Stan Nichols

The Righteous Blade




The story so far…

The world is saturated in magic.

Its influence is felt in every stratum of human culture. It acts as technology, currency, and as an instrument of control. Its possession and quality denotes social status. It can manifest in many ways, including sham lifeforms, universally referred to as glamours.

The magical system is the legacy of a long-vanished race known as the Founders. Their era, the Dreamtime, flourished before the dawn of history. But why it came to an end is a mystery.

Rival empires Rintarah and Gath Tampoor, equally matched in arms and sorcery, now dominate most of the globe. The island state of Bhealfa sits between them like an egg in a vice. A colony of both empires at various times, it currently bears the shackles of Gath Tampoor.

Bhealfa’s sovereign is Prince Melyobar, a puppet ruler obsessed by death, which he sees as an animate being. In order to outrun his fate, Melyobar has created at vast expense a magically impelled travelling court; a floating palace that is literally never still. The thousands of camp followers it attracts effectively makes the court a nomadic city.

The brutality of the empires has bred an opposition movement, active within Gath Tampoor and Rintarah themselves, and their

many dependencies. At the heart of this opposition is the armed Resistance.

The paladin clans are principal enforcers of the empires’ oppression. Mercenaries in all but name, the clans’ self-seeking precepts allow them to serve both sides. They are as wealthy and powerful as any imperial institution bar the governments.

Reeth Caldason’s hatred of paladins is legendary. A notorious outlaw in the eyes of the authorities, Reeth is a Qalochian. The Qalochians, a warrior race indigenous to Bhealfa, are scattered and nearing extinction. They have suffered betrayal, massacres and discrimination. Caldason himself was one of only a handful to survive the slaughter of his own tribe, and is looking for vengeance. He also seeks a cure for a unique, and unexplained, malady.

Grudgingly at first, he befriends Kutch Pirathon, the young apprentice of a sorcerer he hoped to consult, but who was killed by paladins. Caldason shocks Kutch with his antagonism towards the magic everyone else takes for granted, despite wanting its aid. Even more alarming are the berserk fits of rage Caldason suffers, and the bizarre visions that plague him.

The pair cross paths with Patrician Dulian Karr, a dissident politician opposed to the colonial rulers. Karr offers to put Caldason in touch with Covenant, a secret order of sorcerers who might be able to lift his misfortune. Caldason agrees to accompany the patrician and Kutch to Valdarr, Bhealfa’s largest city.

In Merakasa, capital of Gath Tampoor, Serrah Ardacris leads a special forces unit of the Council for Internal Security. During a raid on a gang trafficking ramp, an illegal narcotic, one of her unit is killed. As he was the scion of an aristocrat family, there are political repercussions. Serrah is unjustly blamed for his death and pressured to make a public confession. Although subjected to harsh treatment, she refuses.

Serrah’s daughter, Eithne, died aged fifteen of a ramp overdose. Eithne appears to Serrah, apparently brought back from the dead. But Serrah recognises this as a cruel magical ruse, designed to break

her spirit. Close to despair, she’s rescued from captivity by a Resistance group. She escapes from them and manages to get out of Gath Tampoor on a ship bound for Bhealfa.

En route, she overhears stories of a warlord, Zerreiss, who has risen in the barbarous northern wastes. Known to his people as the Man Who Fell From the Sun, Zerreiss has some unknown power which enables him to conquer neighbouring lands.

Clan High Chief Ivak Bastorran, hereditary leader of the paladins, and Gath Tampoorian Imperial Envoy Andar Talgorian, although mutually antagonistic, co-operate on organising an expedition to find out more about Zerreiss. They are spurred by the suspicion that Rintarah is planning a similar mission.

Devlor Bastorran, nephew and protege of Ivak, and heir to leadership of the clans, is obsessed with killing or capturing Reeth Caldason. His uncle urges him to caution, revealing that the paladins have to follow certain unspecified rules in respect of Caldason. Rules imposed by the highest authority.

Tanalvah Lahn, a state-sanctioned courtesan, and a Qalochian, has never known any other life than working in the brothels of Jecellam, capital of Rintarah. But everything changes when her best friend, another prostitute, is murdered by a client. Defending herself, Tanalvah accidentally kills the man. Terrified of the consequences, she takes her friend’s two young children and flees. Securing passage on a ship, they sail for Bhealfa.

Kinsel Rukanis, a Gath Tampoorian, is one of the empire’s leading classical singers. A pacifist, he covertly supports the Resistance. Rukanis encounters Tanalvah and the children in Valdarr docks, being chased by watchmen and a paladin. Serrah Ardacris, having arrived at the same harbour, saves Kinsel and the others, killing three of their pursuers in the process. Kinsel takes the women and children to a Resistance safe house.

Reeth Caldason, Kutch Pirathon and Dulian Karr arrive in Valdarr. They meet Phoenix, the head of Covenant, who appears in the guise of a churlish ten-year-old girl. In reality an elderly wizard,

Phoenix has studied what little remains of Founder lore, and uses this advanced magic to adopt a variety of guises. Caldason also comes upon Quinn Disgleirio, a representative of the Fellowship of the Righteous Blade. A martial order long dormant, the Fellowship has recently been revived to fight for Bhealfa’s independence.

The Resistance, Covenant and the Blade Fellowship have formed an alliance to fight the empires’ tyranny-the United Revolutionary Council. Karr confides that the Council has something more radical in mind than mere revolution. Their aim is no less than the founding of a free state, at a location yet to be chosen.

The full extent of Caldason’s affliction is revealed. He is partially immortal, in the sense of being extremely resilient rather than indestructible. If wounded, he heals remarkably quickly, and he ages hardly at all. His condition dates back to the time his tribe was massacred, over seventy years before, though he has no idea how he achieved this state. The visions and rages he endures make him fear insanity.

Phoenix believes the Founders left a fund of knowledge, dubbed the Source. The Source is associated with the legend of the Clepsydra, said to be a device for marking off the eons to the Day of Destruction. If the stories are true, the Source could provide the Resistance with a powerful weapon against the empires, and Caldason with a cure. Covenant research indicates the Clepsydra’s possible location, and Caldason is desperate to investigate. The Council promises to mount an expedition, but it will take time.

Phoenix also thinks that Kutch could be a latent spotter. Possessing an incredibly rare, natural talent, spotters can look beyond the falsity of magic and distinguish illusion from reality. Kutch agrees to let Phoenix train him and bring out the skill.

Reeth and Kutch’s lives entwine with those of Serrah Ardacris, Kinsel Rukanis, Tanalvah Lahn and the children, who have been given Resistance protection. Shortly, Kinsel and Tanalvah become lovers, and set up house together with the children. But Tanalvah is worried that Kinsel is running too many risks through his Resistance work.

Devlor Bastorran identifies Kinsel and Tanalvah as having been at the centre of the brawl at the docks. He orders them to be watched, and bides his time.

A special operations band is formed, headed by Caldason and Serrah. Their mission is to penetrate a secret government records office and destroy its files. On its shelves, Caldason finds a file bearing his name, but all the pages have been removed. The depository is razed. Fleeing the scene, Caldason is confronted by Devlor

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