A Note to the Reader
ADVENTGARD is a serialised space opera with monthly instalments of 90-100 pages. It is NOT a serialised novel. The concept is based on traditional comics and web comics, in which a single story is told across a consistent pattern of releases.
Adventgard features a diverse set of characters covering all sides of the conflict, and will take advantage of the serial form to delve deep into each of them. There's war, magic, space battles, intrigue, and plenty of moral dilemmas. There are some dark themes and a little bit of swearing, but as long as you can handle that it's fairly suitable for anybody ages fourteen and up.
This is the entirety of the first issue. If you want, you can get it FREE from the official store here:
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Prelude to Adventgard: 10,000 Years Before
Thalanor, God of War, fell to his knees in the middle of the battlefield. He cursed, his large black blade slamming into the weakened marble ground. Gasping for air, he looked up at the crimson skies, cracking and flashing with thunder and lightning.
We have failed, he thought as he grasped the hilt of his sword and picked himself up off the ground. His black cape flailed around him, sweeping around his armour, becoming bloodied with his fresh, painful wounds. Thalanor stepped forward, then came crashing back down.
Adventgard, city of the gods, had fallen.
Large black warships hung in the red sky. If there had been a sun, the ships would have certainly covered it. They were each thousands of metres long, like jagged shards of metal, nails with the only intention of securing their fate...
Thalanor dragged himself back up and shook the chaos out of his head. Everything opened up before him. The city and its many spires, the towers, and the monuments a thousand years old. Flames licked the stone structures that were once sacred, and they cracked, debris falling thousands of feet to the battered city roads. All he could hear save for the thunder were screams. Gods and men, so suddenly alike under the guise of certain Doom.
And there was something else: magic. It streamed around him, the Blood of Adventgard flowing through his veins, through the stifling air. It gave him strength, power, focus. He grasped the hilt of his blade and glanced across his shoulder as the air cracked open and a woman with gilded white armour stepped out onto the road. She had flowing silver hair and a sword that was longer, more elegant, more graceful than Thalanor’s own.
“What have you done?” Thalanor growled. He could barely lift his sword, every movement sending daggers of pain through his body. “Adventgard has fallen!”
“Adventgard is dead,” said Aleria, Goddess of the Storm.
“You’ve doomed us all,” Thalanor said.
Aleria flicked her wrist and a crack of lightning leapt out, zigzagging through the air in a rampant path straight towards him. Thalanor raised his sword to defend it but the blast smashed into him, knocking the weapon from his hands and throwing him backwards.
He hit the ground on his back. His blade exploded in black shards.
As he opened his eyes, all he saw was the red sky and the flames dancing across the towers. Darkness was closing in around Adventgard, taking the sacred city in a chokehold. All that was, and all that would be, looked to the fate of Adventgard. Time, space, and the fabric of the universe depended on the outcome of this terrible, terrible disaster.
How did this happen? he asked himself.
Aleria stood over him, her silver hair blowing about in the fiery winds of Damnation. Thalanor flipped over and attempted to climb to his feet. His hands were bloody, his back burned in the very place he’d been impaled by a metal spear only moments earlier. He blinked, just as the air before him ripped open and out came Grimward, God of Death.
Thalanor gasped, reaching out towards Grimward, but the Elder God just looked at him, his pale skin glowing red under the bleeding sky. His eyes were completely dead, not a sign of life within him. He reached to the side and a black blade cracked into existence. He caught it.
“This war was a mistake...” Thalanor whispered.
“It was the only way,” Grimward said.
Suddenly, Thalanor was jerked up off the ground. Magic pulsed through the air, tendrils of light ensnaring him, immobilising him. It was Aleria; he knew her touch. Yet it was Grimward who approached him with his sword at his side, a weapon of might and magic, existing simply as a device of destruction. Thalanor attempted to break out of Aleria’s hold, but he had no more strength in him. “They will remember this,” he gasped. “They will remember this...”
Grimward raised his sword, extending the obsidian blade towards Thalanor’s throat. He felt the infernal heat of it. He stared at Grimward, resigned to his fate—and to the fate of all of them. This would not be forgotten. The universe would remember. A thousand years from now. Ten thousand years from now. Even in flames, Adventgard would remain.
