I don't own DGC. Never have, never will. That makes me sad.


At birth, no one suspected that he was anything out of the ordinary. They had no idea what fate had in store for him.

At birth, no one suspected that he was anything out of the ordinary. They had no idea what fate had in store for him.

His parents gave him his name, sang it over his cradle: Coren, chosen to choose. It was a common name among their people, a name that until recently had been carried by his great-grandfather. It was a good name, and his family thought it would serve him well.

His parents gave him his name, tattooed it onto his delicate newborn skin: Haplo, alone. It was a strong name, a name that they hoped would teach him an important lesson. It was a good name, and his family thought it would serve him well.

The façade of normalcy continued throughout his childhood. Certainly there were a few distinguishing characteristics, but that was more his family's fault than his own. His older siblings were expected to do great things, though he himself was exempt from that expectation.

The façade of normalcy continued throughout his childhood. Certainly there were a few distinguishing characteristics, but that was more his family's fault than his own. Instead of giving him up to the Squatters, his parents kept him, spent eight long years taking care of him. Yet despite his somewhat unusual upbringing, no one expected much from him.

His father died when he was but a child, victim of the strange sickness which had only just begun plaguing their people. One moment, the victim would be hale and hearty. The next, he would topple over dead. In the years to come, Coren would see many others succumb to the mysterious disease.

His parents died when he was but a child, victims of hungry snogs, monsters which had plagued his people for generations. He saw them die, buying his life with their deaths. He hid there in the bush, too afraid to scream but unable to stop the wretched whimpers which escaped his throat. In the years to come, Haplo would see many others succumb to the Labyrinth.

Years passed, and the child grew into a man.

Years passed, and the child grew into a man.

He found love. She was beautiful and strong, always ready to laugh. And miracle of miracles, she loved him back, though not even she was entirely certain why.

He found love. She was beautiful and strong, always ready to defend him in battle. And though they tried to deny it was love, neither really could.

He lost her. They retreated into the catacombs, into the stasis sleep. She pecked him on the lips, gray eyes bright and excited, and climbed into her coffin without a second thought. When he awoke moments (no, centuries) later, she was dead.

He lost her. They had seen a pack of wolfen that was going for the Squatters. They fought, and she stalked off into battle without a second thought. When he came to his senses, it was only to find that though she lived, she had left him behind.

And so he was alone.

And so he was alone.

His solitude continued for years on end, though he was surrounded by other people. He hid among them, suppressing the urge to sing his spells, an urge like an itch he didn't dare scratch. He was a Sartan, and Sartan were meant to wield magic. Yet he did not.

His solitude continued for years on end, even when he rested among the Squatters, even when he encountered other Runners. He hid both his pain and his better impulses from them, refusing to acknowledge those tendencies. He was a Patryn, and Patryns were not meant to love. So he did not.

Eventually, after hopeless years of searching for a race he didn't expect to find, he found employment under the woman who would soon become queen. He served her- and, once she married, her husband as well- for twelve long years. Then, when their foster-child left the palace, he went out into the world once more.

Eventually, after hopeless years of searching for an escape he didn't expect to find, he found a way out. His lord rescued him, and he vowed to serve Xar with all his strength. The Lord of the Nexus was impressed with him, calling him 'son' and 'emissary.' He sent him to explore the four mensch realms. With a dog at his side and a ship under his feet, he went out into the worlds.

His journeys took him to the Low Realms, where he met a man with a dog. He knew right away that this Haplo was no mere human- but not a Sartan either. Late at night, he learned the truth: the enemy had returned.

His journeys took him to the Low Realms, where he met the strangest man he'd ever seen. The strangeness served as a mask- he didn't pay any attention to that useless Alfred fellow. It was only later that he learned the truth: the enemy had returned.

Soon they met again, enemy and enemy, foe and foe. Yet they were not quite enemies, not anymore, for how could he fear that helpless child hiding in the bushes?

Soon they met again, enemy and enemy, foe and foe. Yet they were not quite enemies, not anymore, for how could he hate that heartbroken man standing among his dead?

Neither would admit it (at least not yet), but they made a pretty good team. Haplo was a survivor, plain and simple; he had the instincts and intelligence to keep them alive. Alfred was filled to bursting with long-suppressed spells, and he possessed his own brand of wisdom. Neither could have gotten off Abarrach without the other's aid.

The Patryn spared him, let him flee to the fourth world. Ah, Chelestra: world of his beautiful haughty people, awake at last; world of awful secrets, awful lies, awful punishments; the world where he defied his liege for his enemy's sake. World where he came to know himself.

He spared the Sartan, suffered an awful punishment for it before going to the fourth world. Chelestra: world of peaceful mensh; world of the hideous dragon-snakes; world of the enemy, Sartan who were true Sartan, Samah the Sunderer himself. World where he came to know himself.

They met again on a sandy beach, foe and foe, friend and friend. They came close, so close, to an understanding- and then Samah messed it up. Alfred drove him off, but by then, Haplo had already run off to his death.

Serpent Mage, the dragon-snakes called him. Part of his soul- a part that he rarely acknowledged, a part with a different name- knew exactly what that meant. That part of him knew how to wield that power. How to save his enemy and the mensch children. And so he did.

He fully expected to die that day. No magic, no strength, no hope. Part of his soul- a part that he had denied long ago, locked away in a dog- refused to give up, refused to despair. That part of him was not surprised when the green dragon appeared. That part of him recognized the dragon's voice- and the truth of Grundle's mad claim.

A part of him wanted to fight. Not just to defend himself, but also to defend Orla. He had glimpsed the horrors of the Labyrinth; he knew that they would not survive. But he was afraid of the magic all aquiver with anticipation, of the power he would have to (and, even worse, could) wield to defeat Samah.

