Lieut sat comfortably on a stone balcony of the Crydon castle, his back leaning against the wall of the palace, his golden eyes looking dully out over the city of Crydon. It was a cold and drizzly morning on the eastern seaboard of Essinendeür and although it was hard to tell with the heavy clouds, Inüer had risen several hours ago.
After the battle on the Field of Fallden before the gates of Gun durin, where the combined army of I’ender, Krnorel and the Elder Races had defeated the Djarcs, a treaty had been signed by both King Lienthor and King Haron. This treaty had decreed equal rights for all regardless of race and declared firmly land ownership of sacred areas for the Elder Races. Baelor’s rule of Cientrasis had been recognized officially and trade agreements were established between Elestarl and Crydon.
After the agreement all three Kings and their armies moved to make amends the chaos and destruction the Djarcs had caused. The rebuilding of Woodlands, Ledolm, Calias, Bregta and Waifald had commenced almost immediately. King Haron soon after returned south along with his army and renewed relationships with Krnōrel. King Baelor made for Elestarl with many of his Blood Elves, but many of the Elder Races remained and helped the rebuilding. King Lienthor was the last to leave the reconstruction of the towns and return to Crydon, although most of his army were commanded to stay behind and aid until all was fit for purpose.
Lieut had returned to Crydon with King Lienthor alongside Vythe, Bārdin and Raith and to his amusement all four of them received medals for their skill and valor during the battle. But now that the triviality had worn off Lieut was becoming bored and was thinking about what he would do next.
Inevitably Lieut’s thoughts drifted to Fairris and he clenched his jaw in frustration. He wanted to see her again, to fight beside her again and share an adventure with her again. But something was holding him back, a nagging in the back of his mind. What would he say when he saw her again? What would she say? Would Fairris even be happy to see him? Maybe she had moved on and found someone else to share her travels with?
Lieut sighed angrily, “What is wrong with me?” he mumbled to himself. “I want to see her again. So why do I linger here when I know how to find her? Am I scared?”
His own question startled him and he quickly became angry and punched the stone balcony rail.
“I don’t fear anything.” Lieut growled emphatically.
Suddenly there was a pain at the side of his head and Lieut bit back his scream as he felt the wound on the side of his head peal apart and blood trickle down his cheek and neck. Lieut clenched his jaw as tightly as he could, refusing to cry out as the wisps of Fog drifted before his eyes and flew off into the overcast sky. Eventually the pain subsided and Lieut’s breathing came in heavy gasps as he wiped away the blood. Watching the last of the Fog disappear in the air an unusual feeling of worry came to him.
Why were these fits of Fog still taking a hold of him? Was it not Kreha who had been controlling it so he completed his Purpose in the first place? And then the fits had been a result of his memories returning, so why was it happening now?
“What is happening to me?” Lieut muttered, looking to his slightly shaking hands which felt very weak.
“Lieut, there you are,” Vythe said cheerfully as he walked out on the large balcony. “I have the latest news, would you like to hear it?”
Lieut did not reply as he stretched his fingers and arms, which felt slow and tired. He really wanted to be alone with his troubled thoughts, but Vythe did not seem to notice.
“Well, I will tell you none the less,” Vythe continued and Lieut sighed, “My father has become the ruling Lord of Port Na’brath, it turns out that Lord Cardonian had himself executed. What is even more interesting, Lord Cardonian was apparently the one who murdered Lord Zanzier, thus causing him to lose his head.”
“It looks as if you have become even more powerful and wealthy,” Raith said softly as he came from the shadows of the castle.
“Indeed,” Vythe nodded slowly and stroked his chin.
“There would be nothing to stop you from taking the title from your father, or the rest of your siblings,” Raith remarked with a cruel smile and Vythe narrowed his eyes.
“Just like there is nothing stopping you from going after your pirate queen, Raith,” Vythe countered, “I thought you were going to search for her as soon as we departed from the Fields of Fallden. Yet you linger.”
Raith’s sly smile vanished and he looked out across the city.
“I don’t know where to begin,” Raith shrugged, “The Crydon port has heard no news of her. And even if I did find her I wouldn’t know what to say. Or do.”
Vythe laughed and slapped Raith on the shoulder, “Such is the bane of all men, my friend. You believe you know exactly what to say as you walk up to a beautiful woman and as soon as she smiles at you, your brain becomes nothing more than a waste of space while you mouth hangs open like a fish out of water. You know you can speak, yet you somehow cannot form any type of word to utter.”
