thinkinglazy

Aspiring author and random thinker

Category Archives: Book of Kayal

On Writing: finishing a series

I finally decided how to best end the series BoK, by showing how the world moves on regardless of the intentions, plans and actions of great people in powerful placed. I believe that with such a book I would both bring an end to BoK and allow for other prequels.

Book of Kayal: Strength of Unity (ed2) Now Available on Amazon

Chapter 1: Assigned to Utyirth (Ed 3.2)

Here is a second run-through the first chapter (what I call ed 3.2). It’s a bit of a read and I would appreciate any comments.

Chapter 1: Assigned to Utyirth

‘It is an honor to be sent on such an endeavor by our Lord Demigod Emperor, an honor only exceeded by death during this endeavor.’ Philosophical Lessons from Utyirth (Volume I: Captain).

1

Ganis walked back and forth on the deck of the Siren’s Tear, the Sennan vessel which would take her to the distant lands of Utyirth, where she was told the notorious rebel Naa’tas escaped to. She would join nine other Parthans, people from the western reaches of the Nosgardian Empire, in this perilous journey, as she was told by her master, Lord Asclepius of Katabasis Keep.

A cool wind breezed through her blond hair, braided into one thick bundle and held together with a long black leather strap wrapped around it. It was a practical choice for anyone who intended on keeping their hair long while on the front; although she never cared much for wearing it down regardless of how many compliments it brought her.

Why did Lord Asclepius send me here? Ganis thought, her black eyes wandering with fiery anger, haphazardly looking at whatever met their path.

Commodore Habitus shouted commands at his crew, “Stock these crates here…Make certain we have replenished our stocks of heaven’s weed” – his favored pipe stuffing – “and enough rom” – his favored drink – “to last us for twice the journey we plan.” He kept shouting commands to his crew with impossible vigor – of which all seemed to Ganis trivial, never a command to prepare the ship itself for sail.

And Ganis continued to walk back and forth. She cared little for the blue sky above her or the calm seas embracing the Siren’s Tear, reflecting the flight of seagulls gliding in the air. It was, by all means, a beautiful day for anyone who took the time to enjoy it.

A Red Parthan Ona, the most well trained and seasoned warriors the Nosgardian Empire had to offer, would be her new troop, the only link she would have to Nosgard, her home, once they reached the shores of Utyirth.

The Demigod Emperor Servak himself commanded that they discard all things Nosgardian before their arrival – their weapons, armor and all crafts imperial – for it would do little good saved to aid in identifying them in an environment of which they knew nothing.

Utyirth was but recently discovered when a Sennan vessel was lost at sea for many crescents, yet the Cult of Naa’tas – the rebels who rose against the Nosgardian Empire during the events of the recent Ancient’s War, the very first test of the Demigod Emperor Servak’s worth – somehow knew of it.

Against all odds the Emperor managed to keep the people of Nosgard unified against the mighty threat of the Ancients, but the few who doubted his claim escaped his attention, and the Cult of Naa’tas was formed.

After the Ancient’s War ended, the Emperor’s spies, known to a few as the Guild, were freed to investigate and eliminate the rebels. They were all but destroyed. Naa’tas, the leader of the rebellion, escaped to Utyirth with a handful of mercenaries and loyalists.

When Naa’tas eluded all attempts by the Emperor’s forces – the warden order of the Silver Stags, the Emperor’s law enforcers the Peacekeeper Core, and the notorious Guild of spies and assassins – Prince Iolcus, the once-kingdom of Partha’s leader, promised that his First Ona, the very best soldiers Partha had to offer, would be able to bring him Naa’tas, dead or alive.

Yet these events alone would not make Ganis, a servant of the necromancer Lord Asclepius, join the First Ona, for she was not one of them in training or by blood.

A Parthan Ona, always ten, was a selected group of proven warriors who spent enough time together that their minds melded into one. The Red Onas, the very best of them all, were capable of fighting truly as one. Some said that a Red Ona took a life of its own at the expense of ten, but few saw just how deadly a Parthan Ona was and lived to tell the tale.

Ganis had never trained with a Parthan Ona, even though she was defeated by them in the Second Civil War of Man – where she supported the very same Council the Demigod Servak, before he became Emperor, fought against. Her servitude to Lord Asclepius was the Emperor’s punishment for her actions, and Asclepius saw it fitting that she should be sent to Utyirth under Captain Pertinax the Second’s command, the Ona’s leader.

If only I died back then, Ganis thought, boots beating mercilessly on the ironwood deck of the Siren’s Tear. She often thought of how simpler it would have been if she died during the Second Civil War, as an officer in the Peacekeeper Core. Perhaps, she would think, there would be some afterlife awaiting me. The thought never lasted, no matter how bleak things seemed to be.

But now she was not regretful of her past, just angry at being sent away like a common servant by a man she was forced to call ‘Master’, an act she always found demeaning, but could do little to avoid without suffering from an even more demeaning punishment.

Another reason for Ganis’ anger was her ignorance about those she would join on their mission. She knew that they were nine others, two Turians, Ninazu the Alchemist and Sigurd Ironskin, and the rest Parthans, Captain Pertinax the Second, Hephaestion the Scholar, Thalia the Artisan, Priestess Eirene, Monolos the Beasthandler and the Twin Spies Percival and Dindrane. They were many names to remember.

The Turians she previously met were all of incredible determination, a truly proud and capable nomadic people long separated from their lands, and she could but feel humbled by their deeds of which she heard.

Lord Asclepius, she recently discovered, was also a Turian, although he came from a different age and few living Turians would consider him anything other than a relic from the past. His knowledge of necromancy gave him an unusually extended lifespan – a gift he bestowed on Ganis as a reward for her sacrifice during the Ancient’s War, even though she thought it a curse.

She also knew, rather thought she knew, that the Parthans would not accept her as one of them, not with the stance she took against them during the Second Civil War, and before she could see to the Emperor’s mission it was necessary to gain their trust, all while hiding her Dark Gift and the extent of her abilities.

Consumed by her thoughts, Ganis barely noticed the ship setting sail. The Parthans had arrived without her even noticing. They must have discarded their Parthan attire already, she thought. It was time for subterfuge.

