"Q: How do you make a blonde laugh on Monday mornings?
A: Tell them a joke on Friday night!"
ST SOFTWARE REVIEW: AMBERSTAR BY THALION SOFTWARE
by Richard Karsmakers
I - Youth
Tar had always been the odd one out, ever since he was a small
child. Although he looked pretty much like any other child except
for his somewhat darker complexion, something about his attitude
made people feel uncomfortable when they were around him. There
was nothing you could put your finger on. He was just different.
When he sat in school the benches near to him were usually not
occupied, when he worked in the fields people avoided being at
the same patch of ground. Everybody seemed to act as if he
suffered from something contageous, something invisible he
carried with him that might leap at you unexpectedly when you
came too close.
Tar had learned to cope with the isolation that was forced upon
him by the other villagers. He didn't need the other children to
entertain himself. He would wander through the nearby forests for
hours, or he would sit in his room thinking about everything and
nothing, daydreaming, or drawing.
At least his parents treated him with care and love. He was
their only child and they were proud of him, though they were
reluctant to show it too clearly when they were around others.
Probably for that reason the villagers still spoke with them and
frequented their place - be it only when Tar was out wandering in
the forests or sitting in his room, entangled in his deep
Tar would often stare at the sky, dreaming away. He would gaze
at the stars, which held for him a true beauty he had yet to see
reflected on earth. Somehow, the stars seemed more pure than
earthly things. Somehow, the galaxies that floated high above him
succeeded in diverting his thoughts from the day's chores and his
outcast position. He would float among those eeriely flickering
points of light amid infinite darkness, possessing the power to
decide what would happen to those people far below, the people
who roamed Lyramion, the people who did not accept him because he
was different, the children that harassed him because he did not
like their games. He would soar higher than the mountains. Higher
than the clouds - like a true god.
Tar knew he was different. He realised it himself, too. All
others of his age were interested only in chasing and kicking
balls, or catching birds. He, on the other hand, was completely
engrossed in thought most of the time. He found other children's
interests petty and useless, opposite to his own. When he saw a
tree he would wonder how it was shaped and which powers were
great enough to do so. He fantasised what trees would have looked
like if he would have created them.
The most important thing that set him apart from the other
villagers, including the adults, were the nightmares. Almost
every night, he would wake up with his eyes wide open in fear as
if he had seen visions of the worst things imaginable,
unspeakable evil, doom encompassing everything that existed. His
parents had found this odd, the village's Healer had considered
it yet another sign of the boy's difference. There was no cure.
It would simply go one day - or stick with Tar for the rest of
In the nightmares he would see the earth blackened, fires burn
the trees, volcanoes erupt, skeletal armies slaughter women and
babies. He would gaze into the eyes of Undead, tremble at the
sight of concentrated, hot malice burning like two little red
suns in the hollow depths of their eye sockets. Death roamed the
lands, the heavens were coloured dark grey with clouds stampeding
across them like marching armies hurling physical destruction.
The most frightening thing was that, each time, his nightmares
seemed to start and end in terrible heat, seclusion, a prison.
Through the black skies he saw no stars, no sun and none of the
moons but one - the third moon. It would hang above the horizon
threateningly, as if suspended, unnaturally. Distant yet much
too close. It would loom above the horizon, silently, as if
gazing down on the ravished and plundered lands with a smile
wrought upon its barren surface.
The night was cold and starless when Tar woke up. He had torn
his clothes partly off his body, his bed cover lay atop a rug on
the ground. He had had one of those nightmares again. He could
still hear his own cry of terror fade away around him, as if it
was being sucked up by the furniture in his room.
He heard the sound of some movement on the other side of the
wooden wall; his parents had learned not to come to him when he
woke up after a nightmare, but they had not quite found
themselves capable of sleeping through the cries with which he
would wake up. After a short while he heard the rustling of
blankets stop, their voices cease.
Tar looked outside.
The three moons were visible, the largest one partly hidden
behind the horizon. Yet the red moon, the third moon, somehow
seemed to be more prominent, more poignant in the way it hung
above the forests. Tar recognized the smile on the barren surface
- or at least he thought he did. It was the same smile he always
saw in his nightmares, the same smile that haunted his every
waking hour of the day. A shiver ran up and down his spine,
making his hair stand up on his skin.
He turned around, trying to go to sleep again. He found himself
looking at his own shadow, with the light of the moons around it,
tinged red. Even when he closed his eyes he could not ban the
luringly red light from his mind. It seemed as if the moon was
calling, beckoning like the grim reaper beckons a sick man on his
Tar jumped out of bed. His stomach felt gnarled, as if he had
swallowed something bigger than his body that was fighting its
way out. Thoughts of getting to sleep again were banned from his
mind as though by a mysterious force. He gazed at the moon much
in the way he used to stare at the stars. It did not hold their
serene beauty but it was obsessive in very much the same way. He
could not tear his eyes off the red globe that seemed to float on
the darkness yet support it at the same time.
