87w, 5dHuman in Equestria
87w, 22hAll-OC Stories
82w, 1dPony Warfare
78w, 5dWriting Gold
85w, 4dThe Writer's Group
- Show All Groups
29w, 5dAction Stories
83w, 5dLooking for Editors
78w, 5dAdventures - AU
79w, 2dSupporting Original Characters
81w, 3dAuthor Support
82w, 1dPonies of War
78w, 5dThe OC Fanfiction Library
77w, 6dArt for Fanfiction
73w, 19hOC's Unite
81w, 6dStruggling Authors
81w, 3dRookies on the Rise
77w, 2dHumans Aren't Bastards
72w, 3dThe Roleplayer's Guild!
55w, 5dBattlefield: Equestria
44w, 3dWarriors in Equestria
31w, 2dA Perfectly Good Opportunity to Yell. 4 comments · 103 views
35w, 2dRewire is alive! It's ALIVE! 3 comments · 77 views
36w, 16hRewrite for the writing gods. 2 comments · 78 views
39w, 5dNot dead, not yet. 6 comments · 96 views
52w, 2dUPDATE N' STUFF! 8 comments · 92 views
58w, 5dWhich one will you choose? 12 comments · 69 views
62w, 6d300+ thumbs! 5 comments · 52 views
63w, 1dChapter Thirteen Part II 6 comments · 46 views
65w, 6dOhoho! New chapter and a tid bit o' info! 14 comments · 110 views
67w, 5dBack to school and back to writing. 8 comments · 56 views
Prologue: Fire and Steel on a Wooden Boat Make a Poor Match
---King Bethold I
When I signed aboard the Southern Wind in Aricourt I had imagined transporting spices and slaves from the far reaches of Crai’Tal; what else would happen on a trading galley, eh? But no! Instead of seeing the wonders of a foreign land and sampling strange women and even stranger food, I was on a ship with one of the most dangerous men in the whole damn kingdom.
Our captain, a scrawny dark-skinned bird of a man who had a habit of licking his lips when excited, had turned his lips raw at the offer of some royal contract. Being so eager to let the king’s gold run through his fingers, he didn't even take time to read the damn thing. So imagine our surprise when four of the king’s knights and Gaius the fucking Bloody saunter onto our ship.
If the stories are to be believed, this strange man could kill a man with no more than a glance, cause a tower to crumble to dust with a single punch, and had slain the last of the mighty dragons. But despite these great feats, he was above all a monster. He slaughtered the innocents, burnt down holy churches of the gods and the High God himself and many-a woman widowed.
Even his very appearance makes him seem more monster than man. Beneath his thick armor, covered in a horribly torn blue tabard with a simple white horse, signs of brutal battle were shown. Upon his left breast was a man crushing a serpent’s neck as it bit down upon what looked to be a babe. His right breast plate had been so brutally marred by battle scars that the only thing visible was a sharply pointed star. His gauntlets looked as if they too had depicted some epoch, but had long since lost the tale beneath slash marks. The scars of battle were even more apparent by the fact that the man was missing one of his fingers upon his left hand.
But the worst of all was his helm. It was made from the same dark steel as the rest of his armor, but had patches of lighter metal, showing where a blacksmith had made a hasty repair. The chisel work upon it was also slightly different. Instead of the steady, delicate care of a craftsman, the bottom of the helm looked as if a dagger had been put to it and was now covered with the image of a smile with sharp, angry teeth.
Gaius the Bloody was a silent man. Most days of the journey he stayed in his cabin, but once in a while he would come up to sharpen his weapons – never appearing above deck without being fully armored.
The other knights that had come aboard, however, were different kinds of men. Sir Poulder, the eldest of the men, took a great liking to board games, and would often play whatever games the oarsmen had to offer when their time below deck was over. Sir Bell, a pretty youth no older than two-and-twenty, had the soul of a minstrel and would often sing to any who would listen. Sir Donovan, the fattest man I’d ever seen, had become great friends with the ship’s chef through stories of past lovers and as such earned a few extra morsels of food at supper time. Sir Harold, a plain man in almost every regard except for a crooked nose, was an anxious man and would begin to fidget if his hands were not in motion.