“Speaking from experience, Vythe?” Raith asked with a slight smile.
“More than one,” Vythe laughed back. “Back when I was about ten years old my older brothers had convinced me to approach a beautiful girl about my own age and ask her on a date. My brothers had taught me all the charming lines to say and how to act like a gentleman, and yet it was like all of what they had said simply vanished from my mind and I ended up looking like a gibbering idiot dressed in fancy clothes. Of course she rejected me as any person would. I was shattered, my confidence destroyed. But you know what my brothers did? They made me go and talk to the next beautiful girl that walked by. They made me do this continuously until I did not feel so nervous, in the end I won a date.”
“Does your story have a point, Vythe?” Raith asked dryly.
“Yes, Raith, it does,” Vythe sighed, “The trick is to simply talk to a woman you like, there is nothing to be afraid of, she is human just like you. Well, maybe not like you, but you know what mean.”
Still stretching his fingers Lieut regarded his brother and Vythe curiously, they had only really known each other for a short period of time and yet they were talking like old friends. It was not really Vythe that was causing Lieut’s surprise for the charismatic man was always like that. But Raith seemed a lot different than the last time Lieut had been in his company, his brother almost seemed socially normal.
“So when are you leaving with Cardonian’s son?” Raith asked Vythe, as Lieut’s attention came back to the conversation.
“Sir Raermin, or should I say Lord Raermin Cardonian,” Vythe scoffed, “Because after all he will be taking over his father’s title. He will be leaving with me tomorrow morning, if all goes well. But of course we cannot take the shortest route. Raermin is adamant he will not travel through the deserts of Cientrasis, so we will be riding south. By far the longest route to The Port.”
“Riding?” Raith asked curiously, “Why not just teleport?”
“Because of that,” Vythe nodded towards the great black scar in the sky to the south west.
Lieut also looked to the great chasm which had cracked through the heavens when Kreha had killed the God Anduěr. No clouds seemed to go near the rift, and any that did get too close were sucked into the oily black depths. Lieut let out a slight sigh at the sight for he had aided in causing the rift to open and, as the prophecy foretold, begun the ending of the world.
Lieut’s mind lingered on Kreha as he looked down to his stiff fingers. She was the reason the Fog was inside his head to begin with, so she would know what was happening to him. But was it not a bit early for him to start to worry, the Fog fits had taken over him many times before and he was as good as normal within a few hours. Was it really necessary to seek out Kreha for aid?
Lieut nodded his head slightly, for something was very different this time the Fog had induced the pain. He knew that he needed aid and Kreha was the only one who could be able to give it.
“How does the rift affect teleportation?” Raith asked after a few minutes of silence had drifted by.
“I am not really sure,” Vythe said honestly, “But just the other day the castle Magi was telling me how he had tried to teleport a short distance into the city and the next thing he realised he was falling through the sky hundreds of feet above the castle. His magicks saved him from becoming a bloody mess, but he was annoyed that he had to walk into the city. As far as I can tell other magicks are not disrupted by the rift, only teleportation. Of course there are many variables and I might be able to teleport to Port Na’brath, but I would rather not risk it.”
“To the Abyss with them all,” roared Bārdin, stomping out onto the balcony, and disrupted Vythe and Raith’s conversation. Lieut sighed for it seemed that he would find no peace and quiet to sift through his worries this morning.
“Your clan members not doing as they are told again?” Vythe asked sarcastically and Bārdin grunted.
“Damn hypocrites,” the dwarf snorted, “I’m King for Dhror’s sake. I can pass any command I want, they say, but it turns out that I can’t command meself not to be King.”
“Because that seems a very reasonable thing for a King to do,” Raith scoffed and shook his head.
“Shut it, the both of you,” Bārdin snapped, “A King should have the authority to un-King himself if he so chooses and appoint someone else. Deciding on who lives and dies is a trivial matter next to this one. Ridiculous I tell ya.”
“Why don’t you just appoint a steward?” Vythe asked curiously, “The steward will rule the clan until the King returns from his sojourn.”
Bārdin looked at Vythe in surprise, “That ain’t a bad idea, actually. Might give that a try.”
“Don’t seem so surprised,” Vythe remarked dryly.