2

Everyone aboard the Siren’s Tear was preoccupied with his own habit or duties. Ganis deemed the confusion an opportunity to get acquainted with her new companions. In spite of her objection to being sent away from Katabasis Keep, she knew that the voyage would be even more unpleasant alone.

Like a chain, an Ona was as capable as its weakest link, Ganis had learned, studying the Parthans once during her service in the Peacekeeper Core and once more under the mentorship of Asclepius. To her, being the weakest member of the Ona would be unacceptable. And not to be the weakest required her not only to be strong, but also to be in harmony with them. She would need to belong.

To Ganis, it seemed reasonable to start her introduction with the leader of the group, Pertinax the Second, whom she identified by overhearing some sailors speak. Standing on the edge of the ship’s bow in an attempt to get a better view of the sculpted Siren serving as the ship’s figurehead made the tall white-haired man easy to find.

Once Ganis approached him, Pertinax requested her to hold his hand and secure him if he lost his footing during his acrobatics. She agreed and held his hand, watching as he clumsily hung on the vessel’s grey wood. Once the air started striking his grease-covered hair, running its perfection, he quickly returned and produced a wooden comb from within his cloak.

“Thank you,” Pertinax said, combing his straight white hair. His brown eyes stared directly into Ganis’, attempting to burn an image of her in his mind.

Ganis nodded. “I just wanted to introduce myself.”

“You are Ganis, Asclepius’ companion and former Protector Commander of the Peacekeeper Core. You were captured by the Demigod Emperor Servak, Pax bless him, and sentenced to serve the released Necromancer Asclepius as punishment for aiding the Council during the Second Civil War. Although you were directly assigned to Asclepius, your second and main task was to spy on him…” Pertinax continued to flawlessly recited Ganis’ known history. Once he finished combing his hair, Pertinax stowed his comb back into the pocket of his grey cloak from which it came and continued, “I know who you are. The real question is: do you know who I am?”

“Other than being my leader and serving Servak, I know nothing of you.” Ganis was shocked by her Commander’s assiduousness. She judged that he might be a peculiar fellow from his appearance, but her assessment was far from accurate to the level of his peculiarity.

“As a comrade and a member of our Ona, I believe it important for you to know about me as much as I know about you. My story began forty years ago when I taught at the Parthan School of Knowledge. Signs of the First Civil War started worrying many of the scholars and thus, by their council, the leaders started reacting to those worrying signs.

“I was young at the time, and felt obliged to do more for my kingdom and king. Fueled by youthful passion, I volunteered to join the Parthan forces and was immediately assigned as an officer to serve in a fighting Parthan division.

“My rune-bearing capabilities and education made me privy to the best training and care, thus I was assigned to a high-ranking unit. Once my loyalties were certain and my training complete, I was carved with the same runes Parthan Protectors were required to bare, unless they had already undergone the ritual before they joined the force, of course.

“Shortly after I started my military career, the Civil War of Man broke and my duties were multiplied. Although the Parthans had the best trained and equipped soldiers, we were overwhelmed by a far larger force with far more resources.

“It was not long until the casualties started piling up and we were forced to retreat to a defensive position. With all our prosperity and military might, we were incapable of fighting the world on our own. Once we were driven into our lands, the combined kingdoms of men built a wall around Partha to imprison us, cutting us off from most of our lands and the outside world.

“We then fell into a godless darkness. This, my friend, was when I met Lyra and the Demigod Emperor Servak, Pax bless him. They showed us the path to salvation and peace, the Path of Pax.” Pertinax looked above him and gazed towards the endless blue skies.

“How did you get to be in Lyra’s Ona?”

Pertinax lowered his eyes and looked straight into Ganis’, saying, “Pax led me to her. All I had to do was simply follow the path he set me on. Tell me, Ganis, is there a deity you believe in?”

“No,” Ganis responded adamantly. She had long lost the little faith she had with the last of her dead men. “I do not believe that sins and virtues affect the path our spirits tread once freed from our physical realm. I know that there is no reward for the just, nor is there punishment awaiting the wrongful. Once we die, we just seize to exist and rejoin the earth once again. I believe, Captain, that the Gods have abandoned our kind long ago.”

Pertinax smiled and patted Ganis’ shoulder. “Perhaps one day I could convince you of Pax‘s existence and show you the degree of his involvement. I have told you enough of my past for you to know who I am. The details, however, will have to wait for another time.” Pertinax walked away from Ganis and towards the stairway leading to the lower decks. Before he disappeared into the darkness, Pertinax looked back and whispered to himself, “It will be an interesting journey.”

Although his final words to Ganis were not meant for her ears, her enhanced senses allowed them to be so. Ganis watched the skies for a moment before retiring to her quarters below, her thoughts entirely on the Parthans and the beauty of the sight escaped her.

Strength of Unity (renamed from Hands of Fate) Chapter 1 (ed2)

Chapter 1: Assigned to Utyirth

‘It is an honor to be sent on such an endeavor by our Lord Demigod Emperor, an honor only exceeded by death during this endeavor.’ Philosophical Lessons from Utyirth (Volume I: Captain).

1

Ganis walked back and forth on the deck of the Siren’s Tear, the Sennan vessel which would take her to the distant lands of Utyirth, where she was told the notorious rebel Naa’tas escaped to. She would join nine other Parthans, people from the western reaches of the Nosgardian Empire, in this perilous journey, as she was told by her master, Lord Asclepius of Katabasis Keep.

A cool wind breezed through her blond hair, braided into one thick bundle and held together with a long black leather strap wrapped around it. It was a practical choice for anyone who intended on keeping their hair long while on the front; although she never cared much for wearing it down regardless of how many compliments it brought her.

Why did Lord Asclepius send me here? Ganis thought, her black eyes wandering with fiery anger, looking randomly and things which met their path.

Commodore Habitus shouted commands at his crew, “Stock these crates here…Make certain we have replenished our stocks of heaven’s weed” – his favored pipe stuffing – “and enough rom” – his favored drink – “to last us for twice the journey we plan.” He kept shouting commands to his crew – of which all seemed to Ganis as trivial, never a command to prepare the ship itself for sail – with impossible vigor.

