Before the Prologue
Whatever you want to call it, it's before the story!
Three hundred years ago, the continent of Magvel was at the mercy of hordes of horrible monsters, creatures of darkness that slaughtered humanity, hell-bent on its extinction. Led by the cruel Demon King, these armies of horrors seemed unstoppable, and humanity seemed to be doomed.
Until finally, a weapon- or rather, five weapons- came into the possession of the humans. These were the Sacred Stones, five gems that contained the power to annihilate the monstrous hordes. It still took over a year, but humans were finally able to fight back, and using the Stones, they were able to seal the Demon King within a prison.
With their leader defeated, the power keeping the monsters in the world of Magvel dissipated, and the creatures were dragged back into the darkness. Forever, or so the humans hoped.
Of course, if all the monsters were gone for good, this wouldn't be a very interesting story, now would it? And more importantly, why would anyone care about ancient history if it didn't carry over into the story?
After the war three hundred years earlier, the five Sacred Stones were entrusted to the care of the five powerful nations of Magvel. Renais, Frelia, Jehanna, Rausten, and Grado cared for their charges, but eventually the stories of the ancient war faded into myth, and the Sacred Stones became nothing more than pretty trinkets in the temples of the great nations. As well, a sixth nation, the mercantile republic of Carcino developed, though it lacked a Sacred Stone.
While perfect peace cannot really be expected, the nations get along, for the most part. Well, until recently.
Like you couldn't see that coming.
In Grado, the powerful Empire of Magvel, the three Generals were gathered in the throne room of Emperor Vigarde for the usual meeting they had at three. While it was dubbed a "status report", all they usually did was eat tea and drink cakes.
To their surprise, there was no tea to eat nor cakes to drink. Duessel, the senior general, was the first to point this out. "Hey Viggy? What gives?!"
Glen, the so called Sunstone, cleared his throat. "You know the Emperor doesn't like to be called that…"
Surprisingly, the Emperor did not immediately snap. In fact, he didn't say a word. He also didn't wave, smile, blink, breathe, or blow his nose like he usually did.
"Hmm," Selena, the token female general, considered, "Could Emperor Vigarde actually be living up to his title of Silent Emperor?"
"That's ridiculous," Duessel interjected, "No one's called him that since he learned how to talk. Everyone calls Viggy the Loudmouth Emperor."
The three generals turned to Vigarde again, expecting him to snap. Again, no snapping. Glen leaned over to Selena to whisper "I wonder if Vigarde isn't feeling well? Did you take him on a date or something?"
Selena blushed. "N-no! And what would that have to do with anything anyway?"
"Well you know, he might've actually… gotten to know you. I know that's pretty horrifying."
Selena scowled. "WHAT DID YOU SAY YOU LITTLE-"
"My imperial three, thank you for coming." The generals turned to Vigarde, surprised that he was talking. "I apologize for the delay. I'm still not very good at this whole 'typing' thing."
"Erm, what now?"
"Disregard that, Duessel. Now, I have new orders for you, my generals. We shall be conquering Renais, our northern neighbor, in a sudden and unexpected onslaught that will probably involve the death of many innocents simply because they got in the way. I will be expecting no protests."
The three generals blinked.
"…What? You're not going to say something about how this is morally wrong, or try to argue?"
Duessel scratched his black and gray bearded chin. "Why would we do that? We raid Renais all the time, and we already knew that you hated them. So really, it's not all that unexpected."
"Yeah," Glen piped in, "We're just shocked that it took you so long to decide to actually take over."
"Oh… well, never mind then. Get the troops ready for war. We go in and take over. Oh, and make sure to bring those annoying kids of Fado's to me. I don't want them hurt and/or robbed. They each have something I need."
The generals shrugged, then turned to go. Once they were gone, Vigarde shrugged in a very puppet-like way. He then collapsed into the throne.
Behind said throne, a shaman with blue hair and a very concerned expression stood to leave.
A few days later, the city of Serafew, formerly the symbol of the trust (or rather, the temporary peace) between Renais and Grado, was taken over entirely by Vigarde's forces. The soldiers of Renais were taken prisoner, and the three generals continued their conquest of Renais, heading north.
About this time, King Fado realized that something might be wrong.
"Vigarde usually warns us before raiding us, and yet he hasn't said anything. Something must be wrong…"
"You mean besides the fact that he took over Serafew and subsequently all of our southern provinces?"
Fado glared at his wife. "Yeah, something like that."
