“Admiral Naron, the assault force is ready. Our destroyers are in position, with the battlecruisers and supercarriers further behind. We’re waiting for your signal.” Admiral Naron stood there for a minute, looking out the massive battleship’s main bridge tower at his fleet’s position; more than 15 ships, all churning the roaring waters from their oil-fired boilers. He looked at his pocketwatch, and gave the signal. “Commence operation HAMMER FIST. Crush them.” The huge, 15-ton iron bell on the top of the ship rang three times, shaking the bridge as it did so. Massive salvos roared away from the ships all at once. It looked like the entire world had just ignited. The impact on the tropical shores of Arion Island off the nation of Hime was just as terrifying. The great cloud forests immediately burst into flames; the towering inferno consumed all, reducing mansions and expensive homes that characterized this island to choking piles of soot and ash. The blaze continued to spread so fast that it spread faster than even the fastest athlete could run. No one escaped. The main town on the island, Hibiscus City, was reduced to cinders within two minutes. 30,000 people were burned alive. The Wallachian Grand Fleet had brought a holocaust upon Arion rarely seen in Meteorologia’s history; all of this was in the name of proving absolute supremacy over the other nations, to force them into submission. This type of bombardment was more of a psychological terror than anything else, seeing your home burn to the ground, your friend screaming for your help, but not having anything to douse his burning, slowly roasting body with, and your life vanish in front of you would do far more damage than simply bombing for tactical reasons. This bombardment was only the beginning. The fighter jets from even more terrifying aircraft carriers positioned behind the main flotilla roared overhead in a spectacular display of Wallachian military might. The planes ripped into the already infernal maelstrom with machine-gun fire and yet more incendiary bombs, igniting what little forest remained unburned. The attacks came again and again, continuous strafing runs, carpet bombing assaults and rocket barrages from the arsenal ships literally burned the island itself to cinders, sand on the beaches was fusing to glass from the heat. The firestorm was creating its own weather system, with lightning in clouds of smoke and whirling fire tornadoes dancing across the crying land. Showers of scalding ash sealed the incinerated inhabitants of Arion in their final agony. Admiral Naron looked at this holocaust with psychotically happy eyes. His duty to the Wallachian Empire of Fire and the Flame Lord was fulfilled here, in battle on these massive warships, it always was, and it always would be. The Admiral let out a low, demonic-sounding chuckle as his mission was complete. “This operation is a success. Glory to the Inferno Cross!!” Naron screamed. His soldiers roared in applause. The mission of Wallachia was simple; it wasn’t conquest, but the unmitigated annihilation of all non-Wallachian peoples, those viewed as “inferior” by His Majesty Lord of Infernos and the House of Kulakov. The goal was genocide of the entire “weak” world, along with other, ulterior motives that definitely existed. Such horrendous scenes as the one that befell Arion Island were all too common in the world these days, the Wallachians were burning villages, scorching fields and enslaving entire countries, forcing them to become vassal states to Wallachia and taxing them with ridiculous fees and overages; often, if a vassal couldn’t pay the tax, they were usually sentenced to slave labor; often working in horrendous, inhumane conditions, laboring ceaselessly in the iron foundries, shipyards or engine-rooms of the awe-inspiringly gargantuan warships, some of the battlecruisers were approaching the size of the former German Empire’s and the British of WWI. People were often brutally injured by these machines, and then left to die in pain and suffering, even when pleading for medical care. Women and men were not given separate jobs; a woman could easily be sent to a dark, hazardous mine or foundry just as easily as a man could. Even as far as dictatorships went, Wallachia was hideously cruel. At least dictators in years past had the sanity to put women in different roles as men. Some of the things that happened between slaves in the mines and foundries were so gruesome that people who died were envied by those who lived. The policy with slaves in Wallachia and Wallachia-controlled territory was that all slaves were to be punished in equal measure for daring to