It was dark. Not just an absence of light, but the kind of vibrant, restless darkness that swirls with a life of its own. The type of darkness that signals the end of hope and announces an era of despair. It flowed through the empty corridors and hallways choking everything in an unrivalled, inky blackness.

Nothing moved within the abandoned temple. No spiders spun thick, sticky cobwebs. No beetles crawled from beneath the broken tiles or chipped rock walls. No mice or rats scurried from crack to crack in search of insects or rotting meat. Even though there was an abundance of the latter.

Bones, some still adorned with putrid, decaying flesh, littered large sections of the floors. An army of corpses, called to serve beyond death, lay scattered about. Some had skulls cleaved in, while others looked blackened and burned. Most lay in haphazard piles, as if the undead life that had stirred them had vanished, leaving them to crumble where they stood.

The darkness flowed past two massive bronze doors, embossed with silent worshippers calling out to their merciless God. It oozed into a massive room stinking with the rot of two lumps of rancid meat that used to be dragurs. As much as they stank when alive, stalking the temple, attempting to quench their insatiable hunger for blood, their stench in death was unbearable. That is, if anything living had been there to smell it. Which, of course, there wasn't.

The darkness gathered above a single corpse splayed against a wall. It swirled around the lifeless body, buffeting it like a silent tornado. Imperceptible at first, sinews and tendons began growing around the joints. Muscles formed from the dense darkness, while a taut, pale flesh wrapped around it all. The five hollow holes in the skull filled in before skin, bearing snow white hair, sprouted from the scalp, growing until it touched the body's shoulders.

The eye lids opened.

Lifeless, black eyes, somehow darker than the surrounding, soul sucking blackness, blinked and peered about the void.

Thin, bloodless lips pulled back in a humorless smile as the corpse lurched to its feet. It surveyed the carnage in the room, frowning. The dragurs were dead, the sword and shield of Kymdos were missing. Most important, the Elemental Stone was gone as well. His Elemental Stone.

With wobbling steps, he lumbered over to the immolation table and knelt, his hands resting in the dry catch basin.

"Thank you, Kylaldir," Uhdros whispered to the swirling blackness. "As your faithful servant, I promise, this time our vengeance will be complete."

A/N - So I finally managed to complete a novel length project. The decision to post to fictionpress, to comment on other peoples works, to get reviews and feedback on my own, was the motivation that got me over the top. A few people were instrumental in getting me to this point from this site. alltheeagles, Lorrahbear, Barbados, Michael Cooper, and most recently The Warrior Poet have all been tremendous reviewers and provided valuable feedback, from grammatical errors to plot consistency, I am very grateful for their input. They also all write exceptional stories, check them out and help build this community.

Finally, a huge thank you to Zaneybellecloudo. When this project was in it's infancy I had one fan. Someone who enjoyed it and messaged me, pushing me for the next chapter. Without her motivation and assurances I likely wouldn't have gained the confidence to finish. Thank you ZB.

Want more? A Darkness Within is the sequel that will be updated periodically as I get to it. The Ankier Chronicles are a look back at the enigmatic thief and her rise through Estermont's underworld. I hope you'll stay on for the ride.

As always, your feedback and opinions are most welcome. Good and bad. Whether it's one of my stories or someone else (please see author's above), if you've taken the time to read it, please let them know how you feel. Thank you again for sharing this journey with me.