Return to the Serpent Isle

by Sergorn Dragon


Night was slowly falling upon Castle Britannia. It had been five years already. Five years since the Guardian had been defeated. Five years since the Avatar had left Britannia for another plane of existence. Britannia had greatly suffered during all theses years, as the columns slowly corrupted the land and its people. But the reconstruction was underway - it would certainly take many more years before Britannia could restore her former glory, but yet to commemorate and celebrate, a huge celebration had been organized at Lord British’s Castle and everyone there was partying and rejoicing - everyone but one person.

Shamino the ranger was standing quietly on the balcony outside the Ball Room, his arms crossed against the balustrade. As the night grew darker, he raised his head slowly until his eyes met the stars, looking directly toward it - that new constellation that had appeared that day in the sky, that constellation shaped as an Ankh. “What would you do in my place, old friend?” he whispered. “Would you follow your heart?”

“So there you are,” suddenly said a voice from behind, “I had the feeling I would find you here. I’m not in the mood to celebrate either.” Turning back, Shamino found himself looking toward the Lady Raven. She was smiling softly, yet a profound sadness could be seen in her eyes. “I’ve brought you some wine,” she added. Shamino noticed she was carrying two cups of wines.

“Thank you, milady.” Raven handed him the cup and came standing next to him. She drank a sip of her wine, and then put it down on the balustrade. Quietly she looked at the stars - the same stars - while Shamino was drinking at his cup.

“I miss him,” she said softly. “I know why he had to do it. And I admire it, yet… sometimes I wonder if there wasn’t another way.” She sighed. “But there wasn’t, I know. This really is silly, isn’t it? One would think after five years it should start to feel better,” she added in a broken voice. “This celebration just made it worse I guess. At least it’s always comforting to know he didn’t die in vain.” And as she said this, a single tear came rolling down her cheek.

Shamino didn’t say a thing, he just put a hand softly on her arm, and with the other he pointed toward the Ankh among the stars. “He’s still alive. He shall always be.”

“I know,” she whispered. “I know…” Yet more tears came rolling down her face.

Shamino wiped her tears, and looked at her deeply into the eyes. “I have no doubt Raven, that deep in his heart he wished he could have stayed with you. He loved you.” He paused and turned his eyes back toward the stars. “But the call of one’s heart sometime is not enough. His mind, his conscience was to Britannia. It was the only thing he could do. The only other choice would have been to leave Britannia in the Guardian’s clutch. Do not mourn him forever Raven. Find your happiness. That is what he’d want you to do.”

Raven just smiled at him. “Thank you my friend.” She finished her wine, and then sat upon the ledge on the balcony. She spoke then on a much lighter tone. “So tell me Shamino, will you follow your heart or your conscience when you’ll leave?”

Shamino just smiled back at her. “Do you already know me so well? Or is it so obvious to everyone?”

“Both, maybe. I have seen that ever since he left us your eyes were set elsewhere. You taught me all of your adventures, and it was not hard to see where your heart truly belongs: The Serpent Isle.”

“I was their Lord once. It was a long time ago, but yet I still feel bound to the land. It used to be my home. Indeed it shall always be, even if all the people who served me are long gone.” He sighed deeply, and then stood silent for a while. “When my land vanished after the defeat of Mondain, I felt as if my soul had been torn to pieces. All the people that I loved, all the people I had sworn to protect: gone. Yet eventually we found our way to the Serpent Isle, and I discovered that my land had always been there all along. It felt like an old forgotten wound had just been opened once again. I always thought they all perished. But as I was mourning them they were still alive trying to survive. I might have done the right thing by answering British’s call, but in the end I abandoned my people while all of them never ceased to believe that I would come back and save them.” Shamino calmed down and took a breath. “Indeed I took my decision a long time ago. Willingly or not, we caused a lot of suffering during our journey on the Serpent Isle. Even then I wished I could have stayed. I would have if it hadn’t been for the Guardian’s threat. I had to return to Britannia but I always promised myself that one day, I would return. Who could have thought it would have taken more than two hundreds years? A lot might have happened since then but I still need to go back. There are reasons enough. And questions that needs to be answered.” He added in a whisper. Looking inside the dancing room, his gaze focused upon Sir Dupre which dancing with a lovely lady. “I’m glad he’s back to life. But yet, yet…” he paused, pensive. “Yet he was more than dead. He was bound to the Serpent of Chaos; he was a part of the Cosmic Balance. Somehow his soul has been severed from the Serpent of Chaos, and I got to understand how and why. He claims he does not remember a thing between the moment he sacrificed himself in Monitor and the moment the Avatar summoned him in Trinsic - and I believe him. But that leaves too many questions. Britannia and many other worlds are finally freed from the Guardian’s threat. I would not want the universe to suffer from another Imbalance. And either way, Serpent Isle was once a part of Sosaria, and I think the least I could do would be to maintain contact between our two lands. So to answer your question Raven, I think that both my heart and my conscience push me away from Britannia.” Raven simply smiled back at him. “Do they all know?” he asked her.

“Do they know? I wouldn’t say it for a fact, but they suspect it. They’ve all seen you have been distant for the last few years.”

“Indeed. But I believe now is the time for me to leave. There is little left for me to do in Britannia, and much there is to learn from the Serpent Isle. My place is there.”

Raven softly touched his shoulder and gave him a little smile; after what she left the balcony and returned to the crowded Ball Room. Shamino stayed a little while longer pensive, still contemplating the glowing Ankh in the skies.

