When we sleep we are not dead, nor are we truly alive. And I despise it.
To close my eyes each night and lose myself to the world as it continues on, going about its business without me, is a loss I cannot abide. Yet I have no choice. Our internal mechanics decree that without sleep, we cannot function as we should. Without these long hours lost to the dark din of senseless slumber, we simply will not be as we should be. It is known that the ‘typical’ person, one who gets roughly the necessary amount of sleep that the average person requires, will have slept for a quarter of a century by the time they turn seventy-five. A quarter of a century. That is twenty-five years of a life lost to chasing shadows in the night as our minds wander beyond sense and reason into a world nigh unfathomable to even the most logical minds.
Why must I strive to make the most of each and every day only to have to surrender myself to the forces of nature? The dolphin can get by with only allowing half of itself to sleep each day. The bullfrog can go for months at a time without it. Yet we must capitulate. If I were to stand tall and attempt to defy my natural state of being, my strength would fade, my mind would crumble and I would eventually come to embody the guise of someone bereft of life. A husk of a man devoid of spark. He who wanders the world holding his lantern low, dimly lit with a quiet wisp of candlelight. Without sleep we forfeit our capability, our sanity and even our lives.
There are many who welcome the rest. They who see their beds as a cradle of comfort, a chance to switch off and give in. To let the shroud of nightly dreams claim their minds each and every passing of the moon as they drift into worlds both strange and familiar. Their beds become their nests. An enticing embrace of warmth and wellbeing to close out the day. To me though, it is a tomb. Not of cold stones or lifeless bones but a tomb nonetheless. Each night I lie, motionless in the dark, waiting as my mind wanders pathways not chosen by me. Waiting for the sun to greet us all each morning, to ‘grace’ me with the permission to rise once more, to walk the world anew.
What do you dream of? I dream of never dreaming for my dreams offer me nothing, yet my waking thoughts give me everything.
I know that I need to sleep but I do not want it. Now or ever. It gives us our rest, at least when blessed enough to maintain it sufficiently, but it is also a loss of time, a loss of life. My time. My life. I am no longer a child gifted with countless years to come, able to waste my days in blissful ignorance of purpose. I am a man now and I desire to command my time as I see fit. My time, my life, has more meaning than that younger version of me could ever comprehend. He knew little of his resolve, his intent, and he had time to burn. I now know my purpose. I now know my desires, and I want my nightly hours, enshrouded in my wasteful tomb, for me.
Give back to me that which is taken. Give me the chance to trade away this need for sleep in exchange for a life truly fulfilled. There is no eternity for man or woman. Only the burning embers of a candle that grows dimmer each year.
I despise sleep. And it despises me. I will sleep when I die. Only then will I truly rest in peace.
Forged from Reverie.
It is a warm evening in Amberfall as the rains wash over the city, blanketed by the glow of the setting sun. The Amberglow is full effect for everyone still walking the streets of city. Clambering road vendors hastily shelter their goods and tavern goers stand in awe with their ales at hand as Mithron’s gaze simmers through the rain drops causing a cascade of colour to fill the sky as the sun beams through the stained windows of the glass towers dotting the illustrious Glass Quarter.
‘It is so beautiful, isn’t it grandmother?’
Little Aeliana, a daughter of House Emberheart, is reluctant to climb in to bed as she stands on the balcony of her bedroom window looking up to the sky. The Amberglow doesn’t happen very often and she wants to take it all in.
‘It is my dear but I think it’s time you got back into bed now. You wouldn’t want your uncle to rile himself up into a temper again, would you?’
Lady Isabelle Emberheart, mother to the late Lord Lothar Emberheart, is sitting patiently on the edge of her granddaughter’s bed.
Aeliana sighs. ‘It doesn’t seem to take much for him to get mad these days.’
‘I know but try to remember, he is a busy man with much to do. Our baroness has taken up quite a bit of his time lately and it is his duty as the head of our House to see that we do our part to aid the war effort.’
‘The Dothylfar, they won’t be coming here will they grandmother?’ she asks as she clambers into bed, becoming quite cosy between her emerald coloured sheets.
‘Very doubtful. The war is far too the east but there is still much that needs to be done. It is not for us to sit idle whilst our countrymen fight valiantly to defend Ayrlaston.’
Aeliana pushes her sheets aside and sits up eagerly, grasping her grandmothers hand as she stares intently into her palm.
‘I hope they do come here.’
Isabelle is a little confused by her granddaughter’s odd desire. ‘Really? Why is that?’
