Chapter 1: Shaky Beginnings
Date: August 23rd, Year 556
Time: 9:00 AM (Terce)
Location: Castle Augusta, Galtea
To Your Royal Majesty King Reginald of Galtea, Head of House Nabudis, Archduke of Augusta, and my Honored Father,
I hope this letter finds you well. I regret to inform you that, while I am alive and unharmed, I bear grave news. Despite what you may have heard, I was kidnapped by goddess sympathizers and barely escaped. I will not mince words. They took me to a church within Pontus, and used my blood in a dark ritual to revive the goddess. Unfortunately, they succeeded. Fortunately, they didn't succeed in full, though even partially revived, She is a force to be reckoned with.
My apologies, father, but I cannot return just yet. Although Pontus may have been the ultimate cause of my kidnapping, the ones who did so were citizens of Galtea. The Pontics have been desperately searching for me, and I fear, if I return to the capital, I would be walking into a trap...
I will set out for Sochen within the day, where I hope to find sanctuary far from Pontus's borders while I determine my next course.
Written at Castle Balfon on the twenty-first day of the month of August, in the year of our hero-king, five hundred and fifty-six.
Per your daughter,
Catriona of House Nabudis, Heir Apparent
An intake of breath, and the letter found itself crumpled within a mailed fist. The owner, a white-haired man in ermine robes, breathed out through his nose. "Really..." he muttered. "That girl...does she have no sense of self-preservation? Still...to think they would be so bold as to pull this..." He paced his chambers, brow furrowed. "They've gone too far this time...not just the snakes from within, but Pontus as well."
He strode from the room, cape billowing behind him. "Looks like they all need a reminder on how I earned my title." The Winter King. Tempered in governance, but forged in battle.
Date: August 26th, Year 556
Time: 12:00 PM (Sext)
Location: Sage's Road, Histia side
BGM: Footsteps of Fate
Five days' march from the Galtean capital, a young woman in white and gold coughed, smiling grimly at the specks of black on her palm. Wiping it off on the grass discreetly, she took a deep breath of the air. We're making good progress, Catriona, she reassured herself. They had just crossed the Galtean-Histian border and were now on the Histian side of Sage's Road. And what had the goddess said? "By your blood I was revived, and by your blood you shall die. Before the sun rises on your next birthday, your life will reach its end." That was...August 18th of next year. So she still had time. Time to live and time to fight.
Catriona glanced around at the rest of the group. These people had all decided to join her on this journey. They had decided that it was worth it...to risk their lives so. Truly, they were no ordinary warriors. I just hope that we can find the Great Dragon...that this won't have been a fruitless search.
The woman paused her step. That sound...the clash of metal on metal is as familiar to me as my own voice. "Fighting ahead!" she warned, starting to run. Past the bend in the road, where the trees began to hang overhead. Perfect spot for an ambush. The thought slowed her pace, though she was no less determined to see what lay ahead.
A covered wagon lay on its side, a man in plain garb and a floppy hat using it for cover while he fended off a gang of brigands with an iron poker. Despite being outnumbered nine to one, his face was set, and he seemed prepared to die defending his goods. Strange... Catriona mused. Most people would consider their lives of more value than their possessions. "We cannot just pass this by," she announced to the others. Though her mission was of paramount importance, she was not the type to shy away from confrontation. Besides, this man's courage had impressed her. He did not deserve to die this day.
The brigands hadn't seemed to notice them yet. Their leader, a beak-nosed fighter in simple armor, stood at the back, a large steel axe set into the ground beside him. The others, a mixture of axe-wielding fighters and a couple archers, had the wagon surrounded on three sides.
"Get him!" the leader roared. "The haul we'll get from this will be more than worth any bruises we take today."