And Ganis continued to walk back and forth. She cared little for the blue sky above her or the calm seas embracing the Siren’s Tear, reflecting the flight of seagulls gliding in the air. It was, by all means, a beautiful day for anyone who took the time to enjoy it.

A Red Parthan Ona, the most well trained and seasoned warriors the Nosgardian Empire had to offer, would be her new troop, the only link she would have to Nosgard, her home, once they reach the shores of Utyirth. The Demigod Emperor Servak himself commanded that they discard all things Nosgardian before their arrival – their weapons, armor and all crafts imperial – for it would do little good to make them blend into their new mysterious environment, one of which they knew nothing.

Utyirth was but recently discovered when a Sennan vessel was lost at sea for many crescents, yet the Cult of Naa’tas – the rebels who rose against the Nosgardian Empire during the events of the recent Ancient’s War, the very first test of the Demigod Emperor Servak’s worth – somehow knew of it. The Emperor, against all odds, managed to keep the people of Nosgard unified against the mighty threat, but the few who doubted his claim were kept unchecked, and the Cult of Naa’tas was formed.

After the Ancient’s War ended, the Emperor’s spies, known to a few as the Guild, were freed to investigate and eliminate the rebels. They were all but destroyed. Naa’tas, the leader of the rebellion, escaped to Utyirth with a handful of mercenaries and loyalists.

When Naa’tas eluded all attempts by the Emperor’s forces – the warden order of the Silver Stags, the Emperor’s law enforcers the Peacekeeper Core, and the notorious Guild of spies and assassins – Prince Iolcus, the once-kingdom of Partha’s leader, promised that his First Ona, the very best soldiers Partha had to offer, would be able to bring him Naa’tas, dead or alive.

Yet these events alone would not make Ganis, a servant of the necromancer Lord Asclepius, join the First Ona, for she was not one of them and had not trained sufficiently in their ways.

A Parthan Ona, always ten, was a selected group of proven warriors who spent enough time training and living together that their minds melded into one. The Red Onas, the very best of them all, were capable of fighting truly as one. Some said that a Red Ona took a life of its own at the expense of ten, but few saw just how deadly a Parthan Ona was and lived to tell the tale.

Ganis had never trained with a Parthan Ona, even though she was defeated by them in the Second Civil War of Man – where she supported the very same Council which the Demigod Servak, before he became Emperor, fought against. Her servitude to Lord Asclepius was the Emperor’s punishment for her actions, and Asclepius saw it fitting that she should be sent to Utyirth under Captain Pertinax the Second’s command, the Ona’s leader.

If only I died back then, Ganis thought, boots beating mercilessly on the ironwood deck of the Siren’s Tear. She often thought of how simpler it would have been if she died during the Second Civil War, as an officer in the Peacekeeper Core. Perhaps, she would think, there would be some afterlife awaiting me. The thought never lasted, no matter how bleak things seemed to be to Ganis.

But now she was not regretful of her past, just angry at being sent away like a common servant by a man she was forced to call ‘Master’, an act she always found demeaning, but could do little to avoid without suffering from an even more demeaning punishment.

Another reason for Ganis’ anger was her ignorance about those she would join on their mission. She knew that they were nine others, two Turians, Ninazu the Alchemist and Sigurd Ironskin, and the rest Parthans, Captain Pertinax the Second, Hephaestion the Scholar, Thalia the Actress, Priestess Eirene, Monolos the Beasthandler and the Twin Spies Percival and Dindrane. They were many names to remember.

The Turians she previously met were all men of incredible determination, a truly proud and capable nomadic people long separated from their lands, and she could not but feel humbled by the deeds of Turians she heard of.

Lord Asclepius, she recently discovered, was also a Turian, although he came from a different age and few living Turians would consider him anything other than a relic from the past. His knowledge of necromancy gave him an unusually extended lifespan – a gift he bestowed on Ganis as a reward for her sacrifice during the Ancient’s War, even though she thought it a curse.

She also knew, rather thought she knew, that the Parthans would not accept her as one of them, not with the stance she took against them during the Second Civil War, and before she could see to the Emperor’s mission it was necessary to gain the Parthans’ trust, all while hiding her Dark Gift and the extend of her true abilities.

Consumed by her thoughts, Ganis barely noticed the ship setting sail. The Parthans must have arrived, and she never even noticed them. They must have discarded their Parthan attire already, she thought. It was time for subterfuge.

2

Aboard Commodore Habitus’ ship, the Siren’s Tear, each of Ganis’ new companions was preoccupied with his own habit. Ganis, the Moroi, deemed it a good time to get acquainted with them. In spite of her objection to being sent away from Katabasis Keep, her home, she knew that the voyage would be even more unpleasant if spent alone.

Like a chain, an Ona was as capable as its weakest link, and years of studying made Ganis know this very well. She had studied the Parthans twice, once during her service in the Peacekeeper Core, and once more under the mentorship of Asclepius. To her, being the weakest member of the Ona was unacceptable and shameful. After all, she was a Protector like her other nine comrades, as well as a bearer of the Gift of Death – making her far stronger than her comrades and even more suited for survival. However, the strength of an Ona was determined by the harmony of the group rather than the capabilities of each individual member. It would not be simply a matter of her strength, but of her belonging.

To Ganis, it seemed reasonable to start her introduction with the leader of the group, Pertinax the Second. She did not need to look or ask around for Pertinax, for he stood on the edge of the ship’s bow, attempting to get a better view of the sculpted Siren which served as the ship’s figurehead.

Once she approached him, Pertinax requested from Ganis to hold his hand and secure him if he lost his footing in his attempt for a closer look. She agreed and held his hand in compliance, watching as he clumsily hung on the vessel’s wood. Once the air started striking his grease-covered hair, running its meticulousness, he quickly returned and produced a wooden comb from within his cloak.

“Thank you,” while combing his straight white hair, Pertinax said.

Ganis nodded. “I just wanted to introduce myself.”

