Shell Coast Bay The large coastal town of Shell Coast Bay was bustling with life. Fishmongers set up their stalls, displaying the various fish both mundane and magical that they had caught that morning, and merchants from across Triton polished their wares in the hope of enticing a new customer. Many of the common folk haggled for lower bargains and the streets were full of chatter, either about the new prices the local alchemist had set or the latest rumours from a far off nation. In the darker alleys and corners of the town, hooded men plotted schemes of thievery and murder, but they were in the minority. Among the people of Shell Coast Bay, stood along the wooden docks that lined the coast, were Jarren and Luca Belmont, son and father, and they waited for a particular ship to peak over the horizon; The Ave Maria. Luca looked out from the docks impatiently, eager to see the ship arrive. His garbs, brightly coloured and in the latest of Damaskan fashion, showed his status as a noble. His father, on the other hand, dressed in the clothes of a warrior, a thicker leather long jacket over a suit of remarkably rare dragon leather armor. The chest of his armour bore the symbol of the fiend slayer college, an organisation that he owned. Within the hour a familiar sight appeared off in the distance, carried ever closer by the brisk sea winds. Both Jarren and Luca looked up to spot it, and Luca smiled softly, finally seeing the Ave Maria for the first time in months. "Five years, father," Luca said, his smile growing ever wider. "You sent me to join Dakeer's crew as an inexperienced mage to help them on their quest. How I hated the thought at first, but eventually I understood why you sent you me with them. Without that push I don't think I'd ever met my love...and Dakeer's ship might not have ever returned from the battle with Emperor Lasief." Luca rambled slightly, lost in his old memories. Jarren laughed. "What?" Luca asked his father, his eyebrow raised slightly. "My boy, I only sent you to Dakeer's side because he needed men and you needed to experience world. You believe me to have more foresight than I have. The results were not as well predicted as you think they are," Jarren replied. They both stared at each other for a second until they both burst out laughing. "I wonder if he's still his old self... Captain Dakeer, I mean?" asked Luca, pondering the idea thoughtfully. "Who am I kidding? He would never change. I'm just curious about the misfits who've joined him this time. That would have been me a few years ago," A small sigh escaped Luca's lips, but he smiled none the less. A few more ships docked into the harbour and a few left, but very slowly the Ave Maria drew closer. "Do you think the velkari will march soon?" Luca asked, closing his eyes for a few moments. Jarren sighed in response, wiping a few grey strands of hair from out of his face. "I don't know, son... the velkari can march tomorrow, or a century from now, or they may have already started their crusade." His tone was cold and his words hit Luca hard, but they both knew the dangers that a velkari horde possessed. "It also does not help that Dyenak is leading them," Jarren added, crossing both his arms firmly. "'Nuff of that, though. We're not here to worry about what the future might bring. How's Jennisa?" Luca agreed and tried his best to forget about the velkari for a moment. "She's doing well,. In fact, we are expecting a child, father..." Luca replied. His father looked at him, eyes wide as he embraced Luca in a tight hug. "Ha! You make this old man proud! Once this business with Dakeer is over and done with we will celebrate! I know you will be a great father!" Jarren cheered, his tone displaying just how proud he was of his eldest child. xxx Not far from the docks, the Ave Maria had made it to the harbor town in one piece despite the rough storms that they had sailed through on the long trip along the Veruvian coast. It had nearly torn the ship to pieces, and it was remarkable that she was still afloat. The crew thanked their gods for safety, but a few of them tipped their hats to a woman who stood in the crow's nest, her hair messy and matted with sea salt, knowing that it was her keen eyes and magical precognition that As the crew members hastily brought the ship to dock, their captain watched at the wheel with a smirk on his face. "Good job, men!" he called out. "While we are home, I'm giving you the week off, go to family, friends, or just get pissed in the tavern till then!" Dakeer shouted with authority, and the crew cheered back. He jumped down making his way to one specific member of the crew who wrestled with a rope which he tied around the railings. The Khulverian noble looked a little more ragged than usual, not used to travel aboard a boat for such a long time. "First time in Triton eh?" Dakeer asked. The noble shook his head, but he looked no less easy. The man's name was Asim K'u'ete, a famed polearmsman and infamous warrior in the region, and some rumours of him had even spread to Triton. "No, I first came here when I was a boy with my father, but that was a long time ago. My first visit was the first time I entered Damaska's famed arena as a contestant, I believe. Finished 11th, only to return a year later and win. I'd considered this place a second homeland for a while, but I have not been here in years." Asim explained. "You have bad tastes in homelands then, Asim" Dakeer teased. "Especially since you chose not to pick Talhah," said a second voice, firm but feminine, which came from slightly above them. A tall, gangly figure climbed down gracefully from the rafters with surprising agility. She leapt and landed gently against the