Chapter 37: Day Three of Four

Salt, it was a smell that the people had grown accustomed to in a particular part of the Godvildian Empire. Carried through the winds past fortified walls, it left its mark on armour and weapons alike. In the books, the world identified the place as Raskas – a port city built atop the ashes of the Great War, founded a little after its conclusion. It had grown to become a hub for trade, facilitating the flow of valuable cargo, and also a target for several invasions. But with the sea to its back and an army dedicated to its protection, not many had managed to impregnate the well-defended city.

General Conatus stared into the sea over the thought. It mattered to him, to have been part of the city’s history, its growth. He lowered his head in remembrance, observing the waves beneath the city walls – a form of natural defence, fierce against the approach of ships. He then turned to understand the depth of his reinforcements, an army from the capital of the Godvildian Empire; it added to his forces, now five-thousand strong. But in terms of numbers alone, Raskas paled in comparison to the Relictan threat in front it. With a deep breath, Conatus almost trailed into closer observation of the enemy when something distracted him from the task.

On instinct, several soldiers covered their ears to protect against the sound of thunder and neighs. It blanketed the city of Raskas, the shadow of a beast-drawn vehicle blessed to lightning. At the sight, Conatus commanded the clearance of a path for the chariot, allowing for an effortless descent to an open space within city walls. As Raskas calmed from the arrival, the winds shifted without suspicion, bearing the essence of liquid aeter. It wrapped the Godvildian General in an embrace, an aura that propelled feet from ground.

General Conatus navigated towards the chariot, now earth-bound, and led its movement – with a handful of soldiers – to the barricades. Once stationary, he opened the door and helped his daughter disembark from the vehicle. He watched another follow in her footsteps, absent any form of emotion and with an aura shrouded in mystery.

“Well met, Half-Lord Gale,” greeted Conatus, smiling as he did. “It’s an honour to have you serve by my side against the Relictan threat; to be honest, I’ve always been appreciative of young talent.”

“Ser Zane speaks highly of you, General Conatus,” said Gale, with a nod. “The honour should be mine.”

Conatus averted his eyes to the rest of his soldiers; he dissipated his aura entirely, faced with the unease from those present – most under command from the mark of the shield. With a shrug, he lowered body and bent his knee to the visitor in front of him.

“General, what are you doing?” asked Gale, taken aback from the gesture. “We are meant to lead together; I apologize for any gap in communication on the matter!”

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Conatus moved his eyes to assess the state of his soldiers once more; they appeared hesitant, and yet layered in an aura of moderate calm. He sighed at the sight of his daughter masked in an expression of disgust. It didn’t appeal to her, his approach.

“You needn’t apologize, Half-Lord,” said Conatus. “I’m not sure the soldiers here understand the rank you hold presently; it’s a little hard for me as well, but I do know of the story from a couple of years ago. You may have changed in appearance, but how can I not bow to the person that bought our lord time enough for victory at the Bridge of Souls – Slayer of the Elder Dragon, Hero of the Bridge.”

With the information open to public ears, General Conatus noticed a remarkable change in his soldiers’ demeanour. Their expressions eased to respect, enough to bend the knee – the same as their commanding officer.

“We welcome your arrival, Half-Lord!” said the soldiers, in unison.

General Conatus lowered his head further, a smile hidden amidst an expression of calm. He caught Augustine relent to the flow of fate he had set in motion as well; it eased his heart.

“Well, that settles it then,” said General Conatus, standing upright. “How about we return to the matter of Raskas? I believe we’ve delayed it long enough.”

***

It was a display of military might, the formations – their show of weapons, and an unfathomable calm beyond comprehension. Shadowmere stirred in restless anticipation, against the slow fall of grains – time through the sandglass. Under the influence of mindless rage, the Elder Undead roared in their desire for blood, but settled upon command from the person inside. They trembled nonetheless, eager to wade into battle.

At a distance from Shadowmere, the Godvildian camp stared into death. Some readied their blades, while others their armour. They breathed with an expression of disgust, the smell of rot and decay amidst whispers of the wind. A few felt the shadow of fear even; but the rest, they held onto faith, forged under the presence of decorated leadership.

“What do you think, Lord Bloodseed?” asked Zane.

“Armour enchanted to the seventh tier, and weapons to the eighth,” said Masura, without thought. “It broke the treasury, I believe. But Arce Male, they did us a great service.”

“It gives us a fighting chance against the Elder Undead,” said Zane, smiling as he did. “This is precisely why we tax our citizens, to build a healthy war chest.”

“Of course,” said Masura, with a shrug. “How can I argue policy?”

Zane lowered his head, hand atop hilt, and with an expression suited for battle. He felt a tremor in one of his arms, nervous energy at the thought of a reunion. It worried him, despite Suntarian might – the awakening of the former Noxun King, Ceraunus Antiochus.

He holds this world hostage, I’m afraid,” said Zane, grimly. “I wish it had never come to this; for everyone lost all those years ago, it’s simply unfair – his freedom.”

“I fear that we may have become complacent.”

“What?” asked Zane, taken aback by the remark.

“Every coin has two sides to it, old friend; this awakening, it might be a good thing,” said Masura. “There’s no denying the instability of our world; this gives us an opportunity to hasten the search for a solution.”

“That is one way to look at the matter,” admitted Zane. “I pray that we see those words become the truth.”

***

Day Three of Four: Conclusion

As the moon rose to its peak, Gale embraced the moonlight atop the seaside walls of Raskas. He took in a slow, deep breath, and exhaled – the smell of salt, fresh in his lungs. It brought his heart some peace, the silence, broken only through the waves at a gentle pace. He lost thought of time, his eyes closed, with the moon now shrouded amidst an overcast layer of clouds.

“My apologies,” said a voice, hushed but familiar. “I must say that you’re hard to spot without the light.”

“There’s a word for that remark in my former world,” said Gale, with a soft laugh. “Well then, what brings you here at this time of the night, General?”

Conatus dusted his knees and approached the Godvildian Half-Lord without haste. “I wasn’t aware that you were from the other side; we must converse about it over drinks someday,” said the Godvildian General. “But to answer your question, I simply could not sleep.”

“You’re worried about the Relictan army,” guessed Gale. “Perhaps you’ve realized their intentions as well?”

“It’s bothered me for some time, now,” admitted Conatus. “They don’t appear to be interested in starting a war, not here at least.”

“Minerva, Raskas, Suntaria, and Shadowmere,” said Gale, in a whisper. “It’s an illusion, cast to separate our strength.”

“I feared as much.”

“As did the Three Pillars of Suntaria.”

General Conatus raised an eyebrow at the comment. He scratched his chin, unshaven from days of worry, and turned his eyes to the sea. But with an affirmative nod, he moved to reengage in conversation with the Godvildian Half-Lord once more.

“Their presence here is meant merely to delay us, I’m afraid,” said Gale. “But Ser Zane did offer some advice on the matter.”

“What advice?” asked Conatus.

Gale blinked for a moment, and later rummaged through his pockets. He stopped at a part close to his chest and pulled a letter signed to the Kingdom of Suntaria. With another minute, he managed to find yet another parchment, unsealed this time.

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“The contents are both the same,” revealed Gale, as he offered the second to the Godvildian General. “But this right here, that’s our plan of action.”


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