Queen Lorraine sighed at him. "If you weren't such a pushover, always allowing these little raids of his, Renais probably wouldn't be getting stomped all over right now! Honestly, why do you have to be such a wimp, getting bullied by Grado?"
"You see, this is why all the other rulers inexplicably don't have wives!"
"M-mommy, daddy, are you gonna get a d-divorce?"
Fado and Lorraine turned to see Ephraim, weeping piteously. "Oh grow up. You're just like your wimp father! We're not going to get a divorce."
"That's right son. Divorces haven't been invented yet." Lorraine smacked Fado over the head. "I mean, I er… love your mother… very… much…"
Ephraim wiped his eyes, nodding. "O-okay…"
The Queen sighed. "You really need to grow some backbone, kiddo. We need to send you on some sort of military campaign or something."
Fado choked. "Do a what now? Come on, honey, he's only seventeen!"
"So? I went on my first military campaign at twelve."
"You went on… wait a minute…"
Ephraim was tearing up again. "B-but I don't wanna go…"
"Lorraine! Don't worry Ephraim, it's just like summer camp. Only instead of lots of cutesy summer-themed activities, you'll be killing enemies who are also trying to kill you, in horrible conditions, and instead of bagged lunches you'll have to eat diseased meat and travel foods."
"But… I hated summer camp…"
Queen Lorraine waved her son aside, then stood up to scream. "ORSON! FORDE! KYLE! GET YOUR LAZY FAT BACKSIDES IN HERE!"
King Fado frowned. "Heeeeey, it's my job to yell orders to the knights! ORSON- oh, you're already here…" Fado turned away to pout.
The Queen positioned herself in front of the King, smiling in a mostly fake benevolent way. "You three will be accompanying my son Ephraim as he fights the Grado forces."
Forde looked over at Ephraim with an unhappy expression. "We're going with Prince Sissy? Can't you send someone else? Like Franz?"
"Oh come on, what do you have to do that's so much more important?"
"Well, stare longingly at attractive women, paint, wish that I could accomplish something…"
The Queen raised an eyebrow quizzically. "You paint?"
Forde grinned. "Well sure! I've been practicing!" With that, he pulled out a large canvas that could not possibly have fit in his bag. When he showed it to everyone, Lorraine made a face.
"Looks like you spilled some paint on it."
Forde blinked. "What? No, it's supposed to look like this! It's abstract art!"
"That's for sure…" Kyle muttered.
"I call it 'A Glimpse of Things to Come'!"
The King turned to regard it with a grimace. "So… in the future, we'll all be shapeless blobs?"
Forde scowled, somehow managing to fit the large painting back in his bag. "You people have no taste."
The Queen sighed, "Anyway, you three will be going with Ephraim against the Grado to the south. Obviously I'm going to provide you with some token soldiers, but they'll all probably die during the first battle, so it's really just going to be you four. Also, since Orson is a paladin, he's not allowed to actually hit anything, since he'd be hogging all the experience."
Orson blinked. "That seems kinda discriminative…"
Kyle raised his hand. The Queen sighed, pointing at him. "Your Grace, don't we usually just ignore Grado's raids, since the only people getting hurt are the peasants that we don't care about?"
"Well, from the looks of things, Vigarde actually plans on taking over Renais this time. Therefore, it's personal."
Kyle raised his hand again. The Queen pointed to him, sighing again. "You really don't need to raise your hand every time you want to ask a question…"
"Your Grace, how are four- er, three- people with a bunch of token soldiers going to fight the forces of Grado?"
"I dunno! You'll probably just die, so I don't really care!"
The three knights blanched, while Ephraim suddenly started bawling again.
"Oh fine! I'll send some tactician with you. Maybe Mathwin…"
"Now wait a minute! It's bad enough your sending my son on a suicide mission with only three knights, one of whom is too much of an experience-hog to actually be allowed to fight! You can't also send the worst strategist in Renais with him!"
"Um, I'm standing right here."
King Fado turned to notice a middle-aged man with graying brown hair and a dour expression standing behind the throne. "Oh, sorry Mathwin. I never notice you there."
"Yeah, I know," the tactician said in a groaning monotone, "You never do."
"So who do YOU suggest we send?"
Fado shrugged. "Well, we only had two tacticians to start with, so we'd have to send…"
Queen Lorraine shook her head vigorously. "No! Heck no! We can't send Karson with him! Then we'll be stuck with just that moron Mathwin in case the castle is attacked!"
"Still standing here."
