‘Of his homeland, nothing remained. There was only the desert, the darkness and the shards of an unguessed past. High above, two moons shone in the sky. But Audren had only ever seen one in the past. And as Audren Vance stared across the place he once called home – now a wasteland of death and decay – he felt as though, even though he was standing still in the ice cold wind, some part of him was waking from a nightmare, screaming in the dark a million miles away, and he wondered how false his life was, how true his dreams might be. The young heir of Gehara died that day, crumbling into nothing along with his home. What was born was a new man, steeped in melancholy and regret.‘
Blood and Vengeance
Audren and Yearne returned to Gehara, hoping that the life they had before them would be one of value. What they found was the Wilding Wall, tears in reality ripping the stones to the ground. The walls had crumbled, the cities had collapsed, and the people – those who had not been torn apart by the breakdown of reality, now tottered about the broken streets, gibbering madly…
Some wild insanity had taken them, and now and then Audren would spy several of them descend on another, and crucify them before setting them alight, and screams of wild revelry would join with screams of terrified pain.
Audren and Yearne walked through the streets in a daze, and though many eyes seemed to follow them to the castle, none stood in their way. The castle had been thrown down, the Wilding Wall stronger than anywhere else. And there, standing over the body of Audren’s father was the avatar of Rykisedek, with blood on his hands and on his mouth. The mage battled Audren again, and their battle tore the Wilding Wall and shattered the land beneath them, but eventually Audren cut him down.
Far from sated, however, Audren swore to tear down the Spire of the Dreaming God, and to cut down Rykisedek. He swore it by his blood, cursing himself to never rest and to never die until Rykisedek was defeated. While this blasphemy frightened Yearne already, Audren went further and demanded the aid of the gods, inviting them into his curse and spurning them as not existing if they did not aid him.
At that moment, a light filled Audren’s vision and he was deafened and fell into a stupor.
Light and Silence
In a dream, Audren woke in the gardens of Aithemine, the mythical world of the god of light and silence. Audren recognized it, though he could not say how. In this world, he traversed the expanse of light and air, battling beasts of every kind before at last finding Dumah, the God of Light and Silence and the one of the world’s great protectors. It seemed to take many months, and along the way, the loss of his home and his family grieved Audren, who became embittered by this strange world of dreams and its seemingly endless battles.
Dumah revealed that Rykisedek’s dreaming had severed the ties between god and men, and had flooded their worlds with darkness and decay, taking the shape of monsters. Dumah himself had battled a beast that sought to chain him to the dark dreams of the early universe, but he managed to defeat him when Audren claimed the Sword of Fading Light. Dumah stated that the sword had once been his, his gift to the world of men. It was always meant to protect others. Audren stated that the sword was sacred and was kept secret, and Dumah knew then that he had erred. He then imparted his essence into Audren, that he might, with will and knowledge, sever the link between the ethereal transmundane and the ordinary.
Dumah also claimed that the woman who watched over him would receive the same power, for she had watched over him and had been drawn, however unknowingly, into Aithemine in her dreams. Dumah charged Audren to save the Chained Gods, the immortals bound by the maddening influence of Rykisedek, and Audren agreed, once he had accomplished his goal of vengeance.
When he woke, he found Yearne watching over him, had taken him out of Gehara to Strummhold, and discovered that a year had passed.
Heroes and Hope
After recovering and explaining everything to Yearne, who confirmed that she had new abilities in addition to her magic, Audren and Yearne then set out, hoping to diminish the influence of Rykisedek. They began in Cloudrend, defeating the monstrous creature that had taken hold of the city, and found that their ability to sever magic was practically invincible. Members of the Underground joined them and, by proximity to Audren and Yearne, seemed to receive some of the blessing of Dumah. Audren was troubled by the looks on their faces whenever they looked to him. He felt the burden of their hopes, and he feared letting them down. He withdrew into himself, speaking to no one but Yearne. His reticence, however, only increased the awe that was increasingly attached to him, the man they called ‘The Lord in Fading Light’.
By this time the so-called ‘Disciples of Fading Light’ numbered fifty, and were a tight-knit band of comrades.
From Cloudrend they went to Windhold, finding and defeating another avatar of Rykisedek, then to the Austral Valley, where they bested the Purple King. This being, they discovered, was the last avatar of Rykisedek, and the Wilding Wall burst as Rykisedek woke up at last. News of a rampage began to spread. The gentle genocides of the Wilding Wall were a thing of the past. Rykisedek raged, and advanced and with him came the days of despair and death. Fleeing from the Austral Valley, Audren saw the destruction and realized that the world could not contain the awakening of Rykisedek.
Praying for Dumah’s aid, Audren fled northwards, returning Rykisedek to Valharrow in his pursuit.
Despair and Death
The flight northwards was not an easy one, and many of the Disciples gave their lives to protect Yearne and Audren. Their sacrifice weighed heavily on his heart in the coming days. On one day, however, when he neared the fallen city of Valharrow, a being of light came to greet him, stating that the Wilding Wall had broken in the city. It was Dumah, who had sanctified the the Spire of the Dreaming and made it a place of power, by which all those who would swear an oath to protect and to fight would receive the true power. Audren stated that those who walked with him already knew such power, but Dumah told him that it was ‘for the future’, when neither he nor Audren would remain in the world.
Dumah claimed that the time of the gods was over – he had peered into the other planes and discovered the dream-realms of his brothers empty. He would now avenge them. Dumah told Audren to battle the beast in Valharrow, where a trap had been laid.
Dumah marched south then, to intercept Rykisedek.
No record of that battle exists, for none in the vicinity lived to see it, but upon reaching Valharrow, Audren felt the ground rumble and saw the distant horizon burst with a thousand lights. A wail echoed across the land, and the sky darkened for days as unimaginable power bled into the sky.
Eventually all fell silent, and the sword at Audren’s side flickered and went dark.
A few days later, Rykisedek returned to Valharrow, and his wounds were grievous – his victory over Dumah was not bought cheaply. Audren and Yearne and the surviving disciples confronted him in Valharrow.
That day saw many heroes die, as the summoned nightmares of Rykisedek’s dreams converged on the city, and many tales ended that day.
But Dumah’s sacrifice was not in vain. The weakening of Rykisedek meant that Audren had the opening he needed, and spurning Yearne’s pleas to be careful, he took the opportunity to end it once and for all. The Sword of Fading Light cut deep into the heart of Rykisedek, but this act also cost Audren his life, as the scythe of the writhing Impossible Emperor embedded itself in the chest of Audren. The trap set by Dumah was sprung, a secret mechanism of old Rensmouth Academy, who had somehow predicted the rise of the Dreaming God. Accounts of what this trap actually entailed have been lost to time, as only Yearne witnessed it, and she was wracked with grief at Audren’s sacrifice. Whatever it was, when the trap was sprung, not a single corrupting trace of Rykisedek remained… and wherever it dragged him, it pulled the fallen hero Audren, as well.
So passed Audren Vance, who history would remember as the melancholy saint, the lord of fading light.
His legacy lives on in the Order of Saint Audren, the league of warriors who follow in his footsteps, protecting those who cannot protect themselves, guardians of the world of men from the scourge of arcane evil.