INTRODUCTION (UPDATED 12/19/2011)
In this story, Prince Frey (suiko V main character) is known as Talos and for reasons that I have yet to reveal he was found as a child by Admiral Skald while set adrift at sea. I must stress to the reader that this version of the Prince is VERY different from the game's version, since this Prince was raised as a member of Admiral Skald's family. I update this story periodically and I love to read all of your reviews. To all of my readers and subscribers, I thank you!
CHAPTER 1.0: BATTLE ON THE HORIZON
A cool and salty breeze accompanied the gradual rising of a distant sun which slowly lumbered on the horizon, reluctant to awaken and seemingly content to lay upon the ocean waves causing them to glitter and sparkle in a delightful dance. It was a shame, Talos thought, that only he seemed to really appreciate the beauty of a morning sun set against the open ocean. It was a routine of his to volunteer for the morning watch and keeping to his routine, he'd climb to the ship's crows-nest and watch the lapsing waves while allowing the gentle breeze to bristle through his pale, colorless hair. He'd sometimes twirl his braided locks through his fingers as he'd daydream about everything from commanding a ship of his own to having his own ridiculous adventures. It was a joke to many aboard the Lino En Kuldes, one of the island-nations most famous flagships, that Talos was always-
"Hey, what are you doing up there!"
The shout caught Talos by surprise and the lad gave a jolt as he found his train of thought derailed. The young man had been in a seated position, his legs dangling over the side of the ship's crows-nest, but upon being stirred from his thoughts he quickly scrambled to his feet and frantically glanced around while pretending to survey for potential threats. A cold sweat rolled down his forehead and after a quick glance at the horizon, he hesitantly turned toward the direction of the voice that so rudely disturbed him and saluted. "Uhh… all clear, ma'am…" he said while stiffing a yawn.
"Is that a fact?" Bernadette replied irately and extended her left arm and curled her index finger back and forth in a distinctive 'come here' gesture. She then proceeded to cross her arms and fumed as she watched her daring apprentice descend haphazardly from the crows-nest.
Talos had begun his decent by leaping from his location and catching a rope which he slung from briefly until he was in range of his next target. He quickly released the rope and relied on his momentum to carry him into the main sail which he grabbed onto tightly and used to slide down the remainder of the distance, practically avoiding every safety protocol on the way down. The young man eventually landed upon the deck with a dangerous, albeit graceful dismount from twelve feet above deck. Instead of applause, he received a brisk slap across the back of his head by Bernadette who seemed more annoyed than impressed by his reckless antics.
Bern sneered as she wagged her finger at her brother. "You could have fallen and hurt yourself! Need I remind you that we 'ARE' at sea and our medical supplies are quite limited? By the tides, how many times must I say it?"
"…Don't be reckless." Talos finished the sentence and laughed a little. "Yeah, I've heard it all before – anyway! How about it, Bern? How did I score?" He grinned eagerly and seemed pleased by the opportunity to torment his big sis.
Bern was readying her hand for another slap, when another voice emerged.
The encouraging voice had emerged from behind Talos and quickly the lad turned and smirked as he found the 'old man' approaching and grinning wildly. Admiral Skald gave a yawn and cocked his head from side to side, his old bones popping during the stretch. As he drew near, he raised his thumb up in approval of what he had witnessed. "Well done, my boy! Your form has improved. You're like a fish in the water!"
"Haha, so you noticed!" Talos replied excitedly.
"Fish don't perform dangerous acrobatics…" Bernadette grumbled. "Dad, will you please stop feeding into this kind of irresponsible behavior?" she asked with a pitch of agitation. "I'm trying to train him properly and you're not helping…"
"Grumpy this early, Bern?" The admiral laughed and suddenly he grappled Talos into a headlock and began ruffling his ashen hair with his free hand. "Are you afraid that your little brother is bucking for a big promotion?"
"I am?" Talos wondered while struggling to break free. "Does that mean I get my own ship, pops?"
"Take one step at a time, lad! Just stick with your old man, learn the ropes and you'll be running this place!" Skald said with a laugh and continued to wrestle with the boy.
