|The Emperor in Gold|
|Chapter 1||Chapter 2|
|Chapter 3||Chapter 4|
|Chapter 5||Chapter 6|
|Layers of the Dead|
|Chapter 7||Chapter 8|
|Chapter 9||Chapter 10|
|Chapter 11||Chapter 12|
|Knuckles of the Soul|
|Chapter 13||Chapter 14|
|Chapter 15||Chapter 16|
|Chapter 17||Chapter 18|
|Chapter 19||Chapter 20|
|Chapter 21||Chapter 22|
|Chapter 23||Chapter 24|
I have seen the face of sorrow
Toc the Younger
Onrack the Broken stands before the wall of a cave, reflecting on what he had done before, and how that had cost him. He is now beset with doubts about his actions, since the likeness of the woman he had portrayed had been without her permission. He now observes a likeness in the painting on the wall before him, a scene of an Ay chasing Ranag. Trull Sengar, standing behind him, asks him about the paintings, to which Onrack replies that there is talent in the painter, Ulshun Pral, but he finds hints of impatience and free and savage emotions. Trull has talked to Ulshun and thinks that the Imass here have never died and were never a part of the Ritual, while Onrack believes that the Imass have lived here long enough to have forgotten about their past.
The two walk towards the Gate, Onrack warning Trull of danger coming through the gate, and they find that not only are there several gates, but they seem to be on silent, wild fire. Onrack goes back to Rud Elalle to let him know, promising to return quickly to help him face whatever comes through.
Hedge joins Quick Ben on a summit some way away from the camp, where the two first banter, threatening to kill each other, then settle on serious matters, Quick Ben sure that their opponents will emerge from the South. He also intimates that they would be Soletaken Dragons and asks Hedge to not interfere in the fight to come, unless absolutely required.
Menandore approaches in her draconic form, trying to intimidate Quick Ben and Hedge into moving away, when Rud Elalle and Ulshun Pral arrive. Rud Elalle talks firmly to his mother, making it clear that he will not interfere in her fight for the Finnest, since it is not his duty to participate in the fights his mother chooses. Instead he chooses to leave with the Imass to a safer place where they could survive. Menandore acquiesces, yet insists that Ulshun Pral stay, since he has a secret that she needs from him, and Ulshun agrees, since his coming with the Imass would make them all a target of the three sisters. Rud Elalle leaves, reassured by Quick Ben and Hedge that they would care of Ulshun Pral.
Sheltatha Lore and Sukul Ankhadu have arrived, and both agree to destroy the Imass living here, since it displeases them, especially Sukul, that Hood has let this realm live so long, and because this realm is dying anyway. Menandore arrives, and the three go over their plan again; they want to kill Silchas Ruin- who is about to arrive- and then the Imass. Menandore asks them to swear that they would only injure Rud Elalle, since being her son, she doesn't want him to die, yet Rud would probably stand in their way. Once agreed, they then veer into their dragon forms.
Seren Pedac and the rest of the group observe dead dragons, far larger than Silchas' Soletaken form, and more graceful, all dead with wings snapped and necks twisted. They had all observed the gate from a large distance, and the way would lead to the Finnest of Scabandari Bloodeye. Seren observes that Kettle has grown much closer to Udinaas and thinks that he is the only one who is capable of comforting the child. Fear and Seren have a conversation where Fear makes clear his ambition of releasing Scabandari so that the two could purge Emurlahn together and perhaps shatter his brother's sword. In this, Seren makes clear that his dream is hopeless and that she would not support him. This has the effect of freeing Fear from his vow of protecting Seren, and for the first time, he moves away confidently as a soldier. Udinaas gives his spear to Seren, believing that should she side with Fear, it would be more useful to her. Silchas prepares for the fight on the other side, knowing that Menandore awaits them and would never accept his possessing the Finnest.
Hedge asks Ulshun Pral to retreat to the safety of the cave, and Ulshun tries to affix the faces of the two, so that they wouldn't die completely even if they were killed. He knows that while the fight may start here, it would end at the gate of Starvald Demelain. He also knows that the female Bentract Bonecaster failed to to seal the gate not because the power had been virulent, but because she had been a ghost to begin to with, a faded soul with hardly any power.
