] gazed at her, hand shaking on his rapier’s hilt.

The fighting stopped. The undead looked longingly at the soul returned. The Hag Queens themselves licked their lips with desire and awe.

Kasigna smiled as Bethal gazed up, eyes shining with tears. A desire for the others. She began to whisper another plea when her younger sister cried out.

Watch out!

Bewildered, disoriented, Thricia still raised her hand and slapped the dagger out of the air before it went through Bethal’s back. Thomast knocked another one down, whirling—and Ressa flung another.

“I shall answer your service with more rewards. Flee, woman. You are first of my favored.”

Kasigna spoke, and Bethal turned and sighed.

“Oh. Oh my. Magnolia. Are you angry at me? But look—”

A pink wave of light rolled forwards, vaporizing the pink paint on Lady Welca’s armor as the Rose Knight staggered behind her comrades. Welca was hesitating. Bewildered.

Ser Kerrig’s face was grim as he raised his battleaxe. Magnolia Reinhart’s aura raced over the two [Ladies] of House Walchaís but failed to break the wall of thorns and vines. Bethal’s aura.

“—My sister. Do that again and I will kill you.”

Bethal finished. A dangerous look entered her eyes, and her aura roiled, growing vines and thorns, piercing Magnolia Reinhart’s aura. But the [Lady] of House Reinhart was advancing.


Thomast saw the Humans of the north turning towards Bethal. Everyone had seen it. They gazed at Thricia in horror. Awe. Wonder. Doubt…at Kasigna.

“I-is that a Reinhart? Why does she feel like Magnolia? She’s so old. What’s going on, Bethal?”

Thricia was shivering. Bethal squeezed her hand tightly.

“I’ll tell you everything, Thricia. Stay behind me. Magnolia, you know I had to.”

She tried to plead with Magnolia, as if this were some accident and she had rudely offended Magnolia—for a good reason. The other [Lady] said nothing as she walked forwards. Bethal’s smile vanished as she grew serious. Her Rose Knights drew their blades as House Reinhart’s servants advanced.

“I always do what my heart tells me to do, Magnolia. And this? This was worth it.

No excuses. No apologies. Just a smile and lifted chin. Flashing eyes. Magnolia Reinhart reached out—and looked at her bleeding hand as Bethal’s aura of thorns pierced her skin. She regarded the blood dripping to the ground and produced a pink handkerchief.

Her tone was too-calm as well. Lord Xitegen, still lying on the ground, unable to move, remembered that tone of old, and his blood chilled. Magnolia sounded sad, regretful, and cold.

“What you desire, you act upon. I have always loved that of you, Bethal. You chose your friends well. But you never think of your enemies.”

She tossed the bloodstained handkerchief down as Bethal’s smile became alarmed, then flickered out.


The [Flower of Izril, Lady of the Dragon’s Promise] pointed a finger at Bethal Walchaís as her forest green eyes rustled and revealed a false dawn of light.

“You are a fitting end to House Walchaís. [Judge of Nobility]. I am the executioner of the north. [Bane Weapons: House Walchaís]. Kill them all.

The [Maids] and [Butlers] stormed forwards without a word as Bethal cried out.


She was fleeing towards her horses. Thomast locked blades with Ressa as Kasigna pointed, and undead rose to cover House Walchaís’ flight. Thricia was screaming questions—the Rose Knights locked swords with their counterparts. Servants battling each other.

This time—Dame Welca raced backwards as she saw Ser Kerrig hesitate. His face was anguished as he swung his battleaxe, pink armor glowing with magic. One of Izril’s finest [Knights]—

This time, the enchanted armor availed him naught. Reynold ducked under the swing of the axe, his legs blurring. His sword cleaved through the platemail with a whisper, and he whirled the sword through Ser Kerrig’s torso in a single motion before leaping on another Rose Knight.


They were fleeing as undead blocked the servants, and Lady Bethal’s aura skewered a leaping [Maid]. Then the cry went up.

“Traitor. Traitors!

At first, Dame Welca thought all of the north was calling vengeance on House Walchaís until she realized it wasn’t a Human voice shouting it, but the rasping tongue of a Drake. There was a scream.

Guard the inn! The Flying Antinium—




They hit the inn like a swarm of locusts. Half of them were down one hallway before the inn realized what was going on.

Flying Antinium turned on Liscor’s defenders from the inside, tearing at the Watch, then even at other Free and Silent Antinium as their bewildered kin demanded answers—then fought for their lives.


Numbtongue howled as a sea of Flying Antinium burst into the common room. However, they were ungainly in close quarters, and the [Knights] were fighting viciously.

—The Flying Antinium were tearing at the inn as they died. They didn’t seem to care that they were being slaughtered.

The deed mattered, not the results.

A man came to a halt as one of the Flying Antinium, wing severed from Numbtongue’s blade, raised his head, mandibles dripping from Silvermop’s corpse. The brave little Worker hadn’t even expected it.

“Pivr. Pivr. What are you doing?”

Alcaz stared at the Prognugator. His hand was shaking as he held a club. Pivr answered slowly, scuttling forwards.

“It is logical to ally with the one called Kasigna. This one is not our immediate ally. She offers more practical value than pointless strife. The Flying Queen has decided.”

Chaos in the Hivelands. The other Hives were boiling, unsure of whether to fight—and Kasigna was speaking. Negotiating terms. This one would be difficult, even for the Goddess of Death.

Alcaz knew none of it. He spread his hands.

“Pivr. You don’t have to do this. We’re friends.”

For a second, the Revalantor really did hesitate. He was not thinking, up till now. He was just—Pivr. He had been given an order and asked if it was the right one. She told him yes. He asked again. But the answer…was always the same.

Pivr folded his broken wings as Normen saw the two facing each other. The Flying Antinium stared at the only person in this world who had ever been kind to him. His Queen was in his head. The [Knight] shouted a warning.


Alcaz hesitated, but he didn’t back up. He was waiting, a hand open. Looking Pivr in his eyes. The Flying Antinium’s Prognugator rubbed his feelers together. Spoke with a clicking, halting buzz.

“Your ‘friendship’ was an attractive idea, Alcaz. I will live without it.”

“Pivr. Weren’t we friends?”

Alcaz’s voice shook, and Pivr turned his head slightly. Normen was fighting towards them, knocking Flying Antinium away. Pivr clicked softly.

“Yes. Yes, Alcaz. But my Queen is everything. What should I do but obey her? Without her, what am I?”

“My friend—”

Pivr saw the club lower a fraction and leapt before he heard the other word. Then, his mandibles were biting, razor-limbs slashing, and he wondered why the man was so slow. Pivr cut and slashed until blood, red and hot, ran from his chitin.

Alcaz lay there, eyes empty, as Normen screamed and sent Flying Antinium flying. Pivr looked into the [Knight]’s eyes and—turned and ran.

He scuttled back out of the inn, whispering. Ordering the Flying Antinium to reform on him.

Fulfill contract. Fulfill promise. For the Queen. For the….

Pivr cried out as he sensed them all dying. He leapt, flying clumsily through the night, searching for a target, and an arrow struck him in the head. Pivr jerked; he fell, spinning around, and saw the [Archer] drawing another arrow to the string.

Bird shot Pivr in the head again. And then again as the Flying Antinium crashed down on top of the ballista. Even then, the Revalantor snapped weakly at Bird. The Worker spoke to him, voice too calm.

“You are the most wretched Antinium in the entire world, Pivr. You do not deserve friends.”


Pivr whispered. Then Bird fired an arrow that tore Pivr’s soul out of his body.




Three traitors approached Kasigna. Lady Bethal Walchaís, the Flying Antinium, each granted a boon just as promised.

Kasigna kept her promises. Her power defied this mortal world’s comprehension. The greatest spells and rituals were based off of her authority.

True resurrection.

They were all tempted. She felt their souls waver, and they began to believe. Still—many looked at her undead, at what they fought against, and refused.

Some were simply so desperate, so pragmatic, that they asked. What would you give for the dead to return?

The third traitor killed no one. At first, they just looked around for her and realized she had vanished. She flew towards Kasigna and dropped upon bended wing.

A Dragon.

Rafaema’s scales were mottled in gore. She had killed countless undead. It seemed she had a talent for war. She saw Teriarch flying high above, fighting, and she longed to go with him, but the Goddess of Death…

Was displeased.

“You offer me nothing?”

“I…I offer you my service. If you bring back my kind.”

Ah. The Goddess of Death looked at the young Lightning Dragon with sudden awareness. This old story. She lifted one finger.

“Kill the [Innkeeper] and I shall reward you.”


Rafaema hesitated. Kasigna’s eyes narrowed.

“I offer nothing for nothing, last of Dragons. My favored prove their worth to me. If you wish me to bring back one of your kind—demonstrate your zeal.”


Spearmaster Lulv had found her. He always did. Ferris, Aldonss, her people were surging forwards in a horror, abandoning their posts. Rafaema ducked her head lower.

“I don’t want one. Goddess of Death, what is your price for bringing them back? My people.

“A species?”

Here, even Kasigna hesitated, but she seemed pleased at the magnitude of Rafaema’s wish. Rafaema spoke urgently.

“I will give anything for that—but I don’t want one. What—what will you ask of me?”

Rafaema of Manus. Enough!

The skies shook as, above her, the Dragonlord of Flame broke off his duel with the Frost Giant’s corpse and looked down. She just stared up, blinking tears out of her eyes as Teriarch beheld Manus’ folly.

What would you do if you could save your entire people? Her entire life, Rafaema had been told—Kasigna, the Maiden, looked at Rafaema with actual understanding and pity.

“You have nothing even a fraction of the value, child. Though…your form.”

She paused, and Rafaema’s heart lurched. Kasigna mused.

“No soul of this world can withstand our might. But your form might last a month. Even so, it is not enough by far. I could promise you a hundred souls reborn—after my victory.”

“Nothing now?”

Rafaema was hesitating, and the Goddess of Death glanced at Manus. She was not blind. Her lips twitched.

Your mother. Swear a pact upon your very soul and pledge your city to me. And I shall grant you a gift for that alone. The rest will be the product of your deeds.”

Her hand outstretched. Rafaema looked down, and her mind vanished as she stared at what lay there. Rafaema looked up as the Dragonlord of Flames descended, and Kasigna held out her hand.

Rafaema! Stop!

Only one person could follow a Dragon across the battlefield so quickly. Spearmaster Lulv dove—ran his spear through Kasigna’s chest, and Rafaema cried out.