He put on his clothes, careful so as not to awaken his parents
on the other side of the thin wall again.
At first he thought he was merely imagining the moon calling at
him. It was ridiculous. Moons don't call. Moons are inanimate
objects and everything you think they do is but a figment of your
imagination. But something out there was calling, even if it
wasn't the moon. Something. He felt it in his head and in his
abdomen. It was a call he could not resist, not even if he would
have wanted to. And he did not even want to resist. Maybe that
was why he was different.
He stalked out of the house. He didn't really know where his
feet were leading him. It seemed logical to walk in the direction
of the moon that loomed above and amid blackness. A light breeze
caught his hair as if urging him on.
Within minutes he seemed to be enfolded by trees on all sides.
At night the forest he knew so well had suddenly transformed
itself to something he didn't feel at home in. He heard sounds he
had never heard before - quick rustles in the undergrowth, calls
of animals that did not roam the land at daytime. The trees
seemed to bow down on him, making him want to tremble.
He reasoned his fear away. He knew this forest was well known to
him - all that it lacked was light to fall upon it. All of it was
just like he knew it, only painted black instead of the luscious
greens and browns he was used to see.
Boughs seemed to have grown where previously there had been
none; they slapped against his body and in his face. Vines seemed
to grapple at his legs as if wanting to make him fall, as if
waiting for an opportune moment to tie their victim to the ground
and consume him whole.
Suddenly the trees seemed to bend back, boughs retreated and the
vines no longer held any power withing their lifeless structures.
They released Tar upon an open spot within the forest where the
light of the third moon fell unrestrained. The ground seemed to
be dipped in blood, it even seemed to drip off the trees of which
the long leaves hung down disconsoledly.
Looking around him, expecting anything to vault at him from
those ominously dark red shadows around him, Tar carefully walked
towards the middle of the clearing. Somehow, it held him bound as
if by a magical spell. There was nothing in the middle of the
open space, yet he seemed to be convinced it was the place to be
The red moon looked down on the frail figure that walked
stealthily towards the middle of the clearing. If it could, the
burst smile upon its surface would have widened.
Tar arrived at the spot in the middle. He had anticipated
someone - or something - to step out of the darkness around it
and come to him now that he had made himself most vulnerable.
The moon kept gazing down, silently, threatening in a strange
way - like in his nightmares. He had expected skeletons to
stagger out of the shadows, wild animals to get attracted to his
scent and attack. He had expected anything. Anything, that is,
except for what did happen.
A sound as if wood was growing and breaking at the same time
arose from around him. It came from all sides, and it softly grew
in intensity. What had first been a wooden whisper he could
barely hear now gradually became a sound as if his clothes were
being torn from his body, as if wood was being ground on wood
within his own ears. He could not guess where the sound
originated from. It seemed to come from all directions around him
yet from within himself.
He looked at the ground, startled by the growing intensity of
its redness. It seemed as if he was standing knee-deep in thick,
coagulated blood. It seemed to creep up his legs in ragged gasps.
He tried to escape but found that he could not move his feet. The
earth seemed to have come alive, it held his feet in an iron
embrace that he could not tug free of.
Then he was temporarily deaf and blind. The redness of
everything around him was for a briefest of instants replaced by
a whiteness as pure as flawless diamonds lying on fresh ice in a
cloudless midwinter night. He could not hear his own desperate
cry even though it made his throat hurt, his cheeks ache, his jaw
muscles tear, his eyes sting. After that brief instant, vision
and sound came back with a force that felt as if it would
obliterate every nerve in his body, shatter every muscle, grind
A fork of lightning had struck him, fire running up and down his
body as if wanting to undo him instantaneously. Yet he did not
cease to be. Instead, he absorbed the tremendous power fed to him
by the elements, his body bulging in its extreme efforts to
contain all this energy.
As the cacophonic sound and visual mayhem wore off, leaving all
of Tar's senses utterly numbed, he thought he heard a deep
rumbling voice echoeing through his skull.
"Tarbos...you are the one...you are the one...are the one...the
Somehow Tar succeeded in staggering back to his parents' place,
in spite of him being thoroughly dazed and confused. The entire
world seemed to reel around him, heaven seemed to be below and
for all he cared hell could be above. He bumped into trees, thin
low branches flung in his face, other things hanging on his path
lashed at him. He felt none of it - all he did feel was that
enormous power contained within him that surged through his veins
and flowed through his brain like molten lead.
When he came home he inadvertedly woke up his parents. He
slammed the doors behind him, grumbling to himself like someone
possessed. He lay down in his bed, not bothering to take his
muddy clothes off. He instantly dropped into a comatose sleep.