With vigour in her voice and a prideful gleam in her eyes, Aeliana positions herself upright as if she were delivering a message to the people of the city.
‘Command the Silver Legion to stand aside and let the Bloody Horde march to the gates of Amberfall! Then they shall suffer the wrath of Isabelle Pyremane, the greatest pyromancer in the history of House Emberheart.’
Isabelle chuckles to herself as she ushers Aeliana back under the covers.
‘I see you’ve been listening in on meetings tended by grown-ups where little girls ought not find themselves. Anyway, I think your great, great grandfather would have had something to say about that proclamation my dear.’
‘Lucien Emberheart? I’ve read about him but I have seen what you can do. Those burglars never stood a chance when you turned the embers in our fireplace into a flaming wolf. They were so startled when you sent it charging toward them. It was spectacular!’
Isabelle gently presses her finger onto the tip of Aeliana’s nose. ‘You weren’t frightened?’
Aeliana responds by playfully pressing her own finger onto Isabelle’s nose, giggling as she does.
‘But I always feel safe when I am with you.’
‘That is kind of you to say dear, however, I hope to never see you placed into such a dangerous situation as to have to do anything like that again. I would happily trade away all of my fire magicks if it meant you would grow up never knowing the horrors of this world.’
Aeliana looks into the misty eyes of her grandmother and smiles as Isabelle caresses her cheek.
‘I know but if the Dothylfar burst into this room right now, you would burn their bloody bones to dust, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you grandmother?!’
‘Aeliana!? Such language, you surprise me.’
Isabelle tries her best to give her granddaughter a disapproving grimace but she can’t help but smile at her exuberant attitude toward the line of fire magicks running through her House lineage.
‘You bloody bet I would’ she quips as they giggle to each other.
Aeliana squints as she looks out of her open window to see that the Amberglow amidst the gentle rains has all but come to an end. The sky is now almost pitch black but for the stars and a stream of purple light in the distance.
‘Do you know what my own grandmother once told me?’ asks Isabelle.
‘Don’t yell out whilst sitting in the court of the baroness and sit still’ responds Aeliana hastily.
‘They sound more like your uncle’s words to me.’
Aeliana nods with a huff as she has become all too familiar with that phrase.
Isabelle continues. ‘Once she told me, on a warm evening just like this as she was putting me to bed, that you can tell which of the gods are talking to each other just by looking up at the colours of the sky.’
‘Wow! The sky is purple and black so who is talking right now?’
‘Well, a black sky is to be expected. The sun has set over the Summerpeak Mountains after all. When the night veil shrouds the sky, the Aeons, Samaia and Ashyara, begin to talk to each other as they do every night. But we have a bit of purple on the horizon don’t we so who do you suppose has popped in for a visit?’
Aeliana thinks hard as she tries to recall her lessons about the gods and their influence upon the world of Ayl’gard.
‘Erm, is it Mithron?’
‘I’m afraid not. Mithron is the god of the sun so he only appears during the day. At night, he rests so that his sisters may rise. Have another guess.’
‘Is it Siroth? Lucrecia? No, is it Amon?’
‘Three guesses eh? Cheeky girl.’
Isabelle moves in closer as she points to the purple hue in the sky.
‘It is Lucrecia, she has joined her sisters for a little gathering.’
‘That sounds delightful.’
‘I dare say it is. Perhaps they will have tea and cakes.’
‘And raspberry jam on toast?’
‘And raspberry jam on toast.’
Aeliana pauses for a moment to think further about the last few nights and the colours she saw in the sky whilst trying her best not to become distracted by thoughts of tomorrow mornings breakfast.
‘Last night, there was a bit of green as the sun set I think. Who would that be?’
‘Green? That could only be Ysana, goddess of the rivers, the forest and all that dwell within.’
‘What if it is orange? Like it was last week when you took me to the Festival of Summers End?’
‘Ah yes, I remember that. Your uncle tried to scold me for letting you stay up so late’ Isabelle says with a knowing grin.
‘I reminded him of the time I took him to that same festival when he was your age. He soon shut up about it.’
Aeliana delights in the knowledge of her uncle’s childhood, which she has heard little about up to this point.
‘Regardless, orange means fire. It represents the roaring flames of the twin gods of war…’
‘That would be Kohnar and…. erm!’
‘Come on Aeliana, you know this. I mentioned them last week when I read to you that story from our library.’
‘Kohnar and Morighan’ Aeliana responds as quickly as her memory will allow.
‘Precisely. Well done.’