The Goddess of Death ignored the spear jutting out of her chest. She pulled it out—tossed the spear and the Gnoll aside like a fly. She pointed, and Rafaema covered him with one wing.

“Lulv! Stop! She’ll bring back the Ancestors. She’ll bring them all back if—if—”

It was wrong. Rafaema knew it. Treachery. She was staring at the inn, the Pallassians, Liscor—at The Wandering Inn.


She could see him there standing with his ballista. Rafaema felt a lurch as she saw it was aimed straight at her. But the Antinium hadn’t fired. Not yet.

I would like to be friends.

Lulv lay on his back as Rafaema put a clawed foot on him, holding him down. He looked up at the desperate Lightning Dragon.

“What—did we do to you?”

The [Spearmaster] rasped. He stared at Rafaema as if seeing her for the first time. The Lightning Dragon flinched. Lulv saw her head turn, and he grabbed one nail of her claw.

“Rafaema—don’t do this. We don’t need the Ancestors. We need you.

He pulled, trying to drag the Dragon back, and Kasigna’s eyes fixed on him. She gestured impatiently.

“Child. Decide!

The Dragon wavered, torn between her city and her destiny. As she saw it. Lulv was rasping.

“Stop. Don’t do it—we are your people. We need you.

“You’ve all told me, always, that this is my fate!”

The Gnoll shook his head as he felt Kasigna’s glare trying to close his airways. He rasped.

“I…promise…you don’t have to. Enough with the damn destiny. I would rather see Manus die than sacrifice its last daughter.”

He gave up on the stupid dream he’d been told was their future. He didn’t need it. Their Dragon—Manus’ last daughter—

Kasigna’s eyes were empty holes of anger. The Maiden saw Rafaema waver, saw her head crane up to Teriarch and at Lulv. Kasigna read Rafaema’s choice in destiny’s threads before the Dragon spoke.


She reached out as Rafaema lifted her claw, trying to back away. Kasigna’s hand grabbed one of Rafaema’s wings and tore it off the Dragon’s body.

Screaming, Rafaema flickered, becoming a one-winged Drake—Dragon—blood spurted onto the ground as Kasigna tossed the wing down.

The [Spearmaster] stabbed her again but grabbed Rafaema as she collapsed. He began to run—and Kasigna appeared in front of him.

“Those who spurn me die.”

She saw the Gnoll snarl—tense—Kasigna reached out, then shielded her face.

Dragonfire blasted her as Lulv began to run. Teriarch flew past her, invisible to all but her eyes. Kasigna grimaced—then began to pursue Lulv. She lifted a hand, as if feeling her way through fog. She could not see the inn, yet she was advancing now, step by step.

It mattered not if Erin Solstice was invisible to Kasigna’s eyes. There was nothing to do in the darkness, no hiding.

Now, Kasigna walked.

She took one step—and the Gnoll dodged around her, trying to break through the undead. Manus’ [Soldiers] were throwing themselves forwards to clear a path—she saw another Gnoll waving.

Lulv! This way!

Ferris shot a crossbow, and the Void Bolt opened the air around Kasigna, trying to draw her into it.

She closed the void with a single gesture. Reached for Lulv. Nothing in this world could stop her hand.

Wall Lord Aldonss knew that. The Drake halted and did the only thing he could think of that would stop Kasigna.

He spat in her face.

Not lightning. Just phlegm. It struck Kasigna on one cheek as the [Wall Lord of Lightning] lifted his armaments burning with a Lightning Dragon’s power. Lulv leapt past him, and the two locked eyes for one second.

Kasigna’s hand had halted. Slowly, she wiped at one cheek, and her head turned to Aldonss.

Haughty champions of myth and legend. If you call out to them, they shall challenge you.

He remembered what Erin Solstice had said. The Wall Lord lifted a sword to the heavens as Kasigna spoke.

“Your city shall die for that, Drake.”

“Our daughter is alive.”

Aldonss pointed up at the sky as Kasigna touched him on the chest. The Drake collapsed without a word as Manus’ [Soldiers] felt his Skills vanish. A cry of horror arose from Manus—and Kasigna ignored the Drake as he fell backwards.

She looked straight up at the sky as the largest bolt of lightning this battle crackled downwards. It had the force to destroy everything around her. [Soldiers] of Manus, the ground, the hills—

It fell beyond the speed of mortal eyes to behold—yet she reached up and caught it. The lightning bolt froze mid-strike.

For one moment, it seemed it might overpower her. The crackling fury of energy twisted in the goddess’ grip, and her skin was rotting, and she flinched as it coursed through her flesh—

Flicker. Kasigna’s eyes blazed, her body whole, and her hand clenched hard on the bolt of lightning. Contemptuously, Kasigna squeezed her hand, and it vanished.

Then she looked up, and the cloud it had fallen from, which covered the entire area above the dark Floodplains—dissipated. It broke apart as Kasigna killed a patch of the sky, and moonlight shone down the clear space above Kasigna. However, even the ray of moonlight that illuminated the ground around her avoided the Goddess of Death, as if it feared she would take it too.




Perorn Fleethoof made a tactical assessment of the battle as Wall Lord Aldonss died.

They could still win.

She’d seen worse battles, and this one had actually swung back and forth. The Hag Queens were dying; the one fighting that duelist and the one fighting that bloated undead giant were both losing.

One was attacking Liscor, but the undead had been depleted by the overwhelming aggression throughout the battle. The armies that had poured forth from the dungeons were fighting the undead as well, but save for their numbers, they were outclassed by far.

Even so, it relieved pressure on the living defenders, and the monsters had downed a number of Kasigna’s undead. However—the Goddess of Death was currently murdering her way through the entire army. Flesh Worms were collapsing, undead rebelling against their allies, and even the suits of enchanted armor were falling to bits as the monsters tried to flee back into the dungeon and Kasigna’s forces hacked them down. Yet the damage they’d done was one more chip in her army’s integrity.

Victory was not impossible pending one condition that was amazingly simple:

“Someone has to kill her. I’m going to try.”


Niers tried to override her instantly, but Perorn was already riding forward, ignoring him. She signaled her vanguard to fall back, and they hesitated. Numbers wouldn’t matter. Levels might.

“As long as she lives, the battle is impossible to win.”

Any idiot could see that. Kasigna was the one forcing the fallen to fight for her. She had killed Aldonss with a touch. She was the literal [Necromancer]; she’d summon another wave of undead if she lived.

Even the monsters of Liscor’s dungeon were barely keeping the defenders of the inn from dying, now. Erin’s inn was ablaze, but Perorn had seen those gardens vanishing. They were on the brink.

“I have to try.”

She was not the only one mustering for a charge. Now, the Goblins were sallying out of their positions.

Rags had taken up the Order of Solstice’s position around the inn. She aimed a [Fireball] down at the crawling centipede-undead and pointed; eighteen warriors rode wolves down, making for Perorn’s target.

“Don’t follow me.”

Fleethoof heard a shout behind her, and Yameth and Ixeth and Basal, her [Captains], broke from their commands. Perorn snapped at them.

“If I die—”

Yameth interrupted her.

“Battle’s lost if you die, Fleethoof. Give the order.”

She hesitated—they were all high enough in level to maybe count. She looked across three faces and spoke.

“Basal. You’re in charge.”

The Lizaur hesitated, and the other Centaurs missed a step. Him? But then he ducked his head, and three Centaurs stormed towards the Redfangs.

The Goblins were cutting towards Kasigna, but they were fighting Humans and Drakes who had fallen. The forces of Pallass, Manus, the Five Families, couldn’t bear to look their friends in the eyes and kill them.

The Goblins…had fewer problems. Redscar was in front, holding a blade covered in lightning and Garen’s sword. Perorn stormed towards him and shot a bow point-blank at one of the returned souls trying to kill him.

Ser Sest smiled.

Perorn swore she’d kill Kasigna. Redscar was panting; there were enemies on all sides, but he lifted his sword.

[He Walked and Shadows Split]. Well, rode, but it didn’t matter. The Hobgoblin swung his sword—vanished from Thunderfur’s saddle—

Impaled Ser Kerrig from behind as the Rose Knight swung again. Perorn saw Redscar appear behind another Draugr and bisect it with his blades.

Some kind of advanced [Shadowleap]. The Goblin didn’t have a mastery of it. He staggered, and Perorn trampled an enemy Human.

“Let’s go. Forget the minions. Kill the [Necromancer].”

“Yeah. Chieftain’s orders.”

They surged towards Kasigna. Now, the Goddess of Death was walking forwards, and the entire battlefield retreated before her advance. Perorn saw, out of the corner of her eye, a figure walking through a mist of ice. Theillige had held down an entire wing of the battlefield, but even that one must have come to Perorn’s conclusion.

Kasigna’s eyes were moving towards the Wild Hunt’s champion. She ignored Redscar and Perorn as Perorn shot an arrow into her right eye.

No impact. My sword’s close to Relic-class. Skill plus sword.

Kasigna didn’t pull the arrow out of her eye. It was just gone in a flicker, as if it were a figment of her imagination she didn’t even pay attention to. Redscar roared a challenge as he drove at her.

Redfang! Redfang—

He was howling with a fury even he didn’t understand. Then he shouted something.

“Velan was right.”

Perorn jerked and looked at him. Kasigna’s head snapped away from Theillige. She saw Redscar and Perorn at last, and her eyes narrowed.

“Begone, Goblin.”

Well, that meant something. She lifted a hand—and Perorn slashed it off. Kasigna actually blinked and recoiled slightly.

Flicker. Her hand was back. Her eyes followed Perorn—and Redscar buried both blades in her chest and stomach. A fainter grimace.

Their weapons did do something! Perorn had suspected as much. When Kasigna had caught that bolt of lightning, it wasn’t for show.

“[Blade Art: Fraerling Song].”

“[Crimson Whirls My Blade].”

Kasigna flinched as the swords slashed into her. She was distracted by Theillige, but, Perorn thought, she just didn’t understand swordplay. They were definitely hurting her, though Perorn had never seen anyone heal from the wounds she was inflicting.



Perorn ran through two of the Redfangs and Yameth and knocked Redscar and Thunderfur away. The fingers missed her by an inch—because she lopped the top of Kasigna’s hand off.

The Goddess of Death grew angry. Redscar beheaded her as Yameth drove another sword into her from the side, and she flinched as Perorn scored her on the cheek. Of all the weapons, she eyed the Centaur’s slightly curved blade.