"Running it into the ground, you mean?" Bern grumbled offhandedly and rolled her eyes as she turned for the stern and motioned for the two clowns to follow. "I've prepared a briefing for our current mission. If it's acceptable with the admiral, shall we prepare to begin? We have a lot to cover today."
"What mission - we have a mission?" Skald asked and formed a coy grin. He glanced at Talos, who was still in a headlock and ruffled his hair as he asked. "Boy, did you know anything about a mission?" Talos shrugged in response and the two continued their tomfoolery for a while, but when Bern's patience had seemed to reach its limit the old man finally conceded to her will. "Fine – fine…." Skald muttered and then sighed as he released Talos and began to follow Bern. "Come on, lad. We've got a stick in the mud to deal with…" he groaned.
Bern, Skald and Talos were soon accompanied by another naval officer, Uliss, and together they descended to the lower deck where they convened in the ship Officer's lounge. After taking their respective places around a large table that was used for tactical meetings, Talos was still rubbing his throat as he watched his sister carefully unravel a hefty map and situate it so that it blanketed the entire counter. Bern then proceeded to anchor the map with small models of ships, lighthouses and other markers. The young officer was so meticulous in her precision that she sometimes became obsessive about exact locations and would fiddle with one or two models several times; making each adjustment as minuscule as the last.
Skald cleared his throat as he watched Bern reach for a model for the sixth time and when she gazed at him, he nodded at her so as to convey his eagerness to begin. In truth, admiral Skald had rarely seen such textbook tactical demonstrations used in actual field practice, but he was determined to constrain his wisdom so as to allow his daughter the opportunity to take command and lead.
Bernadette quickly reached across the table and moved a model just slightly once more before she quickly cupped her hand over her mouth and cleared her throat. She fell silent for a moment as she collected her thoughts and reflected on everything she had learned in naval academy and after preparing herself mentally, she gazed at the officers summoned and began carefully. "In approximately six-hours, we will rendezvous with the third, fifth and sixth feet." She pointed toward a location on the map. "Once we have reinforced the assaulting fleet, fath - Admiral Egan will assume command of the third fleet for the duration of the assault."
"The third fleet?" A young officer, Uliss, interrupted and scratched at his beard as he pondered aloud. "Pardon my asking, but isn't that mostly composed of battering and close combat vessels?"
"Correct, only two vessels of the third fleet possess moderate ranged capabilities. It is highly likely that we shall engage the enemy directly." Bernadette replied and carefully moved the model representing their vessel into the vicinity of the awaiting fleet.
Skald laughed loudly and slapped the table with his open hand, "What a plan! I wouldn't have it any other way!" He grinned devilishly and prodded at Talos teasingly. "You regret joining your old man, yet? Maybe you should have joined one of those posh archer ships!"
Talos had grown slightly pale and was initially taken back by the prospect of actual front-line combat, but when his father jeered him he grew even more flustered than nervous. "Archer ship? What! Tch, I prefer my battles up close and personal!" The young officer exclaimed and hit the table even harder than his father. "I'm ready for anything! You just give me the signal and stay out of my way!"
A wide smile stretched across Skald's face and with a laugh he slapped his hand across Talos's back. The old man then turned his attention to Bernadette and with a smirk he questioned her resolve as well. "What about you, Bern? You've no regrets, eh? Are you willing to go in the fray, swords drawn and cannons blasting?"
"If my duty requires it," Bernadette replied dryly.
"Would you go down with your ship?" Skald teased. "Would you sink to the bottom of the sea with your old man?"
Bernadette grinned devilishly as she tilted her head up and replied. "Forgive me, but I believe staying with a sinking ship is the captain's duty, is it not?" She retorted coldly.
"You'd let me sink to the bottom, alone?" Skald replied with wounded tone.
"Live to fight another day, that's what I say! We could always acquire another ship, pops." Talos said.
"That's true." Skald agreed.
"We could always get another Admiral." Bernadette added coldly and seemed to be enjoying the rare opportunity to turn the tables on her father.
Uliss fidgeted uncomfortably from the conversation and Skald snickered as he explained cheerily. "Ah, she doesn't mean it. Bern loves her old man; she's just too much of a stick in the mud to admit it! I dunno where she gets it.""
