Epic fantasy starring a mercenary with a low tolerance for injustice
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His childhood was spent serving in the mages' spire.
His boyhood was left behind on the battlefield.
After witnessing the slaughter of his friends, the mercenary Graef returns to the city of Abbalas to find the family he was never allowed to know. But what he finds is violence, corruption, and the dark secrets they protect.
The story begins…
1. The Fall of Abbalas
I am not sure of the day. The month could still be Lev or perhaps we are now into Chert. The clouds were so curdled, so dark and low in the days after the cataclysm we couldn’t tell noon from midnight and we clawed through the rubble for our children in darkness, sleet cutting our tears and snow, snow in Abbalas! snow in the north! falling like ash, chilling us to the bone.
Someone must come eventually who knows the day and I will note it and with the tally marks at the top of this page I will figure the day on which I started this record and amend it. The court is gone but still I follow the laws of documents. The written word continues to witness the living truth.
So much is gone. Crumbled upon the mountain’s face. The temples. The first families. For once the high terraces suffered more than the low. No! Already these lines defy the truth. Forgive me, I have no capacity to think before I write. The first families and their stewards and the city watch that watched only the high terraces, they were consumed in an instant. They did not know suffering or loss or even fear. And the poor huddled in the Shabs below the skirt of Abbalas, they stood and watched the mages’ spire, that great grey buttress of uncut stone, the heart of a mountain that divided our city, that towered over it, they watched it crack and shatter and fall upon them. They knew mortal fear and greater. They watched the spire fall upon them and knew there would be no pyre for their flesh, no joining the great hearth, only the crushing of stone. So few of the dead will have a pyre. Their lives ended and their reward snatched from them. I have not met a single priestess during these dark days of searching and scrabbling. All those lifetimes of devotion unrewarded.
Death is not meant to be the subject. But I write this with the ruins of Abbalas above, and the rubble of the spire at my back, under which thousands, thousands upon thousands and more, and their crowded hovels and the thronging markets and busy workshops and raucous wine houses and stinking beer stalls lie buried. A pocket of survivors, almost all from the west wing of Abbalas, west of the spire when the great stone heart still divided the city, gather between the rubble and the river. Few buildings here stand. The collapsing spire threw great slabs and spears of rock in all directions. They blasted the trading houses, the traveller rests, the warehouses, the boat builders, the chandleries, the rope walks, the people, into the river. The splintered wood has been carried by the current out to sea but yet the rubble of the broken spire fills the harbour like stepping stones. The flotsam jostling around them and against the high walls are all that is left of the boats and barges moored there. The harbour will not be usable, the river will not be passable until, until…maybe never again. The edge of Yalla's Cut has broken and fallen. The river backed up and now flows over and through the debris. The passage through the mountain, the glory of the ancient mages, is closed to boats, to people, to everything except birds and goats. That’s how we live now. Like goats and birds. But we are working. We are spending our days rebuilding, using our bare hands because that is all we now have.
The mages, hiding in their spire these last months, have died within it. How will the giant rocks be moved without them? Must we chisel and chip them away? I still tremble to think of all we will not do without their magic. Our enemies will pounce. And our friends, well, Abbalas has not had friends for a long time. Without the mages — whose predecessors carved Abbalas out of the mountain, who tamed the rivers, who twice humbled and drove off the Aelera, who brought peace to the Tithing Lands — how will the city ever be rebuilt?
Enough. Enough meandering. Enough mourning. With this line in perfect time of recorder’s hand writ sublime I brace myself. Ears be ready, heart be steady, fingers be quick.
I, Tammin Poletetsē, of Terrace Shallat when it stood, once humble scribe of the law courts of Abbalas, once and still devoted husband to Malla, once and still loving father to Pili, Bessa, Rin, and Salla, may these pages endure so their memory might endure when my heart does not, swear this will be a true recording and a full account of all that will be told to me and six true witnesses from Abbalas, before attending citizens and foreigners, by the son of Abbalas named Graef, with no father’s name, in this place, the warehouse of Irtsan Mallac, rug trader, presumed among the lost, to whom we are grateful for the warmth of his walls, the comfort of the stacked rugs we sit and lie upon, and the protection of what remains of his roof, on this, the __ day of the month __ of the 1426th year since the rout of the fiendish Aelera and the founding of Abbalas.