‘What if it is still a little blue? A deep blue like from the sea, is that Maellor?’
‘Excellent my dear. Using your good common sense, are we? That’s my girl.’
‘And if it is red, like blood, the sky is bleeding as Moloch has emerged from his eternal tomb. Is that right?’
Isabelle stops for a moment, rendered speechless by her granddaughter’s words as her skin prickles and the colour drains from her face ever so slightly.
‘Where did you learn that Aeliana? Answer me!’ demands Isabelle sharply.
Aeliana sinks slowly into her bed sheets. ‘Did I say something I shouldn’t have grandmother? I’m sorry.’
Isabelle embraces her granddaughter, wrapping her arms around her to reassure her whilst scolding herself with a sigh for reacting so firmly.
‘You haven’t said a word that I would consider to be wrong my dear. You just, what you said took me by surprise. The name you just mentioned, Moloch. It is one that I haven’t heard in many years.’
‘Cousin Tristan told me about him. That he was once a brother to the gods until he betrayed them.’
‘Your cousin is correct but that shan’t stop me having words with the little imbecile! There is a reason Moloch is referred to as the dead god. His name and everything that was once associated with him was buried, along with his followers, many thousands of years ago. By bringing his name back from the ether of the Hollow Plane, we breathe life into a dark, very distant memory. One that ought to be left forgotten.’
‘Spooky!’ says Aeliana with wide eyes.
‘One day, when you are much older, I’ll tell you all that I know of the Treacherous One. Right now, it is time to go to sleep.’
‘Very well grandmother.’
Aeliana jostles with the covers as she lays her head upon the soft pillow whilst her grandmother begins to dim the candlelight in the room, one by one.
Isabelle lays her hand upon her granddaughter’s head before she leaves. ‘Good night Aeliana. I’ll come and wake you in the morning. I’m taking you to the city market and we’ll pick up some of that raspberry jam that you like so much.’
Aeliana beams with a smile as she struggles to contain her excitement. ‘Can I ask one last question before you go?’
‘One last question. What is it?’
‘What does it mean when the sky is pink?’
‘Pink? Well, that is colour your cousin’s cheeks will turn once I’m finished slapping some sense into that dim-witted fool of a boy who thinks he can fill my granddaughters head with such nonsense.’
‘Is there a little pink in the sky right now grandmother?’
Isabelle walks over to the opening overlooking the balcony and gently closes the stained-glass windows before slowly drawing the curtains shut.
‘Why yes Aeliana, I believe there is.’
In the heart of Ayrlaston, at the centre of a vast region of rivers and marshlands known as the Middemire, lies the city of Daggeron. It is an old city of water and wood, one with a history divided by circumstances of both valour and vanity. Which era can be attributed to which though is entirely dependent on who sits as the baron of the riverborn at any given time.
Today that man is Baron Edrik Thorn, second son of the late Elwin Thorn and husband to Lady Miriam. Ambitious, cunning and resourceful are all words that have been used to describe this man and none can be considered more appropriate than the former. He has earned the mocking title of the ‘Mire King’ by his fellow lords and ladies, such is his desire to rule his lands, and some might say the entire country, without having to bend the knee to another.
The great silver hall known as the Chamber of Kings is the seat of the silverborn and the House of the Valorayne Kings of Ayrlaston. Every year, the barons of the kingdom are summoned to an assembly to discuss the matters of rule and realm. Before the long talks and feasting may commence, each baron must bow to their king before all to see as a continued show of allegiance to their master and ruler. For the barons of Stonehold, Frosthaven and Amberfall this a formality that takes mere seconds to fulfil. They understand the prosperity of their unity and will not allow hubris to sully their allegiance. Yet for the stubborn Edrik Thorn, whether through spite or pride, the simple act of kneeling before his king is a burden almost too heavy to bear as he is always the last to bow.
‘The House of Valorayne and the House of Thorn, once we were equals in the great Court of Winter, when men ruled solely in the northern realms. Now I must bend the knee to that pompous arse of a king every time I see him? He who drinks wine with our so-called allies from Wintermere and dallies over trade agreements with those gold peddling Mithylfar fools to the south. The very thought vexes me. One day my son, our roots will grow deep and we shall be free of the rule of fools.’ – Edrik speaking to a young Edgar Thorn as he comes of age.