“What weapon is that?”

A gift straight from the Labyrinth of Souls. Perorn cantered out of reach as Yameth and Ixeth allowed her and Redscar to dance around Kasigna. Her two Centaur [Captains] and the other Redfangs formed a circle of blades, and Redscar grinned as Kasigna took a step towards Perorn and actually stumbled.

He’d planted Garen’s sword in her shadow, and it actually anchored her a second. Kasigna hissed.


Perorn locked the name into her memory. She lifted her sword high as Redscar leapt, swords singing, and Kasigna acknowledged their danger. She spoke, her voice rasping. But it was no Skill she uttered.

“<Your Mortal Wounds Open>.”

Perorn heard the word of god and felt the world twist. Oh, she realized.

Oh. That’s what a Skill was based off of—

The act of—

She hit the ground as her old wound on her leg, Tulm’s final lesson to his mentor, exploded in a shower of blood. A scar across her stomach turned into the same wound that had nearly killed her in her first battle. Redscar blinked. He gazed down at a dozen wounds dripping blood and pulled a healing potion from his belt.


The Hobgoblin collapsed as the Carn Wolf bled out next to him. Redfangs, Yameth, Ixeth—all collapsed as more Goblins and [Soldiers] within a thousand foot radius began to bleed and die.


Perorn stared at the sky as a cry went up. She saw Ixeth rise, aim a bow up—Kasigna bent down and touched his head.

“See you…Fleethoof…”

Yameth was gurgling, his lungs filling with blood. Perorn stared at the sky. She was out of potions.

She wondered if her mother was watching her.




Kasigna walked past the mortals trying to preserve their lives. They were not her foes. She did not deign to spar with them, in the lands of the dead or now.

Power waxed and waned. She was liminal, upon the edge of strength. Yet still, they surely knew it.

I am Kasigna. I have crushed pantheons and battled the oldest rot between worlds and never fallen. I have been laid low by the Laughing Folk, yet I stand with my domain behind me.”

Kasignel. She allowed even the soul of the wolf to enter, for it was more person than animal. A Hobgoblin reached up for it with a cry. He would join it soon.

All things. Even Oberon knew better than to enter this realm. Long dead, at the edge of her strength—in her domain, she could slay him, though she would admit the battle might well kill her.

Surely…this one of all knew it. Mortals could be excused their ignorance.

The Wild Hunt’s champion said nothing as they lifted their sword. There was no salute. No acknowledgement.

For this one alone, Kasigna met them in open combat. She swung a staff, almost slowly, as Theillige swung a sword, and the two weapons met in the air.

But that was just what mortals saw.

Two ideas collided. Two abstractions of being.

A woman wearing a dress of bones locked swords with a champion of ice bearing a scythe. 

A warrior riding no horse but a contraption of metal froze the ground as they circled a rotting corpse.

A grinning ferrywoman stood in the middle of the final river as a warrior walked with the blizzard of the end-times behind them over the freezing waters.

A thousand clashes in a moment. Kasigna bled into the aether, and the ichor of death fell on the Floodplains. Yet—she was holding onto Theillige’s hand as the fae drove the blade into her chest. She would not let go.

Even winter died. Even the idea of cold died.

“You cannot best me.”

The very end came for them all. A Djinni, a being of magic chained and screaming, tried to assail Kasigna from behind. They touched her and vanished as Theillige’s helm began to crumple—but the fae drove the blade deeper.

Kasignel was filling.




“Armored 14th withdrawing—”

“The Erchirite Spears have taken 50% casualties—”

“Anyone, help. They’re all ar—”

Grand Strategist Chaldion saw the battlefield on the map in front of him and in his mind’s eye. He saw the lines that had held, the orderly prepared ranks and fallback plans becoming final stands.

They were losing. Pallass’ 1st and 4th Armies were in full retreat. Niers had taken his Forgotten Wing Company across the enemy’s back, but it didn’t matter how many casualties there were.

That dead goddess would just raise more. And too many Drakes and Gnolls were dead.

“Grand Strategist, requesting permission to fall back. It’s time to evacuate the [Innkeeper]. Grand Strategist?”

General Shirka’s voice was steady, but urgent. Chaldion said nothing. The plan had always been to abandon The Wandering Inn, draw Erin into Liscor or even Pallass.

She wasn’t moving. He smiled up at that door still emitting flashes of lightning.

“What’s her line? ‘The King is smart and keeps his head. For if he moves, he’ll soon be dead.’ Beautiful. Don’t you see it?”

A [Strategist] was trying to give orders, counting the dead, aware every fumble and mistake cost lives. She looked at him blankly. She was too principled. He forgot her name. He’d put it on her file when he passed her over for better, male counterparts.

She cared about lives too much when sometimes you needed an idiot who could pay a butcher’s bill and never blink twice. Chaldion stared at the inn.

“If she moved or ran, she’d live. But they’d die.”

The Goddess of Death was distracted, focusing on Erin. All she had to do was not flee. It had to be hard.

The Grand Strategist was at peace. He could see, across the pockets of Drakes not falling back, Wall Lord Ilvriss fighting with Saliss of Lights. Damn Salazsar. Even Manus had fallen back before the Walled City of Gems.

He had better not die. Chaldion’s eyes lingered on his grandson, then he knew it was time. His claws could barely hold the table, but he forced himself to stand.

Time. The [Grand Strategist] of the Drakes always, always had one last plan. He saw Drakes losing their nerve, abandoning their positions.

General Duln wouldn’t be able to hold their position for another five minutes. Without potions, even good veteran Drakes could see death coming. They’d only win if they slowed that damn goddess.

“Aah. Aaaah. It’s glorious. What a perfect battle. We’re covered in it. Glory. We’ll be heroes. Can’t you see? We’ve killed a hundred thousand Draugr—we’re winning.

Chaldion spoke into his speaking stone as the junior [Strategist] and the other members of the command tent looked at him. He heard a sound.

“Grand Strategist? The enemy is able to resurrect more undead.”

That brave Garuda, his second-in-command. Chaldion couldn’t remember his name. But he was the trustworthy one. He said the obvious thing. And the Grand Strategist turned. Looked at him with a grin. Then at the projection of the map with unsteady eyes.

The Draugr who’d been half-executed were dying fast. He pointed at the cluster of them.

“Nonsense. It just takes—one good blow. They’ll shatter, and we’ll have that damn Human dead. Reform on my position! Follow—follow me.”

His eye was gleaming. He’d replaced the blue gemstone with one made of topaz, and it glowed as Chaldion left the command tent.

“Grand Strategist? Someone stop—”

They were so used to obeying him they hesitated as his second shouted. Chaldion saw horses ready to evacuate his position; his bodyguards looked up as he swung into a saddle.

“Grand Strategist, are we falling back to Liscor or evacuating—”

“No. Form up. Form up for the charge! [Hold Until The Last]! To me! For Pallass and the City of Inventions! Rally to me!”

He had a sword. Meant to be ornamental, but the Drake drew it from his scabbard and waved it around his head as he changed channels on the speaking stone.

Grand Strategist—

“What is going on? Who’s giving that order?”

Commander Olesm roared into the speaking stone until he recognized the voice. Now, Chaldion was shouting across the entire Drake command.

“I am Chaldion of Pallass! Rally to me! We will rout the undead in a single glorious charge! With me, with me!

Wall Lord Aldonss was dead. General Shirka and General Duln were under his command. No one was even close to his commanding position.

Officers heard him. Chaldion saw the Drakes fleeing or holding their ground begin to move.

Hold, Ancestors damn it! Hold the fucking line or I will melt each one of you with acid jars! Liscor’s army, hold!

Olesm began shouting curses as General Shirka barked.

“Grand Strategist, we cannot rout them—”

She was trying to address him on his personal channel. Chaldion ignored her. He saw Drakes turning to him.

For the Ancestors! Drakes don’t run! To me! To me!”


Duln was racing towards him, but the Drake kicked his horse into a canter, and now Drakes were following him.

The [Grand Strategist] of Drakes had to have a plan. Chaldion was laughing, his heart beating out of his chest. He was doing it. Did you see? Was she watching?

“What are the Drakes doing? Grand Strategist, your formations are breaking apart.”

Across the battlefield, Tyrion Veltras had noticed the shift in Drake lines. They were abandoning their fallback points, moving out from the fortifications. A charge? Foot and horse?

“Grand Strategist, requesting clarity on what the hell is going on?”

Now, Lieutenant Caoraz was speaking, protocol be damned. Chaldion wasn’t responding.

Charge, charge! [Charge of the Lion]!

Drakes cheered and burst into a run as the Grand Strategist plunged down the hill towards the center of the undead formation. There was no structure. Just—


The Grand Strategist of Pallass had lost his mind. He was throwing Pallass’ army, elements of Manus, even Salazsar, straight into the heart of the undead. There was no retreating from that move.

“General Duln, override the Grand Strategist!”

Shirka barked. General Duln—hesitated.

“If he sees a [Path to Victory]—”

Chaldion’s yellow eye was burning. He was grinning as he rode, and he could sense Saliss’ eyes on him. Shirka’s voice was like iron.

There is no victory in a suicide charge.

That’s right. The Drake was laughing to himself. He could hear them all. [Path to Victory]? Whenever he looked, he saw her sneering at him.

Kasigna. She and that fae, Shaestrel, were dueling, and they made a mockery of his Skill. He could not win the board.

But he believed in victory. Chaldion saw more Drakes breaking towards him now. Drakes don’t run. Follow the Grand Strategist.

Then he heard the sounds of his salvation. General Shirka roared into the speaking stone.

All forces, halt! Reform on Pallass’ 2nd!

“8th Army, hold! Hold on my order!”

Lieutenant Caoraz was a second behind her, and then Wall Lord Ilvriss was calling out to Salazsar’s forces.

Salazsar, halt. All Drake forces, fall back now. This is Wall Lord Ilvriss—

Half the [Soldiers] running forwards faltered. They wavered, but officers followed Chaldion, encouraging their entire command forward. Chaldion saw his organized armies break and mill apart.

Lower-ranking officers or squads refused to join the charge. They split from their commanders, or higher-ranking officers fell back, and more than one commander tried to execute their subordinates for treason.

“Madness. He’s gone mad. Stop!