“Yes, I shall return to the Serpent Isle…” he finally said in a whisper, “and if Virtue allows it reclaim the land that was once mine.” And upon that he left the balcony.

Chapter I

A heavy rain was pouring down from the evening sky, the sounds of drops constantly hitting upon the roof was echoing inside the crowded Tavern. The Blue Boar was the most famous drinking establishment of all Britannia, having existed in Britain for generations it was in its own way as legendary as Lord British’s own castle. And, like almost every evenings, people were cheerfully drinking at the tavern while discussing the latest events that happened within the land. As a starless night fell upon the town, quickly replacing the shadows of the dusk, footsteps could soon be heard on the murky pavements of Britain’s outside the Tavern. They eventually ceased, and within moments, the door opened to a tall hooded man, soaked by the pouring rain. The man removed his cloak, revealing long brown curly hairs, and a rather young looking face hardened by experience. As he uncovered himself, the noise in the tavern suddenly diminished to faint whispers as almost every face turned toward him - for over his plate mail the tall warrior was wearing a blue tunic engraved with the picture of a long sword pointing toward the ground: the symbol of the Valorian Knights. The Valorian Knighthood had earned a great reputation over the years since their initial campaign against the dreaded Wyrmguards following the defeat of the Guardian. With the help of the King’s Guard they had constantly battled the remaining renegades across the land and had rapidly earned the reputation of the fiercest warriors of all Britannia. From the magic city of Moonglow to the far reaches of New Skara Brae, their name was called up with outmost respect. Still the appearance of a Valorian Knight, specially a lone one, was quite unusual in Britain which had always been under the protection of the King’s Guards and the people in the tavern seemed most intrigued by the young man. The knight seemed quite pleased by the impression he made, and proudly moved toward the bar where he ordered a drink.

Almerya kept looking at the young man while he gathered the attention of the crowd. She always had a lot of respect for the Valorian Knights. They were among the bravest people she had ever encountered. Some of them even, such as their leader Lord Geoffrey, were even honourable. Yet it seemed that many had a problem with Humility and from the look of it, this young man was no exception. Young. The girl chuckled when she realized she thought of him this way - the knight was probably older than she was. Most of the people in the tavern seemed to wonder what he was doing there, but for some reason Almerya already had an idea about his presence here. There was like… some sort of glitter in his eyes that she knew all too well. After a while, the crowd around the Valorian Knight vanished and the young man went eating to a small table in a corner. The red-haired girl kept looking at him as he ate, and eventually stood from her chair, heading straight toward his table. She sat in front of him, a smile on the corner of her lips. The knight looked at her with a hint of surprise in his light blue eyes.

“What is this now? Can’t a man eat his food in peace?” he barked with a disapproving frown.

“I apologize for the disturbance milord but…”

The knight sighed. “No, it’s alright. Besides, my meal is almost finished. I should not be so rude to a lady; indeed it is I who should offer my apologies.” He made a bow with his head. “Sir Elian Montenael. What can I do for you milady?”

“I could not help to notice your… outfit.” She grinned while looking at his Valorian tunic. “And in truth I wonder. What is a Valorian Knight doing here, all alone in Britain? You are a long way from home Milord. There have been rumors about disturbances with Wyrmguards near Yew, but then there would probably be a faster way for you to get there if it were your destination, wouldn’t it?”

“You are not the first person to ask me this question tonight. The rumors are true, there has been trouble with renegades near the Deep Forest but I am not going there. In fact Britain was my destination.” He sighed heavily and talked again with a smile on his face. “Ah. Should I follow the call of duty, I would probably be there with my fellow comrades to deal with theses raiders, but yet how could one ignore the call of one’s heart? No I am here because…”

“You wish to join Lord Shamino’s expedition to the Serpent Isle.” Almerya concluded with a grin.

Montenael gazed toward her smiling broadly. “Indeed. You have heard of it I assume?”

“Of course! How could not I? Everyone in Britain has. By the Virtues, everyone in Britannia probably knows of the expedition to the Serpent Isle. Can you imagine it?” She added with delight. “Leaving Britannia behind, and sailing forth to a distant land. Getting to explore a whole new world, to encounter new peoples, and new cultures…”

“Milady, you sound like you have managed to read directly into my heart! Are you an enchantress to uncover so easily the dreams of one you have only just met?”

Almerya chuckled softly. “No. It is just that I can see it when one shares the same dream than I do. An enchantress I am not. I know little of magic in fact, and swords and Honor are my only way of life.”

“You are a Paladin?” asked Montenael, raising an eyebrow.

“Indeed I am. My name is Almerya. Almerya Wyndire” She added with a smile while extending her hand.

“I must say I am surprised.” He added while shaking her hand. “I would never have suspected it. You seem quite young to be a member of such a mighty order.”

“Oh, but I am. I was only fourteen when I convinced Sir Dupre to let me join the Order, and that was four years ago.”

“Well truth is I was only a year older when I joined the Valorian Knights, but that was ten years ago. Theses were darker times then.” He smiled softly. “So we share the same dream? I assume you are here because you want to join the expedition as well?”

“Yes. Actually I am already a member of the expedition.”

Montenael looked even more surprised than before. “You are?”

“Yes!” she answered humbly. “I am actually very surprised that Lord Shamino has accepted me. I am still young, and I have little experience in battle. There were without a doubt mightier warriors than I that could have helped him in his quest. I do not know why he accepted me in his expedition, but I shall be eternally grateful for this.” Almery seemed lost in her thought for a second, but then her eyes flickered and she looked back at Montenael with a graver look. “I think I should warn you though; it might not be easy to get into the expedition. Lord Shamino insisted to be accompanied by only a few people. “

“So I have heard. I’ve been told that Shamino refused Lord British’s offer of a full garrison to join him and only requested a small party.”

“And that is the truth. He believes that shall we make contact with the Serpent Isle it should be done quietly and that if there is trouble afoot within the land, a small group of people will attract less attention. As a matter of fact there are only four of us so far, and I have the feeling we won’t be much more when we sail forth.”

“Four? May I ask who your other companions are?”

“Well… beside me and Lord Shamino there is a mage from Moonglow. Erandus I believe. Rumor has it that he was one of the last apprentices of the fabled Nicodemus. By Lord British, I’ve even heard he has been one of the architects in the discovery of binding magic. It seems Shamino requested him because he is well versed in ancient Britannian arcanes.” Almerya pursed her lips as she thought about the mage. “A rather odd fellow. Not very talkative. I don’t know much about him.”

Montenael remained pensive. “I see, and who is the last member?”

“A woman named Raven. I don’t know much about her except that she is a good friend to Lord Shamino. I understand we will be sailing on her ship.”

“I see. That seems to be an interesting group of people.” Montenael stayed silent for a moment, and then gazed into her soft green eyes. “Almerya, do you honestly believe I have a chance to join you? What should I say to Lord Shamino?”

Almerya smiled at him. “Well you seem like a nice fellow Sir Montenael. I’d like to get a chance to know you more. I hope you will get to join us, and I shall tell Lord Shamino should I get the chance. However, as for what you should say to him… well just let your heart guide your words. Be true to yourself, and speaks with Honesty.”

“I see,” Montenael answered pensively.

Almerya stared at him for a while, and then stood up while looking outside the window. “It is getting late. I’d better leave. I hope to see you later.” She added with a smile. “Fare thee well, Sir Montenael.”

“Farewell.” Montenael kept looking at the red haired girl as she left the Tavern, and stayed quietly at the table, pondering his thought for a while. After a few minutes, he stood from his chair and left the Blue Boar’s Tavern.

It was late in the morning already when Sir Montenael headed toward Castle Britannia. He had seen Lord British’s castle before but never had the chance to come so close to it and he could not help being impressed by the size of the titanic fortress. He headed for the gates which were now open to everyone in Britannia seeking an audience with the King, much like it had been before the dreaded Cataclysm. After a short nod toward the pair of guards at the entrance, he passed by them and entered the main hall. He was rapidly greeted by a short little bald man, which came toward him, and gave him an extravagantly long bow after examining him for a while.

“Greetings Milord!” He said with a large smile while raising his arms. “Welcome to Castle Britannia. I am Hennington, Lord British’s chancellor. It is my great pleasure to welcome among us one of the valorous knights who strive constantly to protect our glorious kingdom from all evil.”

“Thank you sir,” answered Montenael cautiously, a bit confused at the chancellor’s attitude. “I…”

“Yes, yes. You are here to see his Majesty of course…”

“Well no actually I…”

“…But Lord British is rather busy right now...” Hennington had paid no attention to him. “…With all this business with the Serpent Isle expedition, he hardly has anytime for matter of states.”

“Listen Sir, I’m not here to see Lord British, I…

“But still I’m sure he would be able to find a moment in his schedule when I’ll tell him that…” Obviously the chancellor was more interested in the sound of his own voice to even remotely listen to him.

“Cut it off Hennington!” said a deep voice from the left. Montenael noticed an elder knight with short gray hair and a hard face, which apparently just came in from another room. “Didn’t you hear him? He’s not here to see Lord British. Leave us; I’ll take care of him. Come on! Shoo!” he added, as Hennington was about to object. The Chancellor left the hall with a disapproving frown. The knight sighed. “I’m sorry. I’m afraid Hennington sometimes takes his job too seriously. To be honest, I don’t see what Lord British sees in him. If it were me, he would have already been thrown out of the castle a long time ago.” He added while shaking his head. “Well, in any case he is right about one thing: it is a pleasure to see a Valorian Knight. I am Sir Keller, Captain of the King’s Guard…” He said while extending his hand.

“Sir Keller? It is an honor to meet you!” said Montenael while shaking the elder man’s hand. While he had never met him, he had often heard of him before. Sir Keller had been formed by Lord Geoffrey himself and had taken over the helm of the King’s Guard when Geoffrey resigned so many years ago to form the Valorian Knighthood. “I am Elian Montenael.”

“Yes, I thought as much. Young Almerya mentioned you. So you wish to join Shamino’s expedition?”

“Indeed! That’s the chance of a lifetime!” answered Montenael with delight.

“I understand. Ah, if I were younger, I’d probably try to get in there myself.” He added with a smile. “Please follow me; I’ll get you to Lord Shamino. He is most likely busy, but I’m sure he’ll find some time for you. So tell me,” Keller said as he guided him throughout the castle. “What news of Valoria? It has been a long time since I’ve seen Lord Geoffrey.”

“I assume you know all that already but the war effort against the Wyrmguards is reaching to an end. There is little left of them but small pockets of resistance - not enough to represent a threat to Britannia anymore. As for Valoria it is quite… peaceful,” he said with a smile, “More peaceful it has ever been before. I’d even daresay it is a pleasant place to live in now. The last time I saw Lord Geoffrey was just before leaving for Britain. He has been very comprehensive and didn’t try to change my mind about this. Actually I have the feeling that he somewhat envy me. I suspect he’d have volunteered as soon as Lord Shamino announced his attention to go back to the Serpent Isle if he didn’t have to lead the Valorian Knights.” Sir Keller chuckled as he heard this. “What is it?” asked Montenael.

“Oh it’s just that Almerya told me the exact same thing about Sir Dupre when she arrived. Ah, it must be a hard time for Shamino’s old companions. I guess they all wish they could join him in his journey, yet instead they have to stay here to fulfill their duties.” He gave a short laugh, “I suspect Lord British himself would want to go there if he could. A King’s Life must certainly not be easy.”

“I guess so… I can certainly understand they would want to join this expedition. They’ve known him for a long time as I understand it.”

“And they do, they’ve all been friends since, oh… long before either of us were born. It’s probably not easy to be left behind.”

The two men kept chatting as they went throughout the castle until they eventually arrived in front of a small door. After a knock on it, Keller opened the door which revealed a small conference room. Within it Lord Shamino was sitting at a table with a small group of people which all turned around as Keller and Montenael entered the room. One of them was Almerya, the young Paladin he had met the day before, which gave him a friendly smile when she saw him. The red haired girl was more formally dressed than when he first met her, wearing an armor pretty much like his own, except for her pale-green tunic which displayed a chalice engraved within a shield: the armorial bearing of the Paladins. Next to her was standing a tall middle-aged man whose gray and ageless eyes betrayed no emotions as he looked toward him. His pale skin and snow-white hairs were almost as peculiar as the five-branched star tattooed on his forehead. Erandus obviously. Behind Shamino, another woman dressed in black - most likely the one Almerya called Raven - was standing quietly in the shadows of the wall. She seemed to pay no attention to him. However all of Montenael’s attention was focused on the fifth person in the room, which was none other than Lord British himself.

As Sir Keller saluted them, Montenael fell to his knees and bowed his head before the king. “My… my Liege!” he mumbled. “It is a great honor!” He couldn’t seem to find the proper word. The last thing he had expected was to run into the king himself like this. You’re being foolish Elian Montenael! This is his castle; you were bound to run into him one way or another. But in spite of theses thoughts he couldn’t help feeling intimidated. He had never met the King before.

“Rise, Sir Knight” commanded the soft voice of the King. Montenael rose his head, and slowly stood up to his feet. He couldn’t help to look directly into the eyes of Lord British. He couldn’t explain it, but he felt drawn toward these kind eyes and his wise face. “It is always an honor to have the visit of a Valorian Knight among us, especially one as valorous as you Sir Montenael. I must tell you that Lord Geoffrey has always spoken very highly of you.”

Montenael couldn’t believe his ears. He had always considered himself to be one of the most valiant warriors among his comrades, but he always felt deep inside that it was just unjustified pride. He never suspected Lord Geoffrey had him in enough esteem to mention him to the king. In other circumstances he would have felt great honor - great pride even - in hearing such words, yet it was surprise more than anything else that Montenael felt at this very moment.

“It is my pleasure to welcome you to Castle Britannia” added the King as he shook the young’s knight hand with a smile. “I assume you’ll have urgent business to attend with this young fellow Shamino,” said the King to the ranger behind him. “I will return later my old friend; we still have plenty of time to discuss the details of your journey.”

And upon this the King left the room, Keller right behind him. Montenael still couldn’t believe that the King had left this apparently important meeting so that he could get to talk with Lord Shamino. Of course Lord British was known to be a noble and humble person, but witnessing it first-hand was a different matter. The room remained silent after the king left, and everyone was staring at the young knight, trying to figure him out. After a while Shamino just looked his eyes and said “Follow me.”

Shamino stood from his chair and headed toward a small door in the back of the room, as he was about to follow him, Montenael felt a hand on his shoulder. It was Almerya. “Good luck,” she whispered, “and remember: be true to your heart.”

Montenael joined Shamino and followed him through the door, which lead to a small office. As they entered it, Montenael soon noticed that the shadowy woman had followed them. Shamino sat behind the desk and gestured him to sit in front of it. The strange woman followed Shamino and stood once again against the wall behind him. Montenael couldn’t help staring at her. Following the young man’s stare, Shamino turned a moment toward her but quickly returned his look toward him.

“Oh don’t worry about Raven. Just pretend she is not there,” he said with a smile, “So tell me Sir Elian Montenael,” he asked as he poured a cup of wine for both of them, “We’ve already met before, haven’t we?”

“Yes milord. That was five years ago on the battlefield during the campaign to retake Destard from the Wyrmguards. I…” He paused trying to find the proper words. “To be honest I never thought you’d remember me sir.”

“I never forget the face of a valiant man. And valiant man you are Sir Montenael. Lord British speaks the truth when he said Geoffrey speaks highly of you. He hasn’t forgotten how you tried to head into Destard with your companions in order to deals with Talornia and hinders the Wyrmguards resources. A brave attempt…”

“A foolish attempt…which failed. It is a miracle that I managed to make it back to Paws. I could have died this day.”

“Foolish, maybe. But brave none-the-less, especially considering the dreaded influence the columns still had over the land. Geoffrey tells me you are the most valiant knight he has ever trained.” As he said this, Montenael’s eyes widened. “And the most reckless too,” he added with a smile.

“I guess I am… I admit I do have the tendency to rush into action. But then it has always proven to bring be me good luck.”

“You should be mindful no to try out your luck too far Sir Montenael. Good fortune can easily turn into bad luck for men such as yourself.” He paused and took a sip of his wine. After a moment he continued. “So…I had a word with Almerya this morning. She told me you wish to join our expedition to the Serpent Isle. Is that so?”

“Yes milord. It is my deepest desire. In fact I never wished anything more in my entire life. I’m not sure how to explain it… it just feels like a great opportunity.”

Shamino raised an eyebrow, quietly looking at him. “An opportunity? For what? Do you believe being part of this expedition will bring you Fame? Wealth? Or Glory?”

“Believe me when I say nothing of all that milord. I’ve always craved for action I’d admit it, but I never fought for either fame, glory or money. I joined the Valorian Knight because I believed in them. I fought for all theses years because I felt it to be the right thing to do. I know I am far from being the most virtuous man in this world, but at least…” Montenael paused for a second and gazed into the Lord’s eyes, “…at least I have always fought for what I believed in.”

“That does not answer my question. In fact you give me even more reasons to deny yourself the right to be in this expedition. Britannia needs people like you. The Wyrmguards threat might be coming to an end, but there shall be a day when another force will threaten Britannia. And it is in time like this that people such as you will be needed here.”

“You make it sounds like this journey will be a one-way trip.”

“We do not know what awaits us beyond the Serpent Pillars. For all we know we may never come back. We have to assume that this will be a one way travel. Now answer me.”

“My duties are to Britannia. I am well aware of that but…” As if to force the truth out of his mouth, Montenael clenched his fingers and closed his eyes. “…I cannot deny the call of my heart. Should I follow the call of duty, I wouldn’t even be here… but I can’t. This expedition is an opportunity to fulfill my deepest dream. Ever since I was a child I dreamt of having the chance to live adventures in distant lands like I heard in legends and old stories. I would as soon resign from my position as Valorian Knight if that could give me the chance to join your expedition. It might sound selfish, and I can’t really explain it, but it feels to me that getting into this expedition is the most important thing in the world no matter the cost.” Montenael shut his mouth and remained silent, trying to ponder what he had just said. He lowered his head as he couldn’t stand to stare toward Shamino’s eyes any longer.

Shamino smiled at him lightly, “And what if I told you that Geoffrey has high hopes for you? You are still young, but he has great faith in your abilities. You are… the closest thing he has to a son. He had hoped that with time you would eventually end up replacing him at the head of the Valorian Knighthood.”

Montenael almost flinched when he heard this. Not so long ago he would have felt great pride in hearing theses words. But now he felt nothing but a pinch of his heart as he seemed to betray a man he admired. “That wouldn’t change a thing.” He just answered as fast as he could in an almost broken voice.

Shamino just silently looked at him. It felt as if the ranger was trying to uncover his deepest thoughts and feelings. “I see,” he eventually said as he stood from his chair. The ranger went toward the woman named Raven and whispered something to her. The two of them kept talking to each other for a while with, from time to time, a few glances at the young knight.

Shamino eventually went toward the door and commanded Montenael to follow him. When they both entered the conference room the eyes of Almerya and the elder man’s turned toward them. As Raven joined them inside, Shamino just smiled to them and said. “This is Elian Montenael from Valoria. The last member of our expedition.”

Erandus just looked at him with curiosity. Raven mumbled some sort of “Welcome” with a tap on his shoulder while Almerya smiled broadly at him. As Shamino shook his hands to formally welcome him into the expedition, Montenael couldn’t feel anything but an overwhelming joy.

Chapter II

The small expedition had left Britain aboard the Silver Hart a few weeks before. The last few days at the capital had been overwhelming. It had been a crowded and exhausting departure to say the least. Having to say farewell to his oldest friends had been hard enough - but with the news of the expedition spreading across Britannia, thousands of people had traveled to Britain in the hope of getting a glimpse of the ‘great’ Lord Shamino and his fellow companions. ‘Lord’… Shamino felt a certain discomfort at this newbound title Lord British had suddenly decided to bestow upon him. His days as a king were long past and almost felt like a distant dream…it didn’t felt right to be treated with such respect, as if he was some kind of superior being. It never did. Shamino wasn’t a nobleman by birth. He only accepted this behavior because he had to. But now things were different. He could understand that as a companion of the Avatar, many people looked upon him with respect and even admiration. But he could never bring himself to consider himself above the common folks. He wasn’t a Lord anymore; he hadn’t been for a very long time. He was just Shamino. Yet…

“My Lord?”

The voice of Elian Montenael pulled Shamino out of his reverie. He turned his attention back toward the Valorian Knight and his other companions. They were all here - except for Raven which was outside guiding the ship as she did most of the time. Shamino had spent most of the journey briefing them about the Serpent Isle. Knowledge he had about the cities, the landscape, its history, and of course its situation the last time he had seen the isle. After a short halt at Minoc, they had been going northward for the last three weeks. It was getting colder and colder every day and they should be reaching them any time now. Shamino took a breath and talked.

“You’re probably all as ready as you can possibly be. I am not sure there is anything more I can do to prepare you. I shall simply remind you all one last time that all these information are more than two hundred years old. There’s no doubt that the situation on the Serpent Isle has greatly evolved since then - possibly to the point where anything you’ve learned here might be useless.” Shamino didn’t dare to mention it, but there was also the possibility that all that was left of the human race had been wiped out and that they’d only find a vast wild land. “So our first goal will be to get information on the situation of the lands, cities, and people - what we shall do after that will greatly depend on what we find out on our arrival. Hopefully we will be able to contact the main political powers on the land, and start formal relations between Britannia and the Serpent Isle.” Shamino looked quietly at each member of the expedition. “In any case be sure to review the geography of the lands, and the positions of the last known cities and dungeons. People were already starting to rebuild when we left, so it is likely civilization would still be where the old cities stood. Also…” Shamino paused for a second, pondering how to say this, “Also, I would advice keeping quiet about Britannia and Lord British, at least until we learn more from the people there.”

Upon this Shamino heard Raven calling for him. He immediately left the cabin and joined Raven on the deck, followed by the rest of the crew. The air was very cold so far north.

“What is it?”

“We’re getting close to the sextant coordinates you provided me.”


“I can’t seem to find any trace of any gigantic snake-shaped column though…”

“There shouldn’t be. The pillars shall rise from the oceans when we get close enough.”

“I see…”

Montenael felt some hesitation. “My Lord…”


“I have got to wonder… It’s been two hundred years since your last undertook this journey. How can you be sure that the pillars are still there? For all we know they could have been destroyed during the Cataclysm.”

“They’re made of blackrock.” Shamino stood silent as if it was enough. Montenael still looked hesitant. “Blackrock can only be shaped through mystical and magical means; a great power was used to erect them in the first place. They’ve been here for ages, I don’t think even the Cataclysm could have damaged them. And also I’m not actually sure they actually do exists *in* Britannia.”

Montenael raised his eyebrows at this comment, obviously looking even more puzzled. Shamino was about to speak once more when he noticed Almerya giving a nudge in Montenael’s ribs. The knight let out a shriek of surprise and turned to the young girl with a disapproving frown.

“Do you really think now is the time to ask silly questions, Elian?” She said. “You probably think Lord Shamino would be stupid enough to the set up all this expedition without being sure we’d get to the Serpent Isle. I thought you were smarter than that.” She added with a smirk.

“But it’s not that! Of course I know he’s not stupid…I was just curious! I…”

Shamino watched the argument chuckling. Almerya seemed to have developed a habit of picking on Montenael and getting on his nerves. He let out a small cough, and both of them turned toward him, Almerya with large grin on her face, and Montenael with embarrassment.

“I am sure,” he just concluded with a smile. “How long until we get there Raven?”

“Not long. We’ll probably reach the coordinates within the hour.”

“Good. Everyone I want you to get ready and arm yourselves. We don’t know what might happen once we get to the Serpent Isle, so I want everyone to be ready for everything. Oh and…” he added as everyone was going bellow decks to get their equipment, “You should get some furs as well. It’s going to get really real cold very soon.”

The ship slowly kept going toward the coordinates. As it got closer and closer, waves and tides started to become more agitated and Shamino kept looking toward that direction. “It’s happening,” he whispered. “Everyone, brace yourselves.” The sea was stirring as in the middle of a giant storm, except there were no clouds to be seen. In the horizons, two gigantic whirlpools appeared, looking ready to swallow the ship and its passengers. Except they didn’t seem to be swallowing anything and admitting that was possible it looked like they swirling back. And suddenly, they rose, two gigantic pillars from the depth of the ocean, made from the deepest black; the form of a snake carved within them as if one was coiled up around each of them. The pillars seemed to be rising ready to touch the skies, even the Guardian’s dreaded columns didn’t seemed to be that huge. As the Silver Hart came closer, a white light seemed to engulf the ship, coming from nowhere, and everywhere at the same time, and soon there was nothing left but white. And as suddenly as it happened, the white light suddenly vanished, taking the britannian ship along with it. And as quickly as they appeared, the serpent columns disappeared within the sea, leaving only a calm sea behind.

Shamino was massaging his temple with his hands. Twice before he had gone through this, but he still couldn’t shake the confusion that had seized him each time - or the headache. It would pass. The air was cold. Very cold. He shivered for a second and held his furs closest to him. He had forgotten how cold the northern seas of Serpent Isle could be. Even during winter Britannia couldn’t compare to the coldness of the Serpent Isle. Looking around, he noticed his companions were sharing his confusion. He looked toward the sky, the sun was bright. He closed his eyes, and let its warm envelop his face. He was home. He suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder. Raven.

“So this is it? Serpent Isle?”

“Indeed. There is no doubt about it. I can… feel it. After all these years, somehow it feels good to be here.”

“If I may say so milord, it feels cold!” said Almerya’s shivering voice from behind. Shamino turned toward her, she was deeply covered within her furs, shuddering from the cold, and breathing heavily. “Not that I’m not glad to be here, you know, but I’d much prefer a much cooler place. Trinsic is tropical.” She mumbled. “I’ll be bellow; where it’s warm,” she added absently while entering the cabin.

Montenael strongly - and obviously painfully - bearing the cold stared at her back eyes wide open. “What should I say? By the Virtues, I’m the one living inside a Volcano.” Yet in spite of this, he quickly joined bellow decks after a long bow toward Shamino.

Shamino just laughed softly. “Ah… youth…”

“Yes,” said another voice near the cabin’s entrance. Shamino looked at Erandus, almost surprised to hear him speak, for he remained silent most of the time. The general coldness seemed to have no effect on him. “That’s what they are. Young. The paladin is too pure and innocent. The knight is too reckless and naïve. They shouldn’t be here.”

Shamino just scowled at him. “They are here for the same reason as you are Erandus. Because they are meant to be. Do not forget this.”

“I don’t,” he answered with a shrug, “but it doesn’t change what they are. This journey is far more dangerous than you led them to believe. Even now I can feel the stirs within the Void. There is little doubt that our arrival has not gone unnoticed.”

“I will do what I have to, Erandus. Do what you have to. Now get inside, it’s time we discuss about what we’re going to do now. ” Erandus acknowledged and entered the cabin. Shamino sighed. “Raven, head the ship southward, then join us inside.”

“All right,” Shamino went toward the cabin, but Raven called him before he reached it. “He’s right though you know. Why won’t you tell them the whole reason for our presence here?”

“They don’t need to know. Not yet anyway. Not before I’m sure. There is no need to spoil their eagerness. They’re still young.” And he entered the cabin, leaving Raven alone.

“But if you are right, they won’t stay it much longer…” Raven sadly whispered as she steered the Silver Hart southward.

“So where are we exactly?” asked Erandus.

“In the northeastern sea, pretty much here,” said Shamino pointing on a map of the Serpent Isle, “where lie the Serpent Pillars,” said Shamino.

“So there are Pillars leading back to Britannia,” exclaimed Montenael.

“You have such a way of stating the obvious Elian,” said Almerya rolling her eyes. “How do you think he’d have come back in the first place, if there weren’t also Serpent Pillars in the Serpent Isle?”

Montenael gave her a dark look. Shamino smiled, “Obviously she’s right. They weren’t easy to find though and it took us a long time to uncover their mystery. Passing through the Pillars is not just a matter of place, but also of time. And even now there is still a lot we don’t know about them. It seems my calculations were corrects though,” he added while looking through the window. “It’s summer.” Almerya’s eyes widened and she gaped while holding her furs closer. Shamino threw her a faint smile. “At any other season of the year, these parts of the northern seas would probably have been frozen with ice; we would have been in serious trouble then…”

“Where are we heading now My Lord?” asked Montenael.

“We’re heading southward toward Monk Isle. If all goes well, we should reach it within a few weeks. I figured it would be the best place to start. The Xenkans Monks are wise; hopefully we will be well received and they will be able to fill us out about the rest of the isle. I know it’s a long way,” he added kindly when he noticed Almerya and Montenael’s discomfit faces, “you’re probably all tired of sailing already but we don’t really have much choice. So get some rest, try to enjoy yourselves, and stay alert,” he finished, “even seas can be dangerous here.”

The Silver Hart had been sailing southward for a couple of weeks. The air was still very cold by Britannian standard - but not to the point where they had to keep themselves wrapped in their furs. At least, it was bearable. The weather had been terrible all along. Shortly after their arrival the skies darkened; and had since been clouded day and night. Some starlight and sun rays occasionally slipped betweens the clouds, but it never lasted. The weather had been grim; much like their temper. Surrounded by water in every direction, and a grayish, unwelcoming sky above them. It was early in the morning, but it might as well have been the afternoon; every moment of the day semmed to be the same here.

Montenael was steering the ship - or rather he was just keeping his hands on the wheel so that to make sure it didn’t move and kept heading in the direction Raven had chosen before going to sleep. Almerya was near him, she was supposed to be watching on the horizons for any kind of trouble - pirates, sea monsters; but instead she just sat there back against the ledge of the ship, sighing.

“This is just so boring. How long have we been sailing? I am sick of sailing. I am sick of this ship. I am sick of water. I have seen enough water for the rest of my entire life. No more water for me. Enough. I’ll even stop drinking water. From now on, I’ll only drink ale! Sir Dupre will be so proud! Damn, why didn’t we go to explore the northern wastes? Even the coldness would be better than this.”

“Are you finished?” Montenael snapped back at her. He enjoyed Almerya’s company but she could be so childish sometimes. “You think you’re the only one who’s tired of all this? We’re all sick of sailing, we all want to feel actual land beneath our feet; but for now, we can’t, and we won’t anytime soon. So get used to it,” he finished in a dry tone.

The young paladin actually looked taken aback by his reaction. “You don’t have to get so angry,” she said. “I’m sorry… I… It’s just not the kind of adventures I’d expected. Hardly an adventure at all,” she sighed.

“It’s all right; I think we’re all very tense these days. This weather is getting on everyone’s nerve. I feel the same, you know,” he added more gently. “We must probably be halfway through now.”

“Yeah, doesn’t look like it’s getting any better though, look at this!” She said while pointing toward the horizons. Dark clouds could be seen ahead, right where they were headed. “I’m no weather expert; but looks to me we’re heading straight into a storm…” she said while shaking her head. “I don’t like this.”

“Neither do I.” said Montenael calmly. “It might be wise to get Raven up here; if we get into a storm, I think she’ll be more capable to handle it than I… Stay there, I’ll get her.”

Montenal turned toward the door and entered the cabin. Almerya stayed at the prow of the ship, holding the wheel; but suddenly she felt like she caught something at the corner of her eyes. “What the…?” She turned toward the sea, looking at it; a ripple just seemed to have disturbed the water, very close to the ship. She looked in that direction for a second; but, thinking it was just a fragment of her imagination, returned her attention to steering the ship - until she heard something in the water... She turned back quickly; gripping the hilt of her sword. There was something in the water… and suddenly it raised from the depth the sea. Almerya stepped backward with a shriek. It was the head of a giant creature with a long blue-ish scaled neck… very reminiscent of a dragon’s. In fact it looked a lot that the sea serpents she had heard of in old storybooks, but she had never seen a creature such a this. Her hand was clenching her sword, but she couldn’t draw it… she couldn’t… she couldn’t keep her eyes from the sea monsters. The skies seemed to get darker. The creature opened its wide mouth growling, it was about to attack her… she had to defend herself… she had to move, but she could not. She could not do anything but stay frozen in fear. Suddenly a brightening arrow flashed near her ear and pierced the sea monster in the throat, then another followed, and another. The monster growled in pain. Almerya felt a hand in her shoulder; pulling her backward… she almost tumbled.

“Almerya!” yelled a familiar voice. “Snap out of it!”

Almerya suddenly felt brought back to reality and looked at Montenael. “Sorry… I… I’m sorry,” she said while drawing her long sword.

Montenael gave her a glance and rushed toward the creature. Thankfully, intelligence didn’t seem to be its highest point and it remained close to the ship. Close enough for Montenael to slash at the creature while another arrow reached it. As he was about to pierce the creature with another jab he heard a faint voice saying “Drop” behind him. Montenael instinctively ducked as he heard the voice incanting “Vas Flam Hur!” Columns of Fire rushed toward the creature engulfing it in Flames. The creatures shrieked one more time, overwhelmed by a severe pain… collapsing, dying the sea serpent fell back in the sea leaving no trace of it but some of its dark blood drifting upon the water.

Everybody breathed a sigh of relief. Almerya sheathed her sword. She hadn’t even tried to attack the creature. Her head was lowered in shame. She couldn’t bear to watch her companions.

“I… I’m sorry.” She just said.

She felt a hand on her shoulder. At first she thought it was Elian’s, but when she looked up, she glanced at Lord Shamino’s eyes. “Don’t torture yourself. It happens to the best of us. Beside if you hadn’t shrieked who knows what might have happened, we might have been too late,” he added with a wink.

Almerya chuckled, “All right,” she said bowing her head. “Now what?”

“I don’t like this,” said Shamino grimly. “Snow Serpents only live in the frozen seas. They shouldn’t appear so far to the south, especially at this time of year. It might have been a lost creature, lone and wandering. But my instinct tells me that this can only mean one thing: sorcery.”

“You think someone has unleashed that beast upon us?”

“Yes…I know of a powerful spell that allows one to invoke a snow serpent by its own will. It would work even in the southern regions. I don’t like this… no I really don’t like this at all.”

“I told you I had felt a disturbance within the Void when we arrived,” said Erandus. “Whoever that is, he probably must have felt it when we passed through the Serpent Pillars. If he can reach us already, we’re in serious trouble. We might not be able to reach Monk Isle”

A heavy silence fell upon the group. Shamino clenched his wrist, a firm resolution in his tone. “Raven, steer the ship westward. We shouldn’t be more than a few days away from the coast. I’d rather take my chance in the frozen waste than in the middle of the sea.”

“I’m afraid we don’t have a few more days,” she said, eye looking toward the skies.

The dark clouds in the horizons, seemed to be getting darker and darker; and moving toward the ship at a much faster rate that their natural course. The seas were getting more and more agitated, huge waves flooding over the decks.

“Everybody! Get a hold on something!” yelled Shamino.

Almery slipped on the deck while trying to get through the ledge to grip it… she already saw herself being thrown over board when Elian seized her arm. “Hold on!” He helped Almerya back to her feet; and she held firmly to him.

“We’ve got to do something,” yelled Shamino. “Erandus!”

But Erandus was already plunged in his spellbooks, mumbling an incantation. Suddenly his eyes snapped open. “It’s not working! Binding magic doesn’t work. My most powerful spells are useless here, I cannot disperse the winds.”

“Shamino! Look!” yelled Raven.

All around the ship, giant snake-shaped heads raised from the ocean, one after another, there were at least, four, no five of them. Maybe more.

“We’re not going to make it!” cried Almerya.

The creatures were coming closer; Montenael had already drawn his swords. Then, suddenly time itself seemed to come to a halt. “I’ve used a Time Stop scroll,” said Erandus grimly, “It won’t last long, but I’m going to…improvise something. Hopefully we’ll all be able get out of here…”

“What are you trying to do?” asked Shamino

“No time!” Erandus extracted several reagents from a pouch. Hands crackling with magic; they dissolved within the air. They could all feel time returning to normal; the sea monsters about to cast their flames upon them, and at the same moment, strong words echoed throughout the wind “Vas Kal Rel Por!” There was suddenly a flash of light brightening the horizons just as the flames of the sea monsters engulfed the ship. The Silver Hart exploded from the impact as the ray of light seemed to scatter in every direction. The creatures sank back to the depth; and the clouds rapidly vanished, leaving a beautiful summer sun shining its lights upon the sea. But there was nothing left upon it, save debris from the destroyed ship...

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