I later learnt that each of them had apparently been some great heroes of various battles. But during our entire voyage, I never saw a single one of them speak to Gaius. They either held great contempt for the man, or perhaps they also feared the inhuman monster that was Gaius the Bloody. Once every-so-often, the monster and one of the knight’s would exchange unfriendly glares, but remained mute to one another.
After two months, we arrived at a rocky island in the middle of the ocean somewhere off the southern coast. The knights assembled in short order, wearing their dazzling armor and gleaming swords, except for Gaius who seemed like some dark demon in comparison to his fellow knights. In all honesty, Gaius looked broken and unable in comparison to those other true knights. Before they left, the cook gave Sir Donovan a leg of mutton put aside for the trip and the crew wished them all well – all but one.
The Southern Wind remained on the island for three days before they returned… but between the two that returned, only one was a knight. Gaius the Bloody returned with only a single stranger whose hands and feet were fitted with iron shackles. The stranger wore a colorful robe of orange, red and yellow. Each of his sleeves had its own fiery design sewn on. His hood and cloth face mask also bore similar designs.
No cheering was made for the returning knight, just a silent acknowledgement of his return, and even though we were all dying of curiosity, we knew better than to ask the monster for his tale. As we got ready, Gaius sat down with his prisoner and began scrubbing what looked to be a scorch mark on his shoulder pauldron. Then he looked up at the stranger and without warning said, “You wizards are a cursed pain in my arse.”
For a moment, the crew froze, completely unsure how to proceed, even though the statement had nothing to do with the lot of us. After a moment, the stranger merely shrugged and turned his head out to the sea. Gaius went back to scraping his shoulder and the rest of us slowly went about our work.
As the days went on, Gaius became more and more talkative. It was as if a burden had been lifted from his shoulders now that the knights were no longer aboard. Soon, acknowledgements became greeting, greetings became idle remarks, and idle remarks became conversations. The knight mainly told stories about the undead or questions about the exotic lands the crew had been to, but never once did he speak about himself or his exploits.
One day, as distant clouds turned black and made the captain change course to lessen the impact of the inevitable storm, Gaius was chatting idly with his prisoner.
“Urgh, I’m not sure what’s worse about being on a ship, the way one’s stomach feels, or the complete lack of wine and women,” he said, sharpening his sword with a whetstone.
The wizard remained silent and fiddled around with a glowing rock and chisel between his cuffed hands.
Gaius didn’t seem to mind the silence, and continued speaking. “When’s the last time you had a woman, wizard? I can’t imagine that you had very many on that rocky island of yours.” He waited to see if his prisoner would say something. He didn’t so he went on. “Not that you mages would need to actually serenade a woman. I mean, you lot are quite fond of waking the dead for your… needs.”
The wizard turned his gaze back around to Gaius, finally irked enough to speak. “And where did you hear that filth? Some fat clergyman?”
Gaius chuckled. “Heh, the High God isn’t exactly fond of me and neither are his servants.” He shrugged. “No, I just assumed that’s how you lot satisfy yourselves… I mean you like the dead enough to turn an entire kingdom into shambling corpses, so why not fuck em’ too?”
“Not all wizards are necromancers!” he hissed in a muffled voice.
“Sure, and knights are all shining examples of chivalry and civility... What are you doing with that thing?” Gaius said, gesturing towards the rock.
“It’s a rune,” the wizard said without emotion, “and I’m just making sure that it’s carved right. I never got to finish it since I was interrupted.”
“A rune?” Gaius asked. “Those are symbols of the old god, right? Wasn’t he, well, evil?”
The wizard shrugged. “Maybe, no one knows. All that is known is that he was extremely powerful…” And with that the conversation died, making the two go back to fiddling with their individual intrest.
After an hour or so passed, and the ship was even farther off course than it ever should have been and the rain began to fall, Gaius finished sharpening his sword. He looked up and from the way he turned his head back and forth, I could tell he was trying to figure out what was happening.
“You there,” he called out, pointing at me with his four-fingered hand. “Dorn, right? Come over here.”
