The Light At The End Of The World...
(Outer Lands, Year of Our King 47)
Prolog - Night of Fire
The mountain burned and the night was on fire. Flame fell in red-yellow rain out of
the darkened sky, moonless while people ran and screamed in the streets below. The palace
itself gone, amid black and shattered rubble. The nobles stood their ground as best they could,
five hundred soldiers on the smoking common beyond the barracks of the palace grounds.
Clerics and Acolytes of the Church of Lost Shards ran among the men, old and young alike
bowing and giving prayers for the coming battle.
Except no battle came.
Dark clouds gathered in the burning sky and blue lightening crackled between those black
thunderheads. Reflected in the running peoples upturned gazes, from face to face and then in
a sudden burst of blue light that brightened the sky almost as if to daylight, The lightening fell.
Striking the cobblestoned common in the center of the city.
Where Soldiers and Clerics and Acolytes alike all writhed in blue blinking light.
And then were gone.
Leaving only a blackened space in the center of the city.
If panic had siezed the people of E'Lan as the rain of flame fell, now then it was a route.
They ran, their eyes wide and uncomprehending.
Fear on their lips only shouted in gutteral and unknown syllables that were not even words.
Chapter 1: Leaving E'Lan -
Two hours before shore fall, Erel made her way back from the hot and crowded front of the
cargo hold along the worn wooded deck that held the other hundred captured families as the
ship rocked from side to side in the night sea.
'Only a hundred?' It seemed unreal.
A township of over 1,000 fishermen and farmers of E'Lan, and only a few hundred escaped.
She wanted to weep.
Her father had stayed behind, her mother refusing to believe he was dead.
But how could it be otherwise?
Erel wanted to believe that he still...
But then the logic that her father had always told her would profit more than wishful thinking
surfaced. The chances were slim to none that he would have survived after the Fell soldiers
had entered the city.
Best to not hope.
She girded her mind, but her heart did not listen at all to such logic.
She cried, almost ceaselessly along the dark nights as the Dark ships had gathered them and
chained them and set sail across the dark night waters while the city still burned behind them.
"Why did he have to stay behind?・Suest had cried, gripping the hand of Erel's sister Enne.
Over and over again. Her tear stained eyes searching the heavens for some answer that the
Eternals seemed reluctant to give.
Erel moved slowly, her feet scraping slowly against the splintered deck, picking her way
carefully through the ragged huddled figures of weeping women, crying children, the silent
and dull eyed men that were sitting on crates and bags, and boxes of hastily packed
belongings, wrapped in their worn and torn red cloaks.
The air in the hold was chill, people's breath came in small puffs of condensed mist from their
By the Eternals! Forty-two days in the hold of this ship on this seemingly endless voyage!
But then again, E'Lan was a craggy stone jutting out of the deep ocean and far removed from
the rest of the world, laying beyond the Kingdoms of Men and the Fallen Empires where many
that were disenchanted of the world and the war had retreated after the Last Battle. The
islands themselves were not easy to get to, separated across the seas, amidst steep mountains
which ringed those steep sided crags of rock and stone filled soil. Protected they had thought.
Protected from the mercenary armies of The Titans, The Fallen and other 'humans' as well.
A farming and fishing community of 5,000 scattered over the three islands green hills, people
and cows, chickens and ragged dogs, scratching in the dirt and the mud and the rain or on slick
wooded decks amid the hard sunlight of day, or the storm tossed waves that rode the night
with nets held aloft in gnarled and worn hands, to make a life.
The skies had been tinged with green there. In those quiet lands far removed from the rest of
the world. It seemed appropriate that the air was tinged with the soft green light as it fell
through the Tower trees, each a thousand feet tall that grew in a ring about the hard stone
edges that held the islands against the onslaught of the open sea. It was appropriate for the
refugees who had come there, a hundred years ago now, and made their lives there.
Three islands floated in those distant green-blue seas, E'Lan, Erel, and Emu. The closest to
those 'Fell' lands was E'Lan. And the first that had been set on by the Dark Horde who called
themselves the Resolnin. Brutish and dark eyed, and dark blue of skin that had come out of the
Ether, beyond the mist at the edge of the world at The Titans bidding. Armies of hideously
cragged faced Dragars, and savage Wolven. The Legions of rotting and bleeding Dead and the
slaves, the humans they had conquered.
