|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|
We came upon the fiend on the eastern slope of the Radagar Spine. It was lying in a shallow gorge formed by flash flooding, and the stench pervading the hot air told us of rotting flesh, and indeed upon examination, conducted with utmost caution on this, the very day following the ambush on our camp by unknown attackers, we discovered that the fiend was, while still alive, mortally wounded. How to describe such a demonic entity? When upright, it would have balanced on two hugely muscled hind legs, reminiscent of that of a shaba, the flightless bird found on the isles of the Draconean Archipelago, yet in comparison much larger here. The hip level of the fiend, when standing, would have been at a man’s eye level. Long-tailed, the weight of the fiend’s torso evenly balanced by its hips, thrusting the long neck and head far forward, the spine made horizontal. Two long forelimbs, thickly bound in muscle and hardened scales providing natural armour, ended, not in grasping talons or hands, but enormous swords, iron-bladed, that seemed fused, metal to bone, with the wrists. The head was snouted, like that of a crocodile, such as those found in the mud of the southern shoreline of the Bluerose Sea, yet, again, here much larger. Desiccation had peeled the lips back to reveal jagged rows of fangs, each one dagger-long. The eyes, clouded with approaching death, were nonetheless uncanny and alien to our senses.
The Atri-Preda, bold as ever, strode forward to deliver the fiend from its suffering, with a sword thrust into the soft tissue of its throat. With this fatal wound, the fiend loosed a death cry that struck us with pain, for the sound it voiced was beyond our range of hearing, yet it burst in our skulls with such ferocity that blood was driven from our nostrils, eyes and ears.
One other detail is worth noting, before I expound on the extent of said injuries. The wounds visible upon the fiend were most curious. Elongated, curving slashes, perhaps from some form of tentacle, but a tentacle bearing sharp teeth, whilst other wounds were shorter but deeper in nature, invariably delivered to a region vital to locomotion or other similar dispensation of limbs, severing tendons and so forth…Factor Breneda Anict, Expedition into the Wildlands
Official Annals of Pufanan Ibyris
Letheras, Eternal Domicile
Nisall, First Concubine of former Letherii king Ezgara Diskanar, now shares the bed of Emperor Rhulad Sengar. Every night she watches as the young Tiste Edur spasms, pleads, and sobs in his sleep before he crawls across the floor to sleep in the corner with his cursed sword. She believes he lives through all of his hundreds of deaths every night.
She recalls the events in the Eternal Domicile's throne room when the Tiste Edur had conquered the city. She had hidden to the side as the king and Nifadas had committed suicide with poisoned wine and were soon joined in death by Brys Beddict. As Hannan Mosag had attempted to drag his twisted body to the throne, the slain Rhulad came back to life and took his place as emperor. He named Mosag his Ceda, angrily commanding that the former Warlock King would only ever again enter his presence while crawling on his belly. Then he ordered the Ceda to depart with the bags containing the broken and insane Queen Janall and Prince Quillas. Chancellor Triban Gnol pragmatically offered the new emperor his services, while First Consort Turudal Brizad disappeared and was rumoured to haunt the halls of the Old Palace.
Trull returned to the throne room to plead for Rhulad to discard the cursed sword, but Rhulad refused saying without it he was nothing. He refused to believe Trull's claims to support his brother, calling him a betrayer like Fear and Udinaas, who had both abandoned him. He demanded Trull disarm, then ordered him taken away to be shorn. His brother Binadas and father Tomad were also sent away across the world to seek out champions and collect scattered Edur kin.
Rhulad offered Nisall a choice to remain as First Concubine, which she accepted partly from ambition and partly out of pity. When he took his new responsibilities seriously, meeting daily with Letherii petitioners and meting out justice, she came to believe he was a decent soul beneath the trauma. And now every night she watches as Rhulad pleads with Trull in his sleep to guide him with honour.
Bruthen Trana seeks an immediate audience with the emperor, but is denied by Chancellor Triban Gnol. The chancellor says the emperor is busy with petitioners, but he will try to find an opening some time in the future for Bruthen to personally deliver his report on the Patriotists. He assures Bruthen that he passes along his regular written reports to the emperor. A doubtful Bruthen departs, acknowledging one of the Ceda's crippled K'risnan shuffling past him in the hall.
Bruthen exits the palace onto the grounds of the city's Azath Tower. Here are the graves of all the champions who have faced Emperor Rhulad. All had killed Rhulad at least once before succumbing to the inevitable. He remembers one full-blooded Tarthenal's terror as Rhulad arose again after the seventh time the champion had slain him. One of the graveyard's urns contains the cup whose poison killed the king, the First Eunuch, and Brys Beddict. The body of the King's Champion and his sword have disappeared and his remains are not interred here. Bruthen had seen the aftermath of Brys' defeat of Rhulad--appallingly precise and devastating. He prays that Brys returns.