Now, his second-in-command was calling them all back, but it was too late. Half of the Drakes went straight into the heart of the Draugr. The injured undead vanished as Drakes plowed into them. It was an illusion and gave the other soldiers the momentum to run into the heart of the undead formation.

Then the Draugr began counterattacking. Chaldion saw one raise a hand and swung his sword. It was close to a relic and sheared through a head.

He hadn’t expected that—but he kept going. Now, the Drake line was fully engaged. And they were starting to die.

The huge centipede of bones was still mostly alive after being blasted by Salazsar’s forces. It writhed across the Drakes as they tried to bring it down, crushing hundreds in one motion. Specters fell on the Drakes from all sides, shrieking, and the bunched-up Drakes were being followed by more and more [Soldiers].

Nowhere to run.

I’ve killed them. The Grand Strategist was fully laughing now, a Demon on horseback. His terrified stallion was rearing, and he saw them looking at him. Seeing their charge stall out and a slaughter begin.

The Grand Strategist of the Drakes committing an unforgivable error. That’s right. He was calling out now as he spoke into his speaking stone above the screaming and frantic orders.

“Behind me are those who will lead the Drakes. With me are the beating heart.”

Then they went silent, and the Drake giggled at the sky. Did you see it? What a perfect ending. They had to replace him. Had to make the call—

Those with the will to oppose his order behind. Fools who’d be heroes with him. Chaldion turned his head and saw the undead halt. Buying The Wandering Inn time.


Now, all he had to do was die. Chaldion plunged forwards towards one of the undead, who raised a trunk-like arm. They were still trying to save him, some of the idiots. He saw spells blowing apart some of the undead, then felt the pull rip the scales off his arms.

His horse threw him at last, and Chaldion landed, shock replacing pain. He got up slowly, unable to find the strength.

I can’t remember anything. I have been here too long, even with Saliss’ potions. 

My arm is broken.

He switched hands, claw holding his sword now. Chaldion saw that undead raise a black arm to suck him into—

A Drake rode down on the undead and rammed a spear through its chest, and Chaldion almost sobbed. He got to his feet, sword swinging as he looked around.

Where was it? Which one was it? The dead goddess? Where was she? He couldn’t find his speaking stone, so he spoke aloud, hoping one would hear him.

“Those of you who live—lead us forwards. Replace me.”

He was swinging his sword weakly, almost using it like a cane as he looked for a single undead—Draugr were hurling Drakes aside. A great spindly undead was scooping screaming Drakes and Gnolls into a wicker basket. They ignored the small, old Drake. He saw a Draugr stomping past him and tried to swing his sword.

He couldn’t even raise his arm. Chaldion saw his shaking claw and realized he must be in shock. But the Draugr saw him, and Chaldion saw it roar and open its mouth.

Save the Grand Strategist! To Chaldion—

That idiot, Duln. Chaldion had thought more of him. Was he entering the battle? They were so afraid. Even now, even as he slaughtered them, they were afraid of a world without him.

Time. Chaldion dropped his sword. He spread his arms as acid and flames burst down around him.

Even you, Saliss? He looked up, but the desperate Drake was too far from him. Reassured, Chaldion looked up as the Draugr threw aside a Gnoll.

“I am the only Grand Strategist of the Walled Cities.”

The Drake smiled into the sky. He rasped as blood ran from his mouth.

I will not be the last.

Then he closed his eyes. Waiting. Waiting—until he opened them. Had someone slain the Draugr?

His vision was blurry, his arm now screaming pain, but Chaldion saw the Draugr’s arm was raised. Arrows were sticking out of its right side, but it was still animated. Two eyes glowed yellow, like his gemstone eye—but it did not lower that fist.

Chaldion stared at the undead, confused, then heard a laugh. He turned, slowly, and a woman walked through the ranks of the Drakes and undead.


That was fine. Chaldion would have bent for his sword, but he knew it wouldn’t matter. He just waited for the Goddess of Death, unafraid.

Until she spoke.

“Foolish Drake. You think yourself clever?”

“Kill me, you worthless imposter.”

Chaldion dared her, panting. His ribs were screaming, and one was poking through his flesh. He was in agony, now. The screaming soldiers…Duln was charging after him. He had to die.

She knew it. The Goddess of Death flicked a finger, and the Draugr lowered its arm. It silently turned and advanced into the fighting.

“What…are you doing?”

The Crone sneered at Chaldion. As if she could read his mind, a being older and more bitter than he was. But she seemed amused. Amused…as she saw the Drake grimace and take a step towards her.

“I am the Goddess of Death, ‘strategist’. Do you think I do not behold a soul wishing to die? Why would I grant what you most desire? My enemies have lived eternities.”

The Grand Strategist’s blurry vision focused on Kasigna with alarm as he realized what she was saying. He took a step forward.

“No. No—kill me.”

She just laughed in his face. Chaldion reached out and tore at her shawl. He actually grabbed the fabric, and she took his arm in a withered grip.

He did not die. Kasigna pried his hand off her clothing, for he had no strength. Chaldion tried to bend and pick up a sword, but cried out as one of his ribs punctured his scales. He dragged himself up and pursued her, but his steps were leaden—

Kill me.

“Suffer, fool.”

She walked past him. Then Chaldion whirled—and the undead attacking the Drakes broke around him. He hacked at a passing Draugr, who avoided him. His sword bounced off a zombie, who did not stop. When he seized it—he fell to the ground and felt another rib snap.

Yet he did not die. Her laughter was in his ears. Chaldion reached for a sword as his blood ran on the ground. He tried to raise it, grabbed the blade with bloody claws and drove it towards his chin.

Grand Strategist!

That fool. Duln. His face was alight with terror as they charged at him.

No. Stop it. Chaldion was screaming, now, as his lungs filled with blood. He felt the point go straight through his throat. Ripped it across his neck—and Duln had a potion in his hands.

He couldn’t—die—the Drake was alive as his lungs filled with blood. He stopped breathing, couldn’t move, couldn’t think, as he saw Duln fighting back through the battle. A Dullahan holding an Adamantium blade, staggering.

She was right there. The Dullahan threw himself between Kasigna and Chaldion, and she reached out as Duln barred the goddess’ path. Then Chaldion was screaming, screaming, as Kasigna reached out and touched Duln’s chest, and the Dullahan’s head rolled from his body and fell.

She kept laughing at him. Now he was begging her, but she refused, and he finally understood the terror of her.

He could not—


Everyone but Chaldion was dying. The [Strategist] lay there, limp, tears dripping from the corners of his eyes as he saw his last plan falling to pieces.




The Drakes’ formation was in shambles. They had charged into the enemy, and they were dying like flies.

The last Hag Queens under Kasigna would die. He had sworn it—but they exacted a terrible vengeance, fearless. After all, Kasigna would grant them life again.

The Archmage of Death saw the Drakes routing as he drove the point of his blade deeper into the Hag Queen’s body. She wasn’t trying to kill him.

She was trying to kill Perril Chandler. He felt her trying to give the dead part of him strength. She was whispering as he flooded her with death magic. Her face exploded, revealing a grinning skull—and Az’kerash felt his humanity dying.

“Master? Master!

His Chosen were battling around him, but only one dared enter the battle of magic. Ijvani aimed a staff at the Hag Queen’s back, and spells ripped the Hag apart. She snarled—turned her head as Az’kerash’s body jolted, and the mortal man began to vanish.

Pathetic thing.

One claw shattered Ijvani’s skull as it struck the black metal bones. Ijvani stumbled.

“Master? Help—”

She reached for him. Az’kerash and Perril Chandler looked up. Two hands rose.


The skeleton cracked, then fell to pieces. The Hag Queen turned away from the skeleton and aimed a staff down at Az’kerash. She expected the Lich to rise.

But the Necromancer stood and caught the broken skull as Venitra turned, Oom made a terrible screeching sound, and Devail looked at his sister.


Kneel before the Goddess of Death—

The Hag Queen felt the ground tremble and stopped. She looked down—then her eyes widened. She lifted a hand—before the giant of bones erupted from the ground and squeezed. The Hag Queen popped, and the Bone Giant tore at Kasigna, who stopped it with one hand and shattered it to pieces.

The Necromancer cradled Ijvani’s skull in his hands and spoke one word gently.


A hundred thousand skeletons slowly arose from the ground. Kasigna swept her arm and erased them by the thousands as she walked forwards. The Necromancer didn’t look at her. He gently held his daughter’s skull as he waited, the ranks of the dead clashing.

One man for once.




The Hag Queen and the [Witches] had fought viciously the entire battle. First two, then one, but all the protections of the [Witches] of Riverfarm were shattered.

The last of them was Wiskeria’s hat. She stared down at the tear in the fabric her mother had woven for her as a mirror Eloise had borne in another life shattered to pieces and Hedag’s axe snapped.

“Here we go.”

“One more minute. One more—”

Agratha was panting as they tried to throw a hex back at the Hag Queen. The thing had lost most of her magics too, and she had been forced to carve bloody runes into her flesh. One eye had been ripped out by Mavika’s beak—but she placed a handprint of blood on her flesh and activated her final curse.

Eight [Witches] looked up in a calm silence as the trebuchets—only one was not burning—thumped. Riverfarm’s people were fleeing around their [Emperor]. Laken knelt, shaking a silent man who’d taken one of the Hag Queen’s spells for him.

“Prost? Prost…”

Gamel dragged the [Emperor] away as the Hag Queen pointed. Someone laughed.

It was a high, cackling laugh of despair. Agratha had always hated that laugh. It was the laugh of a woman who wanted to be nothing more than the very stereotype of her class. Who embraced it. Oliyaya loved to be feared.

She always said at the end—a witch should cackle as she died. She turned, her crooked nose covered in blood and broken, her wart-covered smile and rotted teeth bared in a horrible grin. She twisted her fingers together as she spoke.

“Sisters. Make something out of her flesh for me.”

Agratha felt Oliyaya seize the Hag Queen’s curses aiming at the coven. Oliyaya directed them all back onto herself in a moment as the Hag Queen hissed in disbelief.

The [Witch]’s head exploded, and a piece of flesh struck Agratha on the cheek. The last cackle of Oliyaya was in her ears as Agratha drove a single nail into a strand of hair tied to a rock.

The Hag Queen was laughing as she raised her hand for another spellcast. She glanced up; the boulder hurled from the trebuchet was flying towards her.

