Prologue

The King's heart went cold as he heard the banging of a fist on the door. He nodded to the servant by his side to go and let the messenger in without saying a word to the group of men assembled before him. No one said a word as they all waited anxiously for the return of the servant and the messenger. They all prayed it would be good news.

For the King it felt like an eternity before the servant reappeared with an exhausted messenger behind him. The messenger waited by the door while the servant came and whispered in the King's ear.

"He wishes to address the Council," the servant murmured. "He says he alone can deliver this message."

"Very well," the King said, "let him speak."

The servant nodded to the messenger, who was leaning against the wall for support and looked like he would keel over at any moment. The messenger came and knelt before the King who's face was lined with worry and age.

"What is your message?" The King asked.

"Another attack on our western border your Majesty," the messenger said. "Another ten soldiers have been killed trying to protect Ilria, the village closest to our border with Kerya, but the attacking forces were too strong. Anyone who opposed them was killed."

"Thank you," the King said hoarsely. "I will ensure you receive a warm bath and money for your pains."

"Thank you your Majesty," the messenger said before being escorted out of the room by the servant.

"My Lords," the King announced after the messenger had left. "I am afraid there has been another attack on our western border with Kerya and ten more of our brave soldiers have been killed." This was greeted by bursts of outraged whispers. "You all know what this means," the King continued. "Last month I gave his royal highness, King Timon of Kerya an offer, stating that his forces would no longer attack our borders and kill our men and he would be allowed to keep the land his soldiers have already captured. He has clearly ignored my offer and will continue down the path he has begun. I am sure you all know what this means for us."

"But your Majesty," Lord Seth protested, "we don't have the same strength of men as Kerya, nor the same military training. How are we meant to fight them?"

"we might not have the same military strength as Kerya, but when a small country is threatened by one stronger and bigger than it they are expected to lie down and accept defeat. I will not allow that to happen here."

The gathered nobles roared in agreement, banging on the long wooden table and stamping their feet so the hall rang with noise.

"Varall will gather her forces and she will fight back against this monster that is threatening us. She will fight until the very last man has fallen before she will surrender to a bully, because that is what Kerya is. Who will join me?"

The room erupted in a surge of patriotic agreement. The King looked on at his loyal councilors as they demonstrated their support for their monarch. It should have made him feel proud that his people believed in him in this way, but instead he only felt fear. Thousands of his people could die in this conflict, and he was the one sentencing them in a war that might not be able to be won

"My Lords," the King bellowed again, "the war has begun!"