Chapter 7

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Desperation

Lying face up on his bed, Aethos was in deep slumber. However, something seemed off with him as he was getting twitches resembling a nightmare. Inside his mind, glimpses of fire, screams and capsized ships appeared before him. He could see people swimming towards the shore, exhausted and in despair of their fellow men slaughtered beside them. The vision continued below the ground and was drawn towards the runic artifact that Feregreth should have had in his possession, but it was lying in the palm of a much greater threat.

The vanghoul Overlord was now staring into his eyes and growled firmly. “There you are!”

Breaking out of his dream, Aethos jolted up with his entire face covered in sweat. He could feel his rapid heartbeat as he placed his feet on the floor. Moving the palm of his hand upwards against his bushy eyebrows, he began to calm down. After having gathered himself, he glanced around the room and grabbed his robe before he walked out.

Out in the corridor, he came across the prince who was accompanying a young Lady out of his chambers. Taking a moment to wrap his head around it, Aethos asked while looking at the girl who was leaning against the muscular arm of the prince.

“Isn’t this one of your sister’s court ladies, Prince David?”

            With a smirk on his face, he replied as he gestured for her to leave. “So, what if it is? I doubt you will inform Alex about it.”

“Oh, I’m not getting involved in whatever this is, but you’re the Crown-Prince, remember that.” He cautioned.

Shaking his head with a given expression, David walked away without paying the old man any further attention.

 

Sitting behind the desk in his study, King Marcus was signing a few scrolls when Aethos barged in. The concerned expression on the old man’s face made the king get up from his seat. “What is going on, I thought you had gone to sleep hours ago?” he asked concerned.

“It’s the fleet, Marcus. I have a bad feeling we got played.”

“What do you mean? Have you gotten word?” Moving out from behind his desk, he approached his friend as he listened carefully.

“No, but the talisman has found its way into the enemies’ hands. I just saw glimpses of terror and destruction.”

“And you’re sure this vision of yours is accurate?”

“I wouldn’t have come to you if I wasn’t certain.”

Grabbing a continental map, the king rolled it out on the table next to them and pointed at the city of Neandro in Scayles. Speaking with a questionable tone of voice, “did you see anything about their forces, if they’re going to assist us?” he asked.

“Marcus, there were no barren lands from what I saw. It was a dense jungle with a volcano peeking through in the horizon. It’s not Scayles, I believe it’s the Vanquished Island.”

“Where’s that?”

“It’s a… it’s a place of banished souls. The island is located south of Crithales, somewhere in the Depths of Scayracosh.

Markus squinting confused over at Aethos as he quoted the name of the island. He was taken aback by this as it made no sense to him.

Aethos leaned towards the table as he pointed his finger at the ocean in the bottom right corner of the map.

“Here, enclosed in mists and storms. It’s the original purgatory of the hybrid, Zhogat Wolfskull, the banished. It’s a piece of land hidden from the rest of the world, which holds an imprisoned species, the vanghouls.”

“What? How long have you known this? Why haven’t you told me about this island before now?”

“It’s not our lands, Marcus. There is someone else who is tasked with ensuring that nobody leaves that island.”

“Nobody? What about our people?”

Slowly shaking his head while he kept eye contact with the king, Aethos seemed aware that no one would get away from there alive.

Turning around as he looked up into the carved oak ceiling, Marcus sighed and asked in a low voice. “So, what you’re saying is that we’ve lost our most valuable officers, men, friends…everyone?” He walked over to a corner table, picked up a crystal bottle and poured himself a glass of a strong beverage. He was breathing slowly as his mind started drifting into the countless scenarios that he could think of, trying to understand the magnitude of what he had been told. Sitting down with his glass resting in his hand, he said, “how could they have ended up there in the first place? The plan was to set sail for Scayles. Fariondor is to the east, it’s a long journey that deviates from the path.”

“I … I, I don’t know, Marcus. Perhaps our people decided to follow their ships. It doesn’t matter now.”

“From what you saw, were they alive?”

“It was chaotic, but yes, I believe so. They were fighting hard.”

Loosening his shirt collar as he looked down at his desk, Marcus slammed his hands against the wood, nearly shouting. “I will not accept that their fate is sealed. You have not only counseled me through the darkest of times, old friend, but you’ve kept your own people safe from horrors countless times. Is there anything you can do to save mine? I know your order isn’t accepting of using your teachings for things like this but, we can’t lose these people.”

“Marcus, I…”

“For the sake of our future, will you travel with me to retrieve our men?”

With concerned eyes, Aethos nodded in agreement as he informed him that he would make the preparations needed and order the Stormhold Pride to be readied for departure.

Glancing over at the gold-trimmed armor that was put on display in the room, the King uttered with a grateful tone. “Thank you, I will make it up to you one day.”

With a simple nod, Aethos left the room to take care of the tasks at hand.

With his eyes locked on the Stormhold insignia carved into the breastplate, the King approached the armor and placed his hand onto the steel. His mindset was on the importance of securing his men, who were now fighting for their lives at an uncharted island.

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