Chapter 1

“Father, must you go? You have only just arrived and I haven’t seen you in so long.”

Allein clutched onto her father’s robe desperately, holding back her tears. She didn’t want the last thing her father saw, before going off to battle, was her tears.

Her father looked down at her, and smiled wistfully.

“I wish that times were peaceful, that I might enjoy my own children’s company. I’m sorry Allein, that you were born into such a pitiful era. You know I must go. I do not wish to fight, but the Humans will soon reach our haven here and they will stop at nothing until everything I have fought to build is destroyed.”

She could only look downcast as she contemplated her father’s words, but still she refused to let go of the cuff of his robe.

“I’m afraid, what if you don’t return? I have been having nightmares, horrid dreams where all I see are corpses littering the plains as far as the eye can see. And far into the distance, a shattered city in flames, and above, a wandering eye that gleams menacingly while it watches the destruction. Please, reconsider.”

Regretfully, her father gently removed her hand from his robe and turned his back to her. He could no longer bear to look at his daughter’s face, knowing that he didn’t deserve her boundless love for him. Since she had been born, his time had been spent in battle and only fleeting moments allowed him his daughter’s embrace.

“The ‘Void’ speaks to me, it beckons me towards its light. This world, everything, is a lie. Do you understand my daughter? If I do not do this, we will die, the world will die. It may not be now, or even in the near future, but slowly our world will surely perish and be devoured by greed and arrogance.” He said with a deep sigh as he began to slowly walk towards his fate.

Before he left her sight, he stopped and said one last thing, “If something happens to me, then I leave it all to you.”

His footsteps resounded on the stone floor as he drifted further from her. He felt nothing but regret, for if he failed, his daughter’s burden would be that much greater and he feared that her gentle heart would not have the strength to carry it.

Allein woke from her sleep shaking and in a cold sweat.

Again… will this nightmare never end? She could only sigh and calm her heart.

It took her a moment to remember where she was. She was in Fayde’s yurt, the yurt of the Great Khan. It was large enough to fit hundreds of people and even had sections carved out using various animal skins that were similar to rooms. There were no doors, but each room-like area had a fur or hide divider which functioned like a door and gave off some semblance of privacy. It would be considered somewhat barbaric to Humans, but to the Demihumans, it was their normal living quarters.

There was no way to know the time from within the yurt, as it was mostly dark unless torches or lamps were lit. She felt like she had slept for a few hours, but she could no longer sleep. Her nightmare had caused her too much pain.

Throwing her blanket off her body, she rose from her cot and walked out of her room. It was quiet and not everyone had woke yet. She wouldn’t be able to go far. There were guards posted at the entrance to the yurt and around the yurt, so it would be pointless for her to try to escape. She could probably force her way out if she really wanted to, but her brother was being held hostage by the Demonkin.

It wasn’t as if she wanted to leave anyway. A part of her just wanted to die, but she knew she couldn’t. Her father would never forgive her if she gave up, and he was still waiting for her somewhere out there between worlds.

Walking softly, Allein made her way to the entrance of the yurt. There were supposed to be guards posted there, but strangely she couldn’t see any of them.

What’s going on? There should be guards. This is strange.

Allein walked closer and stuck her head outside the yurt. She couldn’t see anyone at the entrance and decided to step outside to feel the cool night air. Her steps were heavy, but she took one after the other and enjoyed her momentary freedom. There were countless yurts and many torches spreading their light all around them, but there was no one particularly close to notice her leaving the yurt as far as she could tell.

However, she soon became aware of the connection she had with Fayde. Allein could feel the presence of Fayde close by. She had forgotten her connection to him when she woke, but now she could feel it and he was approaching from somewhere nearby.

Allein stopped walking and prepared herself, gathering her courage. She had not spoken to him since the incident. There were no words she could think of to say and there were things she was forbidden to share. Even if she wanted to tell him, she couldn’t, because the Void had sealed them within her mind.

It was only a moment before Fayde came into sight, he had been somewhere just outside out of her view. It would be difficult to see him without night vision since he avoided the light of the torches, but that wasn’t a problem for her. She could see him as clear as day and he stared at her with a certain intensity.

He approached her, stopping close enough to hear a whisper and said, “I sent the guards away.”

Allein couldn’t understand what he was trying to say and stared at him in confusion.

“Go, escape from here and be free. This is the only chance I am giving you.” His words were only a whisper, but she could hear the pain in them.

She did her best to speak, and the words almost failed her.