boat's deck, her knees bent slightly to cushion the impact. A mess of black hair covered her face which she quickly pushed out of the way, exposing her snow-white skin and bizarre violet eyes. Her thin lips were curled into a small smile, one of the few she gave, as she took a few steps to bring her closer to Asim and Dakeer. Asim smiled, noticing the Wight Elf approaching them. "You know as well as I that my people are not welcome in your people's homeland, despite the rather frail alliance that stops them from engaging in war with each other." He replied. "But maybe once this problem has been dealt, you can guide me through Talhah, When I used to accompany my father I'd miss all the wonderful sights." "We are all ready to dock at the bay, Captain. Luca and Jarren are already are the docks to welcome us back," she continued, nodding slightly to the elven man next to her. "Splendid! It's been too long since we've talked face to face. We best get the others up!" Dakeer replied cheerfully, but as he turned around he was met with Thron. The large barbarian was wide awake, a stern look upon his face, and Dakeer might have felt intimidated by him if they had only just met. "There's something in the air, Captain, I believe there's an ill omen approaching." Dakeer was not sure what his brute of a friend meant. "...Maybe it's just your stomach feeling funny?" Dakeer replied. Thron's expression did not change. It took only a few moments for Dakeer to rouse the rest of his crew. While they had all played their part in their quest against Lasief and his desert elf army, Dakeer knew a select few deserved his praise above all others. Thron and Agatha, as unusual as they were, had become vital components of their team, and even Asim proved his worth once or twice in their brief diversion in Veruvia only a few days ago. He ran into two others of note as he descended to the lower decks of the ship; two individuals headed in the opposite direction and they nodded to Dakeer as they passed. "Captain," said the first, a scruffily dressed man with thick, brown dreadlocks spilling from the top of his head. He gave a soft smile, but seemed more preoccupied with the tiny metal contraption he fiddled with between his hands. To his left was a woman with brilliant red hair, dressed in robes far finer than anything most of the crew had ever seen before. She smiled and said hello to the captain as well, and Dakeer returned the smile with a wink. The woman ignored it, muttering a few things to herself and her companion next to her. Jian and Lianshi were just as oddball as the rest of the crew, Dakeer thought, although they were a lot further away from home than most of them. Dakeer had never been to the Ryukan homelands but rumour had it that they were as bizarre as they were beautiful. "So, once we've helped father's friends here, I think I'll head home," said Lianshi, climbing out into the brisk open air. "Hopefully we won't be away too long," she continued. "So soon?" Jian'jei asked. "Father is such a worry. You know this, Jian," she replied, a smile creeping across her lips. Both her of blades were fitted tightly onto her belt, the sheaths dangling from her hips, and she looked ready for battle. Lianshi and Jian made their way across the deck of the ship, spotting their companions Agatha, Thron and Asim standing along the side of the ship, and noticing that the ship had docked safely to the port. They quickly noticed the father and son in the distance who slowly walked down the wooden docks towards the Ave Maria. Lianshi knew the father from the many times her own father, Yan Zhe, as he would talk about Jarren in great detail. She had never met him in person though and wondered if he was as good as Yan would spin in his tales. Defeating a powerful being such as Victus was no minor task for the travelling group at the time. Jian had heard of his feats too, and was not disappointed when he saw the grizzled hunter stroll up towards the ship. Dakeer quickly darted back up from the lower decks and immediately noticed that most of the crew had flocked to the port town, most likely to the taverns and the brothels. The few that remained were either here to meet with Luca and Jarren, or to hold down the ship while the others enjoyed their day. Dakeer followed the smaller group and headed down to the docks to greet Jarren and Luca. He looked up to the midday sun as it hovered overhead, noticing now just how hot it was. Agatha, Thron, Dakeer, Asim, Lianshi, and Jian stood on one end of the docks while Luca and Jarren stood at the other. Most of them grinned with delight, happy to be reunited with their companions. While Lianshi and Jian mostly held back, Dakeer and Jarren gave each other a brief hug and Thron went to shake Luca's hand firmly. The young mage and noble winced in pain, knowing that the larger man knew not his own strength. "Been a long time, Thron," Luca said, happy to greet an old friend. "How are you?" "Likewise, master Luca. I'm sure the lady is well? We were informed that she was with child." Thron gave a smile, one of the few he gave, and his grip tightened. Luca stared wide-eyed. "But how did you find ou-?" He paused, noticing Agatha who had paced forward to stand beside Thron. Luca's mind wandered for a moment until it hit him. Agatha had something of a smug look on her face. "I may have found out before even she did," Agatha said. "We wish the three of you the best." Across from them, Dakeer and Jarren laughed as they spoke. "Old friend! How have the years treated you?" Jarren asked, smiling as he did so. "Not too bad, except for more riches than I can count! You seem well too, old friend, even if the years have caught up to you!" Dakeer