The Blood of Adventgard would survive, and it would remember.
“You have made a terrible mistake,” Thalanor said.
“It was the only way,” Grimward said as he let the blade fly, killing Thalanor the God of Death, and letting Adventgard die, the universe dying along with it.
Chapter One: City of Flowers
“They’re coming, aren’t they,” Elenah said, sitting on the edge of a parapet by the old Wortung Tree. A shadow covered the city of Esther—the shadow of impending invasion.
She felt it in the slow, morning breeze, tedious and uncertain as it blew through the quiet streets. It was reflected in the marble towers, which spiralled from the cramped little shops at all the wrong angles. The people below moved with a frenetic haste, sweeping the glistening cobblestones, furnishing the spaceports with flowers of bright colours. It was the picture one might see before the arrival of someone very, very important...
“This is a bad idea,” she said.
Gilgan stood behind her, crookedly leaning on his walking stick. Elenah glanced at him sidelong as a gust of wind rolled over the bridge and flung her raven hair across her face.
“I’d suggest you get down from there,” Gilgan said, tossing away the white flower he’d been holding, which immediately began to shed its petals. “You’re going to hurt yourself.”
Elenah stood up, her toes hanging over the edge of the bridge. The wind’s lively hands tried to snatch her, yet her feet seemed bound to the parapet’s marble aura. She felt invincible, protected by the sky and the morning stars above. If she only stepped forward...
“Elenah!” Gilgan said, more intensely.
Elenah sighed and faced him, her back to the great drop. One might have thought that after sixteen years on this rock, she might actually be able to walk a few hundred feet beyond the palace. All she wanted was some peace and quiet—just for a moment.
“Believe me,” Gilgan muttered, “it isn’t a pretty way to die.”
“Come get me,” Elenah invited as she opened her arms.
Gilgan smiled. “If only my balance was half as good as yours.” He pointedly wiggled his black cane. “I can hardly stand on flat ground without falling over anymore. Step off that and you’ll be twice the cripple I am. And no, I certainly won’t be sweeping you off the cobbles.”
“It could use the colour,” Elenah said.
“So you’ll be a martyr for a paintjob?” Gilgan asked with a tone of mock. “Very well. Thing is, it’s my head that’s going to pay the price for that. Would you wish that of me?”
“I don’t think I’m that important, Gilgan.”
“You’re important to me. Now, would you please come down?”
Elenah took a moment just to observe Gilgan’s wrinkled face. He was getting old, and his sense of fashion was deteriorating as surely as his own body was. Today he wore a black duster, which was grim compared to the rest of the city—save the depressing grey cobbles.
Gilgan offered her his hand, and Elenah took it as she stepped back onto the bridge. “Ugh, look at your dress,” Gilgan said, patting her down. “It’s all crumpled. You know, you should at least make an effort to be clean. Would you like me to start bathing you?”
“No thanks,” Elenah said curtly, following the arch of the bridge. Gilgan joined her, clapping along with his cane. The bridge, like much of the city, was wrought of marble, and flanked by flowers of a multitude of colours. Flowers were symbolic here on Etheron; these ones had been planted and blessed by the current floran, Iris Tan, and were supposed to be some kind of wisher of good luck. “You know, Gilgan, this is a really bad idea. Letting them come here.”
“We might soon need their help,” Gilgan said.
“Really? I don’t see anything wrong.”
“You don’t always see the blow until it lands, but I can tell you for sure: There’s something happening, something that I can’t quite place.”
Elenah looked at him. Gilgan was never one to speculate, and he knew a lot more than other people thought. After all, Gilgan had ventured from one side of the galaxy to the other, and who knew what he’d seen? “Do you really think they’re going to help us?”
“I’m willing to suspend my disbelief,” Gilgan said—but Elenah couldn’t help but notice the anxious expression that devoured Gilgan’s face. His jaw tightened, and the sweat in his wrinkles looked more pronounced. “The Council isn’t our enemy; they never have been.”
“You don’t fully trust them,” Elenah said.
“I have to; it’s my job.” He smiled. “Besides, the Forty-Ninth Council has done more things for this world than you might think. It’s in our best interest not to...piss them off, excuse my language. Especially not now, not with the times as they are.”