Dismissively, the Hag Queen stepped to one side. Then saw the boulder curve. Her eyes widened. Agratha’s simplest and most practical of charms tilted the boulder through the air. A basic homing charm—

The boulder hammered the Hag Queen’s body down to an oozing stump in a moment. Agratha dropped her charm as the [Witches] bent around their fallen sister.




The battle is lost!

“Hold! Hold until the last!

The dead were all around him. Riverfarm was fleeing. The Five Families were drawing back. The inn—Gershal kept swinging that sword she had given him.

It was the steadiest thing in this world. Nothing could move it. The [Lieutenant of the Line] thought he saw the Tidebreaker’s back.

This time, he was right there. Right—something ripped his arm off. He looked up, and a Draugr knocked him flat.

Gershal stabbed it one-handed, now, activating the blade’s magic. A spiraling stab blew apart the Draugr’s chest.

To the last. Vaunt was right here. He got up, looking around, and the dead were all that was left. Gershal swung his sword, right, left, chopping now, finding how Zel had done it.

He kept standing long after he should have fallen. The dead surrounded the man, clawing, biting, seeking his very life until they broke up—jerked back from the body still swinging. In the silence, Gershal’s corpse collapsed and dropped the blade at last.




The walls.

Old Bamer was kneeling over a [Soldier], and the blood was running out. He was so hungry—but that was only the lesser part of him that wanted food.

The man in him wasn’t hungry. He had always thought they were half-Vampires, poor, ill-fated sons and daughters cursed by their heritage.

Now, of course, he knew they were just poisoned, but sometimes he felt the curse was real. He looked up and saw it.

The north gate was burning, the doors broken, but the civilians had been protected until now. Men with hats, the Guildmistress of the Adventurer’s Guild—the Watch had halted everything.

Except for one monster. One of the gigantic vampire bats came over the walls, wings burning, but clashing with a dying Frost Wyvern on the walls. Bamer saw it shrieking and looking down at the city.

“The citizens—”

The oldest Vampire saw Himilt looking around and called out.

“Your scythe!”

Himilt reached for the weapon he had leaned against the walls of the blood bank. Fierre raced outside and blanched as she saw the magnitude of the monster crawling down into the city. She still began to run. Brave girl.

So did Himilt. Himilt, who should have been royalty, caught old Bamer’s eye as the one outsider to the Lischelle-Drakle family, Bamer, stared up. He had no family. No bloodline.

Both Fierre and her father were too slow. There were streets and buildings in the way. But the old Vampire just spread his arms, and his face distorted. Himilt turned, calling out.


The Vampire had a different heritage in his veins. His bones rearranged, and he looked batlike himself. His bones were light, and if he had the full power of his blood, maybe he would have become something just like that monster.

Too much a man.

Watch over her. Our suffering hasn’t ended. I am glad I left no one behind in this bitter world.

His words were distorted as his face reconfigured, and they were bitter. Colfa looked up as Bamer spread his wings. Then he leapt into the skies. Screeching a challenge that the bat monster heard. It stopped screaming down into the heart of the city and leapt to meet him. A real Vampire—savage and old.

Bamer struck one wing and tore into the leathery flesh as fangs sank straight through his fragile body and into his back. Then they were twisting, and he could hear Fierre screaming.

Brave girl. The Vampire fell through the black night. Hoping this city would be kinder to her. Spinning, spinning now—he sank his fangs into flesh and drank deep before he struck the ground and his long misery ended.




Winter was dying. A storm had blown across the Floodplains like the wrath of nature—and it was melting. It died slow. Hard.

She liked winter. Baleros’ jungles had no winters. Only the north had forever snow. She’d always thought this was a gentler land than home.

“Ah, well. War’s like that.”

Jelaqua Ivirith was a married woman now. She didn’t feel that either. It was probably the blood. She was missing half her face after all.

The Halfseekers had acquitted themselves well. They’d only fallen back when Manus’ entire army plunged after Rafaema. Then—Jelaqua had seen and heard the cry from Liscor. They’d had to race around to the southern gates to enter. And when they’d arrived…

A Hag Queen was going through the northern gates. Her team had been trying to stop the Draugr making it over the walls.

Jelaqua saw the last Hag Queen at the gates. Every other one was dead, but they died so damn hard. This one had killed over two hundred members of the Watch and just as many Antinium. The last person who stood before her had held her off for five minutes alone.

Senior Guardsman Jeiss’ sword broke, and he recoiled before a claw tore out his throat. Zevara was on her knees, throwing up insects. She looked up as Liscor’s finest [Swordsman] staggered, and the Hag Queen laughed. Liscor’s Councilman, her Senior Guard, son of Liscor, sat down then tried to stand.

Then he closed his eyes. The Hag Queen pushed forwards as Jelaqua came to a stop, panting. The Watch was falling back, trying to drag Zevara to safety.

Seborn was still stabbing one of the remaining Flying Antinium. He looked up as the Selphid spoke.

“I was going to tell you after the battle, guys. But I’m ending the team.”

Moore’s face was a mask of blood. Jelaqua was terribly afraid. He was always such a big target, and she didn’t know how many times he’d waded into the fighting to battle Draugr, the only person larger than they were.

Ulinde was shaking. She looked up.


“You’re telling us now?”

Seborn always sounded angry. But he wasn’t, really. Jelaqua had gotten to know all her teammates over the years.

Halassia, Thornst, Keilam, Ukrina, Moore, Seborn…Garen. Now cute little Ulinde.

Those were the real Halfseekers. It still felt like they were that old team. They hadn’t ever come back from that day.

“We’ve settled every debt. Moore, you should run a library or something. Ulinde—you’re a promising [Mage], and if you want to be an adventurer, there are better teams. Seborn, you’ve been saying you’ll go back to the sea. It’s time, you know? I’m a married woman. It’s time.”

Screaming at the gates from the dying Watch. Each selfish second, Jelaqua knew people were dying.

But dead gods damn it, they owed her this. Moore’s eyes were locked on the Hag Queen. Jelaqua noticed a muscle shaking in one arm and stopped it.

“After this, I’ll go get my ship.”

Seborn quietly cleaned a blade. Moore whispered.

“I am tired of blood and who I’ve become. I’ll quit too.”


Ulinde choked. Jelaqua put a hand on her shoulder.

“Come on, you too.”

I’ll study with Archmage Valeterisa.

The Selphid sobbed. Jelaqua counted the Draugr at the gates. She was no Ylawes who could do this with a smile, or the Horns who were literally insane. Love them. Halrac was no good at speeches.

This was just their style. The Halfseekers looked at her, and she smiled as if she were some heroine out of stories. You had to practice that.

“There we go. I’m breaking up the Halfseekers after this. So…”

Her voice cracked.

“One last time. Halfseekers. Charge!”

At first, it was a slow run down the street. Then they picked up momentum, passing by the corpses of Flying Antinium, pounding towards the gates. The Watch was falling back; the Antinium were dying.

Draugr and that damned Hag Queen were spilling forwards. She saw the Halfseekers running at her and laughed.


Jelaqua leapt at her, flail spinning. It bit into the Hag Queen’s shoulder and sliced deep, and she tore another chunk away in a moment, but Kasigna’s champion was regenerating. The Hag Queen knocked Jelaqua aside and hissed as a [Fireball] blew apart one of her hands. She had shielded her face—Ulinde shot spells from both wands through the Draugr’s heads as Seborn leapt from shadow to shadow, hamstringing them.

The Hag Queen took a punch from Moore’s fists. The half-Giant’s grip was covered in bloody thorns. It ripped a piece out of her face—and the horror just laughed as she spat teeth and blood.

You wear dead flesh, fool.

Jelaqua was whirling her flail through Draugr skulls. She didn’t understand what that meant until the Hag Queen pointed. And Ulinde began screaming.

“It’s moving. She animated it. Help. H—”

The Drake’s dead body jerked—then the Ghoul was tearing at its own flesh. It ripped open its own chest cavity, and Jelaqua saw it tear a thin form out. Ulinde’s real body—

The Ghoul bit as the Hag Queen pointed at Jelaqua. The form Jelaqua was inhabiting twisted, and she felt death magic flow into her. Jelaqua seized her flail by the grip and drove it through her body’s head. The death magic ceased—

The distracted Selphid looked up, and the Hag Queen snapped her fingers. Jelaqua’s corpse imploded around the Selphid, and she dropped.


Seborn buried his daggers into the Hag’s head, flame and acid trying to melt her brain. She just reared back, slamming him into a wall.

Another blow as Moore brought down his staff and crushed half her head. The half-Giant uttered not a sound, but he snapped the bones of Kasigna’s champion—and they regrew. Even her head was reforming, and she was laughing.


She lifted a blade in her other hand and drove it into his chest. The two were locked together as Seborn kept stabbing. Moore’s hands were covered in bloodthorns. [Bloodseeds]…but as he tried to tear her apart, she just kept—

His hands slackened as she twisted the knife. The half-Giant was slumping now, and Zevara was screaming as she saw the edge of the twisted blade emerge from his back.

The Hag Queen shook Moore’s fingers from her neck as her wounds healed. She shoved the half-Giant off her, and the gentle [Green Mage] fell. Seborn looked around.

Ulinde? Jelaqua? Moore?


The Hag Queen scratched at the warts around her neck. She lifted the blade as Seborn raised his daggers. Then scratched harder. Digging her claws into her neck with a sudden look of alarm.

“No. No—

She ripped at her flesh as it suddenly bulged. Then something burst from her flesh. Seborn recoiled as roses and thorns made out of drenched vines sprouted from the Hag Queen’s neck.

The snarling monstrosity ripped the brambles out of her neck—but her entire body was bulging. [Bloodseeds]. She took one step backwards, trying to utter a spell—

Seborn shielded his face as the Hag Queen’s body erupted into a mass of twisting vines and brambles covered with red thorns. The seeds Moore had planted in her flesh engulfed the last Hag Queen, and her body stopped regenerating as a tangled mass of bloodthorns ripped her to shreds.

The Watch screamed in relief, and the Draugr wavered. The undead lost cohesion, and Kasigna turned a second from the faltering Winter Fae. Yet there was no joy.

Just a shriek from above. A cry that filtered across the entire Floodplains. Weeping, ten of the fae flew over Liscor. Crying out.


The last Giant of Izril is dead. The last child of Giants is fallen!


And a cry from the only voice of spring.


“The Champion of the Fae dies well.”


Moore? Jelaqua? Ulinde?

Seborn got to one knee, shaking his friend. He didn’t know what came next. Didn’t move as the [Innkeeper] heard the cry.




