Chapter 1
The First Victory

AN 1213 (AZ 1450) - Summer
Girondin, Notos

Everything was going as Rowland had planned. The people chafed under Zephyr's war preparations and discontent spread like wildfire. Hundreds of men reported for militia training throughout the country and almost all of them passed the test to become part of the Alliance. The time had come for the Alliance to go on the offensive.
In Girondin alone, three hundred forty-seven men not counting Rowland had volunteered for the militia training and only thirteen of that number had not been inducted into the Alliance. Even if you counted the watchmen--and more than twenty of their number were secretly members of the Alliance as well, the numerical advantage clearly went to Rowland. Though the garrison was better trained and equipped, they were not expecting a fight. No more than twenty legionaries would run the militia's drills. With the garrison's numbers so divided, they could not band together as a united front to put down the coming uprising.
The prefect of the Girondin garrison liked to oversee the drills personally. Upon seeing Rowland, he immediately went straight to him. As usual, the prefect was far from happy.
"Turpin!" he shouted. "This is the last time!"
While among the militiamen, Rowland went by the name Turpin. He did not want anyone connecting him to his father and subsequently to the Alliance, at least not until the time was ripe.
"You may be one of the best swordsmen I've ever seen, but you have no discipline," the prefect said. "You know we have drills four times a week and yet you've missed six sessions last month alone. I'd have easily named you a sub-captain of the militia if you were a little more reliable." The prefect's haranguing stopped abruptly as he noticed something. "What's that? That's not the sword you were issued."
Indeed, it was no standard issue gladius he wore. Another way Rowland kept his identity secret was by not carrying Durandal with him. Today, of course, was different.
"Allow me introduce you," Rowland said as he began to draw the blade out from its sheath, "this is Durandal, the most powerful blade in all Notos, passed down by the descendants of Clovin, the last Knight Champion of Notos. It can cleave steel and stone and it's unbreakable by any human craft. You should be honored to die by this blade."
Although he was taken by surprise, the prefect's reflexes were trained well enough to reach for his sword. Unfortunately for him, he was too slow and Durandal's blade split him right down the middle. While the men of the garrison looked on in a mix of shock and horror, Rowland raised his sword high in the air, the signal for the attack to commence.
The twenty men of the garrison were quickly overrun with few casualties among the militiamen. The volunteers who were not part of the Alliance were quickly disarmed and placed under guard. Rowland then made another wave of his sword and about forty men broke away to seal off the main road to prevent anyone from trying to seek help from the nearby towns.
As for Rowland himself, he led the majority of the militiamen to the garrison's barracks. About fifteen off-duty soldiers were resting there and were easy prey for the militiamen. Once they were dispatched, Rowland split the mob into about fourteen groups of twenty to scour the city for the other garrison soldiers and watchmen while the remainder went with Rowland to the harbor.
His alliance with the pirate Blackstone was already showing its worth. The three pitch-black triremes had already begun setting fire to the ships under construction for the Zephyrian invasion. The job of Rowland and his men were to kill the men of the garrison that were drawn to the commotion, a task made easy by the fact that they trickled in with groups of only three or four. Twenty-six lay dead by the time the last of them fell.
Rowland had personally witnessed the death of more than sixty of the occupiers and about thirty traitors serving as watchmen, but he would not be satisfied until every single one of them were confirmed dead by his own eyes. Citizens charged by the militiamen to gather the dead soldiers began to drive their carts into the harbor after about an hour. Rowland ordered them to lay the bodies out in rows of twenty. By sunset, all one hundred and three soldiers of the garrison and one hundred and eleven watchmen were accounted for.
With the purge of the garrison, the port of Girondin was now the first city to be liberated by the Alliance, but it would not be the last, not by any means. The revolution had finally begun in earnest and Rowland would not stop until he saw the Zephyrians driven out once and for all.