I dropped what I was doing and came over to Gaius. It was not the first time I had spoken to him during our returning trip. The first time he spoke to me I shook like a leaf and nearly pissed myself, and when he asked me about my family back home I thought it was some kind of threat, so I awkwardly backed out of the conversation. It was later that I found out that he had been asking every man about random things regarding themselves and their families, apparently stemming from severe boredom. Despite our initial awkwardness, we had a few more talk and I found that this legendary ‘monster’ was just a man.
“Dorn, what’s happening?” he asked, shifting his shoulder pauldron.
“The captain’s trying to lessen the storm’s impact,” I said gesturing towards the clouds slowly ebbing towards us.
“Oh no, no, no… dammit,” he mumbled, shaking his head.
I crooked an eyebrow. “Something wrong?”
“Yeah… I’m going to lose a bet.”
“What was the bet?” I asked with a slight smile.
He rolled his neck and rubbed it with his good hand. “I bet Calden a cursed sack of coin that I’d be back before the leaves turn red,” he grumbled for a moment but then shrugged and let out a slight chuckle. “But that doesn’t compare to the plight of that poor flower girl waiting at the harbor for her young lover to return, does it?”
I blushed. “Y-yeah, I guess so. But hey, I’m sure tha-” Thunder drowned my voice, warning of the impending storm. I jumped and one of the older deckhands called out for me and I abandoned my conversation with Gaius.
Each wave that crashed into the ship was a vanguard to chaos. Men that were either too clumsy or simply unlucky were swiped off the deck and sent overboard to be swallowed by the ravenous sea. Darkness had also come with the storm and made it all but impossible to move away from one’s familiar post.
The storm itself seemed… unnatural. The clouds above swirled into queer shapes, sewn together by dancing lightning. Water whirled and twisted beside the ship, some were even high enough to touch the clouds. Along with that, small sparks of flame would shoot out from the clouds every-so-often.
Gaius and his prisoner had gone below deck and would have been forgotten had they not stumbled back out onto the deck. The wizard came hobbling out first, and with him came a radiant light coming from his hands that burnt the darkness away. The knight stumbled out soon after, mace firmly in hand.
“Get back here, curse you!” Gaius cried out, trying to get his footing on the slippery deck.
The wizard grabbed hold of the mast and steadied himself. “No!” he cried out, bringing the glowing rune closer to his chest. “Don’t you understand what’s happening? Haven’t you seen the signs? Look around you!” he gestured towards the dancing lightning and rising water. “The riders of the winged-steeds took the God Stones away from this place to protect us and you seek to ruin it all!”
“All that I know is that I’m getting cursedly wet, and by gods if I catch cold I’ll do you the favor of tossing you over the ship’s railing myself!”
The wizard shook his head and let out a groan. “How foolish a pawn can one man be?!” The wizard stretched his arm out and held his arm out with the rune and began chanting.
Gaius, on the other hand, had given up on getting his footing and was fumbling over his own feet as the ship tossed, heading towards his prisoner. As he neared, he lifted his mace into the air and dove forward, swinging sideways heading towards the wizard’s raised arm.
Out of instinct, the wizard put the rune between himself and the mace. When steel met rock the rune exploded into flame, sending Gaius flying back to crash into the side of the captain’s cabin. Where the wizard once stood was now a great column of fire, rising into the clouds and spreading across the deck. Not long after, the captain, on wobbling knees, scurried out onto the deck and between licks of the lip, gave orders to abandon ship.
Almost all the remaining crewmen boarded the rafts. Only the cook and a few men were not present, likely trapped when the flaming mast came crashing down on the door leading below deck. Gaius, too, was unaccounted for. I looked over to where he landed and saw him still sitting there, unconscious amongst the splintered wood. I told the men around me, but they claimed that he was dead and that no man could have survived such a blast. Some even thought it best that the man die amongst the flame.
With no help, I knew that I could not move the large armored man before it was too late, and jumped aboard the raft as it lowered itself down into the sea.
As our raft bobbed up and down amongst the sea, and men aboard the crowded vessel hurriedly tossed water out from the bottom of the raft, I looked back to watch as the Southern Wind along with the wizard’s column of fire disappear behind the waves.
“And so ends Gaius the Bloody,” I mumbled, scooping out some of the water.
But little did I know his tale had only just begun.