“You knew you could not best me.”

The silent visage of Theillige said nothing as Kasigna watched the armor corrode. Metal flaked away, black thorns ripped into the faerie’s body from the inside, yet they refused to show Kasigna their flesh or blood or face.

Many times they had wounded Kasigna. If she had blood, it would have littered the Floodplains and bloomed black upon the earth. The sword of the Faerie King’s champion had cut well enough to end a lesser god.

—But they could not win. She was Death, an idea. They were a single champion of the Wild Hunt. To destroy one like her, Theillige would have to eradicate the very notion of death.

All they could do was make her suffer. She had survived worse. Kasigna tore off one arm as the shield fell. Yet the sword stabbed deeper into her heart, causing the Draugr’s eyes to flicker.

At the end of time when all was ice, there was no death, not ev—

A hand crumpled the helmet as the Goddess of Death laughed at them. At the end? Even if the world froze, ice itself would crumble and break apart. Even snow could grow foul.

At the end of everything, even destiny itself would take her hand. They both knew it, and gently now, Kasigna lifted her hand.

“Thou, for pride alone, challenged me? Of all I asked, you alone knew how it would end. Yet not one of the Tuatha Dé ever lowered their blade and knelt.”

For one moment in time, she was older, perhaps not wiser, but her voice echoed in halls fit for her kind, and she inclined her head, knowing their will and respecting it even as they strove apart. That helmetless warrior said nothing, and Kasigna whispered.

“You honor your oath.”

Then she gently lifted the helm from the body as the armor fell to pieces. An empty visor stared up at the sky. Then the faeries screamed, and Kasigna knew it was over.




The Garden of Wistram was breaking to pieces. Magic burned across the broken dome. The door was in pieces as Erin turned her key in the lock.

Sanctuary ends.

They were all—she looked out across the Floodplains and saw Kasigna lifting her hand and holding an empty helmet.

She had not even seen them struggle. She had not even seen the Winter Fae die.

It didn’t matter. Erin’s tearstained face rose as Kasigna sighed. And even the fae joined her court in Kasignel.

Erin Solstice walked into her personal [Garden of Sanctuary]. Four Gardens were gone. Her friends were dying. She saw Kasigna resume her walk. Erin turned her head just once.

“If you’re going to kill me now, Khorpe—do it.

She paused. She had not seen the Drake the entire battle. Now she knew why. Erin waited.


Then she saw him where he lay and stopped. And the Goddess of the Dead walked forwards until she looked up.

An archer aimed a bow down at her across those dark skies. Kasigna blinked up as Xrn, the Small Queen, aimed a spell down at her.

[The ___slayer’s Arrow].




Kasigna came to a halt as the Small Queen glittered in the night sky. She was weary from her battle with the Winter Fae, but she could not be defeated.

Not by Theillige.

Not by Diotria’s guardian.

Again and again, they forced that aspect of Kasigna to kneel in defeat. Agelum drove blades as pure as their essence into her body. They were warriors almost equal to the Winter Fae if you combined all their numbers together.

Mortal armies waged a war against her as fruitless as the one in the Floodplains. And the Crone did kneel.

Their leader drove a blade through her head—and watched as she knelt a second, form burning.

You. Name yourself.”

The Goddess of the Dead rasped, and one of the Agelum landed.

“She is reforming herself, Lord. She has no end to her strength.”

“Then we shall offer her defeat until she sickens of it. Trace how she is entering this realm.”

Kasigna hissed as the self-proclaimed leader of Diotria looked down at her. Bested! Yet, like Erin Solstice, like Xrn—

She told them all the same thing, the Three-in-One.

“I have no end. Still, you continue?”

She rose. The stranger nodded calmly.

“I claim this land. I am Khetieve, woman. You cannot best me.”

He sounded like all the others, for all his strength. How she laughed. She laughed up at the Small Queen as she beheld the incomplete arrow the Centenium held.

“Perhaps. But I cannot die.”




Xrn was pouring all of her magic into one spell, but she could not even fully realize it.

[The ___slayer’s Arrow].

It was still incomplete. Even now, with her enemy before her—she did not understand how Kasigna could die. 

Yet she had the full attention of the Goddess of Death. Kasigna stared warily upwards and bared her teeth.

A true weapon to kill her, even if the maker was inexperienced. She beckoned as an [Archer] took aim.

One last gambit. Kasigna’s eyes narrowed, and she saw a faint spark of green.

Is this your final gambit, Shaestrel?




The Three-in-One laughed. One of her stood in Diotria, rising and summoning another army against the false claimants to this realm.


Another of her gently nodded to Theillige as the Winter Fae bowed before her, herald of her will like the others.


The last aspect beckoned slowly to the Small Queen. Mocking the plans of the fae and the unfinished arrow.


“Come and see, child. You could learn to slay a half-child or another of my kin. Never me.”

“Someday, we will go home.”

Xrn dove as the arrow burned down through the skies, her body lighting up as she sacrificed it to become a vessel for her spell. Kasigna’s eyes widened, and she caught the arrow as the Small Queen vanished. Straining—gasping—magic trying to slay death itself.

She took Xrn’s hand, and the Small Queen began to vanish. Then Kasigna felt something pull at the soul. As [The ___slayer’s Arrow] began to fragment reality and she forced the magic away from her, she pulled

—But the Free Queen would not let go.




The Mother halted, one hand raised as she reached for Xrn. The Small Queen could not defy her. She and countless Antinium stood before Kasigna—but a hand blocked Kasigna’s.

It was no Human hand, but an insect’s feeler. It was pulling at the souls. Somehow, a mere mortal had the effrontery to challenge her? Kasigna sensed Isthekenous’ Grand Design behind it.

Empowering this mere…Queen?

The Goddess of Death, holding [The ___slayer’s Arrow] at bay with one aspect, was distracted. She pulled, and Xevccha screamed—but she refused to let go.

“You are not my equal, thing.”

The Mother spoke coldly to the Free Queen. She heard a reply as the two warred for the fate of the fallen Antinium.

“I. Am. Xevccha. Know, stranger, that you have wrestled with a Queen of the Antinium. You shall lose.”

The effrontery of mortals would never cease to amaze her. The Free Queen was losing as Kasigna pulled—it was unto a child tugging upon the universe itself.

Kasigna’s hand reached out for Xrn, for Theillige, who knelt silently before her—and a hand of eternal green caught her arm. She froze.


The Faerie King caught her arm. He had opened a door. Kasigna could not believe it. She froze—then the Mother began to laugh.

“You challenge me for your subject? Here? You are both fools.

The Free Queen and Oberon wrestled silently with Kasigna as the souls of the dead watched. They were all here.

Sest, Tersk, Moore, Thunderfur, Oliyaya, Khorpe, Tekshia, Ulinde, Theillige, Aldonss—men and women and Drakes and Antinium watching a silent war that even the Faerie King would lose.

He truly was mad. In his domain, she would not dare challenge him, which is why Avalon endured. Likewise, here, he did not send forth his host for the cost. It would take every last faerie to slaughter the six gods in their domain. The cost was too high.

Here? Kasignel? His face was calm, that eternal trickster, that meddler who had bested even the greatest god. Oathkeeper. Champion.

“Your ruined realm is a result of your worthless promises. One of my kin slew your consort. Now you strive with me over a single champion? Have you forgotten who I am?

Death was pouring out of her. She had seen Shaestrel twisting fate against her. Now—Kasigna reached for the skein of destiny itself and poured her blood over it.

She seized Oberon’s grip, and the Faerie King was struggling now, his subjects screaming out in horror.

I mark you for death, Faerie King.

She began to pour her will into his very being. Then, she expected him to let go. But he continued to wrestle with her, grimacing as he beheld his own end.

Even gods and their like could die. She knew it full well. Kasigna took the Free Queen’s grip.

You are marked for death, little woman.


They refused to let go. Then and only then—Kasigna looked into the Faerie King’s eyes and saw only grim determination. But she remembered the twinkle of mischief in the greatest trickster’s eyes. Realized—

This was a distraction.




The Maiden was unmaking Xrn’s spell as her other two aspects fought. She was divided. Distracted.

An [Archer] had let fly his arrow the moment Xrn had attacked. The shot was impossibly hard in the darkness. He was aiming at something he couldn’t see, but it was a shot he had to make.

He had only one arrow, and its tip glittered with the very fabric of everything. The language of the gods, which had become a system that defined…everything.


Halrac Everam loosed the arrow that had erased a letter just once before. The Faerie King fought with Kasigna, wrenching her attention away from his trick.

He always had a scheme. The Goddess of the Dead’s eyes widened as she saw the arrow curving through the air. She let go of [The ___slayer’s Arrow]. Realizing what it was aiming for.

Her name? Could it do—?

True fear filled her, a terror beyond anything she had felt since the moment the Elves and Gnomes slew her. Kasigna let Xrn’s spell burn her essence. She shrieked as she threw a hand out. The arrow—

She drew on her power. Every scrap of it. Every shred, diverting her entire being, her aspects, all into one desperate move from the Maiden.

Kasigna halted time in the lands of mortality. Not just the passage of the Winter Solstice.

All of it.

Every ounce of her power went into stopping that arrow as it flew, seeking a name, perhaps—a file on her very being stored in the Grand Design of Isthekenous. Just over her head was where Halrac was aiming.

The arrow slowed as Kasigna labored to halt time. It was not her domain! The arrow moved like it was sinking through jelly—and Halrac Everam saw her hand rising, reaching for it. He lowered his bow and ran.

Shaestrel was screaming wildly. Halrac ran towards Kasigna as he felt time slowing around her. Lunging.

Briganda, Revi, and Typhenous were running after him. They felt themselves slowing—eternity became a lunge, an exhaled breath.

Griffon Hunt dove at Kasigna. Typhenous planted a knife in her eye. Revi cupped her hands, and Halrac leapt from them. His hand and Kasigna’s grabbed the arrow, and they struggled over it. Shaestrel and Kasigna saw it now.

A thread of fate moving to destroy her utterly and completely. The fae and Goddess of Death saw it intersect, fought over it—

Halrac Everam’s fate stretched before and behind them. Kasigna saw his birth, his failed loves, his friendship with a man by chance in the army. Disgrace as Gold-rank adventurer.

She beheld his future and death. A Named-rank adventurer facing down the Mother of Graves with that bow. A sacrifice in Liscor’s dungeon.

