Category Archives: The Rift Wars

The Rift Wars Begin

Ophelia found Empath in the courtyard of Adkarna’s central armory, stockpiling arrows, bolts, and various gunpowders shipped from the City of Iron. The battlecarts Empath had gathered carried enough equipment to level a large village.

Empath halted, more out of surprise than respect, her arms heavy with chainmail and her face slick with sweat. “My Queen.”

Ophelia lifted the mail from Empath’s arms. “I know, it is strange to see me within a city’s walls.” She carried the mail to one of the carts and draped it over the edge, where a squire hefted as much as he could and threaded it over thick wooden dowels.

Ophelia said, “I dislike the confinement almost as much as the stench of daemon blood. But when the messenger delivered your note, I had to come.”

She offered a waterskin and towel.

Empath used both. “You haven’t come to talk me out of it, I hope.”

“No. To ask why you insist on leading this mission.”

“King Jeraziah—”

“I spoke to my brother. We didn’t share much, but he did tell me the only reason he named you commander was because he was afraid not to. Apparently he believed if he hadn’t, you would have become one with him, issued the order, then left.”

“That would be disrespectful,” Empath said. “A violation.”

“But amusing, no? So tell me. Why is it so important for you to lead that odd band of warriors back into the Great Rift?”

Empath glanced at the Hunter’s Guild, those heroes who had been pulled into the Rift and survived—thrived, even—and returned to warn Newerth off the growing Riftspawn threat. They seemed even more uncomfortable than Ophelia, and rightfully so. Ophelia preferred the natural setting of Caldavar to anything man-made, but the Guild was suited to an entirely different realm.

Empath said, “I was there when they emerged. I saw what else came out of that rift, and what it intended for our world. I cannot in good conscience let another carry the responsibility.”

“But Jeraziah has granted you every resource you desire. I mean no offense, but there are other warriors better suited to spearhead an assault. The Black Legion comes to mind.”

“The mission is mine,” Empath said. She turned to collect another load of equipment, but Ophelia caught her arm.

“Tell me why.” Her voice was stern, that of a Queen, but her eyes were soft. Appealing. Empath felt within her a true desire to know…to find out if the Great Rift might offer what she hoped it would.

“Relief,” Empath said. “For years I have felt the suffering of Newerth. Of every living creature who has been tortured, maimed, killed. I will lead this mission into the Great Rift and close that gateway, because it will save Newerth. But while I am there, perhaps only for a moment…perhaps I won’t feel that suffering.”

Ophelia nodded.

Empath could not meet her eyes. “It is shameful. But the truth.”

“No,” Ophelia said. “No truth is shameful. It only is. And I, too, would embrace a moment of silence to avoid hearing my brothers and sisters of the natural world howling for the pain to stop. I wish you luck in your search for silence, even if it is only a moment.”

“Please,” Empath said. “Do not tell the King.”

Ophelia scoffed. “He wouldn’t understand. He might not even hear—he’s consumed by his dwindling faith. I feared the news of the Great Rift might topple him from his god’s altar completely. He cannot fathom an entire realm full of strange creatures, all of it beyond the touch of Sol. But he fears it.”

“He should,” Empath said.

“Have those Hunter rogues told you what to expect?”

“Chaos. Chaos and blood. They say our abilities will act erratically, as if we could swap them between us like items of clothing.”

Ophelia cocked an eyebrow. “So Jeraziah and Maliken could feel as you do, share the suffering of our world?”

“It seems so.”

“Maybe then these wars would end.” Ophelia considered this for a few moments, then shook her head. “Likely better if you or I borrowed Hammerstorm’s brute strength and just caved their fool heads in.”

“There is something else the Hunters speak of,” Empath said. “They call them Amulets of Rebirth. Activating one further scrambles the unknown Great Rift forces which grant them these new abilities. Use an Amulet, they say, and suddenly your abilities are different again.”

“Chaos doesn’t begin to describe this,” Ophelia said. “It will be anarchy on a level previously unknown.”

“The Hunter’s Guild claim it’s quite fun. Sporting, even.”

Ophelia studied the group of hardened soldiers, each one covered in skins, claws, teeth, and other trophies taken from their Rift prey. “I suppose they would.”

She put her hands on Empath’s shoulders and looked into her eyes. “Lead the way into the Great Rift, warrior of Newerth. We will follow. We will close that cursed gateway. And—most important—we will all return.”

