Eventually, when you’ve been here for long enough, all you know is Mordikhaan. The cold black mountain ridges, the waves of driving rain, the frozen forests and the tundra. It drains what is left of you away. All the fools, frauds, crooks and killers who wash up on its shores, who wander in search of a refuge end up with that same empty eyed stare, unless they’re foolish enough to try to get out.
Then they end up with a wooden stake for a neck.
Yanne Kaar never chose to go to Mordikhaan, she was twelve years old when Mordikhaan engulfed her. The closest thing she had to a parent was her older sister Tysana, whose she learned to both love and hate; it was Tysana who took them both to the vast lawless realm of the Khul and left them slaves to the dark queen’s whims. Tysana and Yanne grew up on the streets of Arc after their parents died, scavenging and stealing along Storm Row until the mercenaries of the waterfront districts, paid for by the noble Lords of the Port, caught them and threatened the pair with imprisonment in Arc’s vast debtors prison, the Oboline. Knowing that there was no future for them in Arc, Tysana, an accomplished thief and enforcer for the local gangster Kheram Vyle, uncovered the identity of the Mordikhaani spymaster in Arc, known as the resident, and gained passage to the dark and tormented land. She took Yanne with her, knowing that the streets of Arc would destroy the young girl if she was left behind. Tysana’s fiery temperament, skill with a long knife and sword, and her ability to understand the anarchic and mercenary nature of Mordikhaan ensured that she and Yanne quickly found a home in the Khul’s realm.
Tysana was eventually invited to the Kharis, more commonly known as the Crag, and was given an audience with the Khul herself; she emerged fearful and shaken, but assured Yanne that their futures were now secured and that the great queen had plans for her. Yanne was both fearful and fascinated, wondering how she too might find favour with the Khul, now that it appeared that for once they had a place in the world that they belonged in. They were sent to live in Uraneag, a small fishing village along the southern Mordikhanni coast, Tysana would vanish for months on end, working in the interests of the Khul across the Arclands. She was never able to explain to Yanne exactly what she was doing or why she had to disappear; waiting for her to return was unbearable for the young girl. Then came the day, just after Yanne’s 17th birthday when Tysana vanished and never returned, a possibility that Yanne had never prepared for. She discovered a letter that Tysana had left for her in the event of her death. It was short and had one simple instruction.
Any disappearance in Mordikhaan is interpreted as a betrayal, missing agents might be dead, so lo the logic goes, but they might also be traitors, and if they cannot be caught then their loved ones must suffer their fate. Yanne was captured easily and taken to the Crag, where she was thrown deep in to the freezing dark cells that the Khul’s jailers filled with the innocent. Yanne had little recollection of this time or how long she lived in the dark and the cold, listening to the screams and the torment of fellow prisoners around her. Eventually, at the moment she thought her mind would break, she forced herself to retreat inwards so deeply that she forgot her previous identity and erased from herself any thoughts and feelings that might be used as weapons against her. It was at this point that she heard the Khul’s voice, whispering to her in the darkest recesses of her prison.
“Now you’re ready to serve,” the voice whispered.
Yanne was dragged in front of the Khul and told that her traitor sister had left Yanne with a debt; Yanne owed the Khul her sister’s service and her transformation in the cells of the Crag were part of her initiation. A ship would be waiting for her to command back in the village of Uraneag and it would be her role to captain it across the Greater Arc Sea. The fact that Yanne couldn’t sail was of no interest to the Khul, who dismissed her with a wave of her hand. Work it out, muttered the Khul’s newest advisor, the general Caston Cleargh. Yanne now captains the Saint of Dancare, a small fast ship that couriers messages, people and items across the Greater Arc Sea. Her cover in every port she weighs anchor in is that of a small time trader in spices, oils and scented woods. She knows better than to try to search for her sister, who she has never given up on; she knows that the residents that exist in every major port and town will be the first to know if Yanne has tried to seek out a known traitor and enemy of the Khul. What they cannot see, because of the empty mask that she wears instead of the face of a feeling, open person, is the deep longing Yanne feels for her sister and the deep desire to burn all of Mordikhaan to the ground.
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