PROLOGUE – FATE (August 1st, Year 562)

August 1st, Year 562; Maisen Sheikaih, King - Samarie Island


The rain fell swiftly, mercilessly, and with a strength surpassing that of any storm in recent memory. Even the elders, with years stretching half a millennia or more, were baffled by it, but King Maisen Sheikaih remained perfectly still. He observed the day calmly from the highest level of his castle's courtyard, now a temporary courtroom for the battle between Maisen's only two sons: the princes Rhydaen and Cerabris. Such a location insured that Maisen could watch, with a better view than anyone else, the destruction of his dignity, his family, and everything else that he'd ever worked for. Still, confronted with such a profoundly twisted form of entertainment, the king's mind was not focused on the proceedings before him. He, like everyone else, couldn't help but concentrate on just one thing: the weather.

Though those in the courtyard tried to pretend otherwise, they all knew that their end fell in sheets and curtains of water around them. Enchanted to reflect the true nature of its inhabitants, the weather of SamarieIsland was a curse, a punishment dealt by the Night Elves' own gods as retribution for their pride and conceit. It was predetermined, unavoidable, and well deserved. The only saving grace was that maybe, if they were lucky, the rain would fall just hard enough to make them forget the atrocities that had led them to that day.

The toll of the high accuser's bell dragged the king back from his solemnity. A noticeable hush swept across the courtyard, but Maisen could still hear a few outspoken observers whispering their suspicions.

"Prince Cerabris has always been jealous of his younger brother."

"He was out for revenge."

"The king's favoured young Rhydaen even since they were children."

"That poor girl..."

Much of the crowd's focus was aimed toward the outermost edge of the courtyard, where there was chained a woman whom they all knew wasn't really a woman at all. She was a nixie: the product of an element and a soul, a human-like demon made only to be the prisoner of her creator. It was the result of experimentation into life and death: an action that the king himself had prohibited centuries before. It was a science that the Night Elves should never have delved into, part of the reason they'd been cursed in the first place.

The nixie's features were long and narrow, blanketed with skin as pale and flawless as the queen's once was. Her hair was a deep shade of red, dark yet bright like Rhydaen's. She almost seemed natural enough to delude a person into thinking she was real. Cerabris had chosen to name her Kyhauna, as if such a creature deserved a name. A nixie never breathed; she would never bleed. To Maisen, Kyhauna was an abomination that should never have walked the land. What disturbed him most was that this thing, this monster, had Princess Sayhali's eyes. It was as if he could see the poor child's soul behind the demon's facade. The wails of Sayhali's mother, the priestess Niala, could still be heard above the storm, a steady stream of tears adding to Samarie's already rising flood.

Maisen took another drink of the strong wine that had been placed in front him nearly an hour before. He suspected the idea had been some servant's small note of pity. Nothing could numb him enough. Across the courtyard, a train of solemn, dark-robed men deliberated amongst themselves—the chosen jury. A few moments passed before they each raised a hand to signal that they had made their final decision. High accuser Hakiema cleared his throat loudly before rising from his great stone chair. Both princes, the nixie, and the rest of the courtyard stood as well, but Maisen chose to remain silent in his seat.

"Prince Cerabris Sheikaih," Hakiema bellowed, "you are accused of sacrificing Princess Sayhali, the only child of your younger brother, Prince Rhydaen, and combining her soul with the dark waters of this island in order to create the abomination which we see before us. If you are found guilty, the nixie, who has committed no crime herself and is not bound by our race's curse, will be sent through a portal into the mortal realm; you will be sentenced to death. Do you have any final statements before the jury gives their decision?"

The silence around the courtyard was palpable. Cerabris, undisturbed until then, stretched somewhat stiffly and was about to reply before he was suddenly caught silent, staring wide-eyed at some unknown horror ahead of him.

It took a few seconds for another person to see it, and then another, and then the screams began.

Maisen stretched out his hand hesitantly and half a dozen red droplets soon splattered his skin, each shimmering surreally in the reflected torchlight. Around the courtyard, most people were in a panic, but there were still some who carried as many years as he did. Calmly, those few observed the phenomenon with the gravity which it deserved. The island had rained blood just once before, on the first day that they were cursed with it.

It was the gods' own recognition of Cerabris's guilt.