In a perfect world, the breaking of the laws brings retribution to the alien race - Truemen. A girl befriends a denizen of this strange land, not knowing that she holds the key to her people's fate. Truemen hate the immortal Mujar and cast them into Pits, and the Hashon Jahar sweep across the land, slaughtering all in their path. One thing is certain; Truemankind is doomed unless fate changes.
A raven hovered on the icy wind, its pinions rippling as it surveyed the land below. It descended, riding the wind like a swift, frolicsome steed, its wings folding and outstretching as the breeze intensified or diminished. Its cruel beak snapped from side to side, studying the feast it had discovered, its beady eyes bright. With a harsh cry, it lowered sharp-clawed feet and perched atop a broken spear, folding its wings as the wind ruffled its feathers.
Chanter opened his eyes. Wind-torn clouds of billowing, swelling grey vapour flew above him. A dark river invaded a pale canyon and turned into a grey wall. Pain washed through him in a gentle tide, a dull, faraway sensation. Earthpower soaked into him from the cold mountainside on which he lay. Pockets of snow nestled amid the black rocks, much of it stained pink with the blood that had been spilt here earlier. Death stalked the killing field as a pale mist, swallowing the souls of the fallen that hung over their bodies in a shimmering shroud only he could see. Dolana, the Earthpower, froze his fingers and toes and sent icy tendrils into his heart, numbing him. He welcomed it. If only his life could end here and now, amongst the dead of his clan and the cold company of spirits, so he might join them.
The spear that had been driven through him in a savage thrust protruded from his chest. He had been the first to fall. His hand still clutched the blood-smeared shaft. He remembered his feeble attempt to pull it free soon after it had impaled him. Now he wondered why he had come to the battle. A foolish wish to stand beside his clan in war. With fading eyes, he watched the mist gather and swirl as it joined the hordes of dead into a sparkling form.
The Lady of Death, Marrana, stalked the battlefield this day, gathered the dead to her and enfolded them in her cold, ragged cloak. The form floated closer, mesmerising him with its weird beauty and the terror that preceded it. The shimmering soul-mist gathered to it, swelling it, and within its greyness he looked upon the face of Death. A thing of beauty and horror, of sorrow and ecstasy, turning this way and that as she gathered the souls. Now the aspect of the hag, now the beauteous maiden, then the burning fiend of retribution. All souls drew to her, their differences forgotten with the lives they had lost, and entered her embrace for the journey to the Lake of Dreams.
Chanter drew on Dolana, willing Death to walk a little closer and claim him too. The Earthpower flowed into him with cool intensity, draining him.
Marrana, he longed to cry out, take me with you to the Lake of Dreams! Don't leave me here alone. Why am I denied the end you grant so many others? Such a plea would gain him nothing, however.
The goddess walked by, her tattered cloak of grey mist brushing his face with cold rags. A deathly caress, a brief glimpse into beyond and the light of glory there. Chanter strained at the ground, his bloody hands gripping cold soil, but for him there was no tug of summons. He was the reason for her coming, yet he would be the only one left behind. Sagging back, he watched her drift away.
The raven cawed, and Chanter closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he was alone on the icy, wind-swept field of death. So, if Death would not take him, then Life must. He called on Dolana, and the surge of Earthpower sapped his strength like a leech at his blood. His mind locked with the raven's, which spread dusty wings and landed on his chest with a thud. He imprinted his will upon the bird, and its feathers brushed his face, then it winged away into the cold greyness with a harsh, echoing cry.
Two days passed in silent dark and light. Icicles formed on the spear shaft and almost reached his chest. Dolana sapped him, but he could summon no other power while he was pinned to the ground. He consigned himself to sleep's sweet oblivion, and escaped the cold and loneliness together.
Rough hands pulled him up, and pain exploded through him as fresh blood washed over the blackened crusts on his chest. He raised his head with frozen muscles, and his lips twisted in a bloody snarl. Dolana drained, taking the cold with it, and the warmth of Crayash flamed. He lashed out with a savage jerk, and someone cursed, pinned his arm and twisted it as peasant voices mumbled close by in a strange dialect.
Wood hit him on the head as he was tossed into the back of a cart. The wheels rattled over frozen ground, jolting him. A dark figure crouched beside him, and the Power of Crayash swelled in
Chanter, warming him. A rough hand took hold of the spear and tugged. Voices cursed, and more hands joined the task. Two of them pulled the frozen shaft from his chest with a sucking gurgle and a flood of warm blood. Chanter closed his eyes, glad that the discomfort was gone, and let the rattling wheels lull him.
Icy earth hit the side of his head, and he opened his eyes. The wagon rattled away, the two men whipping the skinny horse into an unwilling trot. Dolana flowed through him, its seeping cold embracing him again. Crayash was gone from his reach, and he watched his blood soaked into the snow. Muffled footsteps approached, and he looked up at his captor.
Mishak studied his new acquisition with jaundiced eyes. The raven had brought a vision of power and blood, death and a living soul. Now he knew why. The man who lay on the snow was Mujar, unable to die. Mishak leant on his staff and sighed. He had lived alone in his dilapidated cabin since his son had been stolen three years before, and the inhabitants of the village at the bottom of the neighbouring valley called him a hermit. They respected his wisdom, however, and some considered him to be a sage, occasionally paying for his advice to settle disputes and avert potential disasters.
The blacksmith and his son had agreed to fetch the man Mishak had seen in his vision from Prair's Crag because Mishak had settled a dispute between them and the local miners last year concerning the price and quality of the ore. Mishak frowned at the injured unman.
The Mujar's half open eyes glowed silver-blue, the pupils pin points. Thick black lashes offset the pale irises, making them shine like jewels. One of the reasons people hated Mujar. Burning eyes, they called them, or shining eyes.
Mishak prodded the Mujar's blood-caked chest with his staff. "You want comforts?" Slowly his eyes closed, and he nodded.
Mishak grunted. "No harm."
Again the unman nodded, raising a hand in the traditional palm-up gesture of the defeated. His mouth worked, and blood dribbled out as he grated, "No harm."
Mishak bent and gripped the shoulder of the Mujar's studded leather tunic. He might be a greybeard, but Mujar were slender, and so not a heavy load to drag. Within the log cabin, Mishak dropped his burden next to the fire with a groan as his back ached. The Mujar turned to the blaze, and Mishak brought his staff down with a ringing crack on the hearth stones.