challenge Wallacha’s supreme authority. And, like all colonies, when the usefulness of the colony reached its end, the colony and all of its unfortunate inhabitants met the same ghastly fate as Arion just had. This burned, barren land, however, wasn’t simply left to rot. Colonies of Wallachian people, “Valids,” as they were called by the Royal House, moved in and used the fertile, burned soil to grow such crops as wheat, grain and apple. In this way, the vast Empire of Wallachia killed two birds with one stone; they conquered new territory while totally destroying the enemy simultaneously. This system of pillaging and conquest had been so successful that now only the great nations and nations outside of Wallachia influence remained sovereign. There were so few small nations left to burn…it was only a matter of time before Wallachia set its sights on bigger targets; even though other nations had nothing but prayer to rely on for protection, Wallachia crushed them…but never went after the huge targets, such as those in Rodinia or Laurentia, two of the other major continents. For 20 long years, that was the reality, and it had caused some major political shakeups, such as the return of a massive Solar Caliphate, which stretched from the border with Hindustan and Li to the Pillars of Stone, with its capital in New Assyria; and was an enormous threat to Rodinia. Rodinia had created a united military just for stopping the Caliphate, informally called “Aleyadin Empire,” which had made two moves to invade Iberia and Lusitania, but was repelled both times. To be invaded by the Wallachians meant certain death, however, even if it didn’t happen right away; to die right away was to be spared an agonizing death; knowing this, when burgundy-uniformed Wallachian troops marched into a town, city or capital, the citizens begged for death, however, those that begged were often killed in the worst possible ways imaginable. As Admiral Naron’s fleet began steaming back into the high seas of the Great Misty Ocean, he was certain that there would be more conquests yet ahead, more lands to conquer, more people to kill, and more prestige to be had in the eyes of Inferno Lord Kulakov. Admiral Naron had enjoyed a reputation as one of the finest commanders in history. His brutal military tactics of eliminating all inhabitants of a conquered territory through nothing short of a genocidal massacre and inspirational voice among his men were legendary amongst Wallachian sailors and soldiers alike. He was never wrong, because the Seer always told him exactly what to expect at every engagement. As he stood on the bridge tower of the enormous arsenal ship, the fleet began playing through heavy seas; the bell on the top of the bridge was ringing audibly from the ships heaving in the moaning, howling wind and the crashing 30-foot seas. It was only due to the Admiral’s exquisite hearing that he heard the moaning cry of an Albatross-Eagle, huge bird-like creatures used as messengers across the vast, tumultuous seas of the Great Misty Ocean, these had only recently been discovered by science. Admiral Naron walked swiftly and purposefully out onto the decks of his ship, into the roaring wind, stinging, cold rain and crashing waves to receive the message from the enormous bird hovering over the deck, withstanding the massive white squall. He took a large, very old wooden chest from the eagle’s talons, and struggled against the heaving, rocking ship to get it back onto the bridge, out of the raging storm. As he brought it to his desk, flanked by two huge, flaming torches for light and warmth in the cold rain outside, he opened the box, a cloud of dust making him sneeze as the lock clicked open. Inside the ancient chest, he found a small scroll of yellowed, worn paper, peppered with holes along the edges. Admiral Naron looked at the map with wanting, lustful eyes. The object he had crossed half the globe to find, pillaging innumerable villages and towns to acquire, had just been dropped into his lap by a routine cargo delivery. As he gazed longingly at the scroll, it was his prerogative to share the news of the discovery to his crew, so that they could share in the celebration as well. Admiral Naron stood up from his desk and walked towards the mess hall, his huge steel-toed boots making huge clanking sounds as he walked along the steel floors. The interior of a Wallachian warship looked just as frightening as the exterior, cold, dreary and iron. The Admiral opened the door to the mess hall; and the entire crew stood up and snapped to attention from the steel, uncomfortable benches, attempting to keep their food on the table