“You are Ganis, Asclepius’ companion and former Protector Commander of the Peacekeeper Core. You were captured by the Demigod Emperor Servak, Pax bless him, and sentenced to serve the released Necromancer Asclepius as punishment for aiding the Council during the Second Civil War. Although you were directly assigned to Asclepius, your second and main task was to spy on him…” Pertinax continued to flawlessly recited Ganis’ known history. Once he finished combing his hair, Pertinax inserted his comb back into a pocket within his grey cloak and continued, “I know who you are, but do you know who I am?”

“Other than being my leader and serving Servak, I know nothing of you.” Ganis was shocked by her Commander’s assiduousness. She judged that he might be a peculiar fellow from his appearance, but her assessment was far from accurate to the level of his peculiarity.

“As a comrade and a member of our Ona, I believe it is important for you to know about me as much as I know about you. My story began forty years ago when I taught at the Parthan School of Knowledge. Signs of the First Civil War started worrying many of the scholars and thus, by their council, the leaders started reacting to those worrying signs. I was young at the time, and felt obligated to do more for my kingdom and king. Fueled by youthful passion, I volunteered to join the Parthan forces and was immediately placed as an officer to serve in a fighting Parthan division. My rune-bearing capabilities and education made me privy to the best training and care, leading to my assignment to a high-ranking unit. Once my loyalties were certain and my training complete, I was carved with the same runes Parthan Protectors were required to bare, unless they had already undergone the ritual before they joined the force. Shortly after I started my military career, the Civil War of Man broke and my duties were multiplied. Although the Parthans had the best trained and equipped soldiers, we were overwhelmed by a far larger force with far more resources. It was not long until the casualties started piling up, forcing us to retreat to a defensive position. With all our prosperity and military might, we were incapable of fighting the world on our own. Once we were driven into our lands, the combined kingdoms of men built a wall around Partha to imprison us, cutting us off from most of our lands and the outside world. We then fell into a godless darkness. This, my friend, was when I met Lyra and the Demigod Emperor Servak, Pax bless him. They showed us the path to salvation and peace, the Path of Pax.” Pertinax looked above him and gazed towards the endless blue skies.

“How did you get to be in Lyra’s Ona?”

Pertinax lowered his eyes and looked straight into Ganis’, saying, “Pax led me to her. All I had to do was simply follow the path he set me on. Tell me, Ganis, Is there a deity you believe in?”

“No,” Ganis responded adamantly. “I don’t believe that sins and virtues affect the path our spirits tread once freed from the physical realm. I know that there’s no reward for the just, nor is there punishment awaiting the wrongful. Once we die, we just seize to exist and rejoin the earth once again. The Gods have abandoned our kind long ago.”

Pertinax smiled and patted Ganis’ shoulder. “Perhaps one day I could convince you of Pax‘s existence and involvement. I have told you enough of my past for you to know who I am. The details, however, will have to wait for another time.” Pertinax walked away from Ganis and towards the stairway leading to the lower decks. Before he disappeared into the darkness, Pertinax looked back and whispered to himself, “It will be an interesting journey.”

Although his final words to Ganis were not meant for her ears, her enhanced senses allowed her to hear them. Ganis watched the skies for a moment before retiring to her quarters below.

Hands of Fate: Chapter 1.8

8

The journey was nearing its end when Ganis decided to introduce herself to the last member of her new party, Monolos. The animal handler woke up at dawn to fish for the first meal of the day. Ganis took the opportunity to talk to her comrade as well as figure out his exceptional fishing skills.

Aboard the main deck of the Siren’s Tear, Monolos stood still with a wooden bucket to his right. Ganis approached the motionless man who stared at the horizon ahead of him. As she got closer to her comrade, she peaked at the bucked and noticed that it was overflowing with fish. Some bait he must be using, she thought. To her surprise, Monolos held no fishing gear or tools.

“Did you catch this fish?” Ganis asked the man.

“Aye.”

“How?”

“By observing,” retaining in his unnatural stillness, he calmly responded.

“You are dry and carry no fishing tools. The bucket at your side makes no sense to me.” She waited for a response or justification by Monolos, but he offered none. Frustrated by this lack of response, Ganis asked yet again, “In great detail, explain to me how you catch fish.”

Taking a moment to think about his reply, Monolos spoke, “It starts by a fish laying eggs. Then the eggs hatch and little fish start swimming instinctively towards their natural habitat. Then they feed on whatever type of food their kind is used to, either other fish or plants. When the fish matures, they head to the surface of the water to breed or eat microorganisms living there, where is it warm and suitable for their survival. Once I am near the location where this fish surface, I catch them.”

“Are you serious about this worthless answer?”

“I am sorry, but if this response is inadequate, I am afraid I do not understand your question.”

Almost reaching the limit of her patience, Ganis prepared her fist to strike the man. Suddenly, a hawk flew behind the Moroi and threw a fish into the bucket. At this point the bucket was filled with fish and the new addition bounced off and onto the wooden deck. Finally, Ganis’ question was answered; the man trained his hawk to fish for him.

Admiring her companion’s talent at training his avian friend, Ganis commented, “That is quite a skill you have got there.”

“What skill?”

Ganis seized the opportunity to respond to Monolos as he had with her. “The one that you just proved.”

“Thank you.”

Growing even more furious with her comrade’s response, Ganis exhaled a deep breath to indicate her frustration. “I do not like you!”

“I am sorry. I will try to make you like me by observing your behavior and determining your likes and dislikes. By offering you more of what you like and avoiding what you dislike, I hope that you will come to change your mind about me,” Monolos explained. The man then picked the bucket of fish with his left hand and the sole fish which lay on the wooden floor with his other hand. Looking at the fish then at Ganis, Monolos asked, “Do you like fish?”

“No,” Ganis replied. Although she remembered that she had been fond of the taste of fish when she was alive and capable of consuming regular foods. For a moment, Ganis grew nostalgic.

“Then you may not have any.”

With no heed to his intentions, Monolos carried his hawk’s catch and headed to the kitchen where preparations for breakfast were being undergone. Taking a moment to calm herself, Ganis stood watching the calm sea.

