Tom Lloyd: The Dusk Watchman

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Tom Lloyd The Dusk Watchman
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    The Dusk Watchman
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Tom Lloyd

The Dusk Watchman


As the Farlan retreated from the battle of the Byoran Fens, Lord Isak chose to face his proscribed fate and stay to cover their retreat. He died at the hands of the Menin lord, who had been driven half-mad with grief after Isak killed his son, having goaded the Menin lord into sending him directly to Ghenna.

In the wake of Isak’s death, the Chief of the Gods, Death himself, incarnates on the battleground to gather those Aspects Isak had inadvertently torn from His control — the five minor Gods known as the Reapers — only to discover one, the Wither Queen, remains beyond His control. After her bargain with Isak, the Wither Queen has become too strong to be recalled. Fulfilling her bargain with Isak, she is far to the north, hunting Elves in the forests beyond Lomin, where she find the Elves are enslaving local spirits there to use as weapons. The Wither Queen subsumes these spirits and uses their power to bolster her strength as she looks to remain a Goddess in her own right, separate from her former master, Death.

In Byora, Doranei mourns his best friend, Sebe, in the company of Zhia Vukotic. Sebe died at the start of the battle as he tried to assassinate Aracnan on a Byoran street. He managed only to wound the Demi-God, but the poison he used is now slowly killing Aracnan.

In Llehden, Mihn, Xeliath and the witch of Llehden set Isak’s desperate last plan in motion: Mihn travels into the underworld to attempt to break Isak out of Ghenna. The Chief of the Gods permits him to pass through onto the slopes of Ghain, the great mountain at the heart of which is the Dark Place, the home of daemons. Mihn ascends to the ivory gates of Ghenna, crosses the fiery river Maram and enters the lowest domain of Ghenna, where Isak’s dreams have told him the soul of Aryn Bwr, captive in Isak’s mind, would end up. He is successful, but for them to escape back to the lands of the living, Xeliath, Isak’s love, is forced to fight the Jailer of the Dark, an ancient dragon bound there by the Gods, and is killed in the battle.

Meanwhile in the Circle City, Zhia Vukotic and her brother Koezh take the sword Aenaris to a temporary hiding-place out in the spirit-haunted fens beyond Byora, since the Menin lord disturbed its long-standing rest in the Library of Seasons and woke the maddened dragon they had set there as the sword’s guardian. The Menin lord himself, lost in his grief over his dead son, is ignoring the ravages of the enraged dragon, which is laying waste to each quarter of the Circle City. The Duchess of Byora and her ward Ruhen — a young boy who is in fact the vessel Azaer has taken as his mortal form — come to petition him, and only then is the badly injured Major Amber able to succeed in waking his lord from his all-consuming grief. The Menin lord agrees to free his newest subjects from the dragon, and Ruhen uses the opportunity to forge a link between himself and the man grieving for his lost son.

Azaer’s disciple within the Harlequin clans realises it’s time to lead them south, to add legitimacy to Ruhen’s burgeoning power.

In Llehden, Mihn and the witch bury Xeliath and try to coax the traumatised Isak back to his senses. Isak has been left broken and horribly scarred by the tortures inflicted on him in Ghenna; in the days after his escape he is a catatonic wreck.

Elsewhere, in Narkang territory, the Mortal-Aspect Legana has escaped the Circle City in search of King Emin, and she finds him at last as he is gathering an elite strike-team to send to Byora and kill Ruhen. The king believes Ruhen to be a vehicle of Azaer’s control over the Duchess of Byora, rather than the mortal form of Azaer he actually is. She and the king come to an agreement: he will provide sanctuary for her and her former sisters, the Daughters of Fate, and in return they will help his over-stretched elite assassinate Harlequins across the Land before Ruhen can twist them all to his service.

In the Circle City, the Menin lord discusses the next step of his plan to ascend to Godhood with General Gaur. They start a programme of murdering priests of Karkarn, and send an Elven assassin to kill Count Vesna, now the Mortal-Aspect of Karkarn, in order to weaken the God of War and ultimately allow the Menin lord to replace him. Once that is in play, the Menin lord very publically kills the dragon plaguing the city as a way to demonstrate his strength to the powerbrokers there. Elsewhere in the Circle City, Luerce — the principal disciple of Ruhen’s rabble of followers — meets with Knight-Cardinal Certinse, the leader of the Devoted, to offer them a solution to their crippling problem of a fanatical priesthood taking control of their martial Order.

As the Farlan army retreats home and Count Vesna begins to appreciate the full implications of becoming Karkarn’s Mortal-Aspect, he discovers Isak had left orders to make Fernal, a Demi-God and companion of the witch of Llehden, next Lord of the Farlan. Isak’s order includes a deal with High Cardinal Certinse, the newly established head of the cults in Tirah, but before Fernal can profit from this collusion the fanatics within the cults have the High Cardinal murdered, forcing Fernal to do a deal with the nobility instead, to shore up his uncertain position and avoid the tribe descending into civil war.

When Count Vesna does get back to Tirah at last, it is to a city almost under siege, as the religious factions are all struggling to control it. His first meeting on his return with Carel, Isak’s surrogate father, is fraught, but Vesna begins to realise Isak might have had a plan in dying the way he did; that he might not have thrown his life away as they currently believe.

In Narkang, King Emin is visited by the God Larat, who warns him that the Menin will soon invade and he must not face them in battle, so powerful has the Menin lord now become.

Not far away, in the sanctuary of Llehden, Isak’s sanity is slowly returning, helped in part by the gift of a puppy, Hulf, and the witch removing those portions of his memory that are too horrific to remain. However, with the loss of those memories go some remembrances of his life before his imprisonment in Ghenna, including his knowledge of Carel, and the damage this has caused to Isak’s mind becomes increasingly clear. Meanwhile Mihn hears the legend of the Ragged Man from a local girl, who presumes Isak is that figure out of folklore.

King Emin’s strike-force reaches the Circle City and attacks the Ruby Tower of Byora. Though they fail to find Ruhen, Doranei does manage to kill the failing Demi-God Aracnan. He is then given a journal by his lover, Zhia Vukotic; the prize Azaer’s followers were hunting in Scree, for which they sacrificed the Skull of Ruling to possess. The journal belonged to Zhia’s mad brother, Vorizh Vukotic, who stole Termin Mystt, Death’s own sword, a weapon equalled in power only by Aenaris.

After the attack on the Ruby Tower, the Menin focus entirely on invading Narkang. Following Isak’s last decree, his troop of personal guards is sent to King Emin and a few travel on to Llehden, where they discover their lord reborn. King Emin makes his final preparations for invasion with Legana, while desperately searching for a way to defeat a man born to be invincible in battle. When the Menin do invade, they are savage in their assault. Frustrated by the Narkang armies’ refusal to meet them in battle, they decimate the eastern half of the nation, culminating in the wholesale destruction of Aroth, one of the nation’s biggest cities.

Azaer’s followers, Venn and the spirit of the minstrel Rojak caught in Venn’s shadow, make a deal with the Wither Queen for her support. In return, they break the bargain she made with Isak that constricts her. Luerce and a Witchfinder within the Devoted engineer the death of a high-ranking priest who had been containing the worst excesses of the fanatics within the Devoted. As the Devoted suffer increased oppression from their own priests, they start to remember their Order’s original doctrine: they were created as an army for a coming saviour. All the while, Walls of Intercession appear across Byora as the desperate and mad begin to see Ruhen as a saviour sent by the Gods in the place of a corrupt priesthood.

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