because of the ship’s rocking. There were huge torches lining the edges of the mess hall, each one shaped like a different gargoyle-shaped figure, and a huge, flaming candelabra hanging over the mess hall, this caused no small amount of concern during a storm, as it could easily crash to the floor, crushing the sailors eating their gruel-slop, containing every nutrient the body needed. There were huge red tablecloths with the eerie-looking Inferno Cross embroidered onto them, the symbol of terror the world over. “Prince Ferdinand, come forward!” the Admiral yelled in his loud, Slavic accent. Obeying the order, a very tall, lanky, 19-year old wearing an unusually elaborate Wallachian officer uniform stepped towards the podium at the far end of the mess hall. The Admiral saluted the Prince as he walked up the podium, placed his spindly hands on the sides of the lectern and began to speak. “Gentlemen of Wallachia, Admiral Naron has made a phenomenal discovery! The non-Wallachians are nothing but vermin, they cower from our forces and die like animals when we arrive, but the purpose of this war is not just conquest, it is to locate the 5 Sacred Icons. These Icons, if possessed by one entity, will give that entity the power of God himself. What I hold in my hand now, this scroll, is the map to the first Icon. We will find it!! We will be gods!!!” Ferdinand yelled, flailing his arms in the air in a very triumphant manner. The sailors stood up and cheered, and the guards, in full armor, kneeled in respect for Prince Ferdinand. Ferdinand Kulakov was the favorite of Lord Kulakov’s two sons, he was tenacious, brutal and didn’t take no for an answer. Imran, his older brother, was a soldier through and through AND just as good a tactical planner, very important, but not well enough for his father, as, according to him, fighting and planning were only part of the battle, despite the fact that war was just that. It was just one of his father’s weird, tyrannical quirks. Ferdinand was hailed as one of the greatest tactical planners in history, along with his brother, he had been instrumental in the war effort and he was also competent with any weapon as well. Ferdinand stepped off the podium as the General took his place. Ferdinand was always at odds with his brother; their sibling rivalry would only be exasperated by Ferdinand’s triumph in finding the Icon Map. However, if there was one thing Ferdinand envied about his brother, only a year older than he, it was his ability to find dates; unlike Ferdinand, who looked just like any woman wanted him to, Imran truly looked and acted like a prince. He had brown hair, always combed in a very neat manner with bangs partially covering his left eye, brown eyes, and a very handsome face and was as tall and lanky as Ferdinand was, just a year older. As such, girls liked him far more, for his brains and his appearance. Ferdinand had never been in love or a relationship, ever, and he was going to be 20 the following month. Ferdinand didn’t want to marry this girl that his father suggested for him, as he wanted to find a girl that would honestly love him, not just marry him under pain of death from his tyrant father. He knew who the girl was, a very pretty, pale-skinned, green-eyed girl with long red hair named Samantha Jinrich Lucembursky; she would definitely keep him happy, but still…Sam was a bit pushy and very high-maintenance, something Ferdinand didn’t want to put up with. She was from a Apollo-Felix family heavily involved in Apollo politics, they always had been, and she had been living in Wallachia for the past 3 years as a protector for the Royal Family, however, Ferdinand didn’t want to be her husband, despite the fact that Sam was always attempting to change his mind. His brother would be more of her type. However, finding his own girl didn’t seem likely at this point. However, he had no other alternative…unless… yes, he had made the fateful decision already. He’d rather be dead than married to a woman he didn’t love. He looked around his sumptuous, warm, richly decorated cabin aboard the ship, thinking about the life he was about to embrace. He had grown up in utter and complete splendor, now, if he fulfilled his destiny, he would be the god of the New World. Just then, his brother Imran approached him. “Well done, Ferdinand. You appear to have gained your father’s favor once again, but at least I have a better love life that you ever will. I don’t care about your achievements.” “That makes two of us.” Ferdinand replied. “I hope you have a nice life with Sam Lucembursky. I heard she’s a real handful, though. HA!” That she was; she loved nothing