From more ancient places and ancient days than the refugees could even imagine.
Only the Fae themselves remembered.
Though they did not speak of it with any of the others in the world at all.
The refugees were a smattering of all of the races, though certainly younger than the Fae
themselves. The Resolnin were older, and malevolent.
The youngest were the New Kingdoms that had sprung up in the aftermath of the Last Battle.
Intent on the wresting of adjacent lands from the wilderness and its dangers. Preoccupied
with surviving amid the broken world.
But what had brought the Resolnin?
And what happened to the other islands?
Erel grimaced, her mouth pulling down into a tight frown. Hate was something to keep you
warm, when hope and warm light faded! She wanted to put her fist through the porthole and
hit them! But of course only the Dead armies and the Fell beasts had landed on E'Lan. No
actual Resolnin had even stepped onto the shore of their lands, though the Dead and the
Beasts had proven methodical and efficient enough. They had worked their way across the
hills and valleys of E'Lan, whether stream or mountain, or plain, with slow plodding and
murderous effect. The warm green skies had run with smoke, the ground had run with blood
and debris. The fields ripped and trampled by heavy feet and the claws of the winged Dragar.
Like long black worms on clawed legs mindlessly working their way inland.
Erel's father had put her mother and sister and her on an evacuating caravan of horse herders
moving south, away from the carnage, and kissed them quickly, run a rough farmer's hand
through her dark hair.
"You take care of your mother now," he had said and squeezed her hand in his, then pressed
his lips close to her ear and whispered, She doesn't know what to do in all this. Remember
what we are, we are E'lani, of the land... we take our strength from the land, and our resolve,
and our peace. Help your mother, she will endure, but she is not E'Lani, she is an outsider,
afraid and alone among the other tribes. She will not know what to do. Help her."
And then he had gathered her up and put her into the wooden cart beside her younger sister,
set behind the group of six horses of one of the carts of the caravan and smoothed her cheek
with his rough hand.
She watched him, tears streaming down her face as Enne silently wept.
She was afraid, and yet her father asked her to be strong!
How could she do this?
She watched crying, bawling like a newborn lamb in a cold barn, while he gathered up her
mother in his arms, his brown work shirt still stained from the fields. And he had smiled. He
was looking at her mother and his face lit up, like a light, his eyes warm, the way he stood,
casual, and strong, as if he had just come in from the fields and swept her mother up into his
arms and asked her to dance.
There were no soft smells from the cooking fires, or the smell of close thatch from the walls of
the houses. They were in the open air and the sky, still a bright green beyond the smoke made
it all seem a normal... an average, small, comfortable, and quiet day. His eyes gleamed with
joy and love and he gathered up her mother as if she were only a youngling girl just married,
and placed her in the next cart. He kissed her quickly and Erel had seen her mother's eyes, still
crying and tears streaming, but she had smiled at holding her man.
Erel wanted to cry again, but for joy, even in these dark times, that there was still love.
He had stepped back then, dust swirling as the horses had gathered there legs under
themselves and stood. Rising twelve hand spans above the ground. Her father had stood there
with a group of the other men who had decided to stay, to see if they could fight. He waved as
the herders moved the brown haired horses with their carts in slow plodding steps down the
grass and dirt tracked road out of the town. Her mother had watched, her hands gripping the
wooden rails of the cart as they moved away.
Erel had stopped crying long enough to wave and try to smile, holding onto her sisters hand,
and while her heart broke, it was still a joy to see her father standing with the other men. They
would do something! It was improper to let the anger show so freely in her, but she let it. For a
moment, she was like her father, standing in the dusty air in the dwindling distance. She
would fight! The Resolnin would pay! But then she had seen her mother fold down into the
other cart and begin to weep again. How could she give comfort and soothing words when
anger pulled so much in her?