"Aaaaanyway…" Bernadette grumbled and knocked on the table to garner the attention of the others. "Once we have reinforced and organized the strike feet, we will attack the pirate harbor from two directions." She said and moved the model ships so that the models representing the fifth and sixth fleets would enter the harbor through its mouth. "The fifth and sixth fleets will barricade the entrance to the harbor and force the pirate fleet to scramble in order to intercept." She moved the third fleet from behind the others and around the side of the island where she placed it at the mouth of a canal. "Our intelligence reports of a small canal that connects the harbor with the sea, but it's most likely shallow and unsuitable for heavy cannon bearing vessels. With the third fleet, we will sail through this canal and emerge…" she carefully moved the ship model down the path of the canal and into the backside of the harbor. "…at the enemy rear. Once we're there..."
"We catch them with their pants down." Skald replied and nodded in agreement. "This plan sounds exciting, but…" He narrowed his attention on the canal and placed his finger upon it. "You realize, we really don't know much about this canal. We don't even know its exact depth or whether it's defended or not..."
Bernadette smiled slightly. "Is it too risky, Admiral?" She wondered aloud.
"Risky?" Skald replied and shook his head. "Nope, I'm just pleasantly surprised that my daughter thought of such a tactic, it's so…"
"Reckless…" Talos added. "Well, reckless in one of those calculating, nerdy way."
"Technically it's dad's idea." Bern said with a faint grin. "I submitted the plans to the other admirals under father's name."
"Hmm, so you're making your old man look good?" Skald wondered. "Bern really does love her father!"
"Perhaps…" Bernadette replied and glanced aside. "It could also be that I'm just covering myself in case it fails? Who knows."
"HA!" Skald bellowed loudly and patted Bernadette on the shoulder jokingly. "A fine back up plan, except that if we fail... We'll be shoulder deep in enemy territory with no way to escape! I think a military reprimand will be the least of our concerns, eh?"
"Well, it all seems rather simple to me." Talos said and grinned widely. "We just make sure that we don't fail, right?"
Even Bernadette couldn't help smiling a little at the comment and while fiddling with one of the model boats she replied softly, "A most unreasonably reasonable argument if I've ever heard one, good grief."
CHAPTER 1.1: ANXIOUS HEARTS
The gentle rocking of the ocean currents had been replaced by a stillness that frankly unnerved Talos and it was due to his nervousness that he paced around the perimeter of the ship's deck, scoping the shoreline for any signs of danger. The canal was so narrow and the shore constrained it so tightly at certain points that the entire crew would often hold their breaths and resort to prayer as their fleet carefully squeezed through the most constricted regions. As if the constraints of size weren't already a large enough factor, every available hand on deck was vigilantly watching the shore in search of threats, which pushed tensions to a new high.
"We're sitting ducks," a sailor had murmured as he gazed at the not so distant shore with nervous anticipation of what he could only assume would be their eventual discovery and the full assault to accompany it. That would be a worst case scenario for certain and the men gulped as they watched and waited.
Talos would pause from time to time and skim his finger across the hilt of his sword; he was eager to just engage any enemy and was long past the point of carrying who. He was ready to fight, to relieve the stress of anticipation, but the enemy was beyond his sight if even there at all and it irked him that at any moment they could be attacked and never see it coming. There was a tree line lingering in the distance, not far from the shore and Talos paused and rested against the rail of the ship as he watched it attentively, eagerly…
"It's the worst, isn't it?" Skald said as he approached his son and glanced at the shore. He then shifted his attention toward the rear of the ship and narrowed his eyes as he gazed in the direction of the fourteen vessels that were trailing them, one after another in single file. The old man grimaced as he spoke, "You need to relax, but stay vigilant. You're too stressed; you'll burn yourself out before the battle even starts."
"I hate waiting," Talos confessed as he tapped his fingers against the railing. "How much further do we sail until we break into the harbor?"
"We'll get there soon enough." The old man replied, dodging the question. He snickered as he turned and leaned his back against the rail and soon his attention was diverted from the shore and aimed at his crew which were busily working the deck and prepping battle stations. A faint grin formed on Skald's face as he watched Bernadette running about the ship, giving orders and securing stations. "Everyone has their method of coping with stress, but if you're going to waste energy then you might as well make it productive like your sister." He said.