more than hoarding money, expensive jewelry, shoes, expensive clothes, expensive accessories, and living the high life. She was also trained in the ancient sword arts, and could literally run on walls, jump 30 feet in the air and perform feats that seemed superhuman in nature. The ship began to sway more heavily as the weather worsened; they were bound for the Wallachian Colony A-12, a military outpost in the conquered Koori Republic; Wallachia had absorbed most the Republic’s military into its own Armed Forces and most of the women and children were enslaved or massacred in concentration camps. The Land of Meteorologia was so-named because most of the major nations had control over a certain aspect of the weather; the Wallachian Empire controlled the power of fire and heat, and the soldiers were capable of shooting fire out of their hands, as well as using their incredibly powerful assault rifles. The Koori Republic was important because it was a stepping stone into the Midnight Sun Confederation, a fief of the Hime Empire of Mist; it was famous for its immense luxury hot spring inns; some of these were nearly 900 years old and had seen a lot of history. They were incredible works of art and architecture, with murals on the walls, classic Hime Oriental architecture, stained-glass windows, wood floors, hot springs, baths and massage parlors and plenty of food, booze and parties; however, most of the buildings were guarded by the legendary Hime 5th Paradise Tank Army Division of the Hime Colonial Forces, on guard for peace, especially against the Wallachians. Now that nearby Koori had fallen, the Hime Empire’s vast, well-equipped army, navy and air force was on high alert, ready to take the fight to the Wallachians and fight tooth and nail to defend their homeland if need be. The Hime people were not afraid of a little bloodshed, even though they were generally peaceful. The Hime people would not go quietly. The Wallachian mission in Koori was to examine the map with the help of the Wallachian Chief Scientist, Radu Araun. Ferdinand sat down back at his seat as Admiral Naron took his spot at the podium again. Ferdinand looked across the table and saw Sam sitting there, dressed in a long, tight-fitting black dress that hugged every curve of her 6-foot 3 frame, with her sword on the table in front of her, its scabbard decorated with gold leaf and silver, the blade itself had the words “Ehre, Freiheit, Vaterland” written on it. Ferdinand ducked his head, trying to avoid being spotted. Sam didn’t exactly like the fact that the bathhouses were threatened, she was a regular there and loved to live large, so to speak, not to mention party her ass off and have fun every night, much to Ferdinand’s dismay. Unfortunately for Ferdinand, hiding from her was no use. Sam spotted him immediately after she walked in. “Hey! What are you doing, hiding from me? I have a lot to talk to you about. Haha!” Sam giggled. She hugged him tightly, regardless of how much she annoyed Ferdinand; every time she hugged him, he got this warm, fuzzy feeling in his stomach. They had known each other for more than 12 years, and had been friends since they were introduced; Sam had since become Ferdinand’s protector and self-proclaimed “soul mate,” though Ferdinand begged to differ. “I missed you, where were you?” “You know very well where I was. I was overseeing the Colonies A-10 through B-1, you dope.” “Oh…so what about the plans involving the bathhouses in Hime? When we take them for ourselves, let’s go sit in the hot springs together, drink martinis and live like we mean it!” “For one, there are no such plans, second, no thank you!” “Why can’t things be like the way they were before? When we danced together at that masquerade party that Wallachians are so famous for holding? I’ve never seen such amazing costumes in my life…so elaborate, so detailed; they looked like gods and goddesses in full regalia!” “Sam, please stop getting all dramatic.” Sam was right; historically, Wallachia was the most respected Empire in the world, a grand civilization that produced the finest art, literature, culture, music, and architecture ever seen, and dazzled the world over. How such a beautiful civilization had fallen into such a barbaric state was beyond the comprehension of most people. Still, there was a plan to attack Hime, called Operation: FOXHOUND. The plan, concocted by the infamous General Kondor von Vultur, involved invading the fief of Midnight Sun Confederation, while launching a simultaneous assault from the conquered territory of Koori, keeping the Hime Imperial Army from focusing its forces on one particular area; combined