II - Adolescent
Young Tar grew. He often wondered what had happened precisely
that fateful night in the forest but his mind couldn't handle the
implications. Lightning had struck him yet he was still alive. If
anything, he had suddenly grown stronger and more intelligent.
Whereas previously he had tried hard to ignore other youths that
made fun of him, he now didn't even notice them any more.
Encapsulated in dark, brooding thoughts, Tar would let their
insults bounce off an invisible wall. His body would not register
dirt or sand thrown at him.
He became more isolated within his own walls of confinement. The
knowledge that he was something different now strengthened him in
his resolve to ignore the entire world - ignore it until he would
be in a position to rule. Deep inside he felt that, one day, his
voice would be heard and his opinion would count. People would
have to listen to him, would have to take him into consideration.
Maybe, one day, he would really soar higher than the clouds,
touch the stars, look down upon others with disdain. He dreamt on
like he had done all his life.
One day, the village was aroused by a warlord with his troup of
soldiers who were staying over at "The Lost Dragon", the local
inn. They brought with them many tales of war. The villagers
could not help but listen to these heroic yarns, enthralled, as
sunburnt soldiers related adventures that took place in distant
A feeling deep inside Tar urged him to go there and hear those
stories, too. If he ever wanted to rule those who now made his
life miserable, he would have to gain knowledge. Knowledge of
what was happening in the world, knowledge of who was at war with
That night he went to "The Lost Dragon". He entered it
unnoticed, for everybody was preoccupied listening to all those
tales of valiance and honour. Laughter and cries arose from the
group that sat around the fireplace. Even the landlord had left
his usual spot behind the bar so as not to miss as much as a word
of what was told. An occasional phrase drifted across the room to
where Tar stood - usually involving slaughter, death, or
technicalities that had to do with weaponry and warfare.
Tar noticed he was not the only one excluded from the people
around the fireplace. A stranger clad in a dark cloak sat huddled
in another corner, his face hidden in hooded darkness. The
stranger seemed not interested in the tales of supposed bravery.
Occasionally a mug of ale would disappear within the hood to be
put back on the table emptier.
Tar realised it must be the soldiers' warlord. Boldy, he seated
himself opposite the hooded man. He tried to discern a face under
the hood but the darkness within it was complete. The warlord did
not seem to see the young man at all, even though Tar tried to be
Suddenly the man flicked back his hood, revealing a roughly hewn
face with a hawk's nose amidst ragged black hair. His eyes with
the colour of steel stared intently at the young man. He looked
up and down Tar's arms and chest, glancing at the eager look in
the eyes, the black hair and the athletic build.
"Why don't you go and listen to the stories my warriors have to
tell?" the man said.
Tar didn't reply, quite incapable of knowing what to say. Why
didn't he sit near the fireplace? Surely the warriors' tales
would be far better capable of stirring any young lad's
Then it dawned on him - he was different. He was not just any
other young lad.
"That's not what you came here for, was it?" the man inquired.
Tar nodded, still at a loss for words. He thought for a while,
then said: "I want to see more of the world, but not like them,"
he said with contempt, "I want to learn, to be taught to do
things others can't."
The warlord chuckled, taking another swig of his ale.
"Sure, son," he said, "you sound just as mixed up as my cousin,
what's his name, in the Seeker's Tower or something."
Tar's eyes lit, the small flames inside them suddenly appearing
to be on the verge of leaping. "Seeker's Tower?" he breathed.
The man nodded. "Down south, east of the Yathoon delta. You
can't miss it."
"What's it like?" Tar asked, enthusiasm seeming to writhe within
his bowels, consuming, "I mean, what do they do there?"
A deep laugh, almost out of control, echoed through the inn.
Some of the people near the fireplace looked at them but decided
it was not worth while missing the current story's more
spectacular bits for.
"Well, son, they seek in Seeker's Tower," the warlord said once
he got his laughter under control, "they seek Knowledge."
Tar felt as if he was out of breath, even though he hadn't moved
a finger, but only his lips. His heart beat in his throat; he
could hear the blood flowing through his eardrums.
"What Knowledge?" he asked.
The man snorted derisively, pulling the hood over his head
again. Obviously, he did not consider it necessary to say another
Tar stood up and walked to the exit. He caught a glimpse of
people laughing and jesting in a corner of his eye. He did not
heed them and went outside, deep in thought as usual. He went
home where his father bade him the usual goodnight.
That was the last thing any of the villagers saw of Tar.
The third moon was nowhere to be seen in the night's sky.
Instead, the first and biggest of the moons shed enough light on
the valley for Tar to discern the ominous silhouette of Seeker's
Tower, looming up higher and higher before him as he came closer.
