Prologue – Page 2

“This is serious, my love!” The queen had looked pleadingly at her husband. He had been a skilled and competent administrator with more than ample experience handling himself. But it had not been an issue he could bargain himself out of, and they had both known that. “A hundred crafters don’t simply vanish overnight. It simply reeks of magic, and neither of us knows how to deal with that.”

Her gaze had been met with sucked-in lips and a distant look as Diarmid’s eyes stared emptily back at her. He had been granted the title of King by the villagers in recognition for his heroics on the Isle as well as for the prosperity his skill as a merchant had brought the region. Originally from far off Arlath, an empire to the far north, he had spent his adult life on the road and had only reluctantly settled in this valley after much persuasion from his then fiancée, now wife. He had always dreamed of a more meaningful legacy than mere gold and the opportunity, the challenge, of turning this small village of fishermen and vineyards into a trading hub for all around had been just what he had wanted.

Even if he had been unable to see that himself.

“At least wait for Lord Shylith to return. Perhaps he might know something, some local legend or other lore that could shed some light on the situation. For all we know the ghosts have returned.” she had continued her plea, hoping that she had found an angle he had missed.

Lord Shylith, the de-facto leader of the villagers in the humble community of Malqish, seemed to know a little bit of everything, even if as esoteric a subject as magic had never come up before. He had earned a great deal of respect from the King and had been the major landowner of the Malqish valley upon the arrival of Diarmid and herself, some twelve years past. He had been serving as a voice for the people for many years, but had begun titling himself Grand Chancellor only after Diarmid had been named King.

In the end Diarmid, the newly crowned King of the soon-to-be-founded kingdom of Serên, had been adamant. “I will take with me the royal guard. No one else. They are skilled soldiers, I have trained them personally, and they should be more than capable of protecting me from any dangers upon the Isle. There are no ghosts, I saw to that personally before I even had the notion of building Raven’s Nest. This is something else, someone attempting to overthrow my kingdom before it has even been born. There is no time to wait.”

The queen had sighed and shaken her head. He had always been so stubborn, but then that was likely part of why he had succeeded so well. That and his willingness to secure business by dealing with whatever troubles stood between him and his deal, even restless spirits or monster-infested ruins. He had always been determined to do things his way, on his terms, and under his personal direction.

“Regardless, Lord Shylith has gone to the Anura to negotiate an exclusive contract regarding the use of their waterways to trade with the Gnomes,” the king had continued. “He will not be returning for weeks and this matter needs attention now. No, I must go deal with this personally. Just as I have dealt with many things like it in the past.”

The queen’s shoulders had slumped as she surrendered to his will.