His fate wavered before her vision. She seized the arrow that destiny had no control over as they wrestled for it. Grabbed his arm and pulled.

His string of fate—snapped. Shaestrel and Kasigna recoiled with a cry. Halrac’s features twisted in a grimace, and he drove the point of the arrow at Kasigna’s face. She tore it away, and he collapsed. Dead.

Kasigna threw the arrow away from her with an oath. It passed across Briganda, and the woman dropped.


The [Shieldmaiden] staggered. She raised her axe—then tried to use a Skill. Something was wrong. She blurred—

Thousands of female warriors in Cenidau jerked, and the Grand Design of Isthekenous shrieked. Kasigna panted, looking for the arrow. She stared as a Gnoll appeared out of nowhere, shedding a [Greater Invisibility] spell, and dashed for it.

Give that to me.

The Gnoll slid, yanking the arrow up, and she pointed a finger at the strange Gnoll. He whirled, daggers in hand, and Kasigna stopped time again.

She walked forwards as her body began to decay and crumble. But the Gnoll was frozen in space as she reached for the arrow.

Shaestrel’s plan ruined. The Faerie King’s grip wavering. Death, death, death. Kasigna tore the arrow out of the air as Iert backed away rather than face her.


Erin Solstice called down to Kasigna from her inn. The Goddess of Death turned, the arrow in hand, and Erin beckoned. She looked down at her nemesis.

“Let’s finish this. You’ll bleed before you kill me.”

The [Innkeeper] uttered one final, tired oath as Kasigna nodded. No artifice, no tricks—Kasigna dipped her head.

“If that is what it takes.”




Halrac Everam walked into Kasignel and stood in a palace devoid of color. He looked up at a raised lectern, higher than the High Passes themselves, where a goddess stood.

She held a hand of green, wrestling with it and the Free Queen of the Antinium. Mother of death; below her, Drevish stood, creating her new realm tirelessly.

Halrac saw friends and would-be enemies and allies around him. He knew he was dead. Knew it in his very nature.

He had tried to wrestle with her. Beat her with a single arrow like some hero out of stories.

“I’m sorry, Erin.”

Halrac tried to find some sadness. Or anger. But he was just—empty. That was the nature of ghosts in the lands of the dead Kasigna created. They were at peace with it. Only the strongest of them could conjure great feeling, and now…

He was just tired. Kasignel stretched out before Halrac, an inviting wasteland to let it all fall away. Soon, he might wander out, first of the souls to see what this new, final realm contained.

…But first he was waiting for her.

Not long now.


The word appeared in Halrac’s mind and being. He spoke it, and a part of his understanding of her became belief. The foundation of her power, unassailable in this realm.

They all said it. Billions of ghosts, and Oberon’s hand flickered as Kasigna poured death into him. The decaying goddess walking towards Erin regained some of her strength.


Halrac saw a friend standing motionless among the many here, and some part of him was pleased.


His friend was waiting. The two ghosts clasped arms silently.

“I saw you fighting. You tried your utmost.”

“I did.”

It was a wholly inadequate conversation. Empty, just like the two of them. Halrac Everam bowed his head. There was no idea of him…fighting back or doing anything. He was a ghost. He was dead. She was death.

The colorless, lifeless lands of the dead had no swift motion as the ghosts waited for Kasigna to finish her long night. Every single head rose to the mirror reflecting Erin Solstice’s face as Kasigna laughed in Oberon’s.

Halrac wished he could close his eyes. He saw the other ghosts who had tried so hard standing close together. Even Theillige, the silent kneeling figure, their head turned sideways.

Watching as Major Khorpe danced.

Halrac the Grim’s head turned as a single Drake moved. He leapt through the air, pirouetting, skipping as if gravity touched him lightly. A gleeful dance that belied the tears in his eyes.


There was no joy in Halrac’s chest. Even powerful ghosts like Wall Lord Aldonss were empty of emotion under Kasigna’s complete control. But the Major, the greatest [Infiltrator] of Salazsar, was running forwards.

His scales looked…grey. But not empty. The grey of age, a long life he might have even called a hair too long. The faded green scales and black armor of his station but a memory.

Yet he had color. The Drake was leaping, passing through ghosts, who flickered out as he moved through them, turning in bewilderment.

As if he were realer than the others somehow. Halrac Everam looked at Khorpe and then saw, for a second, Khorpe’s image of himself flicker.

He saw a Drake, scales lined with frost, then saw Khorpe smiling. Halrac’s head rose. His eyes widened.

In the [Garden of Sanctuary], sleeping up on Erin Solstice’s bier, Major Khorpe lay with his arms folded, a wide smile on his face.

After all—if Erin could do it, why not someone else? The Drake was running, now, and Kasigna?

The Three-in-One saw all. Except what a mere piece of bread, a Shadowloaf, hid. It could not protect Erin or her inn from attack, but it could disguise a single Drake.

Kasigna was gloating, slowly assigning a death to Oberon, battling the Free Queen, taking Diotria, and holding the arrow that Halrac had loosed. Sure of her victory.

She never noticed the Drake racing across the palace being built ever upwards.

Halrac followed Khorpe suddenly. He broke away from Ulrien and saw Theillige rise. The two began to run—and the other ghosts turned. Khorpe was tearing at his possessions, opening a bag of holding that vanished.

“No. No, no—my blades—”

He pulled the memory of his daggers out of—but cursed. They had no substance here. His memories of weapons were just memories. He could no more harm Kasigna than Erin Solstice could all that time ago.

Yet he was here. The Major was not blind. He had been trying to hide among the dead, and surely, if the arrow had failed—

It was him.

Treachery, infiltration, was a difficult game. He had stolen into the [Garden of Sanctuary]. He had plotted this, considering his life a worthwhile gamble to put someone on the inside.

But any spy had to find knowledge worth the risk. Or a target worth sabotaging.

Or someone worth killing.

He needed a weapon. The [Infiltrator] was running at the target he had identified, and Halrac pointed.

“Him. It’s him.”

His finger was aiming at Drevish, who had slowed his constant creation of Kasignel. He was channeling Kasigna’s powers but had no more ability to oppose her than any other ghost.

“I know. I don’t have a weapon. Can you kill him?”

Khorpe hissed. His Skills? He had been trying to activate them, but Kasigna had turned off Skills and levels.

By now, all the ghosts were looking at Khorpe, the one half-alive being in the entire deadlands. Drevish’s white haired head rose, and his eyes found the Drake.

He glanced up at Kasigna and did not speak. But she would notice, soon. Khorpe tore at his imaginary bag of holding as he slowed, tossing the crossbow loaded with the Phoenixfire Bolt, a dagger, the Faerie Flowers he’d plucked, all onto the ground. He seized a sword he had once carried and charged.


Khorpe swung through Drevish’s neck, and the memory of his sword passed through. Theillige, Halrac, and the other ghosts halted.

“Alas. It was a good try.”

Aldonss spoke softly. Drevish agreed as Khorpe staggered. The Architect raised his hands.

“I have all the authority of Kasigna to create and destroy here. Once the Winter Solstice ends—I shall build slower, but you cannot suborn nor stop nor harm me, I am afraid.”

They were all so matter-of-fact. Khorpe hated it. He knew the real Drevish would be a fiery man. Halrac Everam had wrestled with a goddess.

So close. He looked up at Oberon, and the Faerie King was dying. Kasigna was whispering to him.

“Your end draws near, Faerie King.”

He did not even look down at them. His subject, Theillige, was kneeling on the ground, beholding the Faerie King’s thread of fate being assigned an ending.

Gently, the Wild Hunt’s warrior picked something up from the ground as Khorpe clenched his fists. They lifted a yellow flower, still glistening and as vibrant as the moment Khorpe had plucked it from the [Garden of Sanctuary]. Halrac inhaled, and Khorpe turned. The Drake’s eyes widened.

The Faerie Flowers were a bright yellow. Like the illusion of gold. They were not memories.

Slowly, Theillige lifted the Faerie Flower in their grip. The little sprig of the half-grown flower was blooming. Erin’s garden was filled with blooming flowers, and they were not of this world.

They were ideas. Plants unwisely given from the lands of the fae to this mortal realm by foolish faeries trying to con an [Innkeeper] out of a meal long ago.

Betimes they looked like simple little flowers. In alchemy, they were many things. They were a trick, an illusion—it was just a matter of perspective.

On a hill, an open gate was spilling a tiny crack between the Lands of the Fae and this world. The Faerie King had opened the door, and death was pouring out of it as he sacrificed his immortality and fought with one of the greatest aspects of Death to exist.

Around him bloomed a hill of flowers and two beautiful ones that marked a grave.


A hill of swords and a wartorn gate flashed before Major Khorpe’s eyes. He looked at that distant land—then down.

Theillige offered him a sword, the handle curved and marked with old symbols. The honor of the Faerie Court, and a metal smithed in ancient days.

Then—the Drake smiled. He lifted the sword up, and the Architect’s eyes opened wide.

“Killing me won’t stop her. But go ahead.”

He whispered. Khorpe hesitated, and now, he saw Theillige hand another sword to Halrac. The Winter Fae picked up a sword, and Khorpe saw the warrior concentrate.

Drevish did not resist. He stood there as Theillige strode over to him. The warrior lifted their blade, but not at Drevish’s neck.

They were aiming at something just behind Drevish. No…connected to him? Khorpe saw it, like an idea. The thinnest strand in existence connecting Drevish to Kasigna. Khorpe blinked—and then he saw the same line—everywhere. Connecting Halrac up to Kasigna, who was laughing.

Major Khorpe met Theillige’s eyes, and the two nodded. Theillige swung the sword through the lands of the dead, master of blades, perfect warrior, and Khorpe cut the thread behind Halrac with a blade of Avalon.

Kasigna felt that. 

The Maiden froze and wobbled mid-step towards Erin’s inn, hand on the [Garden of Sanctuary]’s door.

Her Crone aspect wavered as she tore the wings off an Agelum.

And the Mother held Oberon’s arm and gloated. Her eyes swung downwards—but halted. Each moment mattered. She was exhausted, distracted, and had been triumphant a moment ago.

Then she saw the Faerie King’s smile. She felt Drevish jerk, remembering his life and rage and indignation and hopes and joy, and the Architect’s cheeks mottled with color. He raised his hands and called on the power she had given him, secure in the knowledge he could never oppose her.

I am the Architect of the King of Destruction. I have never created anything I do not believe in. Even the most wondrous works I will destroy if I find the slightest part unworthy. And you, my client?”

