The Iceblood Coast loomed on the horizon, a formidable sight with its sheer cliffs and treacherous rocks. The biting sea air cut through La’theal Bleakheart, but she smiled nonetheless. After enduring weeks of tempestuous storms and relentless pursuit from their enemies, the Twilight Kin were about to set foot on land. Reluctantly, she admitted to herself that they couldn’t have accomplished this alone. The Abyssal Dwarfs, unwittingly, had played their part flawlessly, taking the full force of the enemy’s fury at the Brokenwall Islands. Now, they should all be resting silently in the depths of the Infant Sea. As long as no survivors remained, the fragile truce with Tragar would hold.
There had been an extraordinary incident yesterday as they navigated along the coastline. La’theal had realized days before that her fleet was too damaged to reach the fjords as ordered, and they would have to make landfall somewhere south of their intended destination. At the time, there had been a genuine risk that they would share the same fate as their former allies. A combined armada of Basilean, Dwarven, and Elven vessels were closing in for the kill. But as these self-proclaimed ‘noble’ fleets finally brought them into the range of their long guns, barrages of heavy projectiles and cannon-fire diverted their attack. These onslaughts didn’t originate from a friendly ship, but from the very coastline itself. Amid the storm of fire, rockets, and hurled boulders, their pursuers were slowly beaten back into retreat. Allies coming to the aid of the Kin without any deals or duress was a new experience for La’theal. She could only surmise that this was the work of the Drenarchi, pulling at the strings of fate with their secret dealings and sly ways.
Her memories were interrupted by a tortured creaking from the starboard side. Yet another vessel among them had succumbed to its accumulated wounds, finally picked apart by the pounding waves. La’theal’s eyes darted across the scene, witnessing their smallest Needlefang sink into the icy sea, howls echoing through the air. The corsairs who managed to escape the doomed ship fared little better, some overwhelmed instantly by the cold water, while others fought breathlessly towards her warship. Their movements grew ever slower, until they too vanished into glassy depths.
Silence descended upon the main deck, and the crew resumed their disciplined routines. The hardy sailors were pragmatic, moulded by a harsh life at sea. While these vessels struck fear into the hearts of coastal towns across Pannithor, La’theal knew that this was only a fraction of their might. The Twilight Kin possessed a secretive second fleet, never seen on the surface. It sailed into the subterranean depths of the Pit of Despair, through the thinnest veils of reality, and out into the swirling energies of the Void. She loved the wonders and discoveries to be found in that place, but was fearful of the dark powers that lurked there. As a young mage her mind had been tormented by denizens of the void for years, and she would gratefully choose Pannithor’s brutal oceans over meeting them face-to-face again.
La’theal absent-mindedly caressed the tiny gem in her pocket, feeling the beating energy of the Shadowheart. Tightening her grip, she held it aloft, watching as it pulsed more fervently in her palm. It yearned to be free, and she could already see how it was distorting the light and colours around it. The Void energy was weaker here than further north at the fjords, but for the gem to react at all meant there was still hope. It had transformed far from its original form, becoming something far more potent. She realized then, for the first time, that the gem’s destiny mirrored her own path. Once, she had been refined, desired, and used as a pawn in the petty magical games of her former kind. But now, she reflected that both Bleakheart and Shadowheart were bound for greatness.
They would still reach the shore. They would still fulfil their mission. Closing her eyes, La’theal inhaled, forcefully channelling her ruthlessness into the massive ship, urging it onward through this last stretch of their voyage.
Author: Dan Mapleston
Ready for more? You can find Part 2 of the Shadowed Horizons Epilogue HERE.