Prologue: A Captain's Advent

The goddess of dawn had awoken and praised the land with a myriad of her vibrant rays, bathing the empire in another day of sunshine. Everything that came in contact with her golden fingertips received a dosage of the radiance she reigned over, and she caressed the empire with both hands. Her obvious favoritism was enough for the citizens to be assured that the goddess, with all her power, was on their side.

"But the gods and goddesses are so fickle with us humans," Demyan Kirill muttered amusedly to himself, a smirk pulling at his lips. He stood on the balcony in front of his bedroom, the windowed doors splayed open behind him. His hands reached out and gripped the embellished golden railing as he stared at the city that lay beneath his feet. It was just waking from its nightly slumber.

Demyan wasn't one to sleep heavily and never for very long. He always woke up far before the morning rays, but he didn't mind. It was always enjoyable to watch the goddess' first touch on the land.

How long would it be before the empire fell out of her favor? His smirk grew at the thought. Certainly the citizens of Dainore didn't think they'd have her partiality forever. "But it's what they do," he mumbled, showing only a hint of disappointment. "They ignore the inevitable until it overwhelms them – and, by then, it's too late." He paused for a second; there was a rustle behind the door. The visitor entered noisily.

"Mirna, take it away. I'm not hungry," he remarked bluntly, waving a hand to dismiss her. His back was turned, but he knew that it must have been a rather large breakfast if she had so much difficulty opening the door.

"Oh," the maid said in soft but professional tones, not fully surprised. "Yes, my lord." There was some more fumbling. Demyan waited to hear the door close before he continued his musings. The soft click satisfied him.

The goddess, it seemed, had already retracted her kindness from the renowned Captain Marciel Torhild. The captain's reports had been of dreary weather without even a glimpse of the sun that shined so merrily over the empire. It had been over a month since they dispatched her and her company to Hidrus Island, and there was still no word of their objective. It wouldn't be long before the emperor's frustration caused him to hand over the mission to someone else, assumedly someone more competent.

The door opened again, but there was no delay this time. "Mirna, I told you—"

"Pardon for my intrusion, Lord Kirill," a young male voice reached his ears. He must have been one of the emperor's messengers. A long pause ensued. The servant was clearly waiting for a signal to continue, but Demyan didn't even bother with acknowledgement. "Um, uh," the boy stumbled over his words uncomfortably, unsure if he was to go on. An indefinite uneasiness filled the room. New and unused to the lord's routine, the messenger cleared his throat as his last attempt. Demyan smiled to himself; he was enjoying this. "Captain Marciel Torhild and her company have returned from Hidrus Island with their mission complete. They await you at the front gates." The messenger fell silent but did not leave. Demyan waited.

"Sir, um," the boy faltered. He took a breath to collect his senses. "The consignment is a bit," he paused, searching for the right word, "damaged." Demyan turned slightly in mild surprise.

"Damaged?" he echoed smoothly.

"Um, yes, sir," the messenger responded quietly. It seemed his willpower to deliver the news was diminishing. Demyan took a moment to consider the possibilities.

"Have you informed Emperor Mithren of this?" he asked, turning fully toward the servant now. The boy shirked under Demyan's gaze, his head bent to pay his respects. His innocent blue eyes hid under a shock of bright blond hair, and the features of his face were so full of vitality that he mustn't have been a day over seventeen. Because of Demyan's height, he towered well over the adolescent.

"Yes, Lord Kirill," the messenger said politely, edging closer to the door out of discomfort. "He has already proceeded to the front gates." The edges of Demyan's mouth twitched upward. Mithren must have been thoroughly upset to have not waited for his right-hand man to accompany him.

"Very good," Demyan concluded. "You may go." The boy didn't have to be asked twice. Quickly turning on his heels, he opened the door and shut it soundly behind him. Demyan laughed quietly, his tones rich and low.

It was peculiar how different they appeared. Unlike the messenger boy, Demyan's persona was neither vivacious nor pure, but he was not without his own kind of pulsating energy. He paused in front of his bedroom mirror, its ebony borders engraved with fluid designs. Two dark brown irises stared back at him along with an unblemished, charismatic face that commanded power. He was still considered very young, especially for the rank he held among the emperor's elites.

After combing his fingers through his even darker brown hair, he took hold of the sleeveless black overcoat he had left hanging on the back of his desk chair. Crisp, thick white lines fringed the garment, and its edges flared outward, unable to meet at the midline. Demyan promptly donned it over his black long-sleeved shirt, and the ends of the jacket reached to midway down his equally black pants. He straightened the collar and took another glance in the mirror, satisfied. He considered it his own personal style; few in the emperor's estate would wear anything near its flamboyance, and even then, they wouldn't have the same color preference.

Demyan made his way to the door, and his hand hovered briefly over the doorknob. Captain Marciel Torhild had a reputation built on her loyalty to the emperor. She didn't seem like the type of person who would allow any part of her missions to go awry. He mulled the thought over as he opened the door and stepped into the hallway.

This would be interesting.

Author's Note: Although it's not necessary to have any background knowledge in order to read (and understand) this story, I would recommend reading my short story "Dragon Wings." It makes the foreshadowing in this chapter much more evident. However, if you don't want to, that's fine too; I have no gripes. :)

"Dragon Wings," if anything, would probably be considered a side-story to this story, since Grim Precursors has a much larger plot than "Dragon Wings." I have also realized that the main theme/intention behind "Dragon Wings" seemed to have gotten lost in the writing, so I will be working harder on having the main ideas come out better. I'll also emphasize the reasons behind Marciel's actions in this story too, so if it was misinterpreted in "Dragon Wings," hopefully you'll understand them better in this story.

This is actually going to be my first multi-chaptered original story – and I haven't done multi-chaptered stories in a while, so this is exciting! I actually spent ages determining all the names I need. In fact, what took me so long to get this prologue up was because I had a really hard time making an empire name I liked, but in the end, I'm pretty content with it.

I'm going to try to make this a sort of biweekly serial, but don't count me on that; these next few weeks are going to be a bit strange for me, and then school starts, so biweekly may end up being longer than…biweekly. We'll have to see.

It would make me incredibly happy if you would click that button at the bottom of the page and leave a few words of your thoughts. :) Constructive criticism is greatly appreciated, along with any other comments you may have.