Talos gazed at his sister momentarily and shrugged his shoulders gently before returning his attention toward the coast. He kicked the rails gently with the tip of his boot as he watched the shoreline, but after a few minutes of silence he pounded his palms against the rail to some obscure beat and whistled a nameless tune. He had always been rather musically inclined and now he was regretting that he had forgotten his guitar at home. It was a real shame, he thought, that his beloved instrument of musical glory would be collecting dust until they returned to Obel.
Bernadette scowled when she caught sight of Talos and Skald slacking off and with a look of irritation, she approached them. "Wonderful weather, would you both agree? Would you two like some tea and crumpets? Could I get you some biscuits with it? I see that you're enjoying yourselves on this nice cruise we're having. It must be very nice…" she said in a tone that was dripping with sarcasm.
"I would love some tea." Skald said with a big smile and winked at his daughter, if only to get a rouse out of her.
"I want some pancakes…" Talos added and licked his lips while savoring the memory. "…Like the pancakes that mom make. Not the flat, dry ones that you make…"
Bern twitched angrily at having her words backfire and yet despite her rage she remained collected. "Admiral, we should be approaching the mouth of the canal soon, probably within another forty minutes."
"Excellent," Skald replied cheerily and tapped the rail with his right hand. "How about taking a load off? The rest should be smooth sailing."
Bernadette scoffed at the sentiment and shook her head. "Rest before a battle? No thank you … I've got you know 'work' to do."
"That's just fine since we're working too." Skald replied mischievously.
Bernadette winced as she watched the two laggards with irritation and with an arched brow she voiced her observation. "You're working? You could have fooled me … What manner of 'work' are you doing, if I may ask?"
"We're planning my retirement." Skald muttered.
Suddenly Bernadette and Talos gave a jolt as they both turned toward the old man with disbelief. They both shouted in unison, "WHAAAAAT?"
Skald bellowed with laughter for a moment and tossed his arm around Talos's shoulder. "Aye, it's true! I've given careful thought about this and Talos and I have decided to retire so that we can start a band. We're going to call ourselves, Admiral Skald and the…" He paused for thought.
"The Sea Rats!" Talos chimed in, adapting to the ridiculous story like a fish to water. He had quickly realized that the old man was just playing his mind games again and was probably just picking at Bern's patience, looking to crack her concentration and test her ability to remain focused under pressure. The young sailor grinned wildly as he added. "We're getting tattoos to commemorate and pops wants his to be that of a naked lady riding a sea dragon."
"Do you think the ladies will find it sexy?" Skald wondered and caressed his chin. "I'm thinking of putting it on my right cheek."
Bernadette only winced ever so slightly while listening to the rubbish and although their nonsense and antics had driven her furious in the past; it only served as a mild irritant now. She rolled her eyes slightly as she turned and motioned her intent to leave them, "Well, by all means… best of luck in such a ridiculous endeavor," she grumbled in a tone that was dripping with sarcasm. She shivered a little at the thought of the tattoo and merely waved her hand a little as she muttered the briefest reply, "Tattoo your cheek and desecrate your face, what a fine idea."
"Face?" Skald echoed and tapped his index finger against his jaw in thought.
Bernadette began to grow flustered as she reiterated. "You said you're getting a tattoo on your cheek? If it's not on your face then…" She suddenly paused and palmed her face, "NEVERMIND! I get it and I don't want to know!" She quivered at the thought which seemed to seep into her mind regardless of the effort she had put forward to keep it out. The woman gave a loud sigh before she darted her gaze to her father and brother. "I really wish that-"
Before Bernadette could finish her thought, a loud bell began ringing from the crows-nest and the sounds of men could be heard shouting. "TAKE COVER!"
Talos's heart seemed to rise up into his throat as he quickly whipped around and searched for danger. The coastline was still clear, but the young sailor would soon shift his attention skyward where he found a barrage of arrows in mid-flight. The arrows were on the verge of arcing downward so as to rain upon the ships in a deadly torrent.