Chapter 1
The First Word

AN 1212 (AZ 1449) - Autumn
Kalonis, Notos

Simona's life was one of service. She had fulfilled her duty without complaint all these centuries, but things had changed with the birth of Rowland. There was a greatness within him, the likes of which she had not seen since his ancestor Clovin who forged the pact that bound her. She did not serve simply because it was her duty but because it was her heart's desire to see Rowland achieve his ambitions.
He had been a robust boy growing up, displaying a strength and canniness beyond anything she had seen in his bloodline. Although many of his ancestors had treated her with contempt, Rowland was different. He placed her in the highest confidence and acted as if the divide between their two races did not even exist. He was the first to truly earn her loyalty.
That loyalty was put to use in her new role as an agent of the Promethean Alliance. Carolus had founded a group of rebels bent on overthrowing the Zephyrian occupation, but he was captured by the authorities and executed. Rowland then claimed his father's place as leader and relied on her to execute his will.
When there was no room for failure, the task fell to Simona. She proved herself worthy of his trust time and time again with devotion that rivaled that of a religious zealot. She followed orders without question and performed her missions without fear.
For her current mission, she went where no other member of the Alliance would dare. She stood in the barracks of the garrison of Kalonis, the city with the strongest ties to Zephyr, manned by soldiers second only to those in the capital city. She hid herself with a spell of invisibility, but even a novice mage stood a decent chance of detecting her. There were only two battlemages in the entire garrison, thankfully, and she could only pray that neither of them appeared before her mission was complete.
She found the prefect's quarters and waited in the far corner. The prefect was already in the room, reviewing the sentry logs at his desk. If her mission had been his assassination, it would have been an easy task, but she was there to gather intelligence and nothing else.
The reason for her coming soon presented itself, a herald from the Zephyrian homeland. The herald displayed the royal sigil, causing the prefect to rise from his chair and salute, the gesture to the sigil rather than the man bearing it. Unrolling a scroll retrieved out of a message tube, the herald read the contents aloud.
"His Majesty the King, Solon VI of Zephyr, delivers the following orders to the prefect of the garrison of Kalonis: Every shipwright in the city will be impressed into service to construct vessels for the invasion fleet. Diagrams for the vessels have been included to ensure they are built to the required specifications. Repairs and other work by the shipwrights will only be performed if a warrant is issued by the mayor with the magistrate's approval.
"The garrison is to recruit volunteers for the army to be trained by the garrison. The use of coercion or deceit to acquire recruits is forbidden. Failure to abide by these terms carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
"Representatives of the Royal Mages' Circle will arrive to seek out any and all individuals with magical ability The garrison and the watchmen are to offer their full cooperation. Unlike the army recruits, service is mandatory and forcible impression of selected individuals is authorized.
"The garrison will be included in the invasion force, so a militia consisting of local volunteers must be raised to keep order in its absence. At least ten men will be assigned to training duties for a minimum of two sessions per week. Equipment will be provided once the number of militiamen has been determined.
"If any questions regarding these orders arise, the prefect of the garrison will contact the governor-general for clarification. The governor-general has the liberty to alter these instructions as necessary. In the absence of a royal declaration to the contrary, his word is binding."
The herald pulled out additional scrolls from the message tube and placed them all on the prefect's desk. As the prefect shuffled through the stack of parchment, Simona quietly moved to take a look for herself. The herald explained the contents while Simona was reading over the prefect's shoulder.
"As you can see, sir, the packet consists of His Majesty's orders, the schematics for the vessels, the template for the shipwright's warrant, a letter for the requisitioning of supplies for the militia, and the declaration of the Royal Mages' Circle's authority to conscript citizens."
He then pulled out a smaller piece of parchment from a satchel at his belt and said, "I need you to sign and seal this to confirm that you have received all these documents."
The prefect of the garrison looked over everything he had been given once more, then took up a reed pen and signed on the herald's receipt, then pressed his signet ring into an ink-soaked sponge and affixed his seal.
With that, the herald returned the receipt to his satchel and said, "By your leave, sir, I must be going." He saluted the prefect. "Hail Zephyr!"
"Hail Zephyr," the prefect replied, returning the salute.
Simona stole out of the quarters behind the herald. She followed him until they were outside the barracks. She then took cover in the nearest alley, where she could finally release the invisibility spell. She gave herself a moment to recover. It was difficult to maintain her spells for so long at a time.
She did not rest long, for she was obliged to report to Rowland as soon as possible. Surely he would have a use for the information she acquired. Anything to advance the cause of the Alliance would do.
Although he was not known for expressing his gratitude in words, his eyes said everything. She looked forward to seeing that look of appreciation in his eyes. It was all the reward she needed.