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A

GATHERING

OF

CHAOS

ISBN (Digital) 978-1-1954720-05-3

ISBN (Print) 978-1-1954720-04-6A

Gathering of Chaos an Asunder Novel is Copyright © 2020, The Failed Superheroes Club, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise (except for brief quotations for journalistic review purposes), without the express written permission of The Failed Superheroes Club, LLC. For permission requests, write to [email protected] All names, characters, events, and locales in this publication are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), event, or places, without satiric intent, is coincidental. Failed Superheroes Club, Failed Superheroes Club logo, Asunder and the Asunder logo are trademarks of The Failed Superheroes Club, LLC.

A

GATHERING

OF

CHAOS

A novel by

CAMERON HOPKIN

Based on the fantasy

role-playing game, Asunder

for Adam, who gave me the opportunity

and Lisa, who helped me make the best of it

Chapter 1 Before the Silence

Nira stared out over the water and tried not to listen as her best friend died. She clenched her bloody hands on the liveship’s bone railing, eyes darting wide and wild, looking for anything that could distract her from the burbling, sucking, wet noises behind her. She knew they weren’t coming out of Fi’s mouth – she didn’t have one anymore.

Fiolamir was the last. The others had all fallen blessedly silent after what felt like hours of screaming, shrieking, and other noises that became less and less human the longer they went on. Nira thought she’d heard some sort of shrill trumpeting at some point, but she hadn’t had the courage to look for its source. Fi was the only one she knew on the ship, the only other one aboard who’d escaped from the backwater cult that ruled their seaside village. Together they were going to find recruiters and join the Bone Army in Far East; they’d sworn it to each other. They’d even started training together. And now the bitch won’t do the decent thing and just die already.

She bit her lip hard against the horrific thought, but it wouldn’t leave her. The sounds were driving her insane. It sounded as if the blood were bubbling through two airpipes instead of one, and Nira didn’t want to think about where the exit holes might be. She passed a shaking hand over her brow and realized she’d just smeared a bold red stripe across her brown skin with Fi’s blood. Like a painted Beast Rider. A hysterical giggle welled up at the thought, and even though she heard how crazy she sounded, at least it was a brief moment where she couldn’t hear the breathing.

She looked out over the water and realized that she could see the port of Far East drawing nearer. She’d been looking right at it for several minutes without seeing it. Land ho! she thought. No point in saying it aloud. That was the Seafarers’ job, and they were all quivering masses of meat and bone somewhere on the deck behind her.

She could tell Far East was a shit place even from this far out. The docks were embarrassingly small for what was supposed to be one of the great cities of the Mainland. She cast her desperate gaze onto the towering, tottering Sentinel of Far East off to her right. The stone soldier and his crumbling trident stood in the mouth of the harbor on a rocky little islet only a few meters above the waves. He was covered in moss and bird droppings, and the whole thing listed noticeably to the left. Scaffolding skirted the statue’s legs, but as she sailed past, the only workers Nira could see were on their backs, smoking blue hash and staring at the sky. They were enjoying the potent drug so much they didn’t even notice the ship of horrors as it churned past. Their attitude seemed a fitting welcome to the city.

Sudden silence assaulted her from behind. She’d thought she was ready for it, thought she wanted it, but now that it had arrived fresh tears coursed from her eyes. No more awful, bloody breaths. No more violent mutations. No more Fi. She clutched hanks of her straight black hair with sticky hands and gave one last shuddering sob.

When the unbearable brightness had fallen on them, Nira thought for the briefest moment of lightning, but even in that first breath of surprise an undercurrent of dread had told her she was wrong. She’d been schooled by her zealot parents too well to fail to recognize this searing whiteness. It lasted far longer than lightning ever could, and it made not the slightest sound. Nira had laughed bitterly at the irony of it all and waited for the burning.

It never came. Instead, there was a purple afterimage of the sky that dazzled her eyes as the brightness died, followed by the murmurs and confusion of the Seafarers that had taken them on as passengers. Only Fi understood what had happened, and as soon as she could see again, Nira locked hands with the girl and waited. She’d been the best friend a runaway disbeliever could ask for.

Then came the screaming that started low and ratcheted ever higher, sounds of agony and disbelief that couldn’t be held back as the bodies of every soul on board began to mutate and twist from within. The bosun who had flirted so insistently with Nira, even giving her his coral dagger, came flailing past, his fingers suddenly far too long, boneless, and growing suction cups. His eyes were wide and his breath panicked. These were not the usual adaptations the Seafarers had from living on the shifting oceans such as an extra arm, or gills, or fins shaped to aid them in their work. No, this was all at once, changes shaped by a blind sculptor frothing with madness. The bosun only made it a few more steps before his legs fell free

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