“Why don’t you want to be King, Bārdin?” Raith asked curiously.
The dirty blonde bearded dwarf sighed and kicked at an invisible pebble on the ground.
“In truth, I can’t handle it,” Bārdin said softly, “Knowing that all me friends and followers have died because of my decisions. I wish I never decided to try and rule, life was easier when I only had to worry about meself and me few closest friends. I want to be back on the road of adventure with you lot, like it was back when.”
“You mean, back when we were traveling with Fairris?” Vythe nodded, and a slight sense of interest in the conversation sparked within Lieut.
Bārdin half nodded and looked to the rift in the sky.
“Let me try and understand this,” Vythe said with a slight laugh, “You miss travelling beside an elf?”
“I never said that,” Bārdin snapped loudly, “I just meant that . . . well. . .”
Vythe’s laughter interrupted Bārdin’s fumbling over words and the dwarf became flustered.
“To the Abyss with you also,” Bārdin roared, but a smile appeared behind his beard.
“Curse it all,” Bārdin huffed as he turned from the balcony, “I’m going to go make some dwarf a steward.”
Vythe continued to laugh as Bārdin stomped into the castle halls, his boots echoing loudly off the thick rugs. Even Raith was smiling as he watched the dwarf leave, but Lieut looked dully back to the city.
“Now, what were we talking about Raith?” Vythe asked once Bārdin had disappeared into the palace, “That’s right, your pirate queen, Elza. If you want some advice I suggest you head for Nivalna. All ships end up there sooner or later.”
“But what do I say to her when I see her?” Raith asked with a sigh, “How do I act?”
“Just say: Hello,” Vythe smiled, “And act like yourself.”
“Easier said than done,” Raith remarked as he leant on the stone railing.
“The longest trips begin with the first step,” Vythe said and Raith nodded his head.
“Walk on,” Raith mumbled to himself, but Lieut heard the words.
It was a saying in Nevārance, if you find yourself in trouble simply walk on, keep moving and do not let yourself be stopped by how difficult you think something might be.
“I will leave with you tomorrow then,” Raith said louder and Vythe smiled as he slapped Raith on the shoulder.
“What about you Lieut?” Vythe asked cheerfully.
“What about me?” replied Lieut without looking to his friend and brother.
“Well, will you be joining us tomorrow, or do you prefer to stay here in Crydon?” Vythe asked with a laugh.
Lieut shrugged as if it did not matter.
“Come on brother, what else have you got to do?” Raith jested, “I am sure you will find more excitement on the roads than here in the city.”
Lieut sighed as he realised the truth of Raith’s words.
“Well?” Vythe pushed curiously.
“What else have I got to do?” Lieut replied as he slipped off the railing and walked inside, wincing away the stiffness in his joints and muscles.
“Exactly,” Vythe laughed as both he and Raith followed Lieut.
Lieut sighed as his brother and Vythe continued to talk and trail behind him as he walked the decorative corridors of the castle. He still wanted to find some peace and quite so that he might ponder his troubled thoughts, but he realised that was not going to happen now.
“I need to find Kreha,” Lieut mumbled to himself.
With no particular direction in mind Lieut continued to wander the many hallways of the castle, passing by maids and other employed workers including the royal guard all dressed up in their fancy silver and black enameled plate armor and stag antlers on their helms.
Around the next corner Lieut nearly walked straight into a young man wearing fine clothes and brushing his blonde hair back with his hand as he tied it into a pony tail with a leather band.
“Good morning,” the young noble nodded and scratched the blonde whiskers on his chin.
“A fine morning is it not, Sir Raermin,” Vythe greeted.
“Indeed, Varrintine, if it were not for the rain it would be better,” Raermin nodded, his lips going thin, “I must be going. Good day.”
Sir Raermin quickly moved past the three of them and disappeared around the corner.
“He still does not like you, Vythe,” Raith remarked.
“It would seem so,” Vythe shrugged, “I guess he still blames me and my family for what happened to his father.”
“Why? He is now Lord Cardonian, a ruling Lord of Port Na’brath,” Raith asked curiously.
“I guess people are sentimental that way,” Vythe scoffed and shook his head.
“You will be a ruling Lord too, some day, right?” Raith asked as Lieut led the way down the corridors again. “Another Lord Varrintine. How does that work?”
“Well I will not be carrying on the Varrintine name, of course,” Vythe replied, “Only my eldest borther will.”
