The Talisman - Tome of Chaos Story

With the sound of his brother's screams still fresh in his mind, Mushtal fell into blackness. If I must die, he thought, then the void beneath the Dreaming is as fitting a tomb as any.

The swarm had returned. Sengasu's howls had brought that ravenous cloud back down upon them. Mushtal escaped their ravenous chittering but only just. As the black swarm consumed Sengasu, Mushtal ran with what little strength his legs had left along the silent shore, finding shelter in a narrow cleft in the cliffs along the gray water's edge. Stumbling blindly into the cloven rock, he pushed himself into the cramped passage until it was no wider than himself. In a panic, he pressed himself further in, desperate to hide from the black cloud that pursued him. Sandwiched between those great slabs of stone, he struggled to breathe, but he continued to edge himself in as far as he might. That's when he saw it. Only a little further in, on the face of the rock, was an oily warp in the play of shadows, a tear in the fabric of space. He had breathed out until he was as thin as he could make himself and with a final shove, forced himself forward… and through.

Tumbling out of space he fell. In fear he yelled until he was hoarse… and still he fell. He could see nothing but interminable blackness and could feel and hear only the buffet of warm wind against him as he tumbled into the endless deep. He thought he might die there, alone, starving, tumbling forever into oblivion. As he considered this, there was a sudden tightening in his chest and then on his skin. He gasped as he felt himself compressed into nothing.

Then he woke. Arms above his head, he lay prostrate, cool stone on his face. He pushed himself to his knees and pulled himself to his feet. Looking about, he found himself in a small dimly lit cave. Though, despite his ability to see, he could find no source of light. He looked up and about, but there was no entrance, no way in. He had simply appeared. His witch-mother's stories spoke of the abyss, the outer void where the Black Talisman was bound, but nothing had prepared him for the way he would arrive. Not long now, he thought, and began to walk.

Somewhere ahead, it lay waiting in the shadows. The Black Talisman from his mother's myths was here. A being of unfathomable power, a child of the void born eons before the first sun cast its light upon the dark. It alone could save his world. He could feel it.

Hours in, light began to gather in the deepest basins, a thin glowing fog collecting like liquid light in the deep curve of the pocked basalt floor. Fist sized clots of ancient pyroclast lay hidden within the glow at his feet, making the way down exceptionally dangerous. Mushtal tread carefully, his way forward slowing on the steep uneven ground. Here the stone vaults of the great abyss grew increasingly vast. The chambers ballooned in size, each successive cavern greater than the one before, eventually crowding together in such jumbled abundance that the walls gave way entirely to open air. The razor sharp edge walls above and below rose to meet each other high in the air, the sea of shattered obsidian glinting in the meager light. Far away, the opposite wall was lost in the infinite gloom.

Not long now, brother. Not long now, he thought.

He forced himself forward, leaning against the sloping stone, hand over hand, as he willed himself a step at a time further into the cavern's depths. The air here was still, yet in the silences between his own footsteps, there was a faint stirring of the air like a whisper in the dark. He paused. There it was again. A series of chitinous clicks. Behind him, hunger lurked in the dark.

The mind goes just before the hunger takes you, he thought. He could no longer remember the taste of food, and if he didn't starve to death, the things behind him might strip his bones clean. Not long now.

A long sigh in the air, like distant breath, shifted and turned in his ears. A single word emerged from the unsettling murmur. A command.


He blinked hard at the sensation. Was it Sengasu? His mother? Or was it his imagination? Had he finally gone mad? The word seemed to resonate within him as he advanced into the black, his legs failing him. As he fell to his knees, barely able to lift his head, the word returned.


He trembled, a sensation of warm air at his back. There was a rush of freshness as the cold of the abyssal stone fell away. The will that had guided him here was fading, but a new voice began to intrude on his mind, the sound itself seemingly from the stones at his feet. He reached down into the pooling fog, groping blindly in the mist, until he found what he was looking for. Hesitantly, he lifted the stone to his ear with a mixture of fear and hope. Clothed in rags and mad with hunger, having crawled and then fallen beneath the world, he knelt in the dark, listening to a handful of rock. I must be mad, he thought, when again, that single word roared through his mind.