replied jovially. The group chatted amongs themselves for a while, and spoke of all that had happened between them since they had all last met. This would only last so long though, and as the cheering faded Jarren cleared his throat and spoke with a far more serious tone. "As much as I would love to catch up with you all more, we do need to talk. Durga has fallen to the velkari and while it may not be obvious this far south their Great March has begun. We need a plan of action if we are to help bring it to a clean end," Luca stated. Immediately the looks of amusement turned stoic, and it was Agatha who was the first to speak. "The velkari still plague the halls of Durga, and while some dwarves still hold out there they will inevitably fail. The survivors of the attack are fleeing in great droves south and the velkari will soon follow them. Eventually they will hit Damaska, and even their walls are not strong enough to hold back such a tide." Dakeer sighed, the thought of fighting the velkari was not something he'd like to experience first hand. This trip back was starting to become clearer, especially the urgent tone of Cornello's letter. "Well, shit. This is not the kind of thing I'd expect to come back to," Dakeer stated, adjusting the collar of his jacket. Thron looked to Agatha. "Even back to my tribe the walls of Durga were infamous for their strength. The velkari are strong indeed, but not strong enough to breach Durga. They had something in use to break them down," Thron said, an insight for the band of adventurers to think about. "But what's strong enough to break them down?" Dakeer asked to his large barbarian friend. Jarren was in deep thought, rummaging through his years of experience and expertise to come up with a suggestion. "Dread Krakens are great siege weapons but not even the velkari could force them so high up into the mountains. All I know that could perform such a feat is a dragon or a wrath wyrm. Neither of those bode well for us," Jarren replied, a look of unease in his eyes. "But... how would they even tame such a beast? No dragon would willingly join the velkari and wyrms are more myth than reality." Luca was puzzled. It did not make much sense at all. Dakeer sniggered. "Wouldn't surprise me if Dyenak had that pet all the long, and that it was only a matter of time before he used it to claim the title of Overlord. It's too convenient of a time for him to start this Great March," Dakeer suggested. Lianshi and Jian were quiet, and Asim seemed deep in thought. None of them had encountered the velkari before, and they had only heard of Dyenak in passing. They tried to remember as much of what was said as they could. "My people have kept countless records of the Velkari," Lianshi said. "Even during the time of Ranyang The Conqueror's Siege upon the Velkari, those demons were known for taming some vile creatures.There's even a tale of a Velkari transforming into a Dragon." Lianshi added, not sure if the information she pressed forward was useful. Luca, however, was as intrigued by the idea of a Velkari Dragon Kin as he was terrified. "Are we just going to sit around and contemplate what kinds of horrors the velkari have at their disposal, or are we going to try and do something about it?" Agatha interjected, one of the rare cases where her voice carried over the mutterings of the people around her. "The velkari have fought ryukai, they destroyed the entirity of giant civilisation, and now they have massacred the dwarven people. Now is the time to act." Jarren nodded, looking at Agatha. "That is true, but we must make haste to the capital. Cornello wants to make all this official. I told him it was a waste of time but we still need to see him," he said. "My son's men will accompany us. In the mean time we should ready ourselves for the journey up north. We have enough horses to carry you all." It took mere moments for the crew to have chosen their preferred horses and started gathering their equipment, bringing with them only the bare necessities. The rest would be left with the Ave Maria and tended to by the crew who would manage the ship in Dakeer's absence. Asim rode up beside the group, having mounted his chosen horse long before the rest of the group. "So, let's not keep this Cornello fellow waiting shall we?" he teased, a grin creeping across his face. Lianshi grit her teeth at the Khulverian Noble's act, holding back the urge to complain about Asim's insufferable jesting. She spoke quickly, pulling herself up onto her own chesnut horse. "I'll travel on ahead of you all and scout the area. If something comes up I'll return and keep you informed. If not I'll see you all in Damaska." As soon as the words escaped her lips she was gone, vanishing down the streets of Shell Coast Bay. Jarren had called over his own mount, a pale white elk he called "Winter Snow". Larger and significantly more impressive than any of Luca's horses, Jarren couldn't help but feel as if he were showing off. "Best we head out as soon as possible. I'd say we got a day's ride ahead of us," he said, mounting the elk and slowly walking him around to the front of the party. "I agree!" cheered Dakeer who almost leapt up onto his horse and darted off into the distance. He turned around and yelled back to the group. "Hurry up, you bunch of scallywags! We have a nation to save!" His companions were not best pleased, but they simply rolled their eyes, mounted their horses, and tried their best to catch up with Dakeer. Jarren took the front, his magnificent elk guiding the group, while Jian lagged behind so he could watch Shell Coast Bay vanish off into the horizon as they carried on forwards across Damaska's vast expanse of empty plains.