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The Immortal War


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Hi everybody,

I'm a massive long-time lurker - I love all of Brandon's work, and I've often used this forum to deepen my understanding of the novels, particularly with regards to cosmere stuff. I actually learned that certain series shared a universe on here first. Anyway, I just wanted to share something I began writing a few years ago and stopped while attending uni. I'm not sure whether I'll ever finish it. I hope so, but no guarantees. This is just the first chapter of about 50,000 words; it's probably about halfway done. Let me know what you think, particularly with regards to how well it succeeds as an introduction to the story.


Moonlight appeared briefly, shining upon long grass, and then disappeared again behind clouds. The night was still, almost unnaturally so, and found similarity with the silhouette of the lady in the doorway.

It was cold. And her fingers were numb. She shivered. Occasionally she wondered why, given all her abilities, her immortal life, she still felt the cold. She could never succumb to death. Yet still she felt. Why was that? Injury and pain were ever-present. And for her entire eternity she would remain unmarred. Inhuman was the word; she had not counted herself one in a millennium. Yet still she felt the cold.

Her feelings manifested themselves in a sigh, breath frosting.

The last hours had been difficult. Another battle, another day of blood… It seemed like the war was an artery, constantly flooding over the edges of her world. Her reality, isolating her from the world she craved. Every moment of peace in her life seemed fragile. Snatched from a violent normality, destined to end at any moment.

Eternal violence. Save if they someday failed. Then not even violence would remain to her, because the world would be finally ended.

A figure materialised, then, some yards off, flattening grass metres around; sparks of blue electricity flew, almost illusionary, before disappearing. The smell of ozone tinged the air, and breath escaped her in a lengthier exhalation, this time exasperated.

“Impatience is always an entirely tragic emotion, Jacen. For God’s sake, why are you so late?”

The figure moved towards her, his stride almost that of a dancer’s, and somehow reminding her of an illusion akin to his sudden appearance. As if the world melted like water around him. He halted by the marble stairway and arched distinctive brows over pale eyes. Despite the lack of moonlight she could see him perfectly. Scandinavian features. A thin scar graced his forehead, remnant of a former bloodshed. And a lopsided smile. She loved that face.

His voice was light as he answered, but it seemed forced. An edge belying the words. And as he spoke the last word, his voice changed, becoming tired and grey. “I apologise, sister. I would have arrived sooner – not on time, but at least a reasonable degree of late. But you know how the world turns us away from our best intentions.”

She didn’t know what had happened; the fighting had ceased the day before. Something was wrong. 

“That doesn’t mean anything to me. Come on, what is it?”

“I don’t want to trouble you,” he said briefly, not meeting her eyes.

She felt a flicker of dismay, and alarm, but forced it from her. It didn’t really matter. Tragedy was always in the periphery. Talking about it would only devolve into sharp words. She tried to keep her voice light. “You’ve looked better.”

His mouth curved in a thin smile. “Weariness isn’t a kind mistress.”

“I’d better offer you some of my famous hospitality, then.” She could keep it light.

His smile this time was warmer. “If my resistance is futile.”

She didn’t kiss or hug him of course; that wasn’t their way. But the offer of comfort was genuine. She ushered him inside, and they seated themselves in the living area.  The room was ornate, of course, and vaguely eighteenth-century in appearances. Her favourite era. The war was always in a constant state of flux and change, periods of intense combat alleviating into sudden peace. Theirs was a reactionary combat, and sometimes peace held suspiciously true. That era of humanity’s history had been good to them, and she remembered it fondly. Humanity, and this world, remained untouched by the war, and during the times where she was not needed, and there was no violence, she huddled on the edges of their light. The beauty here was so brief and bright it had blinded her. You couldn’t know how precious happiness was before first tasting a thousand lifetimes of the opposite. True, they warred themselves. It was the nature of humanity to feel too deeply, too often. But while it flared hot, that violence, it died quicker, just as they did, to be replaced by new conflict. Not like the true war. The war that never ended.

Jacen’s expression was strange as he absorbed his surroundings and left the tea she offered him untouched. Melancholy again seemed shackled to every part of him and for once she couldn’t guess the vaguest hint of his thoughts.

“What task did the Autumn Lord have you on, anyway,” she asked casually. He had left battle at a missive received while they’d both been healing. Briefly, an image struck her, of his face lying dead and she lay dying. Rivulets of blood sliding down his face. She shuddered the image away before it could truly take hold. She didn’t often fight without him at her side. Sometimes that constant burdened her.

“He desired my investigative skills. Something happened in Evellion. Hence the ugliness.” His voice again grew tired. She waited, but he didn’t say anything further.

“Something important enough to…?”

“I don’t particularly want to talk of this, Iselle. Tell me about your day.”

She hesitated, sipping at her tea. Curiosity was such a bright thing, not easily ignored. One of her weaknesses. But as warmth flooded her from the drink, she locked the cold curiosity away. She spoke not of war, but of trivial things. She rambled, basically. Gave life to thoughts idling in her brain since the moment she’d returned. Ireland was a small place, but for now it was her home, and she liked it. A slice of beauty and a few hours-long peace each day, because that was often all they had. It was enough for now, and for rambling words.

