Home > Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen #1)(2)

Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen #1)(2)
John Gwynne

‘Asroth,’ whispered Rhin, falling to her knees.

‘What do you desire?’ a sibilant voice asked.

Evnis swallowed, his mouth dry. I must take what is owed me, step out from my brother’s shadow. See it through.

‘Power,’ he rasped. Then, louder, taking a deep breath. ‘Power. I would rule. My brother, all of Ardan.’

Laughter, low at first, but growing until it filled the glade. Then silence, thick and heavy as the cobwebs that draped the trees.

‘It shall be yours,’ the figure said.

Evnis felt a trickle of sweat slide down his forehead. ‘What do you want in return? What is your price?’

‘My price is you,’ the swirling figure said, eyes pinning him. ‘I want you.’ The lips of the ancient face in the steam twitched, a glimmer of a smile.

‘So be it,’ said Evnis.

‘Seal it in blood,’ the ancient face snarled.

Rhin held her knife out.

See it through, see it through, see it through, Evnis repeated silently, like a mantra. He clenched his teeth tightly together, gripped the knife, his palm clammy with sweat and drew it quickly across his other hand. Curling his fingers into a fist, he stepped forward, thrusting it into the steam above the iron pot. Blood dripped from his hand into the cauldron, where it immediately began to bubble. A force like a physical blow slammed into his chest, seemed to pass through him. He gasped and sank to his knees, gulping in great, ragged breaths.

The voice exploded in his head, pain shooting through his body.

He screamed.

‘It is done,’ the voice said.

EXCERPT

The Writings of Halvor

Discovered in 1138 of the Age of Exiles, beneath the ruined fortress of Drassil. Over two thousand years after it was written

The world is broken.

The God-War has changed all things, Asroth’s scheming, Elyon’s wrath, corrupted and destroyed so much. Mankind has vanished, annihilated or fled these shores, and we are so few, now. We giants, Sundered, the one clan split beyond all reconciliation.

A thousand years I, Halvor, have lived, Voice of the King. Now great Skald is dead, his kin scattered. I shall not live a thousand more. I lament the past, I remember and weep.

I am still the Voice, though I do not know who will listen. But if I do not speak, do not write, then there will be nothing for those who follow. All that has happened would be forgotten. And so I shall write a record . . .

When the starstone fell we should have listened to mankind and turned our faces from it, but its power sang to us, called us. Just as Asroth planned.

Asroth was first-created, Elyon’s beloved, captain of the Ben-Elim, the Sons of the Mighty. But that was not enough for him, the great deceiver. He spread his deep malice and his lies amongst the Ben-Elim, until a host grew about him. The Kadoshim they became: the Separate Ones.

Elyon saw, but could not bear to raise his fist against his beloved, and so war raged between the Kadoshim and the Ben-Elim, there in the Otherworld, the place of Spirit. Asroth was defeated and banished to a solitary portion of the Otherworld.

Then Elyon continued his plan of creation, making the worlds of flesh, of which earth was first. Giants and men were created as lords of this earth, immortal overseers of all else that roamed or grew, and they lived in harmony with their creator and all that he had created.

And Asroth hated us.

Asroth’s starstone fell to earth, vast and filled with power. Somehow it carved a link between the world of flesh and spirit, between the earth and the Otherworld. Men were fearful of this strange object, but the giants forged from it, made items of wonder and power, great Treasures. First was the cauldron, its power used to heal. Then a torc, given to Skald, the giant’s king, and a necklace for Nemain, his queen.

Asroth used the starstone to spread his influence on earth, whispering, corrupting. Skald was slain, the first murder, his torc stolen, and death entered the world, immortality stripped from all things as Elyon’s punishment and warning. Then came the Sundering. War erupted, giant fighting against giant, and the one clan became many. More Treasures were carved from the starstone, this time things of war: spear, axe, dagger. And finally a cup, said to bring strength and long life to all who drank from it.

The mantle of death fell upon the world as war spread. Mankind was caught in it, giving their oaths to the giant clans in the hope of capturing the Treasures and restoring their immortality. Blood was spilt in rivers, and Asroth rejoiced.

Finally, Elyon’s wrath was stirred. He visited his judgment upon the earth, which we named the Scourging. The Ben-Elim were let loose, spreading his judgement in fire and water and blood. Seas boiled, mountains spewed fire and the earth was broken as Elyon set about destroying all that he had created.

When his judgement was almost complete Elyon heard something, echoing in the Otherworld. The laughter of Asroth.

Elyon realized the extent of his foe’s deception, saw that all had been done to bring him to this point. In horror he ceased the Scourging, leaving a remnant alive. Elyon’s grief was beyond all comprehension. He turned from us, from all creation, and retreated to a place of mourning, cut off from all things. He is there still.

The Ben-Elim and Kadoshim abide in the Otherworld, their war eternal. Asroth and his fallen angels seeking to destroy us, the Ben-Elim striving to protect us, a token of their abiding love for Elyon.

And here in the world of flesh the breath of life goes on. Some strive to rebuild what was lost in this place of ash and decay. As for me, I look upon the world and mourn, here in Drassil, once-great city, heart of the world. Now broken, failing, like all else. Even my kin are leaving: Forn is too wild, too dangerous, now, they say, and we are too few. North they are going, abandoning all. Abandoning me. I shall not leave.

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