The daughter of Orlim Lightkeeper the son of Glennal Lightkeeper the son through many fathers of Kredak Lightbringer, Herald of the King. Ilina lives alone on Cuspid Isle in the White Sea. It is her sacred duty to kindle Anticipation Light each and every night, lest the Truant King return in vain and on the senseless rocks be slain. She’s made it her business to ingest Arlam’s collective knowledge. Dire visions darken her endless vigil.
Strands of auburn hair snaked across her eyes—tickling her creased brow and high cheekbones, twisting down her dainty nose, thin lips, and strong chin. She raised a hand to brush them back. Though only twenty-two, Ilina had learned by bitter experience to anticipate that moment in every conversation when her interlocutor, taken aback by her gravity, would politely disengage.
Son and heir of Henry Conrad, the High King of All Arlam. A hard man who sees the world for the pitiless jungle it truly is, Hugh survived childhood abandonment and the horrors of WWII to become a globetrotting treasure hunter. But no amount of experience could’ve prepared him to assume a mantle of alien kingship. Can strength of will outweigh incomprehension? Hugh may not live long enough to find out.
She stared at his brown, calf-length coat, torn and tattered and stained with algae. At his black boots crisscrossed with strings. At the scabbards strapped to his back—one sprouting a kind of sculpted wedge, the other suspiciously empty. At his brown hat, dimpled on top and circled by a narrow brim. She considered his visage: clean-shaven, weather-beaten, marred on the left by a broad scar that swept from cheekbone to chin. It was a man’s face: ineffectively inscrutable. Inscrutable because it shed emotion like a tern’s plumage shed water. Ineffective because such barriers would never fool her again.
A servant girl in the employ of House Harn. Having grown up an orphan on the mean streets of Harnaral, Rhinya’s learned to live by her wits. In the process, she’s uncovered many secrets.
No one noticed as she slid from her cot and padded to the door. They were all lost in their own inner prisons, but Rhinya was free. Hers was the purview of the sprite, the cat, the breeze through the keyhole. She came and went as she pleased.
The son of Harjim son of Lanic. A chieftain of the Jaar. In the spring of the Kramish year 781, Jarlin is leading a hunt in Utter North when he makes first contact with a fearsome stranger who will alter the fate of Arlam.
Jarlin pulled on his oar as if all the unclean spirits of Hoc roiled in Seaskater’s wake. Sweat poured down his brow, freezing in twisted rivulets. His breath steamed out like a wolrum’s salty blast. His parka’s hairy pall didn’t hide him from the gale’s fury. Its mane lay plastered against his skin. He wished he could pull it on backwards, shield his face from the driving sleet and screaming gusts, sink into warm, enticing blindness.
The son and heir of Highlord Hansel Harnish, son through many fathers of Harn Bright-Eyes, Father of the Hills. Rikard was born and bred for the rule of Kramarack. But though none would accuse him of timidity—least of all Ilina Lightkeeper, whom he seeks to wed—his greatest trials lie ahead. For another ruler has arrived. And in the end, only one of them may reign.
He stood like a knight overlooking the field of battle: arms crossed, head held high, long cloak billowing out to the side like a wayward banner. Immovable he was—feet planted firmly apart, sharp gaze fixed on the far distance. The same distance, Ilina realized with mild surprise, into which she had been so inconsiderately staring. He’s haughty, she mused, in love with his own not-inconsiderable majesty. But then his eyes flicked back to meet hers and their liveliness—their sheer playfulness—brought her breath up short.
A wizard and member of the Council of Kram. His real name is Lhewen Mahru, but the children of Harnaral raise a more descriptive cheer when he rides in through the gates.
His smile seemed to well up from somewhere deep within. It emerged slowly, like a deer from the forest—spreading from his mouth to his cheeks to the golden irises of his bright, bright eyes. Eyes that might’ve held a thousand deadly secrets or a thousand priceless jokes. Eyes so hard they seemed to dissect her soul, yet so lively as to teeter on the brink of laughter. Ilina sat for what seemed an eternity, held captive by those kindly, terrifying eyes.
The High King of All Arlam. Father of Hugh. Though Henry’s exploits transformed the face of a world, he himself has been left broken and usurped. In desperation he turns to the son who resents him. But will this intervention spark a war he cannot win?
Henry Conrad looked very, very old—like a man struggling just to remain alive. His hands shook as they clutched his cane. Before him, the half-open door was a portal to nothing. “Hugh,” he whispered, eyes fixed outside, “I … need your help.”
All character art by Hannah Gunderson.