"Well I'm not sending Mathwin with Ephraim! Come on, the Grado won't get here! They'll get bored of the little attack after a few more villages and go home! Ephraim needs a good tactician more than we do."
"Geez, am I invisible or something?"
Lorraine huffed, "Fine! I give up. Ephraim can take Karson. But if we get attacked and that idiot Mathwin screws up the defense, I'm going to blame it all on you, Fado!"
"I'm just going to go to my room and cry now. Not that anyone will notice that I left."
"Alright, so Ephraim- Ephraim, get off my leg you baby!- You will go south to fight the Grado army, along with Orson (who will not fight because then no one would get any experience), Forde, Kyle, Karson for tactical crap, and some token soldiers who will all be dead by the time you actually fight anything. Any further objections?"
The King, Ephraim, Kyle, Forde, and Orson all raised their hands. "None? Good, it's settled then. You idiots better be gone by tomorrow morning, or I'm gonna be one unhappy Queen!"
Fado sighed. "'Marry Lorraine, sweetie. She's all dainty and rich. She won't cause you any issues once your king!' Thanks a lot, mom, for sticking me with the shrew of all shrews!"
Meanwhile in Rausten, the theocracy in the northeastern part of Magvel, the Pope Mansel was scratching his chin in concern. "Grado going after Renais? Sup with that? Normally when Vigarde raids, he just attacks a village or two then leaves. Now he's taking over whole cities and keeping them! This calls for action of… some kind or another."
The leader of the theocracy beckoned a young monk named Artur closer. "You're that guy I was going to send to spy on Re- I mean, to investigate the creature sightings in Renais, right?"
"Why yes, your Eminence! You also promised that once I succeeded in my mission, you'd grant my request about-"
"Yeah yeah, I know! Anyway, now I also want you to check out what's going on with Grado and Renais, politically and whatnot."
"You want me to support King Fado against Grado's ruthless attack?"
"Well… that, or find out which side would make more sense to side with. You know, figure out which one is winning, which one will get us more money and stuff…"
Artur looked sick. "That doesn't seem very nice or heroic…"
"Blah, heroic stuff is for babies! I prefer cash! Oh, and while you're out, take that Lute kid with you. Her know-it-all attitude is getting rather annoying, and I'm starting to consider ignoring my whole priestly oath of 'do no harm' and strangling her."
"Ye-yes your Eminence," On his way out, Artur half turned around, "Oh, and when I get back, will you-"
"Yeah yeah, sure. Just get going! The spoils of war won't wait forever, you know!"
After the monk left, Mansel started scratching his chin again. "Maybe I should have told him to keep an eye out for my niece while he was at it… nah, why bother? It's not like her dad is alive to pester me about not taking care of her."
Meanwhile (yet again), in the northern part of Grado…
"Are we THERE YET?!"
"No, Lady Myrrh. We have a bit of a ways to go before we reach the Grado Capital."
The young girl, indigo hair tied into braids on either side of her head, scowled at the taller man with gray hair and a flowing cape. "This is ridiculous! How dare it take this long for someone as important as myself to get to the blasted source of the blasted dark energy! There really should be some sort of taxi thing going on in this craphole country!"
"Of course, Lady Myrrh. Whatever you say, Lady Myrrh." By all that is holy, why is it MY job to escort this irritating little brat across this stupid continent?! Is it just because the elder is my grandmother? Because if that's the reason, then I'm going to STRANGLE that toad when I get back!
"You know that I can read your thoughts, don't you Saleh?"
Of course I know that, you idiot br- wait a minute…. What?! "Erm… of course, Lady Myrrh."
"I still here your thoughts, Saleh. And they do not please Lady Myrrh. Not at all."
"Erm… oh my, I suddenly feel the call of nature. Be right back!" With that, the Sage ducked into the cover of trees.
"Hey! You can't just leave me here!" Myrrh started shouting, until she realized that someone had came to find the source of the shrieking. Sadly, that someone was not Saleh.
"EEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKK! Save me! Agh, that's MY dragonstone, you heathen! Lemme go this instant! That's it, you asked for it!"
"OH SWEET MOTHER OF MERCY, SHE JUST BIT MY HAND OFF! PLEASE HEAVEN PLEASE, MAKE THE BLEEDING STOP!"
After a few hours, Saleh came back. "I apologize for the delay, Lady Myrrh, but now we can continue… Uh, Lady Myrrh?"
Saleh looked around, then sighed. "Aw muffins."