The gods of Ariel know they are not real. Created by man’s wishing, they exist by a fluke of geology on a planet far from Earth. And yet ... even knowing why they exist, they are driven to fulfill their purpose, to be what men expect them to be. Fate, too, is driven, but to an end her immortal fellows neither know nor guess. Like them, she must use the tools at hand, and her tool is named Alarion Aravon. Youngest son of House Aravon, a prince without portfolio, he become’s Fate’s unwitting arrow, aimed at the heart of the festering rot on a planet too long divided against itself.  But Alarion, faced with the destruction of everything he holds dear, intends to start a new game...



When the gods scheme, mortals should just get out of the way... Follow suebthewriter on Twitter




Silent as smoke, a wind that was not a wind swept boldly through the gathering dusk. Laden with the chill of the desert night, it slid through towering rocks smoldering in every color of the sunset sinking to ash in the west. It ruffled the red sand shaken from the broken hills; rattled the spindly gray spines of a hayak bush; killed a curious borer rat sniffing the indifferent skirts of the breeze as it passed. Finally it whispered into being atop a hilltop cloven long ago by some tantrum of nature. In the fading pearl dusk, orange robes gathered themselves from nothing, shaping nothing, and yet . . . something.

"You are late," Seev's voice sulked, a petulant hiss out of the dusk.

Slim, long-fingered hands took shape at the ends of orange sleeves, plucking voluminous folds into order. "I did not have to come at all, brother." Fate's voice was no warmer than the wind.

Seev shaped himself from the sand, a hulking, faceless thing in robes the color of old blood. "It is time. You promised me."

"Ah? Are you taking to yourself my prerogatives now, foretelling when and how mortals should die?"

The god of death paused, a slight, fatal hesitation. Fate drew back her hood and smiled at him. Seev shrank visibly.

"I thought not." Fate's chill, ivory face, perfect as the darkening arch of sky overhead, tilted sideways. "Stoneshaker has corrupted you." And when the huddled, bloody robes stirred in protest, her laugh froze the ayak. "Do you think I haven't watched you conspiring together? You are greedy, brother. Have the grace to acknowledge it."

"You promised me an Aravoni. When the youngest was born, even you said House Aravon was now over-blessed with sons."

"You have already claimed an Aravoni. Can you not be content with the father?'

"His death is long forgotten. It is of no profit to me. You promised!"

Fate turned her face away, her strange, amber eyes brooding into the north. "I remember."

"Then choose." Seev lifted his head, the blood-colored robes falling together over the empty air where his face should be. "Or is it that you cannot? House Aravon has ever been your favorite. For too long, say I."

"Because they scorn your best traps and laugh in your face when you finally win." Fate looked around then, and laughed as sand swirled up around her with an angry hiss. But her smile faded when the sand rained back in a spray like blood across the blue-purple stone at her feet. Blue for House Aravon. Blood for a death she owed.

She sighed, gusting wind down the hillside to trouble a sand farmer a dozen kay away with its unseasonable chill. Seev stirred, sensing victory. "Shall I choose for you?"

"Are you but Stoneshaker's hound, then?" Her contempt sent him shrinking to the far edge of the broken hill. At his feet a sheer cliff gaped over a valley ringed close with jagged stumps of hills around an oddly smooth floor. "I know which you would choose. He is mine. Of the other two--"

She spread her long fingers wide, erasing the dusk and the hillside and the vivid rocks of An-Utah. Three faces laughed at her out of the night, young men striking in their beauty. Seev stirred behind her. His eagerness to set a royal house mourning disgusted her; to spite him she tarried, studying these three upon whom hung so much: the smiling eldest with hair the color of grain in a harvest basket and eyes the midnight blue of his house; the second tawny as a trafe, wide-shouldered and solid, steady-eyed as a hound; the youngest with eyes the deep violet of the top of the sky and hair like molten silver tinged with gold. Eldest to youngest, there could be no doubt they were brothers, and brothers of that rarest kind in Sevakand, three who had no quarrel with each other.

Fate sighed again, so softly it--almost--went unregarded by Seev. Regretfully she closed her fist. One of the faces shivered, and vanished.

"You may have that one."


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