Curiously, no moonlight fell on the building, as if afraid to be
cast off or sent away. Although the Tower's entire surroundings
bathed in soft, pale light, the thing itself was visible only
because of its sheer blackness in contrast with everything around
it. It looked like a well of darkness that could suck you in and
swallow you whole.
Now Tar also noticed the silence. On his long journey the sounds
of nature had always been there to accompany him - even at night
he had heard the sound of thousands of crickets and the odd owl,
nightly serenades to the gods. Now there was a silence so
complete he thought he must have been stricken deaf. Not even his
own boots made any noise on the ground, not even the wind in his
ears could be heard.
Tar came closer. The Tower seemed to grow, louring ever more
threateningly - but he felt no fear, only a sense of purpose. His
entire future, indeed, the future on the world depended on him
entering that Tower. He would enter it, at any price.
The first sound he heard again was that of the impressively
ornamented wooden door that formed the entrance to the Tower. For
a moment Tar didn't even realise it seemed to be opening itself,
as he was completely absorbed by the intricate ornaments and
arcane symbols that were engraved on the arch around it. Its
hinges whined a cold welcome, that seemed to slice his bones in
half, pierce his soul with frozen steel.
"Come on, come in," a creaky voice spoke from within the
darkness of the Tower, "we have been expecting you."
For a moment Tar felt a fear strike his body that was more
genuine than any other he had felt before. The moment he passed
the threshold, however, the sensation disappeared. The door
closed itself silently, finally shutting with a deep thud that
sent a low tremor through the floor.
His eyes grew used to the darkness almost instantly. It was as
if, within this Seeker's Tower, his senses were increasingly
aware of what was going on around him. What had been silence now
revealed itself as the soft whispers of dark-robed figures that
sat near the walls, observing him. Tar could now also see the man
who had let him in. It was a frail figure, his gnarled hands
telling tales of ages of writing. His eyes were large, almost
completely white with small light blue pupils within the wrinkled
face to which clung grey, matted hair. The man had a nose like a
Tar looked around a bit more, feeling oddly comfortable between
these old Seekers within their almost sacred place of Dark study.
The ceiling was far above him, with huge rusted chandeliers
hanging down from it. The scarse light was emitted from candles
and a few torches that lined the stairs that ran up around him
along the walls, disappearing high up in the darkness.
"This is Tar," the old man now said, almost solemnly. The murmur
around the young man increased, the huddled shapes in their black
robes now bending over to each other to exchange excited
whispers, gesticulating energetically. Tar pointed his ears but
did not succeed in catching any of the conversation that took
place around him. He looked at the old Seeker, only to find the
man's white eyes staring at him, not looking away until the
hushed whispers along the walls had worn off.
"Tar has come to us to study," the man now said, a brief gleam
of what could have been joy seeming to pass across his face and
eyes, "...to study."
One of the men that had sat along the wall now came forward from
the shadows, folding back his hood. Another nose like a hawk's
protruded from the face that was lined by many years of study and
thought - yet from it looked eyes that seemed that of a rather
young man's by comparison.
"I am Master Zanthi, your tutor," the man said with a voice that
fitted the relative youth his eyes radiated. "Please follow me."
Tar went after Master Zanthi who went up the winding stairs,
following the rustle of the heavy robes and the shuffle of the
sandals on the steps of polished stone.
The Tower must have been higher than Tar thought. He even began
to think he was starting to breathe with more difficulty when,
after what seemed like hours, the Master halted on a floor that
was filled with books. It must have been some sort of library,
albeit one that had not been frequently visited judging by the
smell of dust and cobwebs that pervaded the air.
Master Zanthi lit a torch that sat perched on a ledge like a
bird of prey, as if guarding the books and scrolls that lay
stacked and piled on chairs, tables and shelves. Some of the
books had locks on them, some of the scrolls seemed to have
protection fields around them that shimmered in the flickering
"This is the Sacred Library of the Very Darkest Arts," the
Seeker said. He paused, as if expecting Tar to ask something -
yet the young man had nothing to ask. Everything seemed, in some
strange way, to add up and fit together. He had no questions. It
all seemed logical to him, as if he was living a dream that lived
his life for him.
Tar did not even notice his Master descending the stairs again,
so aborbed was he by all Dark Knowledge stored within this
gloomy, vaulted chamber high in Seeker's Tower. He felt he had
sought this all his life, without ever precisely having known
what it was.
One stormy evening, when thunder shook the Tower and lightning
blinded the windows, Tar was disturbed by an unusual sound that
arose into the Sacred Library from below. Somehow, the Seekers
down there must have been acting much more agitated than normal,
as if something highly unusual was happening.