He wanted to see him fight. Not just to see the look on Samah's face when Alfred attacked him (hopefully by repeating his new dragon trick), but because he didn't want the other, better Sartan to die.

In the weeks that followed, he found that he missed the other man.

In the weeks that followed, he found that he missed the other man.

He didn't know how he knew that Haplo was in Death's Gate. Perhaps it was the bond they shared, the memories they'd exchanged on the way to Abarrach. All he knew was that the only person he had left was in danger, perhaps dying (ancestors forbid), and that the only way he could save his acquaintance was by bringing him into the Vortex.

He didn't know how Alfred had saved him. It was probably the bond they shared, the memories they'd exchanged on the way to Abarrach. All he knew was that, once again, he owed his life to a Sartan. Though from the looks of things, he'd get to repay the other man back soon enough- they had to go through the Labyrinth, and there was no way he would survive without help.

Coren had not spoken his name aloud for centuries. He hadn't wanted to- that was a part of his soul that he would rather forget, a part he'd never wanted to share with anybody. He had been too afraid to entrust another with that kind of power over him. Not to mention that it was an utterly laughable appellation. But now, watching Haplo rant and rave and rage, he found that he wanted to tell him. So, softly, oh so softly, he told his enemy, his friend, the deepest secret of his being.

Haplo understood that he was the first person in centuries to speak or even learn Coren's true name. The trust surprised him, made him feel touched and honored- and then he was surprised at those emotions. But he shouldn't be, because his enemy, his friend, had just delivered himself into his hands. Names granted power, after all, power over one's very soul. By entrusting Haplo with his name (because it was a matter of trust), Alfred- Coren- had given him the greatest compliment he had ever received.

And then they were betrayed.

Vasu let him go eventually. He knew that Abri needed all the allies it could get, even if one of those allies was a Sartan fool whose main talents involved tripping over his own feet and blotting incredible feats of magic from his memory. But the headman had his own reasons for trusting a Sartan, and Alfred, for his part, found that he did not want the city of the hybrids to fall.

Vasu let him go eventually. He knew that Abri needed all the allies it could get, and Haplo was particularly valuable- he had fought dragon-snakes before. Besides, he had no intention of letting the Fortress of Rock fall.

A hand extended, a hand accepted. A circle forged, finally complete. Two friends smiling, offering reassurance. The look on Haplo's face when he said, "Good luck, then, Coren."

For the first time in his life, he used his magic as it was meant to be used. No more hiding, no more holding back. First he altered himself, donning the form a mighty dragon. Then, half-drunk with joy and purpose, giddy and exulting and complete, he flew into battle. Here he tore with his claws and fangs, there he used magic to destroy a cohort of chaodyn. Within him, the ecstatic magic sang and laughed with joy.

He was hurt, so badly hurt. Well, that was what happened when you got crushed by a dragon-snake. But though he was wounded, he couldn't help but smile when he saw the green and golden dragon lift Sang-drax's corpse away. Their eyes met for a brief moment. Haplo smiled, nodded, and his friend flew to fight the other dragon-snakes. That was when Xar showed up.

If the Labyrinth dragon hadn't distracted him, he could have- would have- fought the Lord of the Nexus himself, the most powerful Patryn alive. And he could have- would have- won, too. But the red monster took him captive, tore through his infant confidence with its bloody claws. When Marit and Hugh found him, he was almost dead.

If Xar hadn't appeared, he would have healed himself, kept on fighting. But the Lord of the Nexus did arrive, and he was too weak- and too loyal- to fight him. His second father took him captive to Abarrach, laid him upon a bier and watched him die. Then, when Haplo had breathed his last, he cast the necromancy spell- or rather, he tried. For Haplo was not quite dead.

The world of the dead was terrifying, nightmarish- but not even Abarrach with all its horrors could compete with the sight of Haplo lying lifeless and still and dead. His enemy, his friend…. His friend….

Didn't they realize that they had to leave? Alfred he could understand- the man was too sentimental for his own good- but Marit? They had to get out, NOW, before Xar- too late.

Alfred knew he might- in fact, probably would- die, but he was still honored by Haplo's request. It was both humbling and heady to know that the Patryn trusted him this much, truly believed that he could close Death's Gate. He just hoped he didn't mess up.

Haplo knew he might- in fact, probably would- die for real, but he still went with Alfred to the Seventh Gate. Not because he didn't trust that the Sartan could close Death's Gate himself, but because he wanted to give his friend a fighting chance. Xar was still out there, not to mention the lazar, and Alfred needed protection. He just hoped he didn't mess up.

Falling through Death's Gate, tumbling through the center of the world. Magic hummed around him, a thousand thousand shimmering golden possibilities, all mixed and mashed together. It was a moment of nightmares, not just because of the chaos around him, but because everything depended on him. So he did the only thing he could do- he sang.

Falling through Death's Gate, tumbling through the center fo the world. Magic hummed around him, a thousand thousand shimmering golden possibilities, all mixed and mashed together. It was a moment of nightmares, because he knew what would happen if he failed. So he did the only thing he could do- he joined his chanting with Alfred's song. And failed.

They found a way. Two voices rose in tandem, not always harmonious, but willing and able to make their difference work. Sartan and Patryn, one who brings back light and one who returns to darkness. Two very different, very similar magics joined together. Two very different, very similar souls trusting in each other, choosing not to be alone. Not anymore.

And Death's Gate slammed shut.

They landed in the Labyrinth, but the prison maze did not kill them. Perhaps they were protected by the good dragons of Pryan. Perhaps Marit had kept them safe. All they knew was that they lived (though Alfred took a bit of convincing), and they would continue to live for a good long time.

As the friends they were meant to be.