The Way of Caine ,The Warcaster Chronicl - By Miles Holmes


AR 596: Merywyn

The old man stumbled down the dim corridor, leaving his lavish bedroom in panic. He tripped over thick carpet, and tumbled into an awkward heap. With a whimper, he scrambled to his feet, and lurched forward again. He risked a glance over his shoulder as he went, peering into the shadows of his departed doorway, mouth agape.

Nothing moved.

At the end of the corridor, a grand balcony overlooked a wide hall. The walls were laden with priceless paintings, almost too many to count, though he could name each and every one. The balcony divided left and right into a polished stone stairwell spiraling three stories down before joining the main floor. As he neared the stairwell, he looked back once more, his breath ragged.

Nothing pursued.

No one could be seen at all, in fact. Neither guard nor servant was about, and most of the torches along the corridor had been snuffed. Finally reaching the balcony, he grasped the polished marble rail and called down for a servant. Breathless, his voice was reduced to a faint rasp.

No answer below.

Enough of this, he thought, taking a deep breath. The demons that hounded him were the stuff of his dreams. There was no more to it than that. Granted, he had endured terrible nightmares for months now, but he was a fool to let them get the better of his nerves like this. He turned from the balcony, scowling …

… to witness a figure appear from smoke.

He blinked, his scowl turned to astonishment. Time enough passed for eyes to meet, and not one second longer. A silent shockwave of spectral force surged into him, borne along tendrils of incandescent blue mist. The old man was a rag doll, tossed up and over the rail. He plunged three stories down, a gasp in his throat. There wasn’t time for more. Before he could draw breath to scream, he found himself eye to eye with the well preserved snarl of his prized white bear-skin.

Beneath it, the marble floor ended his fall as abruptly as it began.


Five Years Ago

Spring, AR 591: Bainsmarket

“C’mon, Allie, help me up!” Tylen Reilly’s pale face was flushed, his breathing hard. The drain pipe groaned as its shoddy bracings threatened to pop from the brick wall. The youth swayed, unable to pull himself over the eaves.

Allister Caine, reclined as he was atop a rooftop haunt, leaned forward with a smirk. He raised a worn black boot, and held it in mocking suspense, as though ready to kick his waifish friend back down the three-story height.

“C’mon then! Some of us have to do this the hard way, you know,” Tylen groaned, more annoyed then alarmed. Caine nodded, the smirk still in place, and reached forward. With a forceful tug, Tylen was up and over, thudding to the sooty rooftop with a grunt. Rolling over, he glared at Caine, and then shook his head in disgust. “Ech! My ’cerest thanks, yeh horse’s ass.”

Caine straightened his thick canvas jacket before reclining against the rooftop once more. He gazed beyond the city walls. Bainsmarket at dusk sprawled out before him. The working-class neighborhood bent and sagged becoming a canyon of tin roofs and brick walls. Laundry lines strung across balconies festooned with linens and undergarments, and chimneys puffed here and there. A half-mile west as the crow flies, Caine could see the towering smokestacks of the pulp mills churning thick black smoke in silhouette against a blood red sky. Even from a distance, the rancid stench reached Caine’s nostrils. The smokestacks reminded him of Tylen’s errand.


Caine’s red-haired, lanky companion nodded sullenly, taking a seat beside Caine. He pulled a frayed satchel from his shoulder, setting it before him. “Why I should give ye any is beyond me, what with such abuses as I suffer.”

Caine smiled, returning his gaze out over the sprawl, but nevertheless held a hand out. Tylen reached into the satchel, bringing forth cured meats, bread, and a few wine-dipped Ordic cigars. Rolling his eyes at Caine’s outstretched hand, he passed one of the stogies over and then took one for himself. The elder, Caine, twenty years old and lean as a whip, brushed back a wave of jet black hair and produced a wooden match from his boot. Striking it against the nearest chimney, he cupped the sputtering flame and held it to his cigar. Tylen leaned in and, likewise, lit up. Puffing contentedly, the two young men sat back against the roof and enjoyed the view.

“A proper feast we have here, but