Galen looked over the waters of the Northern sea as they sailed towards Siccaria. He had never been on a ship before, but he found he liked it. The air coming off the sea smelled fresh and invigorating. He like the way the water sprayed against the boat, sometimes misting him slightly. It was a bit cold, but he found he didn’t really mind. He even liked the rocking of the ship, finding it helped him sleep at night, whether it was in a bed where he slept the first night or in a hammock in the cargo area where he had slept the night before next to his brother and the other Elites.
As much as he liked the ship, he was very interested to dock so he could see Siccaria. He had heard much about the eastern kingdom, and he couldn’t wait to experience it for himself. Lexine was also anxious to be off the boat, not only to see Siccaria, but to escape the subtle sea sickness she experienced.
Her sickness caused nothing more than a slight headache and some little nausea, but her brother fared far worse. He became so sick the first night, he spent all night on the deck, trying not to vomit, but failing. When Galen had heard of his plight the next day, he immediately gave him some medicine he had picked up while in town with Lord Ethen and Lady Maia. He assumed it had worked as Prince Leal had taken it and retreated downstairs to be close to the High Captain. He had only seen the prince once since then, walking the deck with Lord Ethen.
Galen supposed he should get used to thinking of Prince Leal as the king. Galen had heard Prince Leal’s father mention a few times that Prince Leal was now to be the king. Galen didn’t know when it would be official, but he didn’t want to offend Prince or King Leal at any time. And what should he call the High Captain? She was still his High Captain, but she was also now at least a princess if not the queen. He didn’t think she was one to get offended by wrong titles being said, but he wanted to show her respect.
Galen did respect the High Captain. He still couldn’t process what she had done back in Navalia. She had bound all those people somehow and sent them through layers of stone while helping Galen with the snow that threatened to engulf them all. Then she still had enough energy to send herself and him through the multiple layers of stone. It shouldn’t have been possible. At least, she shouldn’t have been able to do it and still be alive. Galen had felt drained of all his energy after just manipulating the snow. She had said he was cleverer than her, and maybe in some ways he was, but he knew he was only half as powerful.
“How are you, brother?” asked Roderick as he joined Galen by the railing on the side of the ship.
“Pretty Well, for someone who is supposed to be dead,” said Galen with a small smile. “Have you seen the High Captain today?”
“I have,” said Roderick as he looked out over the sea.
“How is she?” asked Galen.
“She is doing better. She is sitting up and wants to come up to the deck, but Lord Ethen and Prince Leal have both told her it is not possible.”
“I doubt she likes that,” said Galen.
“No, she is frustrated with them both, but they are probably right. She is still very weak and tired,” said Roderick.
“She used a vast amount of energy to save us all. I doubt she will recover quickly,” said Galen.
“She was also injured by that snake,” said Roderick angrily. “I should have found a way to end him as soon as I suspected he was working against us. He almost killed her. He almost killed us all.”
“I am sure we will see him again,” said Galen. “Do you think he will try to go lead the Sentinel now that everyone thinks you and the High Captain are dead.”
“I have no doubt he will, but he will have a hard time gaining support,” said Roderick.
“But if the Navalians come in and take over Winsdell, what choice will the Elites have? What about the novices that are training?”
“You are worried about your friends. I understand. I worry for my fellow Elites, but they are all strong, and the Fortress is called the Fortress for a reason. If enough Elites rebel against Darron and the Navalians, they will stay safe within their walls,” said Roderick. “You know only members of the Sentinel or a Cassendar can open the doors to the Fortress. If Darron is stupid enough to bring anyone in that is not welcome, it will not go well.”
Galen nodded, still feeling worried for Cara and Tomas, hoping they would find a way to stay safe for the time being. Galen stood up straighter as Prince Leal came up to them, standing between Roderick and Galen.
“How are you feeling, your highness?” asked Galen. “Or should I say your majesty?”
“You can call me whatever you like, Galen, after all you have done for me and Dracia,” said Prince Leal with a smile. “I am not yet a king, not officially, so call me whatever makes you feel comfortable.”
“Are you feeling better?”
“I am. I am only slightly dizzy with no sickness in my stomach. I actually slept last night in the bed which was nice. Whatever you gave me work wonders,” said Prince Leal.
