Dusk had fallen, and a pale moon was rising. There were no clouds to be seen that night, the sky above as black and fathomless as the inky depths below, and the stars dulled by the silvery radiance of the moonlight. Quiet and imploring, the occasional breeze would stir in the folds of the banners that hung limp atop the battlements, before quailing once more and dwindling to back into silence. Only the sea had not the grace to hold her tongue; her silver-crested legions each in turn rushing forth to charge the lands beyond the shore, only to be shattered on the rocks and thrust back into the churning depths. “Mercy,” they whispered as the clawed at the sands. “Mercy.” Her feet stung in quiet protest as she stepped forth into the water. The cold bit at her flesh with an unyielding malice, but she could not find it in her heart to care. About her shoulders was draped a heavy woollen cloak, pulled down by the earnest grip of the water, tugging, tugging, tugging out to sea. Gripped by a sudden daring, the wind whipped at her cheeks, lashing wildly at flaming hair. Mother’s hair, she recalled numbly. The wind died down again. Dimly, she thought of her father, he who had been so brave and so kind, so wise and so sad-- No- she stopped herself. He is gone. The reminder was sharper than any blade could hope to be. Gone, and can never return. She did not remember beginning to cry. Not a sound passed her lips, but the tears froze on her cheeks like tiny jewels, glinting forlornly in the moonlight. It would not be much longer now, she saw. The tide was high, the moon was bright, and the sails had already been unfurled. As was their tradition, the boat was waiting in the centre of the great black bay, rocking abidingly with each wave and tremor. It would be over soon. All that remained would be smoke, ash and memories. “Be brave,” he had told her. No words were needed to seal the promise she had made. An unspoken vow and an unspoken wish. The last thing he would ever ask of her. The last thing he would ever ask of anyone. It must be done. Ashen-faced, determined, the ghost of a smile chased across her features - features sculpted by the hand of hardship. Protect them. And she knew she would. All it took was a single spark. Soon the flames were twisting and dancing around the sails with the frenzied vivacity of a writhing, maddened serpent. Bright sparks and cinders crackled and spun into the air. Ashes all aglow floated down through the air like the first snow of winter, only to be quenched by the swirling waters below. There was a loud snap and the burning wood hissed with displeasure as the mast fell forward, crashing through the deck with a harsh chorus of cracking and splintering. A great plume of red and gold burst into light, and all at once the sky was aflame. Blinding, scorching, yearning-- And then it was black again, though the fire blazed on. She could not have said how long she stood there. Alone amidst the waves, the ice of the water battling the fire’s savage heat. From the charred skeleton of the boat that remained, smoke began to rise in a column of solemn certitude, and for a few moments the moon’s soft glow was obscured by a pillar of naught but grey. And so it was that Draco Lonmar, the first true king of Altera, embarked on his final journey.