Full Summary: The world's resources are near depletion. Years ago, the Advocation waged a bloody war against the broken Kingdom of Kastmaria to secure the few remaining resources. And they won. Now, the final bastion of humanity stands tall in the midst of a shattered and barren land. But outside its walls stir a manifold of powers, both dark and holy. Crusaders for rebellion rally their strength and half-beasts roam the ruined land, while mysterious earthen creatures emerge from the deepest caverns of dead Kastmaria. Humanity's end seems inevitable. For when the Element rises, tyrants will fall, prophecies will be fulfilled, and a new war will embrace the world.
*Cover Image, "Gold Dust," courtesy of LadyChristina on deviantART*
~THE ELEMENT RISING~
No one had ever defied the Advocation. No one had ever dared.
But now, on the birthday of the late Queen Amabel, atop the undulating hills of a raging sea, the rebel organization of the Silver Haze seemed at the height of victory. If only they could secure the Advocation capital of Eklaze; if only they could capture the Advocate, the tyrannical leader holed up in its thickest building; if only…
If only we could survive.
Indeed, there was a high chance that they would—Captain Andrew Hayes was confident of that. Everything would fall into place: as Hayes and his fleet charged down the Aramathian Sea, the Advocation's attention would be turned towards them, giving the infantry a much needed advantage against the soldiers guarding the walls of the capital—a distraction Hayes fully intended to deliver.
And a damn bloody one, too.
While the naval attack commenced, it was up to the rebel spies, on the other side of the wall, to break through. It all had to be done quickly. Quickly and efficiently, the Captain thought, and without hesitation. Capturing the Advocate would prove no easy task, but Andrew Hayes was confident in the soldiers chosen for the job. In any case, he was always up to a challenge.
Provided there were no interruptions, no flaws in the plan, the Silver Haze would be victorious. Capture the Advocate, capture the Advocation; capture the Advocation...capture peace.
Fortune, simplicity, "things going to plan,"—these qualities were notoriously unforthcoming to Hayes throughout his life, but who was he to question destiny? No, he would direct his fleet, lead his soldiers, and accept the outcome of the night; though already, the night seemed to be resisting his every whim.
Heavy rain pummeled the decks of the Divine Gail, the flagship of Hayes's fleet. Lightning streaked dangerously across the dark sky and nebulous mist blurred any accurate navigation.
An explosion to Hayes' left wracked the vessel, sending forth a screeching sound that would deafen an ordinary man. Due to his prolific military experience, Hayes barely noticed. He had been a military man all his life, but he had left that life many years ago, when he started a family. Yet, the tragic rise of the Advocation had bid him return to military service.
Rebel service, more like.
"Captain!" a voice from his left called, "They've destroyed our cannons!" The sailor was fighting to keep his voice level, "if we stay, we'll be killed for certain!"
Another explosion erupted from an adjacent allied destroyer; its flags were sheared and its mast shattered, but the fallen ship stood erect as it sank, as if saluting in its final moments.
"Might be we'll have to retreat. We will regroup a few miles south of here, by Earthbreaker Bay. Mark the point and spread the order, make sure every ship knows of our rendezvous point." Hayes spoke in the loudest voice he could muster, having to speak over the thunder—both that of the sky's and the cannons'.
Before his subordinate could reply, Hayes noticed an incoming enemy ship. He issued quick orders. "Hard to starboard, and draw your swords! We have visitors."
His brown-haired first mate nodded. "I'll tell the others!"
Hayes turned just in time to see countless grapple hooks wrap around the thick mast of the Divine Gail.
"So you wish to dance," Hayes smiled grimly to himself.
The captain surged forward, as if meeting his partner in a waltz. Sword of the Summer, they called him, back in the ruined kingdom of Old Kastmaria. He was more than skilled with any weapon, and deadly with a blade.
He swung his sword at the first Advocation soldier to land on his ship, catching the intruder unprepared. A scarlet bloom flashed in the night, and the soldier fell, his neck burgeoned with blood. With his first target incapacitated, he turned to a second soldier.
The mere footman could never stand a chance against Hayes's unique swordsmanship; nevertheless, the soldier made a valiant attempt. Hayes parried a blow and swiftly brought down his blade in a counterattack. As the bloodied soldier crumpled into a heap, Andrew Hayes proceeded to dislodge the metal hooks that ensnared his ship.