Unable to reign his curiosity, Tar went down. It was the first
time he went there since he had arrived at the Tower, some three
weeks before. His Master had usually brought him food that he
often left untouched. Tar was entirely devoted to absorbing all
Dark Knowledge present in the library, not wanting to do anything
Whereas it had seemed to take hours until he had ascended the
stairs upon his arrival, he now went down them within a matter of
minutes to join whatever was happening in the main hall. The
Seekers shuffled to and fro nervously, their hushed but excited
whispers mounting to a murmur that echoed up the stone walls.
The first thing other than the superfluous movements of
bewildered Seekers to attract Tar's attention was the strange
scent that lingered through the hall. It was, he seemed to
recall, something like the scent of perfume, the smell of women.
For a moment he envisioned the girls that had stood in the
background, laughing, pointing, when the village boys kicked him
or tied him to a tree. For an instant he experienced an upcoming
and quite nauseous feeling of bad memories which left just as
quickly as it had come when he actually saw her.
She stood near the huge wooden entrance door, talking to the
ancient man with white eyes that had also welcomed him upon his
arrival at the Tower. Seekers walked around them, absent-
mindedly, succeeding in apparently having an excuse to catch a
glimpse of what was probably the first female ever to enter the
Tar looked at her. She didn't look at him; she was still talking
to the old man about something or other. She wore a dark blue
robe of some exquisite material that engulfed her body as if it
were a logical extension of her natural skin. Her long hair fell
about her shoulders in some kind of magic way, flowing curled and
golden, accentuating her almost unearthly beauty that seemed as
if inherited from heaven.
The old man seemed to sense Tar's eager eyes burning on them,
for he interrupted the conversation and lead her to the young man
to be introduced. Tar saw her walking towards him and suddenly he
felt that strange feeling in his abdomen again - the feeling of
having swallowed something huge that seemed to be fighting its
way out. This time, however, it felt good in a peculiar kind of
way. For the first time he saw stars on earth - her astonishingly
light blue eyes that looked at him, quite unaware of the damage
they could cause to mortal men.
She bowed ever so slightly, after which Tar bowed low.
"Adept Tar," the old man said, trying to fill his voice with
dignity, "this is Princess Mylneh of Lyramion." He then turned to
the Princess. "Your Highness, this is one of our finest and most
zealous students, Adept Tar. He will show you around Seeker's
Kneeling down and suppressing a tremble, Tar took her delicate
hand as gently as he could and brushed it with his lips. It
seemed as if little sparks flew to and fro between them during
that brief moment.
"Your servant," Tar muttered. He heard his own heart's beat in
his ears. He looked up at the Princess to find her blushing at
"Don't be silly," she whispered. The old man didn't seem to
hear. Tar rose to his feet again, offering her his arm. His eyes
did not leave her face - the blush remained, her lips formed a
silent smile that her eyes echoed, like tiny stars Tar saw
flickering within their depths.
Tar lead her up the stairs, still not quite knowing what else to
say or how to husband the wild beating of his heart. Obviously
she didn't know him. She did not know that he was different, she
was not one of the girls that laughed and made fun of him behind
his back. She was far above the rest, floating high on an
invisible cloud above all other mortals Tar had met before. She
was the loveliest creature he had ever laid eyes on. It was the
scent of her perfume that he had sensed when he had come down
from the Sacred Library.
He seemed reluctant or too nervous to start talking with her,
which Mylneh did not fail to notice.
"It's actually much less nasty in this Seeker's Tower than I
thought," she said, "I had expected grumpy old men bowing over
endless spells and charms, quite incapable of doing anything
else - let alone show hospitality to a Lady."
Tar didn't answer. He was too enchanted by the music in her
voice, that seemed to bring forth yet unsung hymns and
spellbinding melodies played on a deified instrument no one so
far had been able to make during earthly life. If he closed his
eyes he saw endless pastures with birds, blooming trees and
"So you are Tar," she said, interrupting his thoughts. "The old
man with the white eyes told me you came here last. He seems to
think highly of you and your capabilities."
Tar found himself blushing, looking away. Normally he knew
exactly how to handle any situation, but this young woman made
him feel strange, uncapable of uttering coherent words.
During the guided tour he gave Mylneh, he had to concentrate
hard. At times he found his heart commanding him to tell her
"You're incredibly beautiful" or "You are the most gorgeous
creature I have ever laid eyes on". He swallowed them back just
before his lips began to form the words.
She had him all confused.
He was glad when the guided tour was over. It gave him an excuse
to be without her without appearing rude - so he could think
things over and try to work out why this young woman made him act
Mylneh could get along fine with Tar. To some extent he could
confide in her. She seemed to understand his childhood, make him
feel comfortable. For the first time in the weeks he had spent in
the Sacred Library he could tear himself away from the gathering
They sat up late, talking about a wide variety of things. She
had been surprised by the storm and had decided to take refuge in
the Tower. She did not tell him why she had been riding in the
Bollgar Valley on her own, but he guessed it was none of his
business. All he knew was that the fate must have guided her
here. He was convinced that she was destined for him and that he
was destined for her. One day, he knew, he would have her and
rule the world with her on his side.