with submarines sinking every civilian transport ship they could find to cut the supplies off to the island nation, and Hime would capitulate within a few months, starving and unable to continue the war. FOXHOUND would conclude with a full-scale invasion of the Hime Home Islands, coming in from all sides. The weather began to clear, however, as the ship began to sway less intensely. As Ferdinand walked out onto the deck from the main assembly hall, the misty rain was still falling, but the seas had calmed down enough to see the rest of the fleet, the huge battlecruisers slicing through the waves. Standing on the bow of his ship, however, was a human figure, with his back turned toward Ferdinand. He was not wearing a Wallachian uniform; it was blue and white with a black cape, he had a sword at his side and black hair, with some sort of crown on his head. “You there! Who are you?” The man turned around and looked at Ferdinand with stoic eyes. “My name is Prince Lucian Moonraiser of Hime…” he said in Japanese. “It is time for justice! Let the Knights of Justice crush the foul serpents with their heels, and may our shields shine the stone gaze of Medusa back at the horrors of this world, for we must fight or die!” Moonraiser screamed, again in Japanese as he lunged at Ferdinand with his blade drawn, running superhumanly fast. Sam, however, was there instantly with her sword drawn and both of them clashed blades loudly, it was bit entertaining to see Sam jumping around and fighting with a sword in her tight black dress, diamond earrings, black pearl necklace and heels, but she didn’t care. Ferdinand was in danger and she had sworn to protect him regardless. The two of them fought brutally for about 5 minutes, and in typical swashbuckling fashion, Sam knocked the sword out of Lucian’s hand, only to see Lucian teleport out of existence, just before she could kill him. “Are you ok, sweetie?” Sam asked, placing her sword back in its scabbard. “Yes…I’m fine.” “Good. Let’s go inside, you’ll catch cold.” Sam said, kissing Ferdinand sweetly. Just then, Sam’s face froze in terror. “Sammy, what is it?!” Ferdinand said, thinking that something was terribly wrong. “EEEEEEEEEK!!! A ROACH!!” Sam screamed, jumping into Ferdinand’s arms, causing him to fall over with Sam on top of him. “SOMEONE GET THE CAN OF RAID!!” “For God’s sakes! It’s an insect!” Just then, Imran walked out onto the deck and saw the scene. “Get a room you two, seriously!” “Bugs are disgusting; they scare me more than any crazy guy with a sword!” “What do you mean crazy guy with a sword?” Imran asked. “We were just attacked by a swordmaster named Lucian Moonraiser; he claimed to be the Crown Prince of Hime…” “That he is, and if he’s here, our worst fears are confirmed. We must move quickly if our plan is to survive. How the heck did he get aboard the ship?” “He can teleport. Sam was just about to kill him when he vanished. There’s his sword.” Ferdinand pointed at the katana lying on the deck. “Back when I was living in Mark Baronia, Apollo-Felix, there were these huge spiders in my house and…eek! The Inheritors, the highest rank a soldier can achieve in Apollo-Felix, which is 7 ticks above 5-Star General, would always tease me with these fake spiders and insects. Ehre, Freiheit, Vaterland…” Sam said, kneeling. Ferdinand knew that Sam was a fierce Apollo-Felix ultranationalist, but her heart was dedicated to protecting Ferdinand, even though he was not an Apollo-Felix citizen; technically, Apollo-Felix considered Wallachia an enemy, but was powerless to do anything because of the mysterious Seer. She was an outright corporatist, fascist, xenophobic, racist anti-Semite who hated all religion and wished to see Apollo-Felix dominate all of Western Rodinia. Sam was also affiliated with the Apollo-Felix Lightning Wielders, the electricity-manipulating weather knights that ruled Apollo-Felix; their Grand Master was the Supreme Leader of the Empire. Sam was capable of manipulating electricity, and she had become a master at it. She could electrify water vapor in the atmosphere in a static field, anything that touched one of the droplets would be instantly electrocuted; she would create a storm of super-charged rain with this ability, frying everything with an “electric flood.” The jagged Fulminata, or Sigtyr runes, decorated her family’s coat of arms, as well as the Lightning Wielder’s insignia. She wouldn’t do that unless she was really pissed at something, though. Unfortunately, she was very easy to anger. Just then, Imran heard the ding of a buoy bell. “We must be coming into port. Prepare for disembarkation.” Imran said, gruffly.