“Grab him!” hissed Laila. “That bastard, that scum, GRAB HIM, NOW!”

One of the Vomorans mumbled something to her. Laila snarled and swiped at the creature’s thick chin, slashing her long nails through the man’s skin.

“He’s not going to fire again, you idiot!” growled Laila. The malformed woman turned in my direction, what remained of her lips twisting into a mad sneer.

“That was a clever trick,” spat the noblewoman. “Very clever – but you won’t try that again, will you? If you fire at us, you won’t just harm us,” Laila darted towards the nearest prisoner, plucking a small girl out of the crowd by her hair and dragging the terrified girl in front of her. Laila rang a long, blistered talon down the girl’s cheek, grinning.

“Now,” said Laila. “Why don’t you put that staff down and surrender? If you do that, I promise, your friends may go free. You, though,” snarled Laila, her remaining eye bulging with fury. “You will suffer for killing my Father, Demetrius.”

I didn’t lower the staff.

“It’s over,” I said, raising my voice. Several Vomorans stared in my direction. “Listen, Laila, and if any of you Vomorans can understand me. Your plan has failed. Lysander is dead, your army has been decimated, the city is under siege… Whatever plans that were made between her Father and Uruk… They’re over now.”

“Silence!” howled Laila. The short noblewoman snatched a serrated blade from one of her minions and, breathing heavily, held it to the girl’s throat. The girl started to weep, until a sharp tug on her hair by Laila silenced her. “One more word, and I’ll kill this child!”

I took a deep breath. I could feel the eyes of the surviving Council burrowing into me. I choked back my fear and did my best to throw a haughty sneer back at the noblewoman.

“Do it, then,” I replied. “As soon as you do, I’ll kill you. I’ll kill any Vomoran that doesn’t leave this room by the time I’ve finished counting backwards from ten. If you’re going to use children and women as shields, then, so be it. I’ll do whatever it takes to save Ashenmore.”

Laila’s twisted smile faltered. A tortured cry sprung up from the crowd of noblemen. The Vomoran’s started whispering to one another, their eyes wide and frightened, their lips quivering, their blades lowering from their prisoners’ necks.

“You wouldn’t,” said Laila. “You couldn’t do that. That’d be murder!”

“You sound awfully confident,” I said. “You must’ve got that from your Father.”

Laila’s smile vanished. For a moment, she remained where she was, the knife probing the frail throat of her victim. Then, with a strangled, high-pitched snarl, Laila flung the girl away from her. She started to march past me, towards the entrance to the throne room, bellowing something in Vomoran. At once, the Vomoran guards released their prisoners and, casting numerous furtive glances in my direction, fled after the little noblewoman. The nobles of Ashenmore into a frenzied cheer, rushing towards their families with outstretched arms. The little girl that had been held prisoner by Laila was pulled into a fierce embrace by the balding nobleman that had spoken. As a wave of merriment cascaded upon the throne room, Lysander’s funeral pyre continued to burn, crimson smoke crawling across the arched, stone ceiling.


After many days of turmoil brought about by the sudden death of Lysander, the flight of his daughter, and the Vomoran allies, something approaching peace finally descended upon the city of Ashuron. Lysander’s personal guard proved to be far more loyal to the dead tyrant than even his own offspring and, for several days after we successfully took control of the city they waged a brutal war against us, forming a blockade around a dozen or so buildings along the southern border of Ashuron whilst terrorizing the newly freed inhabitants of the capital. Eventually, the only way that Barnabus’ fellow rebel soldiers were able to crush this faction of Lysander’s servants was with the assistance of a towering stone golem, which Ooma rode into the enemy’s encampment, cackling like a banshee as she crushed Lysander’s men under the giant stone body of her pet monster.

Once we had the city of Ashuron firmly under our control, I instructed Lazrilus to take me to where he had buried the Hand of Vomora – the cursed item that had been the cause of all this devastation to begin with. Once we had located the object, I organised an emergency meeting with the surviving members of the old Council. A decision, I knew, would have to be made. We couldn’t just leave an object as dangerous as that, buried just outside the kingdom’s capital. After many long discussions, it was concluded that the best thing to do would be to discard the Hand, somewhere in the middle of the sea, far beyond where it could endanger the inhabitants of The Southern Isles.

Once this had been settled, a far more painful subject surfaced: who would be tasked with the responsibility of disposing of the goddesses’ hand? If Lazrilus’ account of how he had smuggled it from Diamox was to be believed- and I saw no reason to doubt his account by now – then, whoever volunteered to remove the Hand from where it had been hidden would be volunteering themselves for a suicidal mission. Once this became apparent to the Council, I saw several pairs of eyes immediately turn in the direction of the Vomoran. Before any of them could voice the obvious, Una stepped forward, claiming that if Lazrilus was to be the one to dispose of the Hand, then she would accompany him, without hesitation. As one, the eyes slid downwards, thoroughly cowed. No matter how much they might have blamed Lazrilus for the plague and Lysander’s subsequent rise to power, none of them had the coldness of heart to condemn a young woman with child to death. Eventually, Brother Zorin stepped forward.

“I’ve lived a long life,” Zorin had proclaimed. “And now that my village had been freed from Lysander and Midon, there is little else I see myself doing with my last few years, dwelling by the coast of Ashenmore. I’ll do it. I’ll hurl this blasted Hand of Vomora deep into the Thaltian channel. If I return, then I return. If not, then I suppose I’ll see you again, sitting by the throne of Ahasathoth.

Brother Zorin, with Lazrilus and I watching from a safe distance, dug up the cursed limb of Vomora and carried it, through the streets of Ashuron – which we had made sure to clear beforehand – and down to the harbour, where a small boat had been prepared for the old Cleric by a cantankerous, wizened fisherman called Borok. Whilst Lazrilus and I watched, still at a safe distance, the old fisherman, grumbling all the while, aided the Cleric in setting off. I had promised to compensate the old fisherman for the potential loss of his vessel. Brother Zorin departed and, despite the thousands of prayers I offered up to Ahasathoth in his name, never again returned to the shores of Ashenmore.

Strangely enough, the day after his departure, Borok too left the walls of Ashuron and vanished. For a while, this dissappearance filled me with terror. If the cursed Hand had managed to infect Borok, without his knowledge, then the old man was potentially wandering across the countryside of Ashenmore, contaminating every man and woman he encountered. When no reports of the plague’s resurgence reached the capital, I soon calmed myself and in time, the disappearance of the old fisherman soon faded from my thoughts.

About The Author

Rhys Clark

I am an English and Theatre Studies student at the University of Warwick. I particularly enjoy dystopian literature and political satire. My influences as a writer are George Orwell, Christopher Hitchens, Kurt Vonnegut and Harold Pinter.

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