He told her nothing of his ambitions, however; most of the time
when they were together she was the one who spoke. Her tales were
of royal life, hunting, games and the wonders of faraway
kingdoms. He was pleased to notice that none of her stories
included a Prince of some kind. He would listen to the musical
rivulet of her voice and dream away, gazing at her delightful
face and those twinkling little stars he thought he could see
deep within the blue of her eyes. Each time she smiled at him his
heart leaped, each time he heard the music of her laugh his soul
seemed to hurl itself up and down between his throat and his
The table in the Sacred Library lay silent, the torch perched on
the ledge went out and remained unlit. Only outside the cold
fangs of the wind seemed to want to tug at the very stones of
which the Tower consisted. Scrolls written with the blood of
virgins lay untouched, books remained open at the spot where Tar
had been studying them when Mylneh arrived. On them shone the
weak, red light of the third moon that seemed to gaze intently at
everything that was happening within the Tower. For the time
being, the young man no longer seemed to be interested in Dark
Knowledge. He was now only interested in Mylneh, this Princess
that seemed to be the embodiment of virtue and loveliness, music
The storm did not relent for two days. The Tower seemed to sway
in the gale as if the elements were in league trying to tear its
entire structure asunder. Inside, however, only the occasional
thunder and lightning would come through, and sometimes the
howling of the wind. Mylneh and Tar would sit together, huddled
at a smouldering fire in another room high up in the Tower -
talking and laughing until they both fell into a deep, untroubled
On the third morning after the Lyramian Princess had arrived at
Seeker's Tower, the sun shone. Its warmth gladdened the hearts of
the Seekers, and the very Tower itself seemed to sigh deeply
after having withstood so much undaunted violence for two days.
The sun should also have gladdened Tar's heart but it didn't.
While the weather's turmoil outside forced the Princess to remain
inside the Tower he was able to increase his hold on her. Now the
sun shone and the birds again sung their songs, he knew she would
want to go.
It was as if a frozen claw clasped his heart. Perhaps everything
had been a dream. She had not been nice to him, she had not
laughed, he had not been able to bask in her presence and the
attention she gave him. It had not meant anything. She would go
and he would once more be alone, the only purpose in his life
being the gathering of Knowledge so that one day he could fulfil
his ambitions, teach the world a lesson.
There was a soft knock on his door. A voice inside told him it
was Mylneh. She would come to say goodbye and leave the Tower,
leave him, walk out of his life. She was no different from the
others after all.
He did not reply. The soft knock was repeated. Again he kept
silent, hushing the voice of his heart that cried out with the
fell voice of true love, for the first and last time in his life.
Something inside him broke when he heard her turn around,
followed by the soft sounds of her feet going as she went down
He opened the window and looked outside. He cursed the sun, he
cursed the birds. He cursed the after-rain smell that entered his
room. He clenched his fists in powerless anger. One day,
everything would be different. He swore he would get even with
that cruel and vicious world that had labelled him different.
The hinges of the Tower entrance, far below him, whined their
goodbye to Princess Mylneh of Lyramion as she left on her horse.
She did not look back and grew smaller and smaller as her horse
lead her back home - until finally she was indiscernible.
Tar closed the window, shutting his heart with it, and went back
to the Sacred Library. He lit the torch and continued where he
left off with his study of the ancient writings.
III - Man
With renewed vigour, Tar threw himself on the gathering of
Knowledge. Master Zanthi continued bringing him his daily food,
which Tar increasingly often left untouched. They would exchange
greetings and the Master would launch an occasional attempt at
social talk - but Tar didn't want any of his Master's attention,
he did not want the man's pity.
One night all three moons were present just above the horizon.
Looking up from the books and scrolls, Tar once more saw the
crude smile that seemed to be engraved on the third moon's
surface, its red face. Somehow, its light was more powerful than
that of the other moons - it had succeeded in dipping the entire
Library in a bloody shade of red, in spite of the orange and
yellow light the lonely torch tried to cast.
Tar heard a deep rumble that he first mistook for a distant
earthquake - but the Tower was not moving, none of the volcanoes
at the horizon were lit. The rumbling increased and transformed
into what seemed like laughter - deep, bellowing laughter. It was
the laughter he had heard to often in his youth, but now it was
magnified. He closed his eyes and ears, but was unable to block
it out; it might just as well have come from within.
When he opened his eyes the moons had disappeared behind a dark
veil of clouds. The laughter had ceased - all he could hear now
was the sound of the torch slowly being eaten by its flames. The
entire library was, however, still painted red; the colour
actually seemed to have intensified.
He looked around. Where there had previously been shelves filled
with nothing but tomes there was now an enormous throne, made of
smooth stone. It seemed as if the stone was glowing, as if it
consisted of molten rock being held in shape by some mysterious
and very powerful force. On the throne sat a man, looking at Tar
with interest. His arms rested on the sides of the throne, his
fingers tapping in an all but impatient way. He seemed to radiate
some kind of power, Evil power. The eyes were bright white with
black centres, staring at the young man, trying to gauge his
Tar had read a lot. He knew much. He knew enough to recognise a
Demon when he saw one. This was definitely a Demon - possible one
of the second level.
"So you're called Tar now," the Demon snorted.
Tar had heard that voice before. He couldn't quite remember
where and when, though. He only knew deep within that this voice
The Demon seemed to sense Tar's thoughts and could not help but
chuckle. "Maybe things will be more clear to you if I call you
Then, it hit Tar like a blunt battle lance. For a brief moment
he felt as if he was hurled mercilessly against a brick wall, as
if someone had hit him with a bell, the echo of its toll slowly
wearing off inside his head.
"Who...who are you?" Tar asked, not able to suppress the fear in
his voice, "What do you want?" He slowly realised this was a
Demon of none other than the first level, the highest level - the
Lord Demon. The pope of the underworld.
The Lord Demon coughed, irritated. "Don't you know, pitiable
half-human?" he bellowed, "Are you really as dim-witted and naive
as you try to make me believe?"
Tar shrank back in his chair, trying to hide behind his own
shadow. He gazed involuntarily at the Lord Demon's incredibly
white eyes that seemed to be ablaze with evil. He didn't
understand what the Demon meant.
Once again the evil Lord was one step ahead of Tar's thoughts.
"Yes, you're a half-human. Half human, half demon, Tarbos! I am
your father, Guardians of Hell forbid!"
It was as if Tar collided with another battle lance, more
sturdy than the one before, and heavier. The bell tolling inside
him was louder, almost up to the point of deafening him from
within. So that was his difference. That was why nobody had liked
him - he been a half-demon all his life, product of unholy lust
between the Lord Demon and a human witch. The people that had
brought him up had not been his parents. He had his interests for
Dark Knowledge impaled within his soul, carved within each cell
of his being. The difference. Now he knew what it was.
As the shock gradually wore off, though, he began to relish the
thought. His entire life he had wanted to rule, he had wanted to
inflict his will upon all mortals. Now he knew he was the son of
a Lord Demon - if anyone would be able to reign the land it would
And, of course, Mylneh would ultimately be his.
He was so engrossed in his own thoughts and dreams that he did
not notice the Lord Demon fading away, back to his Dark Domain.
"I'll be seeing you," the Lord Demon said, tearing Tar's mind
back to reality, "one day."
"No, wait!" Tar yelled, afraid it might be too late already, "I
need to know your name!"
He needed to know it, or otherwise he would never be able to
summon the Lord Demon when it deemed him fit. Within his mind he
thought rapidly. He had to challenge his father, beat him, become
him. But he needed to know the name.
"Thornahuun," the Lord Demon spoke, his voice carrying with it
the realisation that this had been the first nail in his coffin.
Then, with the sound of his evil laughter disappearing into
nothingness, he evaporated. On the place where the throne had
stood were now once again the old shelves filled with books and
At night, Tar's dreams would become increasingly horrid. They
would be filled with people wading in blood, forks of lightning
unmaking the earth, his own soul being torn apart between evil
choices. His hands could deal death, his commands would be obeyed
by dread creatured he had thought would not dare to occur even in
the most evil of dreams. But now he would not wake up listening
to the echo of his waking cry, nor would he be bathing in sweat -
instead he would relish the nightmares, enjoy them, memorise them
for the future, feast on their taste of fear and decay. One day
it would all be his. He would be the one to wield the scales of
his own justice, brandish the scythe of his own hate.
As if haunted by all his past fears, Tar read through chapter
after chapter in the learned books of the Very Darkest Arts. He
would file spells away in his mind, learn to recite the blackest
incantations by heart. He knew what he had to do - he had to
challenge his father, the Lord Demon himself, and defeat him
utterly. He needed the power, he wanted the power. The sheer
thought of possessing it almost made his mouth water, made his
eyes ever more greedily devour the Sacred Writings.
He studied, no longer bothering even to cast a glimpse at the
meals his Master would leave daily. Sometimes, the Tutor would
try to communicate with his pupil but without success. Tar was
fully occupied with his mastery of whatever would be needed to
challenge the Lord Demon, challenge his father. There was no
doubt in his mind that he would succeed, no doubt in his soul
that he was the Lord Demon to be.