Moments after, the Divine Gail's crew arrived to reinforce their Captain. Hayes fell back to have a word with his first mate, Joshua Andes, who was rolling several caskets of emberstone to his station.
"Keep it up," Hayes said, "We should be receiving confirmation of the Advocate's capture in due time. Search the seas for a scout ship bearing our flag."
"It will be done," Joshua acknowledged and took his leave.
"Hold," Hayes ordered, grabbing Joshua's shoulder with battle-scarred hands, "I see it now."
Even in the deterring fog, Hayes was able to discern, in nearby waters, the white and gold flag of the Silver Haze. The small ship docked itself to the Divine Gail and soon the scouts stood before the Captain, arms in salute.
"At ease," Hayes muttered dismissively, "How fares the battle in Eklaze?"
"He is not there…"
Who is not where? "Explain yourself," Hayes demanded of the scout, as sweat began to mix with rain. He dreaded the answer but hoped against the worst.
"The Advocate!" the man answered, equally shaken, "He was not in the throne room, nor in any room of Acedia. He must have escaped. Our men were completely wiped out when they too tried to escape from Acedia Palace."
"That is not possible," Hayes shook his head incredulously, "The Advocate was seen there an hour ago, we had all the exits covered, he must have known we were coming and must have hidden himself inside!"
"The Advocate does not hide."
The sentence was short; the voice, chilling. The thunderstorm seemed suddenly to halt and the downpour of water froze mid-air. Time was irrelevant as Hayes spun around; before him, stood the Advocate. On the slippery decks of the Divine Gail, stood the leader of the largest nation on earth. The Advocate was tall, nobly garbed and shrouded in a mask of gaudy rings and jewels. No human's presence so darkened the atmosphere as the Advocate's, and as he spoke again, Hayes found no voice, no will to speak.
"The Advocate does not hide," he said again. "What would the people think?"
"I'll tell you what I think—" Joshua began.
"You, mongrel, are no person," the Advocate countered, silencing the first mate, as quickly as death would silence the living.
"How are you here? How can you be here?" Hayes said. His eyes were wide with awe, and his mind felt numb.
"How? But whatever do you mean? I am the closest to God a human being has ever come. I can do what I please."
"God?" Hayes somehow found the defiant bravery to laugh, "There is no God."
It was the Advocate's turn to laugh, and he did so exuberantly. "No God? What ironic circumstance be this? How do you figure the absence of God? Where do you think I acquired my power? It is because of God, and God only, my dear captain, that I stand at the height of the world."
Hayes blinked heavily, his eyelids drooping under the weight of rain and anxiety. "But that is precisely why I know there is no God…at least not a loving one. What God would endow to a man such as you the might of a thousand nations?"
The Advocate's lips curved into a scimitar of amusement, though no one on the ship bore witness to it, "You think me…a monster?"
"Worse," Joshua spat.
"I would take your opinion into consideration," the Advocate mused, "But you are dust. And I shall scatter you in the wind."
"Enough," Hayes cut in, raising a steady hand before Joshua. He then eyed the Advocate, "Enough of your pretensions, enough of your haughtiness, and enough of your condescension. Your reign will end before the sun rises."
Hayes heard the Advocate hiss from behind his black mask.
"Red lines," the Advocate whispered, though no one seemed to hear.
Drawing his sword as his entire crew drew theirs, Hayes charged the lone Advocate, intent on rending the tyrant's body into pieces. With a wave of his gloved hand, the Advocate destroyed the weapons. The sleek, silver blades of the rebels seemed to burn and scatter, leaving naught but useless hilts. Any sense of normalcy that Hayes held in his mind rapidly disintegrated, just as his sword had disappeared in his hands.
The Advocate smiled, "This is—"
—The Advocate disappeared—
The Advocate's arm speared through Hayes' chest, his hand protruding from the sternum. As fast as the lightning trailing the clouds, the Advocate wrenched from his victim, the heart of the Silver Haze's leader.
Just as quickly, the Advocate released the Captain's shriveled body. Lifeless eyes of amber closed as Captain Andrew Hayes sunk to the wooden deck of his ship. Somewhere, Joshua Andes screamed. Somewhere, a plan went awry.
And somewhere, his son, barely a year old, cried for his parents.
© Philip Pham, 2010
Please don't plagiarize, or I'll sue you. :]