A Grim Light Rising

By Joseph Burgo

Young Devianna must flee her village before anyone discovers she is Vacillian, a freak of nature who unpredictably shifts back and forth between sexes. The civilization of Messano was long ago decimated by a plague which left most people void of “fellow feeling” while dooming a few rare mutants such as Devianna to pariah status. If they find her out, the villagers will stone her to death. Devianna soon crosses paths with the itinerant bard Madino, part of a secret order of hyper-empaths that has been striving for centuries to heal Messano and return it to its former glory. The ancient chronicle he declaims at Castle Inario, about the wise Soltans who once ruled the entire world, inspires King Nical with visions of unlimited power. When Nical’s idiot-savant brother Tavi teaches himself to read and resurrects the lost art of forging iron, Nical sees a way to build himself an unstoppable army. He hasn’t yet realized that he has ceased aging or that he owes his enduring youth to the servant girls who fall in love with him, only to wither away and die. Arran – Nical and Tavi’s other brother – swings back and forth between hopeless despair and giddy joy. Under the influence of foria smoke, a stimulant that elates him, he one day discovers that he can fly like an eagle and read currents within time unfolding. Soon he becomes a prophet-like figure to disaffected youth across Estneva, calling thousands of men and boys to enlist in Nical’s new army. The three brothers join forces to conquer all of wide Messano, unaware that the slaver Silvana has for years been training a secret army of her own to usurp the throne.

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