“It is just some blend of some herbs that are known to help with uneasy stomachs and balance. I am glad it seems to have helped you.”
“This time tomorrow we should be close to docking in Siccaria,’ said Prince Leal. “I will be very happy to have my feet on solid ground, even if it isn’t my homeland.”
“How long do you think we will stay in Siccaria?” asked Roderick as he turned to look at Prince Leal.
“I am not sure. Enough time Dracia can recover completely, and we can come up with some sort of plan to deal with the Navalians. I am afraid they will strike Lanoxan rather quickly, especially without any leadership in the High Place, and even our highest lord presumed dead.”
“What of the rest of the Yates? Do we know if they have made it to safety?” asked Roderick.
“We do not. When we are safely settled in Siccaria, Dracia and her father will contact Colm and Kellen. Hopefully, they are safe with their families at their family’s summer manor,” replied Prince Leal.
“I suppose we are entering a precarious time,” said Roderick.
“We are, but we will make it through, and we will not let Lanoxan fall into the hands of the Navalians, not permanently. I know it could get dangerous for our people. You must worry for your mother and brother.”
“I do,” said Roderick. “I wish I could have contacted them to tell them to flee, but there is no time now.”
“Hopefully, they will go unnoticed by the Navalians for a while. Your brother is a lower lord, and will not get the attention those of the high court will have,” said Prince Leal. “I will find a way to make inquires soon and check on all our court including your family.”
“Thank you, your highness,” said Roderick.
“There is no need to thank me. I will do all I can for all of our people, but I feel I owe a large debt to both of you and your family. You have served your kingdom well,” said Prince Leal.
“I have served as I was asked by the Sentinel and the High Captain. I am sure Galen feels the same.”
“I will never take such loyalty lightly again. You are both worth much to the kingdom and to me, not just as Elites of the Sentinel, but as friends as well,” said Prince Leal.
“I thank you, your highness, but I am not an Elite of the Sentinel,” said Galen.
“Are you not?” asked Prince Leal with a smile. “That reminds me of why I have come up here. Your High Captain is asking for both of you. She sent me to find you,” said Prince Leal.
“Regulated to a messenger again, I see, your highness,” said Roderick with a small laugh.
“Only for my queen,” said Prince Leal making Galen smile noticing that though he didn’t care if he was called king, he was already referring to the High Captain as his queen. “It does remind me though, if you see Malven, send him my way. I don’t know where he has gotten to on this ship.”
“There were a couple of pretty daughters with their tradesman father on board. I believe he was entertaining them earlier,” said Roderick, grinning.
Prince Leal sighed. “I will deal with him later. You both should come with me.”
Galen followed Prince Leal down below the deck into a small cabin where the High Captain sat in a bed. It seemed someone had found her a gown that looked more comfortable than her uniform though it seemed a little big, falling off her shoulder on one side. She smiled at Galen and Roderick as they came into the room.
“Here you are, my queen, just as you asked,” said Prince Leal as he walked over to the High Captain and sat in a chair by her bed.
She swatted at him playfully. “Really, Leal, you are being ridiculous.”
He smiled at her and picked up her hand, giving it a small kiss.
She looked at him fondly before turning to Galen and Roderick. “Galen, I was wondering if you have given any thought to your future with the Sentinel.”
“A lot has happened with not much time for reflection, but I believe my feelings remain unchanged,” said Galen. “I would like to serve you as an Elite someday, High Captain.”
“How about today? Would you take your oath today?” asked the High Captain
“Yes,” said Galen looking down at her. “I would do it anytime you think I am ready.”
“I believe you are more than ready, if you are sure,” said the High Captain as she looked at Leal. He held out his hand as she took it, helping her to stand up from the bed. She turned slowly towards Galen and looked at him. “Galen Ellis, I would like to name you an Elite of the Sentinel, and call you my second to serve by my side.”
Galen looked at her with wide eyes, shocked at what she was saying. He turned to his brother who looked at him with a very small smile.
“Your second, High Captain?” asked Galen.
“Yes, I need a new second as it can safely be said I have every right to un-name Darron as my second and an Elite of the Sentinel. I am asking you to serve as my second, Galen. Will you accept?”
