The Vadryn made themselves personal, by burrowing to the roots of their
despairs and suckling, like children from an unhealthy mother. They grew, like twisted caricatures of family,
roosting in the heart, cluttering it with debris, sending poison out to the
rest of the body. Sickness and
depression, lethargy and weakness, desperation and insanity; those were what
the Vadryn brought to men. They truly
were as a plague.
Alere unsheathed Aerkiren and watched the etchings upon
the blade begin to glow. “This has been
in my family for generations. Ironic
that it should draw the enemies it was intended to quell. That is why they attacked my home.”
“And killed your father,” Bastien
added needlessly, and not without some trace of sympathy.
Alere rejected it with his
response. “They murdered nearly my
entire family. Now I understand why I
was drawn to the mystic’s quest and why I would seek to complete it after his
passing. Here is the source of blame I
was after, the target of my revenge.” As
he spoke the bloodlust was rising, the eagerness to drive Aerkiren into the heart of the enemy he’d never known before this
moment, but whom he’d been hunting for years.
Nothing would sate his sudden appetite for slaying except the blood of
“Malek Vorhaven dies tonight,”
Alere decided, and he stalked further into the shadows of the house, determined
to kill anyone or anything that tried to interfere.
Once on land, the caravan continued
west. They were not headed due west, at
some point on the sea they had veered north.
On land they moved at a slight northern angle away from the harsh shores
of Callipry. The immediate area was a
district known as Stormbright and the seaside hamlet behind the caravan, a few
days’ travel from Nelayne, was called Barten’s Palace—which Xu Liang found of
peculiar interest as there was no palace anywhere in sight. When his party camped at night he made
detailed accounts of all that he had seen and heard. Though he had not come to this place for the
first time he knew better than to think that one look or even a thousand would
ever reveal all that there was to be learned.
He drew several maps during his travels and found himself constantly
adding to them.
In the morning he painted the
landscape. The last time he had come to
this land it was the autumn season, and the trees were barren and thin,
skeletal and yet still beautiful. The
sky was often gray; a textured, but unbroken canopy of clouds that felt cold to
look at. It was spring now and the trees
were full, a blanket of jade silk spilling down the craggy terrain that skirted
the road Xu Liang’s company followed.
The sky seemed to glow overhead, even on a day when dark clouds
encroached, and now Xu Liang understood the name Stormbright.
He wished he had more time.
He wished that he could explore more of this realm, more of every realm
in what his people simply referred to as the World and what those outside Sheng
Fan had come to call Dryth.