Prologue · I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII · IX · X · XI · XII · XIII · XIV · XV · XVI · Interlude


upon the high wall the husbands slept,
while ’round the hearth their women wept,
and fugitives murmured tales of woe,
of greater cities lost to Mog-Pharau …
—“The Refugee’s Song,” The Sagas



Early Spring, 19 New Imperial Year (4132 Year-of-the-Tusk), The Kathol Passes


Men never tire of their own delusions. The Aspect-Emperor, Anasûrimbor Kellhus, has commanded the destruction of all those who dispute the Truth or choose avarice over the demands of the war to come. The war that would prevent the resurrection of the No-God. The Great Ordeal.

The Aspect-Emperor has devoted the last ten years to prepare for the greatest host in human history. The Great Ordeal is to march all the way from the frontiers of the New Empire to the stronghold of the Consult, Golgotterath. But the host has to survive the distance to Golgotterath before it can be tested on the field.

The Great Ordeal marches through the Kathol Pass. King Coithus Saubon of Caraskand, marches in front with the quicker elements of the host: the Kianene, the Girgashi, the Khirgwi, and the Shrial Knights. Prince Anasûrimbor Kayûtas rides with his father, leading the Kidruhil. King Nersei Proyas of Conriya follows with the rest of the Host. They approach Sakarpus arriving at the Istyuli Plains.

The two Exalt Generals of the Great Ordeal, Proyas and Saubon, plan the assault on Sakarpus. They recall the days of the First Holy War and the Unification Wars.

Varalt Sorweel

An emissary of the Aspect-Emperor demands to see Varalt Harweel II, the King of Sakarpus. Prince Varalt Sorweel attends the meeting as Nersei Proyas, the emissary, demands that his father yield the city and its Chorae Hoard to the Great Ordeal. Sorweel recalls his father telling him that the Aspect-Emperor is a Ciphrang, a Hunger from the Outside. And that he must be resisted with ‘Sword and Shield,’ and if that fails with ‘spits and curses.’

Nersei Proyas implores Harweel to yield the city peacefully, but the King refuses. Proyas declares that the people of Sakarpus shall soon know the difference between the surrender that leads to slavery, and the surrender that sets one free. He then leaves.

Varalt Sorweel

Sorweel wonders why his father had been so openly terrified of the Aspect-Emperor during the meeting with the emissary. Perhaps there’s something his father is not telling him. Not long afterwards, he’s brought to the barracks by the High Boonsmen. Harweel says that he must see the coming battle so that when his time comes he ‘will not despair.’ Sorweel condemns himself in silence for doubting his father at the moment when he most needed him. He utters the word ‘please,’ but before he could say anything else the door opens and three Horsdelords call out. His last thoughts are ‘forgive me.’

Varalt Sorweel

Sorweel finds himself staring down upon the boggling might of the Great Ordeal. Standing with his father on the high curtain walls, he realizes that he and his people are doomed. Then, miraculously, a stork, a bird that is holy to the Sakarpi, appears on the battlements above his father. The two commune in the charged silence that follows, then King Harweel turns and commands that Sorweel be taken to safety. “See that no harm comes to him!” he cries. “He will be our final sword-stroke! Our vengeance!”

Dragged away screaming, the young man watches sorcerous flames engulf the parapets and his father upon them.

Varalt Sorweel

A desperate flight ensues, and it seems that the Aspect-Emperor himself pursues them through the chaotic streets. One of his father’s High Boonsmen tells Sorweel that his father is dead. Sorweel is now King. The pursuit ends in the apparent safety of the citadel. Blasting through walls, Anasûrimbor Kellhus effortlessly kills his protectors. He approaches the adolescent Prince, but rather than seizing or striking him, he embraces him. Tells him that he is forgiven, not by him, but by his father’s love for him.

Sorweel weeps for his father and his city; for a world that could ‘wring redemption out of betrayal.’


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