Elenah bit her lip, kicking a loose stone across the arching bridge. “I trust you, but that doesn’t make things any better.” She was only young—far younger than Gilgan—but she was old enough to know that the Council was not the benevolent hand it claimed to be. The galaxy moved in patterns, and the conflict and terror that came before would come again. Why couldn’t anybody see that? The leaders of the Council were master puppeteers, manipulating the influential percentage of the Inner Realm, orchestrating tyranny.
“I wish I could do something,” she said as they passed a young, lanky man handing out leaflets.
“Be glad that you don’t have to,” Gilgan said. He caught her glance, ostensibly taking note of the headline on the leaflets: THE GREAT DECEPTION OF THE FORTY-THIRD CYCLE. “And you shouldn’t pay attention to that,” he added in a grim voice. “It’s not good for you. Believe me, this is not the first time I’ve seen a force like the Council come to power. It certainly won’t be the last. They’re promising to protect us, and I say that’s good enough for now. It’s what the people need. Reassurance. The only thing those papers are going to do is inspire some sort of resistance, and all that’s going to achieve is violence where violence has no place.”
“Okay,” Elenah muttered under her breath.
But Gilgan knew more than he was letting on. He had seen this all before, in another time and another place. Elenah had just given up hope that he might try to fix it. For some reason, he seemed reluctant to do anything these days. Unless, of course, it was demanded by her father. But Father’s probably the only person in this city even more reluctant than Gilgan, she decided.
“I suppose they’re going to take Teveran,” Elenah said. “I told him to flee.”
“That would make him a deserter. Don’t worry, your brother will be fine,” Gilgan said, even though it was difficult to believe. Teveran was the High Prince of Etheron by birthright, which meant he was important to the Council. But as far as Elenah was concerned, the Council just wanted to get their hands on someone with a piece of this family’s magical ancestry, someone they could use to defend their new order. Like playing with puppets.
As they reached the end of the bridge, Gilgan pulled her to a stop by a garden of multicoloured flowers and dug into his huge duster. “Here.” He withdrew a couple of silver square chits. “Go buy that book you’ve been waiting for. Put your mind at ease.”
Elenah waved them away. “I think I’m just going to go home. There’s no point waiting.”
“Gods, Elenah,” Gilgan hissed, shoving the cold, silver chits into her hand. “Everything’s going to be okay. The Council wouldn’t risk causing trouble.” There was something cryptic embedded within those last words that Elenah couldn’t quite decipher. She merely lingered on Gilgan’s silver-eyed gaze until he turned around and started hobbling off.
“Where are you going?” Elenah asked.
“I work here,” Gilgan said, a little less jovial than he’d been seconds before. “I should probably start helping out. Oh, and Elenah?” He stopped and angled his head. “Please, for the love of all things holy, try to stay out of trouble.” Then he went off with his stick drumming the ground, and Elenah watched him, wondering if he suspected she might turn to trouble in such times as these. She gazed into the sky; there was barely a cloud. There weren’t many places like this left in the galaxy. Untouched and untainted by the dark forces gathering. Soon it would be ripped up by the Council’s fleet. Protection, they called it. Elenah didn’t believe them.
She muttered angrily to herself as she stuffed the chits into her pocket, spinning around and carving a path to the city streets.
The planets were in turmoil, even Elenah knew that and she was just a sixteen-year-old girl with barely any stakes in the galaxy. Soon it was going to come here, to her father’s Free Worlds. The peace he’d built would all come undone. And what then? What would happen to these glistening marble towers, and the hills and lakes and the magnificent city walls?
And what about the people?
Elenah slipped inconspicuously into a narrow alleyway and pressed her back up against the stone wall, bathed in the cool shadow beneath the eaves. The truth was, she hadn’t come out here to climb trees or speak with Gilgan. There were other people in this city, people like herself who saw through the Council’s lies and who were willing to fight back.
This was where they conspired.
She puffed out a shaky breath, then followed the alleyway until she reached a dishevelled door wedged between a pot of dead flowers and leaking rubbish bags. She knocked once, twice, then stepped back and waited. A cold wind rippled through the alley, shifting pebbles and papers and a soggy leaflet with THE END OF THE FREE WORLDS TREATY? branded upon it. A moment later, the door swung inward and Elenah hurried inside.