She yelled across the distance then, to her mother, to give her courage... and partially to her
father who was just a slim shadow now down the road, the fields moved past,
It meant of course that they would. Would survive, would go on, would fight back, would
It was in her heart! She stared past the porthole into the dark night and thought of those
forty-two days after their capture by the Resolnin where they had been taken to the harbor
where their tall sailless ships had sat with long poles laying still in the green water.
Forty two days of eating, sleeping, relieving themselves in tin pots that had then been
emptied over the side of the ship, still the smell lingered, like that in a barn, heavy in winter
cold, when no air was let out to remove the stench. At the edge of the porthole view, there
was Hagudst, dark gray and brown amidst the hard stone of the land itself, dark clouds and
dark sky!! By the Eternals how dark! It seemed an alien place. Far removed from what was
familiar. A new world...
What would lie here in this dark place?
What fate or life awaited them here?
She had expected to die, on the shore as the Dead had siezed them. But they had not.
What then were the Resolnin planning for them?
Slaves to their armies and beasts?
Soldiers in their dead armies when their cruel life was over and they were recruited into that
Legion of the Damned?
Their young Acolytes in black robes moved silently among the survivors, with hard dark eyes
and sneering lips as they paced with their spears at the edges of the hold.
Some would stop and mutter a word, but only the older Sisters, the chains of teeth around
their necks showing they had been among the Resolnin for many years, one tooth for each
The Resolnin were a bastard race, not a true race, but a group of refugees that had become
slaves to the Dark Titans, like the E'Lani now, who had made choices and come to their
circumstances for reasons of their own. Erel had watched them, the young girls with dark faces
and big eyes, and silent. The older women with their chains of teeth and staring eyes, that said
little. The mad men who had been quieted by Dead spears, and the soft moaning of grieving
women still weeping, rocking, their arms about their legs and their faces pressed into their
Still weeping, for all the world as if the pain would never end.
Erel thought that it might not. But her anger made her want to fight back, not to continue to
cry, though she still did cry. She twisted a corner of her brown robe in her fist and thought of
what she would do when she got hold of a sword! And not just to one of their Dead or Beasts!
It was a small comfort to vent her anger, but still a comfort. She gazed back over her shoulder
to watch her mother, still seated on their bundle of bags, the bent silent, still softly weeping
woman with Enne huddled against her mother's shoulder. How could she help them? She
wanted to go back and sit with them, put an arm about their shoulders and press her face into
their hair and say,
"It will be all right..."
Though she didn't believe it.
Along the back one of the raging men, a mad man who had lost his family stood screaming!
The din seemed normal after forty-two days. He stood screaming at the thin air, shaking his fist
in a way that Erel understood very well. An older Resolnin Acolyte woman approached him,
many had since the start of the voyage, but none had tried to stop him.
Perhaps there was a particular madness to his eyes?
One that even the Acolytes did not dare to still?
The woman wore the black and red robes of an elder Sister, perhaps even the head of the small group
that had come to E'Lan in the aftermath of their capture when they had first been brought
aboard the dark sailless ships. The woman approached him, without a flicker to her dark eyes,
she stopped and stood before him, his fist shaking not more than a few inches from her face,
but his eyes were blank and tear stained.
Of course he didn’t see her at all! The woman opened her mouth then and said a few words.
Erel from across the hold could not hear what they were, but the man stopped. His unfocused
eyes turned to the woman, though he seemed to look right through her, but he stopped
screaming. His hands returned almost forgotten to his sides. He stood silent. The woman said
something else, short words with a small gesture of her hand, as if she were smoothing a
wrinkle from the man's cloak, but did not touch him. The man slowly nodded, his dark tear
stained eyes still not focusing on the woman, but on something far away, the life he had left
Erel thought as much, how could anyone lose their family and not want to cry or rage forever?
The woman reached out then and touched the man's face with her hand when he had nodded,
and the man went suddenly slack. The woman caught him, apparently stronger than she
looked for a thin, older woman. And she set him down, slowly, on the bags behind him and he
breathed hard, but then his breathing after a few moments slowed.
Had she killed him then? Erel thought.
The Resolnin were said to kill anyone not of them. At least it was said. But then why had they
taken them at all? Why had they gone to the effort of chaining and bringing them aboard their
ships if they were only going to kill them?