“You think I am worthy over the more experience Elites, even the ones here with us now?” asked Galen.
“Yes, I am very sure in my choice. I leave the final decision up to you.”
“I would be honored to serve as an Elite and your second, High Captain,” said Galen.
“Good, now you will take your vow,” said the High Captain as Prince Leal handed her the silver sword of the Sentinel. There was knock at the door, and it opened to admit Princess Lexine.
“Have I missed it?” she asked as she walked to the other side of Dracia.
“No, we were just starting,” said the High Captain. “Kneel before me, Galen Ellis.”
Galen kneeled down before the High Captain.”
“Do you swear to protect the kingdom with all that you are?”
“Yes,” said Galen looking up at the High Captain.
“Do you swear to protect the family Cassendar with all that you are?”
“Yes,” said Galen as he looked at Princess Lexine.
“Do you promise to put your duty to the Sentinel, the kingdom, and the Cassendars above everything else in your life, whether it be family, titles, or riches?”
“Will you serve and obey your High Captain, Galen Ellis?”
The High Captain touched his shoulder with her silver sword.
“Then rise and take your place as a true Elite of the Sentinel. Your honor and shame will be the Sentinel’s honor and shame. Your victories and defeats will be the Sentinel’s victories and defeats. Your life belongs to the Sentinel and the kingdom.”
Galen rose and looked at the High Captain who held out her hand. “Will you serve as my second, staying by my side and serving me as I see fit?”
Galen took her hand and kissed it. “I will serve you, High Captain,” said Galen.
“Then let it be so,” said the High Captain.
“Congratulation, Elite,” said Prince Leal holding out his hand to Galen. Galen took it and the Prince squeezed it. Galen let go and turned to his brother.
“I will be honored to serve with you as a fellow second, Elite,” said Roderick as he held out his hand. Galen took it, and Roderick smiled, clapping Galen on his shoulder with his other hand. “I am proud of you, brother.”
“I am proud of you as well,” said Lexine as Roderick let Galen go. Galen walked over to Lexine and took her hand, bringing up to his lips and kissing it before she pulled him close and kissed him on his cheek. “I hope you will go walk with me out on the deck, Galen. I am sure your High Captain will allow it.”
“Go on, Galen,” said the High Captain as she sat down on the bed with Prince Leal’s help. “You might as well spend the afternoon protecting the princess.”
“I will do as you ask, High Captain, but I doubt she really needs protecting,” said Galen as he smiled at Lexine.
“No, I believe I do need someone watching over my very closely, Elite. I hope you will not fail in your duty.”
Prince Leal groaned. “Go now, Elite, before my seasickness comes back,” said Prince Leal as the High Captain laughed.
Dracia sat on her bed in the cabin of the ship. She was dressed in a borrowed gown that did not fit right, and though she didn’t have a mirror nearby, she was sure she looked a mess. She would have liked to change back into her Sentinel uniform before they reached the coast of Siccaria today, but it had a large cut in it now. Perhaps she could have it repaired somewhere in Radarial. She would need to get something to wear, at least, as she had nothing really packed.
She supposed she should have packed something back at the Winter Palace, but she had been so worried about getting everyone else out, she had overlooked preparing herself. Perhaps she had not really believed she would get out alive. She had planned for it and hoped for it, but she found herself very surprised to be alive and with those she loved.
Things were not perfect, far from it. They were far from Winsdell, and the Navalians were probably working on invading her kingdom as she sailed towards Siccaria. She worried over the people of Lanoxan. She worried about her Sentinel. Her Elites and novices would think she was dead. She didn’t believe they would turn to Darron as their leader, but she did wonder if it would lead to some kind of internal battel within the Sentinel.
There were a few Elites who she knew would align with Darron. What if others saw no better way with the Navalians taking control of Lanoxan? She knew there would be those who would stand for what was right. She had to hope enough Elites would stand against evil and hold the Sentinel for her until she could get back. Maybe she could get a message to someone in the Sentinel, let them know she and the Cassendar family was alive and well. She wanted her Elites to know she would be back to take her kingdom away from those who would destroy it.
The cabin door opened, and Maia walked in, giving her a smile.