He called up at her as Kasigna jerked, trying to break free of the Faerie King’s grip.

He was laughing at her. Drevish met Kasigna’s gaze.

“I do not care for your version of the afterlife.”


Three Kasignas appeared high above Drevish. Maiden, Mother, Crone! They bent for him, screeching, too late.

The King of Destruction’s Architect had never made anything he couldn’t destroy. He had never envisioned a citadel he could not retake if the enemy held it. He had been given the authority to make Kasignel, and even if he was servant of the Goddess of Death, she had to let him think, and he had idly wondered how he might destroy Kasignel—just to speculate.

Drevish did it in a single moment. He opened a door in the air—and then collapsed the boundaries of Kasignel. Instantly, the entire realm began pouring through the door into another one.


The Goddess of Death howled. She smote Drevish’s soul out of existence, but it was too late. She tried to seize Kasignel, but now the Faerie King was gripping her shoulder. What had Drevish done?

Why, he had pulled the land of the dead into another dimension. With it—every single soul Kasigna had.

All the ones worshiping her.

All the ones that had restored her ruined nature. Ghosts began streaming through the hole in the air, and Kasignel snatched at them. She would capture them again! They were mere ghosts, and she was—was—

Then she saw where the ghosts were going and recoiled in horror. Her lands were flowing into another realm. The only one that had bested her.


The Goblin Kings watched as Kasignel began vanishing. Souls were flooding into their realm along with all the fabric of Kasignel. All her authority. All her power.


Kasigna seized her realm, anchoring it once more to her being. The Faerie King was dragging her back, but now she turned on him in wrath.

You will not best me, Oberon! You shall die! I mark you with my very nature!

She fixed his destiny to that of annihilation, one last spiteful blow, and touched the Free Queen with the same prophecy of death. But he never let go. Instead, the Faerie King tightened his grip.

“The same to you.”

Kasigna didn’t understand what he was doing—until she felt all the death of her nature flowing into him—and his power filling her.

Life. Chance. Trickery—but most of all, life. Kasigna tried to break free, shrieking now—and the Goddess of Death felt the strands of her connection to Kasignel vanishing.

Thread. By. Thread.

Halrac Everam swung his blade through Kasigna’s connection to Kasignel. Major Khorpe severed another strand, and Theillige cut a score apart. The Winter Fae lifted their sword as Oberon nodded—Kasigna erased Theillige from existence.

Three strands left. Kasignel was vanishing, and the ghosts were flying into Hellste. Halrac threw his sword as Khorpe did likewise.

Three faerie swords hung in the void for a moment, and Kasigna pulled, one aspect of her per thread. She tore loose from the Faerie King’s grip and pulled. Then heard laughter.

Three Winter Sprites dove into death’s heart and snatched up the swords. Each one cut, mocking, jeering, thumbing their nose at the Goddess of Death, and she screamed as they died with cries of triumph.

Kasigna reached for Hellste as her power faded—and Oberon closed the gap in reality. The Faerie King turned, touched by death, but looking down upon her for a moment as he closed the gap to his realm.

Looking at a screaming corpse that began to vanish.




“No. No!

Kasigna felt her base of power vanish. She was stumbling as Erin Solstice backed away, unsure of what was happening.

The Three-in-One flickered between her aspects, and each one was withering. Rotting. Her believers! Her power!

She still had some. But there was Kasignel. He—he had destroyed her realm! The Faerie King! No, that single mortal—

She was shrieking in the center of the Floodplains as the dead began to collapse around her. Erin saw Kasigna reaching out and pulling power from the undead, the remaining souls, like a starving scavenger.

The dead goddess looked more pathetic than she had when Erin first met her. Ryoka Griffin saw a rot overtake Kasigna worse than the first Winter Solstice.

You know me. I have worshippers. I cannot be defeated.

A hunching, gasping corpse staggered towards The Wandering Inn. Still and even still—she came for Erin Solstice.

She might kill Erin. If she instilled enough terror or found a realm—anything—the handful of mortals who now owed her fealty were keeping her alive. Die. Die, [Innkeeper]. Die, all of you.

If she had to eat them one-by-one…the Winter Solstice was still ongoing. She was holding the moment still out of sheer spite.

No one could slay her. Only injure her. Only set her back.

See? Why did the [Innkeeper] look down on her like that? Not with pity, but as if she were pathetic? Curse you. Curse the Gnomes. Curse you, Faerie King.

Kasigna had never understood other beings. She was death.

She…the arrow. Where was the arrow?

The corpse was searching the ground, unable to take an aspect, unable to stand existing in the mortal realm, but unwilling to admit defeat.

The grass refused to acknowledge her being. The wind blew around her, and the snow glistened. Die. Die! She tore up pieces of grass to remind it why it should fear her, crawling around, leaving a faint trail in the snow.

She found someone standing before her—tried to eat them, clawing at their legs.

Her daughter gently helped her to her feet.

Cauwine. Help me.

Kasigna saw her chance. Her daughter stood in the Floodplains—she would not fail!

Cauwine stepped back and bowed formally to her mother as Kasigna reached for her in relief. The dead Goddess of Last Stands looked at her mother with affection and regret.

“Mother? Mother, I swore that I would be something new. That I would change and not make the same mistakes you and the others make again and again. You see? That’s why they best us. No matter the cost.”

She gestured at the silent Floodplains. Kasigna only snarled, a guttural sound of spite. Cauwine paused, then bowed her head.

“I apologize. Treachery is the oldest thing of all for gods.”

Cauwine drew her blade as Kasigna turned to flee. The goddess drove her sword through Kasigna’s back and tore her form to shreds. She spoke to the air as a scream passed through the world and the Solstice broke to pieces.

“If you are wise, you will not come back from that.”


The Winter Solstice ended.




It was over. She did not weep. No one cheered.

But Kasigna was bested. Gone. Cauwine flickered out of existence, unable to sustain a corporeal form as the moons finally began to move and time resumed.

Erin Solstice stood in her [Garden of Sanctuary], wondering what had happened. Some grand trick, she knew. Some defeat for Kasigna that had well and truly laid her low.

Erin had not done it. She had merely survived. And the cost?


He was smiling on the frozen bier. Erin reached down, hesitated, but there was no Drake there. Nor would there be.

The souls were gone. Whether or not Kasigna still had power enough to shape this world, the greatest of the six had lost her advantage, had become weakest of all. A wretched, defeated goddess once more.

“All because of you. And them. And…”

They were dead. Erin had heard them die. Felt it. She leaned on the bier as frost chilled her hands and skin. She felt nothing.

Erin Solstice, like Kasigna, had lost something. A tattered and weary soul rose as she rested a hand on Khorpe’s shoulder.

Maybe some of the Antinium could be reborn. Maybe not all of them had died.


That wasn’t hope. Erin Solstice stumbled down the hill. She was empty of everything, but she did walk out of her [Garden of Sanctuary] at last. Into her inn.

It was not destroyed. Truly not.

Undead corpses were strewn in her hallway, and the Flying Antinium’s blood and bodies had reached the common room of the inn, but The Wandering Inn had been destroyed far more thoroughly before.

She wished it had been ruined. Erin wished her friends had not stood before her and the dead at the last.

“Normen? Ishkr? Anyone?”

Erin looked around and realized they were outside. Her protectors, her friends, the surviving people had stopped as the undead fell and walked out onto the Floodplains to just look around and finally understand what had happened.

The [Innkeeper] did not follow them. She just sat down on a chair not bloodied at a table that had survived the fighting.

“Never again.”

She would never, ever endure a Solstice like this again. Erin knew time was passing, now. She felt her bones aching, unable to think.

Tomorrow didn’t exist. She couldn’t count them. She couldn’t—Erin’s head drooped. She put her head down on the table, hesitated, but—yes.

She just let herself go. There was no way to process this. There was no grief, anger, nor even guilt enough for her.

For once, Erin was grateful. Let someone else sort this, if they even could. Let someone else give her guilt or triumph and tell her what it meant.

A dead goddess’ wrath.


Erin Solstice closed her eyes and waited. Her mind drifted, searching for an oblivion that would never last long enough, a relief she did not deserve. As ever, as always, she heard it in her ears.


[Witch of Second Chances L—BEHIND YOU]


Erin Solstice’s eyes snapped open. She pushed herself away from the table a second before something exploded with a soft pfft. She jerked away from the faint cloud and heard a voice.

“Erin? You al—”

Ulvama was looking around the room as she saw Erin whirl.


The [Innkeeper] lunged for her [Garden of Sanctuary]. Her hand was almost at the grass when the Gnoll leapt forwards and grabbed her. Iert opened a scroll, and Erin Solstice shouted.

Roshal. R—

Ulvama cried out as more warriors raced into the inn. A Drake who had been staring at her suddenly shaking claws looked down—and Tessa leapt down from the rafters as Erin collapsed. A poor bodyguard, but a deadly killer.

“Secure the other targets. Now.”

Iert’s eyes glowed as he drew a sword. Ulvama raised her staff and then heard a sound as he knocked the artifact from her hands and blew more dust into her face.

Outside, there was a sound louder than anything save thunder. A bang, the sound of a dozen explosions—Iert’s head rose with a snarl.

What did you do?

He howled at another figure, but then the Slavers of Roshal were running from The Wandering Inn as the Solstice turned to the darkness of another day.





Author’s Note:

When I wrote these three chapters in advance, I knew this was one of the hardest chapters I would write. Perhaps third hardest. For length and scope, perhaps the worst.

The Solstice continues. I have known how it will go for a year? Half a year? I cannot remember, but we are not done. We are, at least in the count of chapter-arcs, halfway excluding the epilogue. If I need time, I will take it, but I am writing the next chapter now. I will get it done, correctly.

Thank you for your patience.



Pryde and Grimalkin by ArtsyNada!

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/illudanajohns/

Ko-fi: https://ko-fi.com/illudanajohns


Marriage by Grimalkin!


Beach by Kim_Delicious!


Calruz and Zevara, Seborn, Moore and Mrsha, and more by TheBlondeOwl!


Raelt and Jecaina and Valmira’s Commet by 1AutumnLeaf!


Jecaina and Witch by paraffin!


Tolveilouka, Calescent, Gothica and more by Yura!


Erin vs Kasigna, Laedonius’ Fall, and Solstice by Yootie!


Czautha by Foxy!


InnFamily by Enshuu!


Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments