This second post will attempt to condense the main story arc of the Kill Sessions so far.
What follows is a summary, but can also serve as something of a companion to the text. Major spoilers ahead!

Volume 1: The Kill Sessions

Lupin: The Young Wolf’s Hunt

There is little to distinguish one day from the next, and one battle from another. The war in the darkness has been waged for an eternity, and there is no single death or birth which may spark the renewal of a cycle. Yet when Lupin set out into the darkness, it was fate’s decree that the Session offered to the night would be the first blood drawn in a new conflict. Lupin’s first mark is ‘the Queen’, a killer stalking portion of Dorinstadt known as the Downers. Though appearing as a waifish young woman, the Queen is more than she seems – a creature of magic, bound to the earth. Despite her power, she is no match for the skilled Lupin, who displays his talent in a swift and brutal fight, commending her to the earth, and stating that her death begins his ascent through the guild.

Isaac: To Kill a Dream

Isaac sits with young Lace on the bounds of the Maze, looking into the slum of Dorinstadt. Isaac muses on the nature of the conflict between Life and Death, and how they were bound into it. He senses there is little evolution to the endless battles, and wonders what is to be gained from it. Understanding, however, that the alternative is an all-destroying chaos, he resigns himself to what he believes is the truth – that time and reality, like life and death, is cyclical. His target appears as he tells Lace that something is beginning – a serial killer and a pedophile, who masks some hidden secret. Isaac establishes a psychic link with physical contact before retreating to his quarters in the guild. There he prepares to walk into the dreams of his target, while Lace watches. Isaac prepares an old ritual, strengthening the psychic link between himself and his target, while protecting himself from invasion by evil spirits, then he falls asleep, stepping into the dreams of his target. There it is revealed that the man he is hunting also devours the children he abuses, and Isaac begins to piece together that he is not altogether human. Isaac, controlling the dream-scape, confronts the killer in his dream and attacks him, manipulating space and the fabric of the dream to his advantage. Then the killer shows his true form – a monstrous, toothed humanoid, taking the guise of a man. Isaac kills him in the dreamworld, knowing that the wounds would also take effect in the physical world due to his skills.
As the world threatens to collapse inwards, Isaac claims the dreamscape for his own, forming an alternate reality space. At this time, however, he is visited by what he believes to be Death itself, its presence commending him for work well done. Isaac muses that this is only the beginning.

Concept of Isaac attacking the abomination in the dreamscape
Concept of Isaac attacking the abomination in the dreamscape

Volume 2:

Tolin: The Birth of Magic

Tolin, head of the guild, considers the battles he has been through. He reflects that the advantages won by the enemies in the past were harder fought than they are now. He wonders if he has erred, if, as the leader of the assassins, his mistakes have led them to the brink. Understanding that Balance required a shift, however, he knows that he only ever did what was required of him. He thinks of Lupin and the other young assassins, reflecting how he too was that young once.
He recalls the day of his greatest Kill Session to date… when he took his blade to one of the oldest beings in the rift. The Giant, known as Mantra, a being older than both Life and Death in this world – the guardian of magic. He remembers the insanity of that fight, battling an entity magnitudes greater than him. He remembered skill saving him, and a great deal of luck. And he remembers her cryptic words – of a Rift, filled with pain. After the Giant’s (gracious) defeat, Tolin remembered the magic flowing in him, through him, and how the world was infused with magic.
But he never forgot her words. The world was not as he imagined it to be – it was a Rift, filled with Pain. Years later, he believes he is beginning to understand the truth of all of it.

The younger Tolin
The younger Tolin
Initial Concept of the Giant, Mantra
Initial Concept of the Giant, Mantra

Zeal: A Measure of Zeal

Three figures take a child to a twisting shadow in the maze. The shadow is sentient, and hungry. After a brief moment of escape the leader, Abel, takes the child to the Shadow and drops her in, killing her. Sickened, he states that their work is done; they have bought their passage out of the city. Little do they know that they are being watched. Zeal stands upon the rooftops high above, observing them, and chooses to follow them to whoever hired them. They come to one of the Servants of Life, a woman called the Seeress for her gift for perceiving the future. After declaring their work is done, the Seeress tells them that they will not live much longer. Abel tells her that he makes his own fate, denying her words. After they leave, Zeal confronts the Seeress, demanding answers. The Seeress reveals that he killed her in the last conflict, and warns that wanton slaughter accomplishes nothing. Despite that, she says, Life is slowly gaining the upper hand in the conflict, (due to the fact that Life’s servants keep their memories when they die and are reborn) and will soon be strong enough to overwhelm Death in a direct conflict. Sensing that something is amiss, Zeal spares her, hoping to wring more answers out of her later. He pursues the targets marked for death this night – Abel and his companions. Zeal quickly dispatches the weaker companions and faces Abel, a capable spearman. Zeal taunts the man for killing a child, then feigns a disadvantage and kills the overconfident warrior when he closes in to punish the perceived mistake.
Zeal offers the kill to Death. At that instant, however, he senses something from the Maze, and feels that there is more happening than just the conflict between Life and Death, and that the Seeress knows more than she said. He decides to remain cautious, certain that the true enemy would reveal itself in time.

Zeal vs Abel Concept
Zeal vs Abel Concept

Volume 3: The Pallid King

Lace – Shadow and Pain

Lace’s first true Session would be an auspicious one. Following the trail laid down by Zeal that leads to the Shadow in the Maze, she comes across a curious ritual. Three nobles engage in some hidden act, then proceed, strangely bloated to the Shadow in the Maze, where they reveal that they have been killing infants. Lace, sickened, attacks them and puts them down, but when she reaches for her Shadow Magic, she is laid low by the Shadow and wracked with intense pain.
Meanwhile, Zeal and Isaac are discussing the strange occurences in Dorinstadt lately, with Isaac telling Zeal that a ‘dreamless space’ is growing in the city, and that something is swallowing the minds of the people. Zeal, sensitive to the cycle, tells him that the souls are unbalanced in the city – something is preventing rebirth. Zeal remembers the Shadow in the Maze just as Lace bursts through the door, bleeding profusely.
Isaac tends to her wounds, and when she’s well, they follow Zeal, who believes that the Seeress knows something. They quickly find her, and she tells them that one of her allies – Volgen – has betrayed the Servants of Life to serve an abomination.
The Seeress hints at an alliance between Life and a strange creature in the forested region of Dorinstadt called the Brambles, which is worshiped by a small cult of those who rebelled against rhe Giants’ regulation. The Seeress, upon witnessing the monster in the Brambles, abandons the idea that the creature would be a worthwhile ally, noting it to be a creature of unmitigated chaos.
Volgen assaulted her and raped her, but she escaped with her life. She implores Zeal and the others to kill Volgen and the creature if possible, giving them an artifact that would allow them to traverse the Shadow in the Maze.
They encounter Volgen there, who screams at Zeal that the conflict of Life and Death is a pointless loop and a sham, but Zeal cuts him down easily.
Deciding to traverse the shadow in the Maze, they step into the darkness and are transported to another realm, filled with horrors and sights beyond their imagining. They come to rest in upon an ivory shore, lapped by black waves, where strange and nameless monsters toss and turn below. They stumble onto a curious scene, where devils and other creatures seem engaged in a strange orgiastic ritual, seeming to summon something from the waters before an altar of bones.
At last, something emerges, though Lace, Isaac and Zeal each perceive it differently; the creature changes shape before their eyes. In the end, though, it sits upon the altar and invites them closer. Understanding that they might be out of their depth, however, they try to flee, only to be confronted by a monstrous giant in the black water. They have to use all their combined skill to defeat the beast, which is then torn apart by other creatures in the water.
The creature rises from its throne, and they each feel its name as though engraved upon their minds – the Pallid King. At that, it takes the form of a tall man, hooded and cloaked, though there are tentacles where its feet should be. It gestures behind them, and they see a portal back to Dorinstadt. Each of them shaken with the terror of what they faced and what they saw in this dark plane, they plunge back to Dorinstadt.
They are each shaken, by what they saw down there, and they decide to have the Shadow in the Maze sealed away.
Zeal notes that the Creature in the Brambles is yet another concern, but none of them have any fight left to pursue the matter. They walk away.
All three of them have nightmares in the days that follow.