When they could have easily slaughtered them at the edge of the shore with their armies?
The man rubbed at his face for a long while, but he didn’t mumble, didn’t scream. He moved a
few stumbling steps now for the first time since Erel had seen him when they boarded the
ships in Halia, more than the standing and screaming, more than crumbling exhausted after
many hours to sit on the hard wood of the floor. He rubbed at his face, all the while the black
robed woman stood before him unmoving and silent, watching him. After several very long
minutes he stopped, and then slowly looked up at the woman. She smiled then a dark eyed
smile, and offered him a small string with no teeth at all on it. He took it in his hand and let it
lay in his open palm and stared at it, as if it were some evil he could not yet comprehend.
And then he spoke, soft though his words were rough from screaming so very long.
"It is done then."
The robed Sister smiled once more briefly and turned away. The younger dark robed acolytes
had stood watching now returned to their pacing with their spears, handing out bread from
the bowls and blankets that some carried in their arms. Some wore sneering looks, as if seeing
a sighted man blinded. Some smiled small smiles and went on about their work. One pushed
her hand into the air in a symbol of victory, but was quickly frowned down by several of the
other Acolytes. She lowered her arm and began passing out blankets again, though she still
wore a big smile on her face.
The older woman approached through the crowd toward the outer bulkhead, near the
portholes where Erel stood, the girl quickly glancing back out the window to the black sky and
the shore now no more than a hour away through the dark mist.
"You have pain?" the woman asked.
Erel turned suddenly seeing the woman beside her.
"Ughh no, I mean, well... not like the man, and as for myself, no... “
She stopped then, not knowing if she should go on, what she should tell this stranger.
"...more anger than crying, though i still cannot stop crying for very long. You know..."
The woman regarded her with dark eyes,
"Yes, we know... we lost our family many years ago in the pogrom when the Fallen exiled our
lands. We were outcasts then, ... yes, we know what you feel."
She folded her arms and simply seemed to wait for Erel to go on.
Erel swallowed and tried to find the thread of her thought.
Was it even possible the woman could really help them?
"It's... it's just..." She watched the woman's face and wondered if she dared to trust her.
Was it a trust of death and betrayal?
But without help her mother would die of grief, and what then of Enne or even herself?
With an effort she quicklly decided to risk it.
"It's really my mother... she isn't like the man, but well... I don't know if she will get better. She
eats little, and always cries. Even when my body can produce no more tears and i stop for a
time, she does not. She is crying to death I believe."
The last words came in a quick, low hush of words out of her. The woman frowned. Did she
know or not know what it felt like?
"We can take that away if you like, we can bring her a measure of peace."
"Like the man, is he at peace, or is it the peace of death then that you give?"
"Yes, like the man, but it is not death as you say, though he will give up what is in him. Give up
his choice if you will. It will be the same of hers, and also yours, if you choose it."
"What does that mean? You say it like it is something that is like becoming older and we can’t
"It is a choice, and the last choice, and yes, it is something from which you cannot turn back."
"You want to make us like you!" Erel's anger suddenly was hot, and instead of the Resolnin's
Beasts or Dead , she now had this black robed woman in front of her.
The woman made no indication of moving, but stood and watched Erel, with her dark eyes.
Almost Black eyes!! Another alien thing! Were all the lands then beyond home to be so very ,
very different, that she would always feel as if she were in alien places? Was there no place
like E'Lan, like home, with green skies and rolling hills of the Tower trees that swelled with
fruit in the summer? Her anger turned to doubt and sadness at the thought of home. She
wanted to cry again, but not in front of this dark stranger.
"We have been angry... before, as you are, and we have been angry sometimes since then, but
not often, the "others" help. We are not alone, in our minds, after we make the choice to join
the 'One Mind'. It makes us ..."different"... than we were before, but it also brings a peace and
ease that we could not find alone. This is true, and there you know it now. Though there are
stories of us as witches and our spells, and of those that lose their souls and minds. But there
is not madness in the 'One Mind'. Only oneness. But it is for you to decide. It need not be now,
or even ever. But we offer it, as our breath comes out of us, without our choice. Now you
know. You can listen to the stories and the whispers, but keep your eyes open and see also.