Commodore Habitus noticed the Moroi and headed towards her. Quietly, he stepped beside her while preparing his pipe with a new filling heaven’s weed. After lighting it and taking a few puffs, he offered Ganis a taste of his remedy. Without exchanging words, the Moroi took the contraption and smoked. It did not take long for her to feel the effects of the drug. Although Moroi were immune to the effects of most drugs, Ganis’ exposure to the rising sun caused her regenerative capabilities to focus on repairing the sun’s damage to her skin and allowed her to be affected by things that would have usually not affected her. It was as if she became human during the day and returned to her true self at night.

“I heard that you have an Orc bodyguard who is also the mother of your children. Is that true?”

“Yes it is. Hrah is the mother of my three bastard half-breeds that are currently serving on the Phoenix with Captain Porter until I return to the Imperial waters. I did not want to risk harming them on such a perilous journey. Besides, with those brown bastards around, I go through stocks of rom and heaven’s weed with unnatural speed.”

“At least you have contributed to the coming generation of inhabitants, and they can claim to be the children of the peace-bringer Habitus. Do not underestimate their value or the value of your own deeds. Even Asclepius acknowledges you.”

“All I wanted was to retire in Senna and die from consuming a great deal of rom. Instead I have been given more responsibilities than a sane man can handle. What you and others see as honor and blessings, I see as troublesome. It is indeed ironical how this world functions. You can have this pipe,” Commodore Habitus returned to man the helm of the ship and directed it towards its destination.

Hands of Fate: Chapter 1.7

7

While skulking in the rear of the Siren’s main deck, escaping the serving of dinner, Ganis heard a tranquil voice singing merry tunes. Although incapable of explaining the reason, Ganis knew that the singer reduced the quality of her singing purposefully. The tune grew closer.

Hypnotized by the music, the Moroi found bright blue eyes looking straight at her. The intensity of Thalia’s yellow colored hair made it difficult to miss the artist even with the absence of light, although the Moroi’s undead eyes could see in the darkest of places. Thalia halted her singing and started another tune.

“Hiding in the shadow of the Siren’s main deck,

Ganis, a stranger amidst our ranks.

She looks like a fair maiden, but acts like a creep

For all of us wonder when she sleep”

“Do you like my new tune?”

“It worries me that you spend your time thinking of ridiculous tunes instead of training. Perhaps it would be wise if I did not rely on you in combat.”

Laughing merrily at Ganis’ observation, Thalia responded, “That is a rather funny thing to say from someone who spends most of her time avoiding people instead of training. It seems that both of us share the same concern.”

“I guarantee that my fighting capabilities will increase the overall effectiveness of this Ona.”

“Care to put this to a test?”

Smiling at her comrade’s challenge, Ganis held her fists up in a gesture of acceptance. Thalia struck first, but her blows were all averted by the Moroi’s quicker hands. Kicks and punches were exchanged without hesitation from either. The fighting caused the contestants to move towards the middle of the deck, where the lighting offered them better sight. Stirred by the commotion, the other crewmen and comrades aboard the Tear surfaced to the main deck.

The fighting caused the spectators to cheer and start placing bets. Pertinax and the others did not interfere in the friendly duel between their comrades as it was obvious that it was not serious. Naturally, Ganis held back to hide her true nature. Although pushing her training and natural ability to the limit, Ganis was incapable of turning the tides of the brawl to her favor. Thalia, however, periodically increased the strength and speed of her blows to gage her comrade’s fighting limits.

Eventually, Thalia gained the upper hand and pinned her opponent to the ground. “You are the second strongest person I ever fought,” Thalia informed her comrade.

“Who is the strongest?”

“Sigurd, our Turian companion,” Thalia replied while helping Ganis up.

Barely swallowing her pride, Ganis falsely confessed, “You are a better fighter than I. Fighting alongside someone with your skills comforts me. I was wrong to assume that you would be a liability on the battlefield.”

“I stretched my glorious skills to the limit. You are not too bad after all,” Thalia responded. “Mind if I make a song about our brawl?”

“Not at all, but do not go around bragging that you beat me. At least do not use my name,” Ganis responded. “How did you become so skilled in both fighting and singing?”

“Through a lifetime of hardship and irony. But the origin of my skills remains a mystery even to me. If you ever come across anyone who knew me before Partha, please do not hesitate to inquire about my past.”

“How come you do not know your own past?”

“My first memory is of a play I acted in five years ago. Apparently, no one knew who I was or where I had come from. The only certain fact I know about myself is that I am not Parthan. Are you bothered by my shrouded past?”

“I do not care for the past, but for the future that awaits our party. As long as you can be trusted, I am content.”

“Then I am glad. Did you talk to our other comrades yet?”

“All save for one; the bird talking fellow,” Ganis referred to her eccentric comrade, Monolos.

Thalia burst in laughter, “Good luck interpreting his speech. Unless you can turn into a bird or some odd insect, he will make little sense to you.”

“Does he not speak the common tongue?”

“He does. But if you put the words he speaks together, they will not make much sense,” the performer answered, barely controlling her laughter.

Ganis realized that the crowd of spectators that amassed for the brawl had dissipated. She then noticed the unusual silence which indicated that most crewmembers had retired to their quarters. Captain Habitus was the only one whom she could see other than Thalia, for he stood at the helm to guide the ship through the calm ocean waters.

Noticing Ganis observing the waters, Thalia addressed her, “Ever since the Behemoths’ defeat, the ocean waters have been unnaturally calm and inspiring for my art. I will leave you to your thoughts now.”

Ganis nodded her head, signaling a ‘good night’ to her comrade. It was not long till Thalia disappeared into the lower decks, and the Moroi was left alone to ponder. Reflecting on her speech with the artist, Ganis realized that her attempts to make herself scarce during feeding time raised much suspicion with her comrades. She knew that her identity could not be kept secret for long, especially since they would be spending an undefined and long period of time together. What shall I do? Ganis thought.

Hands of Fate: Chapter 1.6

6

Ganis spent most of her days in solitude, intentionally avoiding the company of others. However, she often came across her crew members and shared idle talk, all save one, Sigurd. Curious regarding the lone warrior, Ganis sought him out in the aft section of the bottom-most deck. Sigurd rested on one of the hammocks designated for the crewmen.