“—been in contact with an informant off-world,” came a voice across the repurposed storage room. It still smelt like potions and ointments of every sort, although nineteen years had tarnished the smell with rot, decay, and the bitterness of death. Shelves were toppled, the wood splintered and eroded. Chairs occupied the space where once there might have been benches; and a grim, low-key group of people loitered in the place of customers.
“Where have you been?” Oswald whispered, leaning against the dusty wall with folded arms. Oswald was probably the only person here she actually trusted, and that was saying something, because Oswald was currently a wanted man in several star systems. He wore a dusty top hat, which concealed his greasy brown hair, but did not hide his beard—which was, as always, far too well-groomed for the face of a criminal.
“I was busy,” Elenah said, standing beside him.
Oswald frowned. “Where’s Korvis?”
“Why would I know? I haven’t seen him in days.”
“Shit. Somebody had better watch that guy.”
Elenah was just glad she didn’t have to listen to him for once.
“I have no doubts,” continued the bald ex-pirate, Morgan, “that the bastards will be using the clock tower as their operating base. I suspect it will only be temporary.” They all knew what that meant. The Council wasn’t coming here just to visit. Once their ground troops occupied the city, they’d move into the palace. It made a knot in Elenah’s gut and she realised her father’s ignorance angered her now more than ever. It was going to cost them all dearly if he continued to do nothing. It would probably end up with them all dead.
As she looked around at the group, she realised his inaction had already taken its toll. There were hardly a dozen of them left, for they’d fled to the north and west, seeking greater rebellions. Perhaps they’d even banded together to strike Tarthalus on their own.
She got chills just thinking of the place. The dark city, heart of the Forty-Ninth Council, centre of all this chaos, and the homeworld of the mysterious Architect.
“This may be the last time we speak before the Council’s arrival,” Morgan continued, now pacing up and down what was once an aisle flanked by potions. He swallowed, and a silence came that was interrupted only by the creaking of wood, and the dying, wheezing breaths of the old man in the corner—a magician. “I do hope it will not be the last time.”
Morgan eyed Elenah over his grizzly beard. Perhaps, like herself, Morgan wished there was something she could do—after all, she was the chancellor’s daughter—but Elenah was as helpless as the rest of them. Despite her position, she did not have influence. Her role in this galaxy was merely a princess, a showpiece for her father, and not much else.
She wanted to explore, but she couldn’t step one foot beyond the city walls. She wanted to learn magic with Gilgan—like Teveran did—but magic was outlawed here under the Treaty of the Free Worlds and Elenah wasn’t “important” enough, whatever that meant. So this was where the fates had led her: to a meeting of dissidents in a dingy storage room.
Precisely where she was not allowed.
“To all of you,” Morgan said, “be vigilant, be steadfast, be resolute. We must not bow down. The Council aims to do one thing and one thing only: tear this civilisation apart.” He nodded to a man standing nearby, and motioned for the old magician in the corner.
Elenah watched them with a nervous curiosity.
“Listen, Elenah.” Oswald grabbed her arm and pulled her into the corner of the store, so that they couldn’t be overheard. His breath stank like beer and smoke, which repelled her back into the half-light. “You’d better go back to the palace and keep a low profile for a while.”
“Just do it,” Oswald said, his voice becoming lower and lower as he glanced left and right, incapable of appearing any more suspicious.
Then she felt it: a rumble in her chest, the rattling of the wooden shelves, the creaking of the walls and the ceiling...The ground shifted underneath her feet as the lights flickered. A raucous broke out and Elenah flung open the door, stepping outside and looking up.
The sky began to ripple, and blur...
And the sound of explosions rocked the entire city as silver Ragnaroks emerged from hyperspace. Elenah’s breath caught. Already? The starfighters burst into existence, a dozen of them, throwing off wisps of cloud and space matter. Oswald followed her; he was frozen stiff, as though somebody had cast a spell on him. But it’s barely past morning...
“Go,” Oswald said, grabbing her arm. “Get out of here!”
Elenah looked at him, at the ships, and then she ran.