Seven Deaths of an Empire by G. R. Matthews

Seven Deaths of an Empire

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On Character Voice


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Monthly Short Story Winner: Broken Empire FanFic

The challenge this month was to write fanfiction, which means the story should be set in an already existing fantastical universe.

Thorns by weremoon

Writers could choose from the following book series as the setting for their story:

Pratchett’s Discworld, Rowling’s Harry Potter, Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Lawrence’s Broken Empire, Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard, Sanderson’s Mistborn, Brett’s Demon Cycle, Erikson/Esslemont’s Malazan, or Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle.

People were free in what story to write but it had to be possible to recognize the world. If they wanted an additional challenge, they could try to emulate the original author’s writing style.


1. This can be prose or a poem.
2. Must be fan fiction set in the world of one of the above mentioned fantasy books.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-500 words long.
5. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That’s why they’re called limits.
6. Your entry can’t be published somewhere else.

The winning story was by Saraband (@wgsaraband) and is called, “Ghost in the Light”, based on Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire.

Congrats on your win, Saraband!

You can find all our entries here. You can also get updates on our monthly contests on Twitter @FFWritingComp.

And now on with the story!

– – –

“Ghost in the Light”
by Saraband

It would be fairly accurate to describe Bassein Ibn Al-Enkrath as unimpressionable. He was a mathmagician, after all, and to impress others was his trade. But when he met this young northern prince, with fire in his eyes and thorns scarred on his flesh, Bassein could do naught but wonder.

“What if this is the one who can bring the pieces together?”

* * *

They met in the city of Darjaan, the last beacon of civilisation before the Great Sea of Sand. In an establishment of dubious cleanliness, Bassein made a few coins by offering counsel to any who sought his skills. From cheating husbands to quarrelling neighbours, Bassein threw the dice for all of them, in exchange for a few bits of coin – or, occasionally, a more horizontal and far more entertaining form of payment.

This particularly day was not going well. Only a whore had sought him, asking about the treatment of some rash. She had been too poor to offer money and too odorous to pay in any other way.

Bassein had a few debts around the city, which he needed to pay very soon, or else something would happen that did not require the intellectual agility of a mathmagician to guess. So he was delighted when this tall, hooded man came in, hiding everything but that which was, unmistakably, a sack of coins at his waist.

Others noticed it too. Even the blind drunkard at the corner stopped mumbling, entranced by the melody of coin clanking on coin. The whole place drowned in silence for a moment, until a hint of sharp metal glinted just below the stranger’s purse. Everything soon went back to normal.

Bassein kept his gaze fixed on the hooded man, watching him as he bought a drink. To walk around Darjaan with a purse of coins that big, this was either a fool or a madman. Bassein threw his dice.

Seems like he is a bit of both, Bassein thought.

When the mathmagician looked away from his dice again, the stranger stood in front of him. He had pulled down his hood, revealing his face.

“Mind if I join you?” the stranger asked.

Bassein nodded. “Who am I to refuse a prince of Ancrath.”

The stranger smiled, without revealing his teeth. “You’re good. How did you know?”

“It is a matter of probabilities, as are all things in this world,” Bassein said. “Your accent, your poise, the tone of your skin…” The mathmagician sat back, trying to appear relaxed and in control. In fact, everything in this stranger told him to get as far away as he could. But Bassein was a man who enjoyed tempting fate, poking at it, seeing how far he could go before fate bit back. “I am Bassein Ibn Al-Enkrath, at your service. My forefathers came from Ancrath, as you can guess by my name, so who knows if we are long-lost cousins, my prince.”

The stranger pulled up a chair, sitting in front of the mathmagician. “Call me Jorg.”

A shiver ran down Bassein’s back. He had heard the name whispered, only a few days before. Something about this man from Ancrath and an artefact from the Builders time, lost in the sands.

“What brings you to our humble city?” Bassein asked.

“Bad dreams, among other things.” Jorg emptied his glass in one gulp.

“Are you looking for the counsel of the dice? I assure you there’s no one better than me in this city.”

“I’ve already had enough of your kind for one lifetime,” Jorg said. “I am looking for something else.”

“I see,” Bassein said. He tried to sound cryptic, when in fact he had no idea what this man wanted.

“Tell me, mathmagician, what do you know about the Builders?”

Almost instantly, Bassein grabbed the dice.

Jorg placed his hand on Bassein’s wrist. “I wasn’t asking the dice. I asked you.”

Bassein removed his hand, realising it was shaking. “I know the same as everyone else. They were like us in many things, but blinded by their unfaithfulness, their greed, and their thirst for knowledge. In their arrogance they created their own end, leaving behind the skeleton of their civilisation, so that we may learn to be humble and never repeat their mistakes.”

