The Nightlands lay to the east, at the edge of Seythe, where land ends and the emptiness of the Waterless Sea begins and stretches away into the distance. Logic tells us that worlds must be round, but Seythe is not round, and logic is a new toy. Here, at the edge of the world, the Shadowhorn has stood since the beginning, before the Ages. A soaring goliath of a mountain where poison rivers run, black snow clings like fungus to its crags, and the ancient being known as the Fallen One—the Black Lord Under the Mountain—slumbers in his tomb.
But the Fallen One is not the only being that slumbers here. Long ago, the armies of the Fallen and the Flame fought a great battle at the borders of the Nightlands. Only four beings survived, only four would continue their fight upon the mountain itself. Each of them was the last of their kind, and none of them walked away from that final confrontation—but that is not to say they did not survive.
As there is light in the darkness and darkness in the light, life and death can be malleable things for some creatures. The remains of one such creature fell into the Great Abyss at the foot of the Shadowhorn, his bones left to rot and moulder since the last battle between Fallen and Flame. But now, they are to be disturbed.
E’blis, the fallen creator of men, stood on the very edge of the Great Abyss as the banks of fog and roaming mist that eternally shroud the Nightlands rolled on over wasteland and dark grey desert. Hooded as always, and carrying his one-horned staff, he muttered in a voice that seemed to summon strange cries and horrible groans from beneath the ground. He clashed the base of his staff against the rocks, building up rhythm as his mutterings became a hideous, guttural, wordless chant—sounds that should not be heard or even shaped by a throat.
Storm clouds gathered overhead, quickly growing swollen and black as E’blis pounded his staff against the stone faster, faster and faster. Finally, he let out an ululating shriek that split the air and lightning lashed down to strike deep into the Great Abyss, illuminating its sheer depths.
And then, there was a silence.
It was soon broken by sounds. Sounds of something stirring and waking in the Great Abyss, of flesh and bone grinding together. A great shadow was moving down in the darkness, and it spoke to E’blis.
“Why do you awaken me, O E’blis?”
“Because the time has come for you to arise and fulfil your oath sworn to His Shadow.”
“I was dying when those words were spoken.”
“And those who serve His Shadow do so in death as much as in life. You know that well enough.”
“Your tongue is like that of a snake, O E’blis.”
“I think the snake is more of a brother to you than to I.”
The shadow crawled higher up the side of the Great Abyss. Steam and fumes billowed around it. Two eyes shone in the dark at E’blis.
“Why has the time come to disturb me? Speak, E’blis. You bound my soul to my bones. I have not crossed yet into the Lands Beyond to be with my kin. I have slept in this night-soiled ground alone for centuries. I would know why you have put flesh on my back and life into my heart.”
“Because She has returned.”
“She … ?”
“The one who ruined you. The Flame has been born again and walks the land.”
“A’aron … reborn.”
“Yes, and you know His will.”
“And I know my will,” the great shadow said, “and it is to destroy. All things will be destroyed. I will tear down mountains, uproot forests and flatten cities and their people into dust just to see Her weep. I will burn this world until it is nothingness just to know that She died in the inferno.”
As the great shadow spoke these words, the ground surrounding the Great Abyss began to rumble and shake. Dust and debris showered down, and traces of white fire began to flicker up from the pit.
“You speak well, as ever you did.”
So saying, E’blis stepped away from the Great Abyss, and as the storm clouds rolled overhead, he struck his staff against the earth until the smouldering base was buried in the black soil. A column of searing fire burst upwards from the Great Abyss and a curving snouted head, horned and dark-eyed, loomed out of it and over E’blis.
“Arise, O Malus! Arise, O Necrodragon!”
The Sceptre of Storms will be released 14th June on Amazon, B&N, Kobo & Apple.