“What do you mean?” asked Raith.
“You do not know? You were never taught this before you Nevāranciens invaded?” Vythe asked back in surprise.
“Well, unless you are the first born of your family, regardless of gender, you do not carry on the family name,” Vythe explained, “This is why my family Varrintine can be the decedents of Lord Tharadain, the first Nevārancien to come to Essinendeür. His first born was a girl so his oldest son had to alter the name to Thenridred when he became a ruling Lord. When Lord Thenridred died his brother took over the rule and changed the name to Thendore. Next was Vrendore, then Varadain. I will not bore you with any more of my family history, but eventually the name became Varrintine.”
“The name Tharadain is known to me,” Raith replied, “He was once a High King of the Wyner.”
Vythe laughed in surprise, “I always knew I was from a royal line. But this means I have Wyner blood in my veins.”
“Very diluted Wyner blood,” Raith was quick to say, “Almost to the point of it not being there.”
Vythe scoffed, “How would you know?”
“The purest blood of the Wyner has defining characteristics,” Raith replied, “White blonde hair and pale grey eyes. The diminishing of the blood line can be seen in the hair and eye colours of all Wyner. The darker it is the more diluted the Wyner blood.”
Vythe shrugged, “I am still royalty though, which is good enough.”
Raith and Vythe shared a laugh as Lieut continued through the castle and eventually followed his feet into the throne room where they came across Bārdin again.
“There you guys are,” the dwarf exclaim as he saw them coming down the stairs from the second level. “I was just about to look for you lot. Guess what?”
“What happened now?” Vythe asked as they moved over to Bārdin in front of the throne, which still had a hole through it when Lieut had killed Lord Darrien.
“Gone on, guess,” Bārdin replied with a laugh.
“Aren’t you going to give us a hint,” Raith sighed irritably.
“No clues,” the dwarf ginned widely as he put his hands on his hips.
Vythe sighed also and he slumped into the throne.
“I don’t know,” Vythe said as he threw up his hands, “My idea to appoint a steward worked?”
Bārdin smile vanished, “Damn, you guessed it.”
Raith snickered and shook his head.
“Excellent,” Vythe beamed, “What prize do I win?”
“My company on the road tomorrow morning,” Bārdin smiled again and clapped his meaty hands.
“Is that all?” groaned Vythe, “I was hoping for something more better.”
“Nothings more better than a King of dwarf’s travelling in your company,” Bārdin huffed, “You lot are deserving of much less.”
“Well I will have you know master dwarf, that I am descendant of royalty as well,” Vythe held his nose up high and tried to look Kingly as he sat in the throne. “Nevārancien royalty, at that.”
“This ain’t Nevārance genius,” Bārdin laughed and slapped his gut, “Come on lets get some food, I’m staving.”
Vythe agreed readily and jumped up from the throne then he and Bārdin led the way through the castle to the kitchens. Raith walked beside the two of them and together they talked easily while Lieut followed absently, still pondering his thoughts.
In the kitchens they came across the Princess Xanthia and the Queen who was holding her infant son in her arms. It seemed that Xanthia had taken a liking to travelling clothes and did not wear a customary silk dress like her mother wore. Vythe was quick to move over and begin talking with the Princess while Bārdin and Raith went and talked with the chefs.
Lieut glanced around to each of his companions before silently leaving the kitchens in search of a quiet place. Soon Lieut found himself in the palace gardens, the rain had stopped and all the plants smelled fresh and looked very green and the colours of the flowers vibrant. But Lieut was not stopping to smell the roses and he made a slow way to the eastern side of the garden where he lent on the stone railing that looked out over the Golden Sea.
Lieut let out a deep breath and again stretched his fingers which were still feeling stiff. Why was he so tied all of a sudden? Surely that simple Fog fit should not have taxed his strength so much, and yet it had.
“I need to find Kreha,” Lieut said quietly and firmed his jaw, “She is after The Five, and if I find them I will find her. The Sect of Artāre is in Woodlands, that is the closest, so that is where I will go.”
Lieut nodded to himself, reassuring his decision, and looked back to the horizon.
“Lieut, there you are,” Raith’s voice made Lieut turn to see his brother walking towards him. “I have been looking for you.”
“You found me,” Lieut replied simply as he looked back to the Golden Sea.
“You seem distant,” Raith remarked as he lent on the railing next to Lieut. “More so then usual.”
