Chapter One:
Prince Leon XIII

Prince Leon Civalia XIII wasn’t born a King, but he was raised as one. His father saw to it that a score of tutors filled his days with lessons on the history of the Civalian Kingdom he was meant to inherit. He learned about the uniquely colossal walls surrounding their Kingdom that had repelled sieges for generations. He learned about how his ancestors united a score of squabbling Lords into an order of singular focus and might. Given some free time, his father would dismiss the servants and spend the day preparing his son for the throne himself. “Look your subject in the eye when you give an order,” he’d say. “If it’s hard to meet their gaze, you know your decision is unfair.” There were these kind bonding moments the Prince cherished, erased from existence on that fateful day.

Prince Leon never could get his father to give a full retelling of what had happened that day. But as best he could piece together, King Leon Civalia XII had taken his Queen on a country ride. A Sunday tradition to meander through the country as a detail of servants made things exceptionally comfortable. During the fair-weather ride, out of nowhere, a thunderous clap echoed across the world. For a moment, like a held breath, there was a suspenseful quiet. Then came the screams. Spiders as large as houses stampeding from forests to feed on villagers. Patchworked amalgams of bone and flesh that towered over trees; a two headed bear with a scorpion's tail; a colossal lion with a thousand eyes. Creatures only seen in nightmares stood before them all too real. The Queen was torn to shreds in seconds. Despite his fear and anguish, the King made it back to the gates in a mad dash as the beasts tore apart his slower armored guards. Prince Leon watched his father bar the gates and disappear into his chambers for a full four days, not to be seen as his Kingdom panicked below.

A different man emerged from that chamber than the one that entered. A man of great action and little empathy. He did not smile. He did not laugh. Prince Leon watched in horror as King Leon rounded up nearly a quarter of his people and put them to the sword. The known thieves, killers, and dissenters all met their end that day. “We have a great voyage ahead of us, son. Dark tides as far as the eye can show us. And I can’t steer us to safety with those unwilling to work together.” Public executions became a weekly occurrence. King Leon always insisted on doing them himself, looking the accused in the eye as he brought down the blade. That’s how he knew he was being fair.

One dark and moonless night, Prince Leon, thinking over the brutal executions his father had carried out over the years, covered his face in a cloak and hurried out of the castle. He loved his father, and perhaps severity was needed to ensure order amidst the fear of this new world. But the Kingdom and its people had been safe behind their walls toiling away for 13 years. The people were poor, hungry, tired, and hateful of a man that would split them in half for merely stealing a loaf of bread. Prince Leon was raised to be a King, and taught by a better version of his father to be a kind one. Perhaps it was time.

Prince Leon made his way through the slums, turning a corner into a dark alley before seeing Shadrick waiting on a bench. Shadrick was a peasant brickmaker, and a bastard. A true nobody that inherited a great gift. Following that fateful day, Shadrick was plagued with visions. Ancient sites filled with powerful magic, sealed away for aeons. Shadrick was either brave or mad enough to make his way out and seek out these shrines. And low and behold the visions were true. The old site he first came across was filled with Runes that empowered ordinary steel weapons to do extraordinary things. He brought as many of the mysterious Runes back as he could carry and shared it with the people and the Royal family alike.

King Leon seized this opportunity to arm his Kingdom with magic. He routinely conscripted young men and women to seek out these shrines and bring back the Runes found within. Most of them did not return home, and those that did were shattered by the horrors they saw and fled from. But the ones that returned brought back incredible power. As the King leveraged his people to arm the Kingdom, they grew to hate him even more. Shadrick became a messiah to the people. A man of magic and goodwill; a man who saw them as more than expendable resources. He was the King they chose. King Leon often spoke about wanting to hang Shadrick, but it seemed he knew deep down to do this would lose him the support of his people for good. Prince Leon knew Shadrick was the key to a peaceful transition of power. Prince Leon needed his magic, and his supporters, to make the Kingdom whole and push the beasts back into the holes they crawled from.

Prince Leon approached Shadrick and lowered his cloak. “Not who I was expecting,” scoffed Shadrick. “What would your father say?” The Prince responded in a hushed voice, “My father is a different man now, I mourn him every day. The time is nigh, we must begin.” Shadrick nodded with a tired sympathy. “Shall we get to work?”