Chapter One

You awaken in a still pool of shallow water to the howling of the wind and its icy caress. The moon watches you from the star-freckled sky above. Its pale light illuminates the moss and thick grass that grow between the gaps of the smooth stones beneath you. Trees with twisted, moss-covered roots reach for the heavens, and cast shadows over the few bare stones that can be seen in this strange wall-less garden. The air is thin and colder than anything you’ve ever felt. It whistles through the trees and grass, the sound similar to air blown through a broken flute. Shivering you get to your feet. A strangled sound escapes you as take slow cautious steps towards the edge of the garden. You pray and beg to any and all gods, but as your feet come to a stop you curse them, you curse them all. A small rock plummets over the stone lip of the garden. You grip the tree next to you and watch it fall and know that it continues to fall and fall and fall even after you loose sight of it. Dizziness overcomes you as you note the warm yellow light that flickers far off in the distance. It’s your home that you see.

Tears well in your eyes, “no…” You sink to your knees and struggle with the urge to vomit.

You are atop the Serpent Lord’s tower.

You are atop Wicked Garden.

And you are going to die.


Behind you, a deep laugh emanates from the darkest shadows. It weaves its way through the trees, chilling your blood more than the frigid wind ever could. Closing your eyes you turn your back on your home with your heart in your throat. You swallow and open your eyes to face whatever has come for you.

Darkness thickens into ribbons of night and converges on a single point until a raggy pale man appears. He floats effortlessly above the shallow water you awoke in, and watches you with hollow eye sockets that are filled with swirling ink. He speaks to you, but his dry flaky lips do not move.

“Each floor provides a new challenge. Pass and proceed.”

The ground shakes as the water beneath the grey man ripples and drains away. It seeps down through the gaps in the stones as they move to form a descending spiral. Fog or what could be steam makes its way into the garden only to spill over the tower’s edge. You watch it, the stairs, the raggy man.

“Follow in the footsteps of those before you. Complete what they could not.”

You swallow and walk to the top of the staircase. But before you take another step you look around one last time and commit it all to memory; the sky, the trees, your village off in the distance. You sigh.