The call from the void stone struck him like a bolt of fire, surging through his sinews and echoing through his bones. He jerked forward, involuntarily dropping the void stone, lines of invisible force tugging at his flesh. Half falling half crawling, he forced himself forward on hands and knees, compelled down the slope; his whole body an agony of exhaustion.


Through the path on which he crawled, the mist curled in rivulets, the haze drifting into the channel flowing slowly down the steep slope. Gradually the slope of the floor leveled out, the way forward growing more difficult without the incline at his back. The pools of mist on the floor had given way to fog, and the path had grown to several dozen steps wide. On either side were the foundations of great stone structures, and he stopped to see where his feet had taken him. With great difficulty, he rose to one knee and looked about. The chamber before him was larger than all the rest, the walls towering high above, the ceiling lost in the glowing haze. At least half a dozen cyclopean slabs of gray stone as thick as he was tall rimmed the chamber. Great iron shackles as thick as a man's waist were fastened to the slabs on either side of him. A chain connected to each shackle, their links trailing off and up into the haze at the center of the chamber. Within the mist, a vague mountainous form lurked, its shape obscured by the luminous fog.

As Mushtal stood transfixed, the ground trembled. Within the gloom, the form rose hideously, lifting itself half again higher. The chains shifted and groaned, pulling taught against the shackles at his side. The colossal form heaved itself forward and bellowed. The entire cavern shuddered, rubble tumbling loose and skittering across the distant stones. Mushtal screamed as he saw the beast reveal itself, a titan of jet black hide and muscle, its mouth drawn wide, its jaws a tumble of shattered stone, the throat a cavernous void, the tongue a scythe of fire. Atop its head sat a crown of horns of translucent garnet. The two largest were wider than its shoulders and thicker than its arms. It strained against the great chains bound to its collar and gnashed its teeth in fury.

Mushtal stepped forward and with the last of his strength bellowed into the gloom in a clear and commanding voice, "You are the Black Talisman, the scourge of Hammun, the crown of Chaos, and the Pillar of Ruin. You were born of Uul before the great beginning and to the crawling chaos you shall again return. I am Mushtal, bastard god king of a dying world, and I have come to barter!"

The creature lowered its head, and Mushtal saw four deep set eyes of onyx, two rows, one upon the other. Their centers blazed like corpse fire. As the great beast fixed its gaze upon him, he fell to his knees and wept. His eyes lolled in their sockets as a voice like a storm engulfed him.


Silus awoke with a start. He lay submerged in a deep basin of pearlescent stone, beneath a fluid the color of wet ash. The floor was a patchwork of jet-black tile flecked in gold. The chamber itself was oblong and twenty spans across. The walls were tiled with the same dark marble as the floor. Stirring from the pool, he lifted his hands from the ash-colored water to grip the thick rim of alabaster. As he rose, the dark fluid drained from his face and neck, then down his arms and chest in thick rivulets. He stood motionless, his eyes narrowed, trails of vapor rising from them like wisps of burning phosphor.

Hesitantly, his servant doomsayer stepped forward, pulling his lord's tunic from its hook. "My lord?" he said slowly, gesturing cautiously to the robe in his outstretched hand.

Turning slowly, as if waking from a dream, Silus turned to face the Anachron. Wordlessly, he stepped from the pool, taking the kaftan as he moved.

"Again… your eyes still burn, my lord. Has the vision returned?"

His master took two steps forward and paused. "As the end draws near, so does the beginning."

"My lord?" said the Anachron.

"It is no vision, but a memory. Do you understand, time weaver?" Silus asked, still staring blankly at the far wall.

"As ever, my lord, you are a cypher." the Anachron replied.

Silus' brow furrowed, and his fingers curled into fists. "It is unwise to patronize me, doomsayer."