Upon entering the faintly-lit room, Ganis found a hairless face with blue eyes staring at her. For a moment, she was paralyzed with shock and awe at the size of the rugged hulk standing in the middle of the room. The man’s frame was larger than any Ganis had seen before. His bald face bore no scars, but his eyes claimed a different story. Looking into the pale blue eyes of Sigurd, Ganis saw that they were the eyes of a ruthless predator.

“Sigurd, I assume,” with a shaken voice, Ganis spoke. She spent a few moments waiting for a reply, but received none. “I am sorry to alarm you while resting. I was hoping that you would share some of your experiences with me,” said Ganis, in an attempt to draw out Sigurd’s past from him.

The hulking man stood with complete stillness as he stared into Ganis’ eyes. The stare was different from Ninazu’s, for it did not cause the Moroi to feel unveiled; instead, she felt as a helpless prey. Nevertheless, Ganis’ prowess was far greater than that of her comrade’s.

Unwelcome by Sigurd, Ganis took leave and headed towards the main deck. On her way to the stairs leading upwards, Ganis heard a whisper coming from one of the rooms. Further investigation led the Moroi to a room next to Ninazu’s lab where one of her comrades prayed.

Noticing her presence, Eirene asked, “Can I help you with anything, child of Pax?”

“I am no child of Pax,” Ganis referred to her unholy nature, a reference that the Priestess did not comprehend due to lack of knowledge regarding the Moroi’s past.

“We are all children of Pax,” the Priestess stood up and looked at Ganis. Her motion was slow and soothing. Eirene was fair and had a serene face which calmed Ganis’ worried heart. Her dark black hair, coupled with dark colored eyes, matched the color of her skin perfectly. Eirene was a true specimen of beauty. Taking a brief pause to stand up, the Parthan continued, “Some of us are clouded in darkness that prevents the truth from emergence, but they are still children of Pax.”

“And what father would abandon his children and condemn them to such a blood-riddled fate? What father would watch his children slaughter each other and bring never-ending pain upon one another?”

“Pax is no father to any of us.”

“If we are the children of Pax and he is no father, then Pax must be our mother. Unlike fathers, mothers tend to their children infinitely; a trait which is lacking in the ways of wise Pax.”

“Pax is no mother either.”

“Your words are obscured by riddles. Please clarify the meaning behind them” frustrated by Eirene’s riddles, Ganis requested.

“Pax is a concept which we can never grasp, regardless of the level of enlightenment we reach. The methods by which Pax attends to us, his creation, can only be comprehended by hundreds of lifetimes spent worshipping Pax. Some of us hope to reach a small portion of enlightenment during our given lifespan to help us pass through to the next life with a clue on how to continue worshipping Pax. All the strife we go through while living is just a test of our conviction, for it causes the true to follow the path of Pax and the false to fall deeper into the abyss of faithlessness.”

“Your beliefs are naive. Why would an omnipotent being such as Pax care for how we fare?” attempting to counter Eirene’s zealous logic, Ganis inquired.

“Because he loves us like parents love their children. We are creatures of peace that have been misguided by other omnipotent beings such as Pax, but our faults increase the love that Pax has for us.”

Frustrated by the flawed reasoning of the Priestess, Ganis investigated the roots of her comrade’s beliefs even more, “How have you become drawn to Pax to that extent? I find it contradictory with your occupation.”

Smiling at her comrade, Eirene obliged, “I am glad you asked me, for my story might direct you to the path of Pax. I was orphaned at a young age and taken in by Fark from the School of Knowledge. Never being introduced to religion, I took an interest in the topic and pursued it. Within the School of Knowledge, I was allowed to study any topic I wished as long as I contributed. Along with studying the scrolls stored within, I trained in the arts of combat. The combination of studying war and religion drove me to think about the reasons behind all the violence within our world. After years of pondering about the issue, I figured out the answer; it was peace. People fight to protect. They fight to protect themselves; they fight to protect their loved ones; they fight to protect their beliefs; they fight to protect the peace they know. Peace is the ultimate goal of war, and it can only be attained by unifying the peoples. Pax shows us how to unify ourselves and end all the suffering we brought, and continue to bring, upon ourselves. If you fight for Pax and convince others that his path is the only one that leads to salvation, you will bring an end to all wars. This understanding is the gift I have been given by Pax.”

“I once thought as you did, but I was wrong. As long as there are strong people and weak people, there will always be conflict. We are beasts that seek power and work hard to place ourselves above others. Like the kingdoms of living creatures, the strong seek more strength to force their lesser into obedience. The true answer to peace is absolute oppression of the weak, for only then will the strong have no need to assert themselves over others,” Ganis conveyed her thoughts regarding peace to her comrade.

Smiling at her comrade, Eirene concluded, “I am glad that you joined our humble Ona. Perhaps our travels together will give me another opportunity to convince you of my beliefs. Would you care to pray with me?”

“I am honored by your offer, but I believe in trying rather than hoping,” Ganis politely rejected Eirene’s offer while conveying her true thoughts regarding praying. While heading outside the door Eirene held her arm and gently hugged Ganis.

Ganis was speechless by her comrade’s gesture. After a brief moment, the Priestess let go and directed her friend towards the exit. Although contradictory to the Moroi’s beliefs, her conversation with Eirene made her think about the deity of Pax.

Hands of Fate: Chapter 1.5

5

While Ganis was contemplating her training with Asclepius back in Katabasis, she was interrupted by the twins Percival and Dindrane. The two approached her merrily as they shared jokes and giggles. At first, Ganis thought that they were just passing by, but they came and stood beside her as they leaned on the edge of the ironwood deck. The Moroi found herself surrounded by the two twins she knew nothing about.

“That stiff Captain of ours ordered us to talk to you,” Percival spoke.

“Brother, that is a rude way of approaching a lady. Have I taught you nothing?” Dindrane scolded.

“Apologies. You look rather ravishing this evening, my lady. May I offer you a drink?” Percival offered Ganis a sip from a well-abused flask. The steel container had all kinds of scratches and dents, covering some tree-like pattern which seemed to be of some beauty in days long past.