What you see may be different than what you hear. It has been offered, and we must attend to
others. There are wounds here, not all of them mean choosing life or death. Some are simple
and small, like cuts on fingers or bruises on knees. Many of them only need a little ointment, a
bandage, a blanket, some food, a drink of water, a book to distract the pain. Not all choices on
this ship must involve leaving what you are behind. We do not expect it."
Then the woman turned and moved away from her, walked down the length of the outer wall
and helped an older couple that was arguing over what to get out of their bags, or what not.
The woman moved steadily, slowly, as if there were all the time in the world to see to all
things. And perhaps in her way, there was time.
She did not know what to make of the woman.
Was she good then?
How could that be when she was Resolnin?
When the survivors still wore chains and had been taken on board the dark ships.
For what reason?
For what reason?
Erel glanced back at the bags where her mother had stood with Enne seated on the floor at her
feet, as the mother searched frantically with her eyes through the crowd for Erel. It was not
good to see her upset, but it was good to see her stop, at least for even a small time her crying.
Erel left the porthole and the view of the alien land with the dark skies behind her as she
made her way back to her mother, between groups of huddled and crying people, silent
The man who had been screaming was now sitting cross-legged on the floor with bread in his
mouth working at repairing his old work boots, his tools moving methodically and evenly in his
hands. It was good not to see him screaming. And he even half smiled for a moment, not at
her, but at some thought, even through a grimace of his face; in getting some tool to work just
right, even having trouble with it. Smiled and grimaced through a mouthful of hard bread. Erel
wanted to smile for a moment too. But she went quickly back to her mother instead.
What did it all mean?
That the Resolnin were not what she had thought they were?
That the stories were all wrong?
Or that she had been fooled?
"I couldn’t find you..." Suest said to her daughter and hugged her close, as Erel came to the
edge of their small area, enclosed by their bags and boxes, her brown robe swirling against the
brown robe of her mothers.
"I was just seeing how close we are. It is almost time, mother. Soon we will arrive. Perhaps it
won't be so very bad..."
In her heart she hoped it would be so.
Or that The Eternals would deliver into her hand a knife with which to avenge the loss of her
Her mother's eyes looked distant for a moment, and through tear stained eyes she managed a
small smile, "Yes, yes...perhaps it will not be so very bad?"
She managed a small laugh then.
Her mother, she had laughed, how could that be?
"Perhaps not so very bad..." The Mother said slowly, with some small strength in her voice.
She smiled as she began to rummage in one of the small bags she brought with her that lay on
the floor, stacked next to others and under others that she and Enne and Erel had brought aboard.
"Shall we eat first, are you starving? I am starving. Shall we eat? I have a little 'IL Yams left from
last summer. It is canned and still fresh as a newly caught Salmon! See if you can find it."
The mother stood still fighting back tears, but succeeding. Standing next to her younger daughter
Enne who sat at her feet with her arms wrapped about her mother's legs, silent, but her eyes full
of hope as well. She smiled when Erel looked at her.
Erel wanted to cry for a moment, just from the joy of it, from the small respite of horror and
pain and anger and doubt that seemed so much a part of every moment now, since the
Resolnin had come to E'Lan.
But she knew it would be brief, a wheel turning from anger to peace, from desperation to a
glimmer of hope.
It would turn.
But for the moment she was glad to have it.
She patted her mother's arm and went to help her with getting the jars of Yams from the bags.
Already she could taste the sweet taste of the peppered and breaded, spiced slices of it. It was
better hot, but even cold from the canning jar it was spicily warm in the stomach.
She did smile that time. They would need to share of course. What small amount they had, she
could share with others in the hold. But still she would enjoy the taste of it, and good
memories of home, and her father, and the quiet fields, and her mother not crying for even a
She was grateful for that.
Yet she wondered where her life would turn in this strange place and what lie ahead, where
her and sister and her mother would go,
In this new and strange land?
In this new life?
And she wondered if they would ever see her father again?
But she didn't know.
She didn't know.