Bowing low, the Anachron shrank in on himself. "Begging your forgiveness, my lord. I know your commands well, but your questions are… unusual."

"Very well," Silus replied. "Countless years, doomsayer. Countless worlds. I had nearly forgotten, but this close to the end a memory has returned." For the first time since he stepped from the pool, he lifted his face and let his eyes meet the doomsayer’s. "You have been with me since nearly the beginning, have you not?"

The robed servant nodded.

"But in all that time I have never… shared how it began." Silus paused for a moment, considering. "This close to the end, perhaps it is time."

A flash of delight appeared on the Anachron's face and then vanished. He opened his mouth to speak when Silus interrupted with a change of subject in the form of a question. "Are they ready?"

The Anachron's mouth snapped shut and he paused before answering, returning his gaze to the floor. "In the Conclave Hall? Yes, my lord."

"What of the witch?" Silus asked, running the flat of his palms against the plaits of his kaftan. The robe lengthened, the thin linen thickening, transforming under his touch, the border widening, turning gold.

"She arrived at the Conclave Palace but apologized as she will be joining you and the other's a few minutes later. She wanted to assure you that she would bring a token in payment for the delay." The Anachron looked up from the floor.

Unmoved, Silus replied. "Very well. Open the way."

The Anachron heaved a noiseless sigh of relief. With both hands on his staff, he gestured at the open air, calling forth the portal. An oily ring of light warped the air before them, spiraling out from the size of a fist. Silus stepped through, followed quickly by the Anachron, and the oblong warp vanished in a whorl of color. They stood in a massive hall, the walls blanketed in fine silks, the ceiling high above covered in a rich mosaic of fruits, flowers and faces, tributes to characters from legends and myths of Portia's choosing. Before them loomed two great oak doors, fabulously carved and bound in wrought iron, the archway flanked by conclave guards in ceremonial armor.

Gesturing to the vaulted doorway, the Anachron said, "The Conclave awaits."

Silus stepped forward imperiously. The guards turned and pressed hard against the thick slabs of oak, the doors parting reluctantly, and Silus stepped through into the Conclave’s council chamber.

The Anachron watched the Dark Lord vanish through the doors, then turned on his heels and strode down the hall. Minutes later, in some obscure corner of the palace, he pulled a thick tapestry aside to reveal a hidden alcove. Looking over his shoulder one last time, he stepped quickly inside, the curtain falling back into place. Whispering an incantation, he placed his fingertips against the far wall, and closed his eyes. He rotated his hands a half turn, he pursed his lips and blew into the ancient stone. The surface gave way as the wall dissolved, revealing a hidden chamber. The Anachron stepped forward. Before him stood two great crystalline cylinders, a human shape suspended within each.

He approached the nearest and placed his hand gently on the surface. "His secrets shall soon be mine. What was he about to tell you?"

The figure within the cylinder stared out at him with a frozen mask of shock. His robes were the Anachron’s robes, and his face was the Anachron’s face.

The Anachron smiled. They must be, he thought. Any difference would be the death of me.

With a flourish he drew the palm of his hand across the length of his scepter, the gnarled iron staff transforming in a swirl of light that enveloped his robes as the glamor of both dissolved. Portia stepped back from the crystal prison in which she held the Anachron, her true form revealed.

She eyed the second cylinder and considered her second captive. We shouldn't keep our guests waiting, she thought. Smiling wryly, she gestured to the door and took her leave. As she stepped from the chamber, the back wall rematerialized, hiding again the trapped Anachron within. As she pulled the tapestry aside and stepped into the empty hallway, the second crystalline pillar followed, gliding noiselessly along behind.

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Story: Jeremy Stanton
Editor: Sean Ryan
Narrative Lead: Joey Shimerdla
Character Art (cover): Candycal
Illustrations: HPL Game Design Corporation
Graphic Design: Tamer "Defolt" Oukour
Voice Acting: David Dahdah
Ending credits song: AfterSound
Music: Isaria
Post Production: INFLUX Pictures
Creative Director: Nate Aguila