“Careful, whelp! I am not one to be taken lightly and accustomed to this quickly,” rather annoyed by his overly friendly approach, Ganis confronted the young man.

Flicking his red braided hair off of his right shoulder, Percival bowed apologetically to Ganis to atone for his unwelcome friendliness. When he bowed back, Ganis noticed the subtle grey color of his eyes while he looked her straight in hers, “I was only intending to convey a friendly demeanor to our newest comrade. Forgive us, we are not yet accustomed to your likes and dislikes.”

“I hope my brother has not bothered you, for he always assumes that others would not mind his directness.”

“I apologize for behaving with such hostility. I was just dwelling on a painful experience,” while turning to face Dindrane, Ganis spoke. She took the opportunity to observe the woman’s features more thoroughly. The siblings shared the exact same features with a difference in their gender – red hair, grey eyes, and slender frame.

“Would you like to tell us about these memories in hopes of alleviating them?” greatly minding his tone and choosing his words, Percival offered.

Just before Ganis was about to reject the offer, she realized that this was the perfect opportunity for her to test the belief in her refined background story. After a brief pause, Ganis spoke, “I was orphaned at a young age and forced to join the Peacekeeper Core. Ever since that day, I have been making one wrong decision after another. In spite of being a Commander Protector, I was not fit for the responsibilities of command. My final decision to oppose the current Emperor Servak during the rebellion was by far the worst, for it bound me to the Necromancer, Asclepius, and his dreadful Katabasis. The time I wasted there, following some mindless orders, cost me an opportunity to redeem myself during the Behemoths’ war. I can never forgive myself for opposing Servak, unless I make amends for all the harm I have done.”

“Since you shared your story, I believe we owe you the tale of our past. Percival and I were born in exiled Partha to a single mother. We were poor and had to live on the kindness of others, or our own cunning. Since there was no kindness in Partha back in the day, we resorted to theft. One day, a glorious group of warriors passed by our house and inspired us to be more than common thieves. We sought them out and were warmly accepted in their ranks as spies and, later on, assassins. Our mother died a couple of seasons later. When Lyra arrived, our leader decided to join forces with the exiled Gallecian. After becoming renowned for our skills, Lyra invited us to join her own personal guard,” Dindrane narrated while looking at the stars above.

“Our stories bear similarities, but we grew to be rather different from one another. Perhaps your presence in this Ona might help me become one of you,” Ganis spoke. Part of her spoke sincere words, yet most of her just wanted to maintain her identity secret.

“It is truly an honor to have you with us. Can I call you beautiful now?” Percival joked.

“Only if you want to be clobbered to near-death.”

Not knowing whether she was joking or being serious, Percival released a fake laugh. Ganis’ joining in greatly relieved the young man, as it indicated the nature of her comment. Lightly and merrily treading away from Ganis, the twins continued to the lower decks.

The conversation with Percival and Dindrane stirred Ganis’ thoughts. She was confused regarding the mission at hand and how she could complete it quickly to return to Katabasis, where she found comfort. Although she claimed to hate fort Katabasis most of the time, Ganis perceived it more as a home than she had ever perceived any other place. It was truly where she felt most comfortable and serene.

Hands of Fate: Chapter 1.4

4

After waking up from her extended nap, Ganis headed outside the crew’s quarters and towards the alchemy lab where Ninazu created his sinister concoctions. Never having seen the man before, Ganis was quite shocked when he appeared in front of her. The apothecary had long, coarse, black hair coupled with a black beard. Other than his dark skin, Ninazu’s facial features were hidden behind the dense fur covering most of his face.

Once Ganis knocked at the door and opened it, Ninazu’s pitch black eyes met Ganis’. His stare extended past the surface of Ganis’ pupils and into her soul. In spite of being a creature whose life had been unnaturally extended, Ganis felt the coldness of Ninazu’s gaze. It was as if she stood naked with all her true self and intentions uncovered.

The Moroi quickly looked away and pretended to gain a sudden interest in her host’s work. “What are you working on, comrade?” Ganis asked, hoping that the attempt would distract Ninazu from his inspection.

“Your eyes are different,” the apothecary was not fooled by Ganis’ attempt to hide her true identity.

“How so?”

“They are empty. I rarely see anyone with eyes as empty as yours. Usually people’s eyes tell a story or show some significant detail regarding their personality, but your eyes are simply void.”

Growing increasingly uncomfortable with the conversation, Ganis attempted to revert to her originally planned conversation, “Do you have any medicine that would ease seasickness?”

The man picked up a cylindrical vial placed on the table he worked on and handed it to Ganis, “Drink this.”

Ganis took the vial and smelled its contents. The lack of a bitter smell identified it as a safe potion. The Moroi gulped the clear green liquid immediately and thanked the man, while heading out.

“Wait! I want to ask you something,” Ninazu spoke just as Ganis was about to close the wooden door.

She returned inside the room and stood with compliance. There was no need to utter any speech to signal her submission regarding her comrade’s request.

“Pertinax has told me a great deal about your past, but there is a period where the details of your life remain obscure. Where were you during the events of the Ancient’s War?”

“I was by Asclepius’ side, aiding in what little way I could.”

“Surely, there is some interesting story behind the deeds of the hero of Nosgard during his farce with the pale ancient,” with no attempt to hide his suspicions, Ninazu hinted.

“The man used incredible magic generated from the teeth of fallen Dragons. By combining the animating properties of the Dragon teeth and the bodies of the Draugr, Asclepius created a colossal bone golem that stood on a par with the ancient. Although the spell was great, the Behemoth struck at the construct and broke its bones. With his last shred of remaining strength, the Necromancer hurled the shards of broken bones into the weakened body of the Behemoth and killed it. I was there during this duel, watching from a safe distance.”