As the three dragons approach, Quick Ben raises his scrawny arms to start the sorcery. This draws a laugh from Hedge, and Quick Ben, annoyed, hits him in the nose. Hedge starts bleeding, which means he is now back to being a mortal.
As the three dragons approach with maws open, about to strike, Quick Ben causes the earth below them to rupture on them, causing them to dissipate their sorceries skywards harmlessly, then goes on the offensive, striking with wave after wave of his own destructive sorcery. Menandore falls to the ground, and is turned on and attacked by Shetatha Lore, who snaps Menandore's neck killing her. Hedge in turn, fires a cusser at Shetatha's belly killing her. A part of her vertebra hits him on the head knocking him unconscious, at which Quick Ben laughs heartily.
Onrack proceeds towards the gate asking Ulshun to stay in the cave, while Ulshun tells him that he possesses the secret, given to him by a Jaghut very long ago. After a while, Ulshun follows Onrack.
Sukul Ankhadu, who has survived Quick Ben's sorcery is converging on the Imass to try and kill them. The three Imass, Hostille Rator, Til'Aras Benok and Gr'istanas Ish'Ilm decide to make their stand, in order to save the Imass, in a narrow defile where Sukul would have to face them in her human form. Hostille Rator lures Sukul into an ambush, and while he dies at Sukul's hands, the other two veer into their Soletaken forms, and attack as Long limbed Bears from the left and right. While Sukul is able to kill one at the expense of great personal physical damage, the other manages to destroy her skull, killing her, while the Imass himself simultaneously dies of the wounds he has just received. Thus, there are now four dead bodies in the defile.
The gate of Starvald DemelainEdit
Silchas and the group emerge into the cavern and are faced by Trull. Several things happen all at once. Realizing that his brother would have to face Silchas in battle, Fear tries to stab Silchas in the back, but is stopped by Clip who garrotes him. Wither attacks Udinaas trying to kill him, but Seren attacks Wither with Mockra, destroying him. Clip then moves to kill Udinaas, but is staggered by multiple attacks of Mockra from Seren. Clip throws a knife at her, temporarily stunning her. Trull tries to get to Fear but is forced to fight Silchas. He is initially driven back, and his spear explodes at the severe impacts of Silchas' swords, but he picks up the spear Seren has thrown to him, yielding an injury to his hip, but trapping one of Silchas' swords, and counterattacking with the spear, hitting him so that Silchas is stunned with a blow to his head. Seeing this, Clip, who was about to attack Seren, rushes towards Trull. Despite a debilitating injury to his hip, Trull drives back Clip with a stunning display of elegant spearsmanship, injuring him severely and causing Clip to retreat desperately. Trull turns to find Silchas advancing towards Ulshun Pral with only Onrack in between them. He tries to move, and fails due to his hip injury, Seren asking him to stay away since he cannot do much.
Meanwhile, Onrack has been stunned by the realization that Ulshun Pral is actually his own son from the woman he had mated with in the dark cave several millenia ago. Onrack tries to fight Silchas, but is thrown aside, and Silchas approaches Ulshun ostensibly to take his life. A woman clothed in the skin of a panther appears, warning Silchas off. Silchas reaches to Ulshun and drags away a knife, which he means to take away, without harming Ulshun. The woman lets him walk away, and Silchas approaches Kettle and drives the flint knife into her chest killing her. All this is witnessed by Udinaas who is aggravated at her death, even though he sees that an Azath has grown in her place to hold the soul of Scabandari, while also saving the Refugium.
Trull is reunited with Seren, who wants to go back to her own house to bury the sword and marry him. Onrack wakes up to the face of Kilava Onass, the woman who he had painted so long ago, and his son, Ulshun Pral. Ulshun has explained that this realm is now sealed properly and the seed of an Azath in the form of Kettle had been delivered by Silchas as a part of his bargain with the Azath House in Letheras. The realm no longer wanders, but is rooted due to the Azath.
Quick Ben knows that there is now an Azath growing in this realm, which means that though this realm is now real and will live on, in the Azath there will be a tower, and in the tower, gates of Starvald Demelain. This means that Cotillion and Shadowthrone, who like to use the Azath when it suits them, now have a way into not just this realm, but into Starvald Demelain too. Quick Ben decides they will travel through one of the gates to where Fiddler and the Bonehunters are.