Lieut shrugged and did not reply.
“I am your brother,” Raith said irritably, “At least share your thoughts with me.”
“When have I ever shared my thoughts with you?” Lieut asked back.
“Everything has to start somewhere,” Raith was quick to reply.
Lieut sighed heavily and looked to his hands.
“I had another fit where the Fog comes out of my head,” Lieut finally said.
“That is troubling,” Raith said seriously, “Since I got my memory back it has not happened to me again. What do you think this means?”
“How should I know?” Lieut snapped angrily, “But I know someone who might.”
“Kreha,” Raith nodded, “But how to find her?”
Lieut glared at his brother.
“I see,” Raith said hesitantly, “That is what you have been thinking about.”
“So sharing my thoughts achieved nothing,” Lieut remarked bitterly.
“Not so,” Raith shook his head, “I will help you look for her.”
“No,” Lieut said sternly, “You have your own path to follow, one that leads to Elza.”
“I will not abandon my brother when he is in trouble,” Raith was quick to say.
“Well this is new,” Lieut scoffed.
“Perhaps once there was only competition between us brothers, but things change,” Raith said, drawing Lieut’s eyes to his. “We are of the same blood and therefore we need to look out for each other. Elza will be there after we have found Kreha and resolved your problem.”
“How do you know that? How do you know she will be there?” Lieut interrupted, “Her ship could be caught in a storm and shattered upon rocks, or she could be killed by pirates while you and I are searching for Kreha. There is no certainty that she will be there, and there is no certainly that I will find Kreha. But that is something I can do alone, and you need to go to Elza.”
“I can’t just abandon you,” Raith tried to protest, but Lieut silenced him.
“You will, and you should,” Lieut said strongly, “Once you have found Elza then look for me if you still wish to, but not before.”
Raith’s pale purple eyes looked hard into Lieut’s own golden orbs before he slowly nodded, conceding Lieut’s point.
“Alright,” Riath sighed and slapped Lieut on the shoulder, “But will you be leaving with us tomorrow?”
Lieut looked in surprise at his brother’s hand clasping his shoulder for it was the first time he had his brother had embraced him. Awkwardly Lieut return the slap and nodded stiffly.
Raith smiled before leaving Lieut alone in the palace garden with more curious thoughts running around in his head.
Early the next morning Lieut waited impatiently atop his horse as Vythe, Bārdin and Raith saddled up theirs. Raermin soon came from the royal stables leading his horse and not looking too happy with the company with whom he was to share the road.
“Fluna?” Raith said in surprise as the small Wood Elf also came from the stables leading a horse. “What are you doing?”
“I’m going with you, obviously,” the elf replied with a smile as she nimbly jumped atop the unsaddled horse.
Raith looked as if he wanted to argue, but gave up before he uttered a word and swung into his horses saddle.
“The more the merrier,” Vythe said happily as he greeted the beautiful elf, “Of course you are welcome to join us Fluna. Where are you heading?”
The elf shrugged, “Where ever the road leads.”
“A good policy to have,” Vythe said with a smile, “Shall we then?”
“Gladly,” Lieut mumbled and kicked his horse onward.
“Hold up,” came a call from the stables and two others walked out leading their horses. “We will also be travelling south. The more the merrier, right Vythe? More so now that so many fiends now plague the roads.”
“Regional Commander Lethain Rook,” Vythe said with surprise, “To what do we owe the pleasure?”
“Well teleportation is out of the question, you all know what happened to the castle Magi when he tried.” Rook said as she jumped into the saddle, “And my personal teleport gate is also broken.”
“How so?” Vythe asked curiously.
Rook shrugged, “Not sure, to be honest. But when one of my associates tried to take some of my belongings to Pentra through the gate she was ripped apart. Not something I want ot experience.”
“Understandably,” Vythe nodded, “Who is your friend?”
Rook looked to the stern man who accompanied her, “A mercenary I just hired, he doesn’t say much, but he is good with a sword. Which will be needed before we get to Pentra no doubt.”
“Going to a conspiracy meeting with the High Commission are you Commander? To find another way to gain world domination?” Vythe quipped.
“Very amusing, Vythe,” Rook replied sarcastically, “Lets not waste any more time shall we leave.”
“Gladly,” Lieut mumbled again and kicked his horse onward and led the party of eight out of the castle gates.