“Good afternoon, Dracia. It looks like you are feeling better today,” said Maia looking very pretty and fresh in a clean red dress and her straight hair falling perfectly over her shoulders.
“I can’t imagine what I look like in this ill-fitting dress, and my hair not combed for at least four days,” said Dracia.
“You do not seem as one who worries about her looks,” said Maia coming over and sitting next to her.
“No, but I like wearing my own things and feeling like myself. I barely know who I am anymore,” said Dracia, looking down at the dark red dress she wore.
“You do know who you are, Dracia. You have been through much, and you are tired. I believe Siccaria will revive you.”
“I am anxious to see your homeland. I hear it is very beautiful. My father spent many years there in his youth. He has always talked fondly of your kingdom,” said Dracia.
“I am sure he did,” said Maia. “But now you can see it for yourself. Come up stairs with me. Ethen asked me to come get you, but I would have done it myself even if he hadn’t.”
Maia stood and held out her hand to Dracia. She took Maia’s hand, and Maia helped her to stand. Linking arms with her, Maia led Dracia out of the cabin and up the stairs to the main deck of the ship. The walked over close to the bow where Ethen stood with Leal close by.
“Here she is, my dear,” said Maia letting go of Dracia and walking to stand next to her husband.
“Come here, Captain, I want you to get a good view of Siccaria as we enter into the harbor of the Crimson Sea,” said Ethen turning to Dracia and holding out his hand.
Dracia took his hand and he pulled her gently to stand at his side. She smiled at him before turning and looking at Leal who took her hand and squeezed it. Dracia looked out to see there was a good reason this was referred to as the Crimson Sea. The water was indeed a rusty color in many places, mixed in with the normal blue green color of the sea.
She leaned slightly against Ethen for support as she looked out further just making out the land ahead. The sun was behind them as it prepared to set in the western sky, making it easy for Dracia to stare at the Siccarian coast as it came closer and closer. She started to be able to make out large buildings in the distance. Great houses that were wide and varying in color, crowded together buildings along the coast that seem to run inland, and above it all the Aurorial Palace with its stone walls extending so far it seemed to encompass half the length of the city, it’s red roof, catching the light of the fading sun that faced it.
“It is beautiful,” said Dracia in a whisper. She felt tears come to her eyes though she wasn’t sure why.
“It is,” said Ethen turning to look at her.
“I feel like it is something out of my dreams,” she said, knowing she sounded nothing like herself. “I have never been here, but it feels so familiar.”
“It should feel familiar to you, and I think you already know why,” said Ethen as he put his arm around her.
She did know why, though she didn’t understand it. She looked at Ethen and nodded. She leaned against him as they entered the harbor, and the full splendor of the city of Radarial was upon them. She turned to see Ethen watching her. He leaned in close and whispered, “Welcome home, cousin.”
The hills of Winsdell were covered in a light layer of snow which was normal for mid-winter. They were fittingly dressed for the terror that would descend upon them soon. If the hills could talk, they would whisper of the grief of their people. The Cassendars were gone, their king dead, their young handsome prince gone forever, and their lovely princess never to walk the hills again.
They would talk of the confusion and feelings of loss in the Sentinel. Who would lead them now? Was the High Captain really dead? Where did their allegiance lie? The hills would cry with a mother as she mourned for her two sons, taken from her in a foreign kingdom without even being able to see their bodies to make it seem real. They would whisper with the people that perhaps Colm Yates should come and lead them as their king.
All this talk and whispers would soon be put to rest as the screams of terror in the kingdom would drown them all out. The Navalians were coming, led by a young king who seem to have nothing but hard ambition, and a want to meet his kingdom’s goals no matter the cost of lives or property.
Still, hope would not be lost forever for the hills. New whispers would come from a across its lands that something was happening in Siccaria. Rumors of a long lost daughter of the nobles come home. A daughter with dark hair and bright eyes that was the greatest user of mystics in over 1000 years. A daughter that rode a large pure black horse, and could command anyone with just a stare. A daughter that sounded very familiar to the hills of Winsdell, making them think that if the news of her death was false, perhaps the other deaths they had heard about had been untrue as well. As the hills waited for the snow to melt, so it waited for its summer king and his queen of spring.
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