“Anything else?” Jorg asked. His face revealed no emotion, no hint. Bassein could only see the fire in his eyes, filled with enough ambition to move the world.

“Some speak of Djinn. Spirits of the Builders, who refuse to accept that they are dead. But I don’t suppose a sophisticated man like you would care about such things.”

“You’re wrong.” Jorg took the purse from his waist, producing a coin between his fingers. “Show me a Djinn, and this is yours.”

“What, a single coin? You shame me, prince.” Bassein made a dismissive gesture.

“The coin is for me,” Jorg said. “You’ll get the rest of the purse.”

Bassein’s cheeks turned red with excitement, and Jorg was greeted with a wall of shiny white teeth.

“Follow me, Jorg of Ancrath. And leave your scepticism behind. The Djinn don’t like it.”

* * *

The two men hurried through the streets of Darjaan, Bassein ahead, until they finally reached a collapsed building. Fire had consumed part of it, and the remainder was covered in ash.

“An angry mob set it on fire,” Bassein explained. “Superstition got the better of people.” He pointed into the ruin. “Come.”

Jorg nodded, following the mathmagician. Inside, breathing became a difficult task. “I know a thing or two about burning buildings,” Jorg said. “But this smells differently.”

“The Djinn,” Bassein said, almost whispering. He pointed to the floor. “Look.”

Jorg saw a small light on the floor, beneath a pile of ash. Square-shaped and dim, it somehow illuminated the whole space, where no natural light came in, for the windows were covered with stones.

Bassein moved no further, but Jorg had other plans. He placed a hand on his sword’s hilt and began to approach the light. Bassein stopped him.

“The payment. If you would be so kind.”

Jorg kept his gaze fixed on the light, not moving.

Bassein tensed. Here stood an armed man, with the eyes and skin of a monster. Bassein, on the other hand, had only a dice with him.

“When I see a Djinn,” Jorg said.

Bassein thought of arguing, but if he was good at one thing, it was probabilities. And they did not look good for him at the moment. “Of course,” he said, bowing graciously, and letting Jorg advance.

The prince kneeled before the pile of ash and stuck his hands in it, fearlessly, seeking the source of the light.

Neither Jorg nor Bassein noticed a coalescing shape in the darkness behind them.

A voice, like a storm of thunder and fire, echoed in their ears. “Who dares to disturb my slumber?”

Faster than a cat, Jorg turned around with the sword in his hand. Bassein froze, turning his head very slowly towards the shadows. He had heard the stories about the Djinn. He had never believed them.

“I need you to send a message to the other ghosts,” Jorg said.

“You?” The shape approached. “I know who you are. Other kinsmen of mine have whispered your name to the wind, Jorg of Ancrath.”

“I don’t suppose it came with any flattery,” Jorg said. “Listen, Djinn.” He pronounced the name sarcastically.

“Tell them I know what lies beneath the sands. That I will become emperor. It would be wise to help me.”

“Emperor?” The ghost let out a bellow of laughter. “The time for emperors has long past, little Jorg. The world of the living withers as the eternal dead awaken. The Builders failed. You failed. Humanity had too many chances, and wasted them all.”

“Side with me, and start a new age,” Jorg said serenely, blade still pointing at the ghost. “I will change everything.”

The ghost flickered, its image warping into a different shape. The man became a young boy, with a sharp, innocent voice. “Free us, Jorg,” the boy pleaded. “We have been stuck for an eternity. We want to be free. There are some who will help you.” The ghost flickered again. “Turn the wheel when the time comes.”

The ghost warped, returning to the shape of a man. “Enough”, the ghost thundered. “Be gone, Prince of Thorns. The world is too small for your ambition.”

“On that we agree,” Jorg said, turning around to the light on the ground, and sticking his sword in it.

“Your… end… is… ine…vitable…” The ghost twisted in the air, howling, before vanishing.

Bassein, who could not believe what he just saw and heard, was shocked out of his awe by a sack of coins flying towards him.

“Thank you, mathmagician,” Jorg said. “You have done more than you imagine.”

Bassein nodded, but he stood there, in those ruins, long after Jorg had left.

What it all meant, not even his dice would ever tell him.

– – –

Congratulations again to Saraband! If you’d like to enter our monthly writing contest, check out our forum for more information.

Happy Writing! 🙂

Title image by weremoon.



  1. Avatar sim says:

    I enjoyed that very much, thank you.

  2. Avatar bilko says:

    Very cool. Seamless fanfic. Bravo!

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