Pallid King's first form concept
Pallid King’s first form concept

Volume 4: Aftermath

The guild is reeling from the revelations of the Pallid King’s existence below the city. While Lace, Isaac and Zeal suffer the traumas of their experience, Lupin and Sarah walk into the city, feeling unnerved – the nature of the fight has changed. Where once two entities fought in the shadows of the city, a third has emerged, and its goal is less easily discerned.
Their targets this day is a cult which they believe has ties to the Pallid King. Seeking information, and perhaps a victory to recover from the devastating blow their crusade has taken, they find their targets and engage them, with the fight quickly becoming magical. Sarah and Lupin, capable in magic, manage to take them down, with a late assist by Twitch but stand exposed before all the city as heroes.

Sarah reflects that everything is likely to change now.

Meanwhile, Isaac attempts to cure Lace of her nightmares, stepping into her dreams. There he discovers the things that caused her pain in her past, an excess of pain and loneliness until the day the guild found her. She was weaned on the philosophy of the guild, on the balance, and has retained some measure of her purity. He also discovers that she has fallen in love with him, and allows himself to be the thing she holds onto to draw her out of her sorrow.
Zeal, however steeps himself in violence and madness, going on a vicious spree, killing many.

Isaac linking with Lace's Dream, concept
Isaac linking with Lace’s Dream, concept

Volume 5

The Pallid King lurks below the city, softly tugging on the strings of its new marionettes. It cannot control them; instead, it creates links to their pain, feeding off it, growing stronger. It is the fourth giant, the one that rebelled against the others, which maintained an Order within the Rift. The Pallid King, lacking the power to oppose all three directly, disappeared into a dreamscape, and began to feed on the build-up of pain and sorrow and death over the centuries. In time, its power, bloated by forces far more ubiquitous and malevolent has grown enough to begin manipulating events. It notes the lights high above in its canopy of earth, recognizing them as the Pale Marks. It senses its time is approaching.

In the Guild, Zeal advances on Isaac’s room and immediately begins to attack him. Lace, horrified, tries to stop him, only for her to be easily knocked aside. The rest of the guild quickly joins in, each of them trying to subdue Zeal, but the skilled assassin manages to overpower each of them. When Sarah uses magic against him, though, Zeal gets serious and draws his blades on his allies. Twitch nearly gets gutted by Zeal before they are all halted in their tracks by Tolin’s magic. Furious, the leader of the guild demands to know what the cause of the chaos is. Narrowing it down to Isaac and Zeal, he takes them to his office.
Isaac explains that he was trying to heal Zeal of the nightmares that plagued the three assassins who ventured to the Pallid King’s Hall. Zeal states that he never granted permission for anything so personal. Tolin points out that isaac was only trying to help, and that that overrides the transgression.
Isaac then reveals that Zeal was untroubled all along, that he had other souls buffering against the pain. Zeal states that the previous generation of assassins had reincarnated inside him, and they shielded him from the madness of the Pallid King. Tolin is stunned by the new information, stating that such a thing had never happened before.
Zeal is slowly regaining the memories of the last great battle of the previous assassins, and he says that there was no pain he hadn’t already experienced. The nightmares that he had were natural and they all belonged to him. He had no pain for the Pallid King to control, because he was Pain Incarnate, and thus, he has nothing to fear.

Later that day, as he prepares to walk into the night again, however, he sees a reflection of the Pallid King within his mirror.

The Pallid King's True Form
The Pallid King’s True Form

And that’s the story so far.
The Kill Sessions is a series of stories written by Gabriel Francis and Grant Smuts.
All artworks shown are by Christopher Maclean and Ernest Peter de Wet, save for “The Pallid King’s True Form” which was done by Jayce Janse van Rensburg

For those interested, check out the latest issue of Troll Magazine today at the link below!

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