The Rift Wars 6 – The Queen’s Devourer

The floating head and Riftwolf circled the fallen Hunter, his weapons empty and scattered across the dusty ground. His large purple hand flexed and extended, reaching for his blade. The Riftspawn’s rolling torso eye glared at him as the headless creature stalked closer, its needle-sharp arm ready to plunge.

As the Riftspawn stepped within striking distance its circling head whipped toward the Rift, its single eye wide. The Riftwolf sank against the ground, and as one the Riftspawn creatures ceased their attacks and turned to their portal. Even the giant purple tentacles grew still, the thick stalagnite fluid dripping from their ends. Continue reading The Rift Wars 6 – The Queen’s Devourer

The Rift Wars 5 – Hunter Witch Slayer vs. Rift Warden

The Guild warrior’s flags served his side well. His presence rallied the Hunter Rampage, and together they defeated the slithering Rift creature and engaged the remaining stunned Riftspawn in a fierce battle. The clash appeared evenly matched as Jaru crawled around the sheltering rock to relative safety.

I barred his way. “You brought me here to show how close we all are to extermination. And when we are at the tipping point, you shove us toward our doom.”

He looked up with his burning red eyes. Continue reading The Rift Wars 5 – Hunter Witch Slayer vs. Rift Warden

The Rift Wars 4 – Hunter Rally vs. Rift Slither

The Hunter Rampage and his weary, bloodied mount faced the victorious Rift Predator and the green hard-shelled creature, which had left the Guild’s tribal warrior and his blowgun shattered in the dust.

I scampered back to the shelter of the volcanic stone and gasped to Jaru, “We must do something. These Riftspawn are on the verge of winning.” Continue reading The Rift Wars 4 – Hunter Rally vs. Rift Slither

The Rift Wars 3 – Hunter Bushwack vs. Rift Bubbles

The jagged red bone shards of the Riftspawn hammered against the Hunter’s blades and armor again and again, driving him back until he stumbled over a mound of black stones and fell.

I gathered a fistful of Jaru’s cloak. “You’ll not help him? He fights for Newerth!”

“He has already lost,” Jaru said. Continue reading The Rift Wars 3 – Hunter Bushwack vs. Rift Bubbles

The Rift Wars 2 – Hunter Swiftblade vs. Rift Predator

Jaru the Corrupted Disciple and I ducked and scurried toward an outcropping of volcanic rock to avoid being trampled by the Rampage-like Hunter and Rift Arachna as they tore at each other.

My eye was drawn once again to the blackness of the Great Rift, which seemed to have grown in the brief time since Jaru brought me there. At first I thought the shape emerging from the darkness was another tentacle, but it was white and, when I squinted to gain detail, braided. It lashed into Newerth and disappeared back into the Rift. Continue reading The Rift Wars 2 – Hunter Swiftblade vs. Rift Predator

The Rift Wars 1 – Hunter Rampage vs. Rift Arachna

Three more spider legs emerged and pulled a face clustered with glowing purple eyes into our world. Its chelicerae and fangs were as tall as my legs. The rest of the legs and abdomen tore through the portal. Three giant, rolling eyes bulged from its back, and above them segmented tentacles tipped with blade-like claws were poised to strike. The creature stayed on the verge of the Rift, crouched and coiled, all of its eyes busy.

I found my voice: “The Rift has giant spiders?”

“I assume so,” the Corrupted Disciple said. “But this monstrosity used to be one of Arachna’s spiderlings.”

“No…”

“All grown up now, with spiderlings of its own. I’d hate to see what kind of carnage their bites cause.”

The Riftspawn took a step forward, its claws scarring the volcanic rock. Continue reading The Rift Wars 1 – Hunter Rampage vs. Rift Arachna

The Rift Wars – Prologue

The Legion Command sent me to the meeting in a blackened carriage. The door was locked from the outside, the windows shrouded with thick canvas. It was a most secret palaver, the details of which I read from a sealed parchment, opened only when I was away from the eyes and ears of The Capital. As King Jeraziah’s Anointed Conciliator, I had expected to find orders that sent me to some childish disagreement between egotistic generals, squabbling over who got the honor of dying first.

Instead, I read by the light of a shaking candle that I was being taken to meet with the Hellbourne. This, to put it politely, was a shock that made my bowels quake. When I read why the meeting was necessary, I began to pray.

The sun was above the horizon when I finally emerged from the carriage. We were in a dark wood near an overgrown stone ruin that had once been a grand keep. Two royal guardsmen led me to a doorway clogged with vines and dead leaves. One of them went inside while the other stayed with me. The first returned and tilted his head, indicating I should enter. He seemed shaken. Continue reading The Rift Wars – Prologue