Many men and women have served the Baron of Daggeron in the decades since his father and elder brother disappeared, a dark hour for the barony still mired in mystery and murmurings of foul deeds. To this very day their bodies, nor any evidence of their whereabouts, have ever been recovered. Upon being informed of his father’s disappearance, after weeks spent enjoying the company of his new bride in Frosthaven, is was said that Edrik walked over to the fire pit in his father’s hall and burnt the letter from the king informing him that he must take up the mantle of baron before taking his seat as lord of the Middemire. In the years since, many have also fallen, in dark ways and in death, to the whims of a man never having been content with his station in life.
Edgar Thorn, firstborn and heir to his father’s seat, was killed in a bloody battle as he led the River Bann in the war against the Dothylfar years ago. The House of Thorn and every proud citizen of Daggeron would have you believe he fell to the Bloody Horde in a glorious clash of blood and blades, dying with honour as he served his House and his king to rid the Eastreach of this terrible scourge. The more commonly known story though is that he tried and failed to kill the son of the king whilst the fight raged on. There are some who doubt such a claim, saying how can Edgar Thorn have mistaken the silver clad son of the king for an ashen, blood smeared Dothylfar. Many others, including the nearby survivors who were said to have witnessed this, speak of the battle being so bloody that there was not a soldier amongst them who was not coated in a blood red veil and that the son of the baron seized the opportunity to carry out his father’s orders that night. A tale furiously denied by the Edrik Thorn to this very day. Any who speak the words saying it was so within earshot of the Bann are sentenced to be executed.
Cedrik Thorn, secondborn and now next in line to succeed his father after his brother’s death, may never see the day he becomes the Baron of Daggeron. He was a popular, charitable man and well-liked by his subjects and the people of the city, yet he never saw eye to eye with his father. Their conversations rarely ended in anything but aggressive debate. Those who consume, intentionally or not, the sap of the ebonroot are condemned to sleep for eternity. No one knows for sure how he quite managed to ingest such a substance but the effects are unmistakable. His eyes are unblinking and ever open, unable to close but he sees nothing. His skin bears a strange hue of darkened grey as if every day that passes his life to continues to gradually drain from him. Cedrik’s days are now spent in this perpetual ‘sleep’ within his room where his frail mother Miriam watches over him, day and night, tending to his needs in the hope that he will one day awaken from this nightmare. Every now and then he whispers a single word, father, yet despite this still he remains ignorant and cold to the waking world.
Though the fate of his elder brothers remains clouded in uncertainty, there can be no doubting what happened to Edmond Thorn, third son of Edrik. Whilst feasting with his family one evening, Edmond looked around their table to see the seats of his brothers and mother empty. Gripped by sorrow and angered by the ambitious machinations of his father, Edmond lost his temper and proceeded to shout words riddled with years’ worth of pent up anguish and frustration.
‘Look around father, look at this feast and all we have and yet our table grows emptier with each passing year. My brothers lie dead, broken or are trapped in towers miles away succumbing to the madness of your wishes. How many sons are you prepared to lose before you are finally satisfied?’
Edrik said nothing at first in response to this assault on his pride and on his honour. Instead he drew his blade, a sword of sapphires and black steel passed down through the ages from father to son, that was resting by his seat and plunged it deep into his son’s chest and spoke these words before he died.
‘You are my son, my blood, mine to use as I see fit. If you have nothing for me but bitter words and treachery in your thoughts, then I have no use for you. Now or ever again.’
Only two of his sons remain amongst the living. Elrik Thorn, a talented man who bears the burden of his father’s name and the reputation of his House as he resides as a mage of the Aeon Citadel. His awakening to magick as a boy was both a horrifying and gratifying experience as Edrik saw in his fourthborn son the potential to bring great honour and prestige to the House of Thorn as one of the most naturally gifted water weavers in the kingdom. It is this potential that greatly excites the baron as he eagerly awaits the culmination of Elrik’s progress.
The other is Eron Thorn, a callous man possessing great athletic prowess and sharp wit, who is imprisoned in the Spire of Covenraen for attempting to steal from the Vault of the Valoraynes. What would possess him to even try such a bold move? This is a question many have asked, including the Silver Legion commanders responsible for keeping him locked away. Their inquiries are met only with blunt observations, remarks about their lineage and incessant requests for female companionship and all are spoken wryly with a mocking smile. The king awaits his father’s attendance in his halls to answer for the crimes of his son.
The great table of House Thorn once sat a loving mother, her five young sons and a proud father with a strong will who had yet to be fully consumed by his ambitions. Now it sits empty with each evening that passes’ as Edrik Thorn dines alone, scheming in his chambers and patiently awaiting the day the last of his sons will return home to him.