Epilogue

Jarek placed his feet firmly over the threshold of the throne room. He was determined, he was proud. But nothing could be done in the presence of the man he had been waiting his whole life to meet without a little fear.

The distance across the hall's unyielding floor was long, lonely, and it gave the boy enough time to contemplate the man he was so desperate to see.

Jarek looked up, taking in the visage of his destination. The Motherland had always been a hard place, much harder than Korme, the world in which he had been born. The throne room was empty, but for the rock and the figures in the distance. As bare and as hard as the souls of its kings.

But he was not here to see a bitter man on a rough throne.

No.

They called him Brother Wolf for he howled in the moonlight and bit with steel.

He was as old as the Stars, as mysterious as the sea. He had been standing behind that throne since the beginning of time, or at least it was the way some stories went. And it was this legend, steely and silent, that Jarek had come to see.

Jarek knew the man was not quite so old, between six and eight centuries rather than a product of the creation of this universe. He had been present at the birth of the Old Kings and though he was Brother now because he was as integral to this world as air, the name had been first born on his relation to Mollen, the Everywhere King, who had tied all Three of the big worlds together before turning the iron of his will toward the Far Lands.

Balling his hands into nervous fists, Jarek paced boldly forwards.

They said he had become the King of Twelve Stars in less than two weeks, that he had died doing it and even then had not conceded to defeat. They said he had taken armies alone, a single man on a battlefield of thousands.

He was unforgiving, he was cruel, and they said that he had not spoken a word since he had accepted his crown to take his rightful, eternal place in the shadows behind the throne.

They said he had killed a thousand men, that he slept in a bed of their bones. They said that he never smiled but within the presence of death. He felt no fear, he felt no pain. He felt nothing.

He was the greatest creature in the whole of history.

Jarek slowed the tapping of his feet, drawing himself to a silent standstill, and looked up into the eyes of a killer.

And he remembered then the rest that they said; that he marched at the head of death's own army and to hold his gaze in your own was to make it the last sight you would ever see.

Jarek was not afraid.

He took up the cold blue stare in his own and he held it there. Fearless, resilient, strong.

And he would never forget what he saw then, in that moment; the screaming of a thousand other souls.

"State your purpose." The king drawled, stiff in his cruel throne.

Jarek did not reply. He had come for one thing, one thing only, and it would be given by the Brother, by the Wolf. He knew, as he took the player's look into his heart, that he would never need words to speak to a mute warrior.

Jarek was going to be great. He had always known it, always felt it. He had been born a million miles away, in another world, and still he was a child of the Stars.

He would take them all, all twelve tasks, and they would fall at the mercy of his sword. Jarek was going to become a player and, beyond that, he would become a King of Twelve Stars. This man, with his tarnished soul and his empty heart would be Jarek's only companion when he joined the player's side, when Jarek became the second to accomplish the Wolf's feat. Jarek knew this, he had always known this. And he was here for the Wolf to show him the way.

A second passed, a hollow measurement that meant nothing when the whole of infinity stretched out before him.

And from the darkness of his shadows, Brother Wolf stepped forwards, making his way into the light. It was the player that broke the bridge of their gazes, sweeping his eyes over the full extent of the boy that stood before him. When he had finished, when he looked back up, the man who took his only happiness in death, in blood and cold steel, was smiling.