She’d taken the horses for a run that afternoon, and after some hours, tethered them, giving them apples for their hard work. Amongst the shade of trees, the meadows stretching around bathed in sunshine and surrounded by splashes of colour. Her conversation eventually crumbled into descriptions of those flowers.

“They have a beauty, don’t you think? Their fragility and minute existence.” She smiled, growing quiet, lost in them for a moment. Idly, in the palm of her hand, she caused a flower to sprout, red, more vibrant than any earthly flower. It almost glowed.

Flowers were important humanity. Plucked from the earth and strewn in hair, garlands, bestowed as gifts to the ill, the weak. The dying. And the paintings. Poetry. How many romances have begun because of them? Failures, most of them, because that was the price of bright emotion, but meaningful for those moments. A simple growth from the dirt rivalling the stars in human attention and wonder. Stars! Fires that could scorch this planet entirely. So far away she couldn’t imagine the distances. Burning with immensity, but only the tiniest pinprick betraying them. There were no stars where she came from. No flowers either.

“You always did like pretty things.” Jacen’s voice was strangely thin. “What is the point of it?” He took the flower from her, pinched it until it bruised, came apart in his coarse fingers. He seemed absorbed by it.

She cleared her throat. “It’s a living thing. What are we fighting for, if not the preservation of the living?”

“I think you’re wrong.”

She hesitated. “I’m sorry?”

“Death.” He still wasn’t looking at her. “It encircles everything. Graceless and ugly and so completely… everywhere. Inevitable. We experience the finality of it most every day of our lives, and yet it hasn’t claimed us. But that doesn’t mean it can’t touch us. We’ve remained untarnished for so long on the surface, as everything inside has withered. Decayed.” His voice echoed the words he spoke, growing weirdly lifeless. “Our days are spent waging war with nightmares. Today we toiled in violence for hours in a sun countless times hotter than this one, until our faces and clothes dripped black with the blood of our enemies, and they were drenched in our own. It was such a brief conflict, barely a splinter in the scheme of things. And that is all we can wish for. Weeks of violence will pass until we can barely avoid falling upon our own blades. And still we fight.” He paused, tracing a shape into the table. He still hadn’t raised his head. “Death is the thing I fight for, Iselle. The right to finally end.”

She felt cold. “I don’t understand,” she began, hesitant. “I’d expect this from others but not from you.”

Jacen shook his head. “I don’t either.”

The silence was strange, and hollow, and echoing. And the sword caught the light. That was all the warning she had before it was arcing for her neck. And the arm wielding it, riddled with black veins.

He was dead. The other side had taken him. The realisation sent panic racing through her, quickly blotted out by instinct and training.

He was also still immortal, and there were several intrinsic qualities each possessed. Strength and unimaginable speed were among them. They had painted their history in blood and death, and the centuries tended to result in skill as well.

He was immortal. So was she.

The blade glittered, beautiful and deadly, and then there was the sound, almost like the peal of a bell, as hers shimmered into existence and stopped it in its tracks. The weight of the blow struck like an anvil, and they both grunted. The chair, and the floor beneath it found themselves unable to bear the strain and ruptured, and splinters cut at her as she fell several feet into the floor. He moved to strike again, but she had leapt out and across the room. Her heart pounded, blood raging about her face as white-hot rage burned.

She had a beautiful voice; she’d occasionally been asked if that was how her fortune had been made. The words that followed tore from somewhere deep inside, however, exposing something raw. The sound was not beautiful. “You betrayed us, Jacen?” There was emptiness to it as well, counterpointed as her voice broke. “You betrayed me?”

He had obviously expected the first blow to incapacitate her, and now his expression reminded her of a mirror broken into pieces, each reflecting a different emotion. The most prominent of which was agony. It didn’t stop him from leaping for her and attempting to cut off her head.

She parried, and cut at him, and soon it was a whirling of blades and flurry of kicks, and fear set in quickly. Fear that she would meet an end. Fear that he would.

She took a wound to the side, and blood and pain trickled. She kicked at his leg, a glancing blow that buckled him momentarily rather than shattering the bone. She stabbed at his face, but it was a feint instantaneously sweeping for his side to cut him in half. He parried, barely; she had surprised him. But it was a fleeting victory, and the dance began again.

As she fought, a struggle was occurring in her mind. Logic told her that to think of anything other than the fight at hand would mean her death. Emotion was in natural disagreement. Iselle was old. Not as old as the ones she served, but that didn’t matter to mortal perspective or her own. And she had loved her brother from the day he was born. They had fought together, died together and been reborn again and again, throughout the ages. She did not doubt he loved her equally as much, and his actions had never dissuaded her from this notion. But he was worse than dead, now. If emotion stayed her hand, his would end her life.

Iselle avoided a stab at her face but not rapidly enough and blood began running, a trickling warmth. She needed to end this fight, and her fighting skills weren’t proving equal to the task. Jacen had always excelled at swordplay; he had once referred to it, dreamily, as a ballet of blades, and with him this poetry was true. He was fluidity, invention and strength. She could not match him in the long run. There were few who could.

