My Tomb at Night

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?

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.

Conversations in the Sky

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?’

‘I was.’ 

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.’

‘Really!?’

‘Yes.’

‘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.’

War at My Door: The Fifth Day

Erin.

I’m trapped. I am trapped in our cellar and I don’ think I can go anywhere. Someone has been knocking on every door and window upstairs for the last two days. The noise, the banging, it goes on for hours I think. I can’t stand it anymore.

Who is it? Could someone else have survived that dreadful night? Is it even possible that one our neighbours could have somehow managed to escape the Dothylfar? We’ve both heard what they are like, the rumours from the east, the monsters that they are made out to be. I even spoke to one of the mages from the Citadel once, the one that came to help with our drought two summers back. He told me he spent some time in Frosthaven with the Alchemists Guild before the war started and had to learn all about them. Such horrific stories for hundreds of years without a single account that doesn’t involve the spilling of blood.

‘The blood cursed of the Ayl’far’ he called them.

Do you remember when father would tell those creepy stories when mother was asleep in bed so as not to overhear? I know, it’s all folly and theatre when it’s not happening to you. He would tell us that they have a tragic history and that if we ever saw one that we shouldn’t talk to them or try to reason with them. Run, he would say to us should we ever have the misfortune to encounter one of the ash folk. Run home to the village and don’t look back.

Bloody hollow, I feel queasy! I can’t sleep well enough with father’s fur hides the only comfortable thing to lie on down here. The stones of the floor are cold and damp, I won’t get more than an hour of sleep before the rats feasting on that foul fucking cheese wake me up again. I’m almost out of bread too. I would strangle an Alamaxian right now for a decent meal and a cup of wine.

And I would consider shagging one too if it would get me a hot bath!

The hunters from the tavern would tell each other tales that were far worse than anything father told us. After a few ales, they would prattle on for hours about how bloodthirsty and savage they are, that they keep slaves in their cities and eat the flesh of their captives. Well after they came to our village, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt – it’s all true sister. They kill without remorse and sought only the utter destruction of everyone and everything we hold dear.

I saw one of them, Maellor help me, I saw one of them ravaging the miller’s wife with blood dripping down his mouth whilst he roared into the sky. I don’t even know if it was hers or if she was even still alive! I only caught a quick glimpse but the fire was bright and I saw what I saw long enough for the memory to have seared itself into my nightmares for the rest of my years.

That is why I cannot open the door to whoever it is that continues to ceaselessly bang their fists on every corner of our house. I just can’t let them know that I am here. No one could have survived that slaughter Erin. No one! So, it has to be them, the Dothylfar have come back to claim what they missed and the only thing stopping them is the block of oak wood blocking the entrance upstairs and the iron locks of our cellar door.

They must know I am here though, why else would they keep banging at my door like a feral Grimlurk? Oh, maybe it is one of them, from a horde of sodding Grimlurks dining on the leftovers the Dothylfar couldn’t be bothered to deal with. Nasty, rotten scavengers the lot of them.

Oh gods, please no! I’ve just realised something. What if it’s father? What if father somehow survived and has been desperately trying to get back into his house, our home? And I have stopped him from getting in. I’m the reason Erin, it’s my fault he is suffering. Suffering out there all alone with the Grimlurks and the Dothylfar, oh gods have mercy on us.

I need to go to him Erin, I need to let him in. He is trying to come home and I have ignored him for days, his own daughter has left him out there at the mercy of the foulest cursed creatures the gods have ever allowed to walk the lands in all of Ayl’gard.

Fuck them Erin. Fuck the gods and their twisted schemes! Fuck Maellor, fuck Mithron, fuck Samaia and Ashyara – FUCK every single one of them into the bowels of the hollow realm and may they rot for all of eternity. And fuck the King and his bitch, Baroness Orelia, for leaving us here to be murdered and mutilated at the hands of the enemy. It’s been days and no one is coming to help us. No one.

The knocking, it’s started again.

I need to go sister. He’s banging on the door and he wants to come home. Father is out there, all alone. No longer. No fucking longer!

I’m coming father, hold on. I’ll let you in…