“Now that I know about your past, I would like to share mine. I came to your lands when I was a child no older than ten years old. Unfortunately, the ship bearing my people crashed, and the few remaining survivors banded together and lived as one nomadic tribe. We built our homes on wheels so we could take them with us to the different kingdoms we went to. Along our journey, we picked up a few skills and traded some items. I learned the properties of herbs and how to combine them into potions this way. When the civil war started and the Council came to power, we were hunted down as outlaws. The final Peacekeeper raid on my tribe cost the lives of all my companions. Once I was alone, there were no morals or rules to guide my actions and I resorted to crime. I used my skills in alchemy to create poisons for assassins and bandits serving criminal organizations in Gallecia. My success alerted the authorities regarding my presence, and I was eventually caught and exiled to Partha. I met Commander Thane in the exile colony and was offered sanctuary by his followers. Thane made use of my alchemy skills to heal the wounded and preserve life. I spent a decade in Partha tending the wounds and injuries of others until I met Lyra, our leader. The coming of the Demigod Servak fueled the Parthan desire for vengeance and allowed me to avenge my Turian brethren by aiding the rebels. Ever since that day, I have loyally served Lyra and her Emperor, for they gave me closure regarding my murdered kin.”

“You are a Turian, like Sigurd?”

“Indeed, but his story is quite different from mine. Circumstances led my life to be one of solitude for a time, but Sigurd led a life of seclusion till he met Thane. In spite of all the pain I have been through, I cannot begin to imagine what he has undergone,” Ninazu sympathized with his fellow Turian and trusted comrade.

“I am glad that you shared your story with me. Thank you.”

“I have only shared with you as many details as I wish. However, unlike your story, mine was all true. I do not know what you are trying to hide from us, but I know that there is more to it than past events. I cannot reveal the truth behind your history if you are not willing to share it. When you are free from distrust, seek me out. For now, the remedy I gave you should be enough,” returning to mix his ground herbs, Ninazu declared.

Ganis excused herself and left the room where Ninazu worked. She made sure to properly close the door once she was outside. Ganis then headed to the main deck to watch the sunset and reevaluate her cover story.

Hands of Fate: Chapter 1.3

3

While Ganis avoided the lunch gathering of her comrades by skulking in the lower decks pretending to look for a misplaced object, she came across Pertinax’s second in command, Hephaestion.

The brown haired man was lying on his hammock reading a scroll when Ganis approached. When he noticed her heading his way, Hephaestion turned his head to face the Moroi. The light revealed his chestnut colored eyes once he gazed at the intruder, expecting her to commence a series of questions regarding her misplaced object.

Realizing that the man awaited her speech, Ganis slurred, “Hail, I am Ganis.”

“And I am Hephaestion. Pertinax told me everything about you, but there is one thing that continues to intrigue me. We set sail a day ago and you have not eaten since. There is no need for you to refrain from informing us about your seasickness. Ninazu can quickly prepare a remedy for you to deal with that.”

“Thank you. I will head to Ninazu after he is done with his lunch. There is one more thing though.”

“What is it?” putting down the scroll in a crevice near his hammock, one designed specifically to hold down scrolls and other cylindrical objects, Hephaestion asked.

“I spoke to Commander Pertinax, and he informed me of the importance of getting to know your comrades. I was hoping that you would share with me some of your history.”

“That is an excellent idea. Normally I would ask you to start with your history, but we have all been made aware of it by Pertinax,” the Parthan spoke. He then took a moment to structure his story before telling it to Ganis, “My story begins after traveling the known lands in search of knowledge from various different sources. When I was fifteen, I decided that my learning had reached a level where there was no need for me to rely on others to gain knowledge. Once I had attained this level of education, I sought a way to apply it in a practical manner and joined the Peacekeeper Core where I met Thane. Although Thane was my age back then, he was already a Commander of a small scouting Peacekeeper group. Impressed by my qualifications and tactical savvy, Thane immediately promoted me to be his second in command. Back then, the Peacekeeper Core was a minor entity which had just been established by the Gallecian authorities to maintain peace in its surrounding lands. It was a group of glorified law enforcers who were about to undergo an identity change. The escalating civil war altered our role to one of bloodshed, and used us as soldiers instead of law enforcers. When the war was over, and Partha was exiled, the Gallecian Council attempted to consolidate their power and be formally named as rulers of Gallecia and protectors of the peace. Although a seemingly fitting reward for the noble Council, Thane and I saw beyond their lies. We knew that the Council was planning something sinister, but we could not identify their intent and prove it. Eventually, Thane conspired with a group of Peacekeepers opposing the Council’s rule, and I willingly followed. One day, however, we were betrayed by one of our comrades and handed over to the Gallecian authorities as rebels and enemies to the peace; we were quickly exiled and sent to Partha. Within the exiled kingdom, Thane and I had to start a new life where survival was based on careful planning as well as avoiding stirring trouble with the hostile gangs. These days were hard, but they made us stronger. It started with Thane and me looking out for each other, and then grew to become a full grown gang of over a hundred members. We managed to gain status among the exiled and survived long enough to attend the arrival of lady Lyra and the Demigod Servak. As a former Peacekeeper officer who had rebelled against the Council, Thane did not need to prove his loyalties to Servak and managed to convince him to allow me to join Lyra’s Ona. However, the true purpose of my task was to spy on the Emperor and confirm the nature of his intentions. Once I learnt that the Emperor was indeed pure of heart, I confessed my role to Lyra who, to my surprise, admired my honesty and insisted that I remain as one of the members of her Ona. That concludes my story so far.”

“What a rather concise and elaborate way of informing me about your eventful history. You are indeed a man of detail, Hephaestion.”

“My past may be eventful, but I never served under the command of a hero such as Asclepius. I look forward to knowing more about this man,” Hephaestion indirectly requested. Before Ganis got a chance to reply to her comrade, he added, “Unfortunately, this story will have to wait, for I am starving and am in desperate need of sustenance. They are serving fish today, again; I guess that I should have my fill before it turns stale as the days come to pass.”

Hephaestion held his right hand out for Ganis to hold and support him while he stood up. Before stepping away from his hammock towards the stairs leading to the upper decks, he looked back and made sure that his reading material was properly secured. With a serene motion, Hephaestion exited the chambers.

Once the man was well out of sight, Ganis walked towards her own hammock and decided to grab some sleep. After all, she wanted to waste time during lunch.