Prologue

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The Kingdom of Stormhold

As the sound of thunder echoed throughout the city of Stormhold, knights rode hastily in the direction of the castle. With an unsettled mind, General Nathan Galeran gazed up at the west-wing as he followed the road through the inner wall of the noble district. The dimmed moonlight cut through the clouds as it was rising on the horizon, lighting the path through the storm. With the rain pounding upon his golden engraved pauldron, he stepped off his horse and approached the gate with urgency. Two royal guardsmen opened the gate and allowed him passage into the grand main hall. The blue cloak he wore swayed against the marble floor as he moved towards the staircase in the back. His azure-colored eyes were narrowed with concern, and as the voice of King Marcus Fall came from the top of the stairs, he quickly turned towards him.

“Nathan, what is it? What’s going on?”

“Your majesty, I have something that I need to share with you immediately. It can’t wait!”

Understanding that the situation was dire, the king gestured for Nathan to follow him into the war quarter so that they could speak privately. Reflecting off the armor, the light from the chandelier lit up the entire room. Following the blue embroidery carpet over to a wide map table that was placed neatly in the middle, the two stopped, and Marcus gave him a nod to explain.

“I just received a note from the harbormaster, there was only one sloop that managed to get out alive. The prisoner transport fleet that was heading to Tayinrish has been destroyed.”

“By whom? Pirates?”

“That’s why I’m here. I was disinclined to believe it at first, but now, I’m sure. The raiders from two years ago, the ones who besieged Windshire Palace, they’re back!”

“How? We hunted them all down. Are you saying they found a way off Fariondor?”

Slightly shaking his head, Galeran handed over a scroll with the Stormhold seal as he continued. “They didn’t originate from that country. The ones we stopped were left there intentionally. These are beasts, Your Majesty. They need to be put down once and for all!”

Rubbing his light-colored beard, Marcus seemed anxious after receiving the news brought before him. As he placed his hands onto the side of the table, he gazed upon the waters between the country of Aewyth and Fariondor. “So, what you’re telling me is that not only did our previous operation fail, but now they have constructed warships?”

“I’m afraid it’s worse than that. Windshire is gone, it was destroyed months ago! But we didn’t get the news until today. They have their fleet on top of what they’ve built themselves.”

“What? That would give them over twenty ships!” Nearly shouting the last words, Marcus started walking around the room, trying to figure out how to best deal with the case at hand. Looking at the door, the King spoke with a loud enough voice for the people outside to hear. “Guardsman!”

Immediately, a royal guard came into the room and addressed him. “Yes, Your Majesty?”

“Go upstairs and get me Admiral Fowler, I need him at once.”

The man bowed respectfully before rushing out of the room and returned shortly after with Admiral Terrence Fowler. The wrinkled Admiral stepped inside with a confused look in his tired eyes. The King ordered the Admiral to close the door behind him.

Glancing over at Marcus, who was resting his arms on the table, Fowler spoke. “What is so pressing, Your Majesty?”

“Nathan, tell him everything. He needs to know.”

Informing the Admiral about the recent events, the general went on to disclose a proposal to take care of the issue entirely.

“We’ll put together a small but effective unit to take care of these beasts.”

Fixing the naval blue sleeves of his jacket, Terrence stated. “If they sunk a total of eight ships without even losing a single one of theirs, how do you propose to deal with the situation?”

“Admiral, if you can provide a small fleet, I believe we can set up a trap.”

“A trap, you say? And who exactly would be assigned to this operation?”

“I have already compiled a list of names that we can go over later, but my initial plan is to force their hands while we still can. We will take the fleet and lure them south to Scayles. By the time we reach the barren country, their supplies will run out, and they’ll be forced to go ashore. Then by taking control of the north coast, we will forcefully tie their hands and drive these creatures back into the abyss.”

Partially agreeing with the solution, the King scratched the back of his head when the light voice of a young girl came from the door.

The admiral was quick to perform a respectful bow as Galeran addressed her as Princess Alexandra.

A bit put off, but with a smile, Marcus turned around and looked at his daughter. Glad to see she was wearing her blue dress that complimented her golden hair, the King proudly nodded. The last few years had been a struggle to get her to wear any formal clothing. With a calm and gentle tone of voice, he said, “Alex, what are you doing here?”

“I was looking for you, you didn’t show up.”

“Right, I’m sorry. You should just go ahead and start without me. I’ll be there shortly.”

“The food will be cold by then.”

Stepping over to her, he smiled as he went down on his knee, embracing her in his arms as he continued, “I’ll be there soon, okay?”

Nodding at her father, Alexandra gave him a quick kiss on his cheek before he got back up.

As he looked up, Queen Valeria came in the door. With a joyful look in his eyes, Marcus nodded in her direction and said, “go now. I just have to finish a few things.”

Alexandra turned around and glanced up at her mother, who addressed the King.

“Eleanor will be here soon; you don’t want to be late.”

“I won’t.”

She held her arms around the Princess as she smiled amusedly at the King.

Slightly chuckling, Marcus nodded as he walked them out. Holding her daughter’s hand, the Queen left the room while she grinned at her husband, who closed the door behind them. He stared at the elegant wooden frames of the doorway with furrowed eyebrows as he spoke. “Lord Galeran, do whatever is necessary to secure our lands. My family shall never hear about the vanghouls!”

Saluting their majesty with respect, Admiral Fowler and General Galeran assured the King that this would be a concealed and swift operation. With that, Marcus left the room and allowed them to make the preparations needed.

 

With the rain from the night before still drizzling, Captain Feregreth Sorrowhill rode down towards the docks to take part in the operation. Feeling the fresh ocean breeze as he gazed upon the sunrise, he looked ahead of himself. Four ships were being readied for departure, and only essential personnel had been selected for the assignment. Coming up beside him was a former Admiral by the name Declan Lowe. Wearing a navy officer coat, decorated with golden trims and the insignia of Stormhold.

Lowe reached down into his pocket as he spoke to the captain. “I see they chose you to take part in this as well, Feregreth.”

Turning his attention over to Lowe, the captain replied with a surprised look in his eyes. “Declan! I thought you’d retired?”

Picking up a carved rock after searching for a while, the former admiral handed it over as he continued. “I sure did, but with the farmers market being the highlight of my day, you can see why this was a tempting offer. Also, take this, it’s from Lord Stormcaller. It’s a relic of some sort.”

Accepting the fragment, he gazed upon it as he held it in the palm of his hand. It was engraved with an eagle on it. “What is it?”

“I have no idea, but Aethos was determined that you should have it. He also stated that you needed to be tenacious and not misplace it. His fancy words, not mine.”

Giving him a nod, the captain clenched his fist around it and placed it in his inner jacket pocket. As they arrived by the ships, crates were being brought onboard, and several units had lined up on the pier.

Dismounting, Feregreth looked over at Lowe and asked curiously. “Have you heard anything about what the mission entails?”

“It has something to do with those ghoul beasts of Fariondor. General Galeran is over there, he’ll probably brief us on the details once we’re on board.” He pointed over at the man with a side slicked haircut next to Admiral Fowler, they were already prepared to set out onto the open waters.

The ship’s bell was sounded, indicating that the vessels were about to leave the harbor. With the majestic cobalt blue sails coming down and everyone aboard, the galleon raised anchor alongside three frigates. The downpour had nearly stopped, and only a cold breeze circled the coast as the fleet of Stormhold set out on the horizon.



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