Letheras, Old Palace
The Errant stands in the Cedance, the chamber where Ceda Kuru Qan once consulted the Tiles of the Holds and which the Elder God considers the foundation of his realm. He senses a pattern is closing around him and is fearful and disturbed that he does not understand it. The Tiles reveal nothing. In fact, they have been blank since the deaths of the king and Ceda. He wonders if the Ceda has cursed him with his dying breath, but doubts if even the greatest Ceda since the First Empire could design a curse the Errant could not dismantle.
Another attempt to read the Tiles ends in frustration. He considers if he will have to humble himself and consult with Mael. The Crippled God has caused disturbances among the new and old pantheons. Perhaps it will be better for his own interest to leave Mael ignorant. He worries that by the time the pattern takes shape, it will be too late.
Letheras, a canal
Tehol Beddict and Bugg observe an enormous Capabara fish that has climbed out of the canal to die. Bugg says the recent flooding has given him some ideas given his past history in engineering. Tehol orders Bugg to bring the carcass home for supper before announcing he has an appointment elsewhere.
Letheras, Adventure Alley
Tehol makes his way across Quillas Canal to Adventure Alley in the city's northern district. He has business with the Rat Catchers' Guild, which was outlawed by the Patriotists early in the Tiste Edur regime. He finds the presence of Patriotists and their spies in the streets somewhat unnerving since he is, in fact, committing subversion. His first stop is the Half-Axe Temple of Herbs, whose amphibian-like owner, Munuga, desires his seed. He trades her some capabara roe for a fat root, promising her he might entertain her offer if she ever climbed out of her literal mudhole to dry out.
Next he makes his way to Grool's Immeasurable Pots where he trades Laudable Grool the capabara's dorsal fin for a beaker. Then it is on to Beastmonger Shill's where he gives the delighted owner the fat root and beaker. In return, she opens a trapdoor in the shop's floor that leads through an ancient tomb to a series of tunnels. He eventually finds his way to a chamber occupied by a dozen or so sleeping refugees and Chief Investigator Rucket.
Rucket is poring over a table full of floor plans and structural diagrams, but she is happy to see a new face. She is working on an unspecified mystery, which seems to require all her efforts these days. She congratulates Tehol with the news that the cracks in the foundation are inexorably spreading and confirms that Onyx has completed production of sixteen lacquered tiles designed to Tehol's specifications. Tehol then makes a request for fifty thousand coins which he says the guild will never recover. Rucket is hesitant until Tehol promises the infusion of capital will return the guild to pre-eminence. Then Tehol suggests they return to Rucket's private room for wine and more. The Chief Investigator casually informs him that the name "fat root" is a woman's joke and he should be more careful about handling it with his bare hands if he prefers not to shrink the size of his testicles. But she cheerfully accompanies him anyway.
Letheras, Hivanar Estate
Venitt Sathad discusses a new property acquisition with his master, Rautos Hivanar. The inn they are purchasing in concert with the other Liberty Consign shareholders and Karos Invictad consists of several buildings. One square building is virtually filled with an iconic object of some sort. Their business concluded, Hivanar asks Venitt to assemble the latest artifacts discovered on his property's dig.
The Undying Gratitude
Fourteen leagues west of the Draconean Isles, Shurq Elalle and the crew of the Undying Gratitude have spotted a battered Tiste Edur ship in the becalmed waters. They surmise that it is a stray from one of the great Edur fleets that has been tossed about by yesterday's storm. Shurq orders her crew to prepare to board. Perhaps the Edur have something valuable in their hold.
As the ship's oars bring it closer, Shurq recalls her career so far as a pirate. Their first vessel had been lost to the Marese at Laughter's End, but then they had acquired the slightly large ship they have now. After a season of crossing oceans, capturing and sinking merchant vessels, and discovering this huge and humbling new world, her hold is full of booty. She misses the formidable warriors of the Crimson Guard: Iron Bars, Corlo, and the rest. But Iron Bars' evident distaste at serving as anyone's subordinate had proven worrisome. She was not sorry to drop the Guard off on the eastern shore of Jacuruku. Iron Bars planned to cross that continent to secure another ship, but as the Undying Gratitude sailed off, she had seen a dozen massively armoured figures confront the Guard on the beach. She assumes the Guard handled it.
Shurq, first mate Skorgen Kaban, and the rest of the boarding party climb aboard the Edur vessel. Strange arrows litter the deck indicating a battle, but there are no bodies. Within the hold they discover a treasure trove of waist-high amphorae decorated with the picture of a man they do not recognise, crucified and surrounded by hundreds of crows. Skorgen opens an amphora to find it is full of blood used for Edur sacred rituals. Inside the captain's cabin, they discover the corpse of a Merude elder staked to the floor and tortured with a knife. All of the ship's logs and charts are missing and Shurq concludes the attackers only sought information. Uneasy at the idea of being discovered by the Edur fleet and blamed for the carnage, Shurq sets the ship ablaze and makes haste to Letheras to sell off their booty and load up on crew. She wonders who are these strangers on the sea who are no friends of the Edur.