He would not sleep for more than an hour or two each night. He
would continue reading and making notes when the moons had almost
set already, and would get up with the earliest morning rays of
the sun. He became a ghost of himself, pale, unhealthy. His
muscles went weak, his eyes became large dark orbs amid
seemingly hollow sockets - as if they floated in a black void.
It did not take long, his stamina leading him through the
required books and scrolls at almost frightening speed, before
Tar had gained the knowledge he needed to challenge and defeat
the Lord Demon. It was one of those proverbial starless nights,
with dark clouds covering the moons as if in anger, when Tar
chose to write the Blackest yet most immanent page in the history
of his life - and that of the world. He prepared candles,
appropriate scrolls, incantations, potions - everything he
thought he might need for this challenge of challenges.
He put out the torch and the candles. Immediately, the library
of Dark Knowledge bathed in an intense black, like velvet. Tar
whispered a soft spell, upon which his body started radiating a
soft orange glow.
Then he started chanting. At first the murmers that arose from
his lips were barely audible, but they gained clearness until the
walls reverberated that one word - the name of the Demon Lord.
"Thornahuun! Thornahuun! THORNAHUUN!"
Tar's voice gained strength at each uttering of the word, until
it arrived at the stage where it was too immense to come merely
from one human being. The floor started to tremble and vibrate;
it seemed to transform itself into a sea of molten lava out of
which a large stone arose - an enormous throne atop which sat
Thornahuun, the Lord Demon.
The Demon kept silent, his lips wrinkled in a mute smile with a
touch of gloomy foreboding. After a couple of seconds that seemed
to crawl by like years, he spoke.
"So you've decided you're up to it, Tarbos, my son," Thornahuun
spoke, his voice tinged with solemnity, "up to challenging the
Lord Demon - your father."
With that a lightless crack of thunder shuddered the tower,
sending a shiver down Tar's spine. Something rose in his throat.
Quickly, the young man regained his composure. He swallowed and
shook his head. He could not afford to show any weakness, let
"Yes," Tar replied, his voice suddenly too frail to carry
meaning. He saw Thornahuun raise his eyebrows and flinched.
"Yes!" he now cried, his chest uttering the word as if it was a
last desperate breath.
For a while a blanket of silence seemed to clasp both opponents'
throats. It seemed to numb their senses, postpone the passing of
the very material of time and space. It seemed as if the world
held its breath, as if nature itself hung suspended in the air.
Then the Lord Demon began to laugh. At first he only moved his
cheeks and his eyes. Then he started to shake his body. His mouth
fell wide open, his white teeth showing, his eyes closed. His
abdomen started rising and sinking. The sound increased from a
soft grunt to a heavy rumble that again succeeded in shuddering
the floor and making cracks appear in the ceiling. Tar clasped
his hands over his ears, closing his eyes.
He had no chance. The Lord Demon was too powerful. His father
laughed at him, straight in the face. No chance at all. He would
be crushed, smitten utterly, defeated, reduced to a meaningless
hope of ashes. None of his dreams would come true, he would never
rule the world like he had so often almost experienced within the
intensity of his fantasies.
Yet the next moment the laugh ceased. Its echoes seemed to
disappear within the cracks in the ceiling, behind the impressive
throne the Lord Demon sat on. The sudden silence was almost
physically painful, sending ringing noises to Tar's ears. But it
did not cause a fragment of the pain he experienced next. A
terrifying sound enveloped him from all sides until it seemed to
come from within his head, from within his bones, from within the
core of his ears, from within his feet and working upward. He
seemed to be the sound itself. It sent him to the ground,
kneeling, writhing, screaming, causing him to cough up phlegm,
acutely nauseated. From the corner of his eyes he saw walls
crumble to dust, stones fall to the ground. His guts told him he
was falling down.
He strained his muscles to look up at the throne on which the
Lord Demon sat. Thornahuun's face now seemed to portray intense
Then the skin started coming off, as if the Lord Demon was
peeling himself. Soft red tissue was revealed, blood trickled
down the throne onto the floor, started crawling towards Tar's
hands and knees. It was flowing towards him as if some mysterious
force controlled it. It circled around him until it had gained in
quantity. On the throne now hung a skeleton with dried skin and
ligaments loosely attached to it.
All blood had gathered around the challenger. It seemed to
extend paws as if probing. Then the mysterious force suddenly
seemed to lose control over it. A wailing cry seemed to break the
tower in two as a fiery sensation crawled up and down Tar's body
as if possessing him. When the pain eased off the redness around
him had formed a large, formless puddle amidst which Tar found
himself sitting when the silence once again was complete.
The throne had disappeared. There were no walls - only ruins.
Above him was the sky, with the clouds having formed one hole
through which glanced the third moon.
He was stunned, panted heavily.
Then he knew.
"Now I am Tarbos! Tarbos! TARBOS!"
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.