Twisting away, she flooded her body with the Source, and an inferno of pain and pleasure and otherness engulfed her. Jacen knew what she was attempting and began to move towards her but flooded with power she seemed to inhabit a place devoid of time. He wasn’t going to make it.

The pores of her flesh began to emit a rosy hue that rapidly intensified, converging on each hand until they were glowing blindingly white. Jacen was near, sword arcing downward above her head. She grasped his sword arm and time rushed in on her, and they wheeled and turned as her vision blurred. He was screaming and the smell of burning flesh filled her nostrils. Suddenly she was against the wall, and then he punched her. Her hand tore free, and the wall met her face with harsh and bloody intent. She lay there dimly, broken and wheezing red. He walked through the ruin of the wall. There was a seared fusion of blood and bone where his right hand had been. She almost didn’t recognise his face, so ugly was the expression.

When the column of fire left her hand, the heat was such and so compressed that the consistency was almost magma. It seemed to slow a moment, and to her eyes it was almost immaterial, an intangible substance not of this world, ethereal.

It struck her brother and burned a hole through his chest.

Breathing hard, Iselle lowered her arms. Instantly, her vision went dim. Tears streaked her face, but as she reached to brush them aside, she found that she lacked the strength. Summoning that much power was dangerous.

Thoughts crowded, unbidden, moths fluttering at ruined, seeping memory.

A pearl-white mountain, glittering, a profusion of blackness sidling over it like winters chill. His dead body, insignificant in that cold majesty, with only her to mourn him. A million faceless nightmares, and she and him together, against the horrors that would consume the world. They held against it for so long elation began to build. And then elation died. Awakening in pooling blood, a marshland of crimson, pale corpses piled around her. Their emergence from death, to fight again.

She was always at his side. A thousand images of death, and glory, they were heroes and then monsters in turn, worshipped and feared.

But that was not how she would remember him. That was the province of war. That is how others would. She took a shuddering breath. And her memories altered. Crystallized to a single point.

They raced, faltering and gasping harsh air beside a stream though woodlands. She was a little girl, slim with auburn hair. Jacen was beside her until he wasn’t suddenly, and, slipping in mud and briar, she fell as well, laughing at the streaking muck on her legs. She looked to him, and in his hands was a red flower. He unsteadily regained his feet and walked to her, poking it into her hair.

Five-thousand years ago. They were only ten.

When they had died the first time, the Source had resurrected them. Dying had hurt. Living again had brought the purest agony she could ever dream experiencing. Her memory of that pain was distant, fled from her mind, and the images that remained were without any real sensation, a dream in which she seemed a passive observer.  Her brother had held her hand even as his own burned. That sensation had eased something deep inside of her.

He was her brother.

And now he’s about to meet an end at my hands. It wasn’t her fault. The Law was clear. Breaking it had once meant true death, but it no longer did.  One man had changed that. Lothar. The adversary. Jacen had broken the Law, somehow, and now her brother was Fallen, stripped of sanity and conscience. If she didn’t kill him she would become him. Her mind would become twisted and warped, and her power would do the same, as her allegiance shifted from one God to another.

Her breath caught in her throat as she gazed at his corpse. She couldn’t understand why he’d done it, but she knew what he would have wanted now that he had. True death was better than the alternative. Although they called themselves immortal, that did not mean they couldn’t die. It took a uniquely horrifying blade, wielded by one of their own. An Eidolin.  As she watched the remains of her brother begin the process of reforming, she began to summon it.

Grimacing, she delved into the Void. It was a purely mental process, yet her skin crawled with oily sensation, shadows worming under her skin. Hardening her concentration, something began to take shape. Layer by layer, slivers of darkness coalesced, slowly, like treacle, into material form.

It was heavy. That was the first thing she always noticed. Cold as well. It was notched and scarred and taller than the height of her. There was a strange aura to it, something of the Void, almost as if the thing was alive and thirsting blood. It was evil and reeked of murder and countless nameless horrors. She loathed it and it in turn seemed resistant to her touch. It was also rapidly draining her life.

 Slowly, she raised the blade over Jacen. Almost against her will, her gaze turned to his ruined face. Tears had resumed sliding down her face at some point, and she tasted salt.

Their Law was without slightest fluidity, for the good of everything, and it was clearly stated. The blade was like ice in her hands.

She spoke his true name like the start of a song. The words that followed were ash in her mouth. “I cast you out,” she whispered. “And I sentence you to death.”

She brought the weapon down, point first, separating his head from the body. The blade vanished. Breathing hard, tears falling freely now, Iselle knelt by the corpse and took its hand. The skin was darkening, as if it was in advanced decay. Soon there would be nothing left.

The slightest sound behind her. She turned, ever so quickly but not quite quick enough. Cold steel pierced the back of her neck and blood filled her mouth, and then it jerked upward and pierced something vital. She was almost relieved. It was the last of her sensations, a taint remaining on her after consciousness fled.

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