“No… I won’t run away.” She whispered with a heavy heart.

Fayde had spoken to her, but had not looked at her, instead looking past her as he spoke. It was as if he was afraid to look at her face. She could see him slightly tremble at her words, but soon calmed himself.

“Did you ever truly love me… or was it all lies?” He finally said after a moment of awkward silence.

Allein did not reply even after a few minutes past. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to tell him how she truly felt, it was that she couldn’t. Her guilt and her shame wouldn’t allow the words to be spoken.

Fayde waited in silence for those few minutes, but then walked back into the tent, leaving her there alone in the night with only her regrets to keep her company.

Kill them… Liars, traitors, all of them. They will betray you… KILL THEM!

“SHUT UP!” I suddenly shouted, startling those meeting with me in the yurt.

They looked up at me with worried eyes and confusion. It took me a moment to focus my thoughts, but I finally realized what I had done and struggled to wrench my thoughts free from the voices.

“Fayde… is something wrong?” Reia asked me worriedly.

“Ah.. No, sorry. I don’t know what came over me, I must be tired.” I replied slowly.

Accadeas shrugged and laughed, “He must be overworked. The stress is getting to him, I’m sure it’s nothing.”

Laila walked to my side and placed her soft hand on my forehead with a look of concern. Laila was always kind to me, even if not always kind to others. She had a certain motherliness to her which always comforted me and the smile she gave me was always filled with warmth.

“Fayde, maybe you should rest. You haven’t been sleeping well lately. I would be greatly distressed if you became ill.”

I tried my best to show her a smile.

“I’m fine, really. Let’s continue.”

Accadeas nodded and Laila returned to sitting on her cushion, but I could tell she wasn’t fooled by my false smile by the way she looked at me. Reia too had a look of concern despite my words.

“We have enough provisions to last us for a long time, so supplies will not be an issue. There is plenty of food to hunt on the Plains even with our numbers. Our biggest concern is a lack of quality armor and weapons. My craftsmen and smiths have been working as much as possible when we are not on the move, but there is only so much they can do. The good news is that there are plenty of materials to create light armor. We have plenty of hides and leather, but we lack iron. My Demonkin heavy warriors are already equipped with iron weapons and armor, so there are no issues there, but the warriors from other tribes are lacking. We will continue to outfit the other tribes with light armor and as you ordered, we will use whatever iron we have remaining for weapons.”

I nodded, satisfied with Accadeas’s report.

“Thank you Accadeas. I don’t know what I would do without you… and Laila too.”

Laila smiled happily at my words as she played with her hair. Reia looked as if she might pout but I quickly added, “and I couldn’t bear to be without you Reia. Thank you, all of you for supporting me even though things have been… difficult.”

Accadeas chuckled as he glanced at two smiling faces. We continued our meeting for a while longer as we discussed various issues concerning the tribes. Eventually I would need to have a meeting with all the Khans, but these daily meetings with those closest to me were also important.

My circle of those I can trust has grown small… but at least I know I can count on them.

Reia and Laila left the tent together after our meeting finished, but Accadeas didn’t leave when the others did. He waited patiently until only he and I remained and then he put his arm around my shoulder with a devilish grin.

“You have been under a lot of stress lately, but I know just the thing to help get your mind off of things. I spoke with some of our diviners and there is a dungeon between here and the Serandel forest. This could be a perfect opportunity to relieve some stress and also gain some resources before going to war, what do you say?” Accadeas said excitedly, it was clear he was looking forward to this.

I didn’t respond immediately out of concern. I wasn’t certain what more exposure to Dark Matter Contamination might do to me.

Noticing my hesitation, Accadeas gave me a good smack on my shoulders and said, “Come on! You promised me, don’t go back on your word now!”

Well, I suppose it should be okay as long as I keep Laila close….

“Alright, alright, fine. Let’s do it.”

Accadeas laughed with a huge grin on his face and then left the yurt quite satisfied with himself.

I sat back down and was attended to by my servants, the Rej’gan who had been with me since I became Khan of the Foxkin.

I leaned back in deep thought and remembered something I had yet to fully deal with.

“Fieral…” I called out and she quickly entered from another room within the yurt.

“Yes, Great Khan.”

Fieral was always attentive to her duties and was absolutely loyal, even if it would cost her life. This was the duty of all the Rej’gan, and not only were they my servants, but they also acted as my spies.

“Go and bring Tris to me, it’s about time I had a talk with her.”

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