Chapter One: Dead Freeze*

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Dedicated to: ceara_kyara

"Now is the winter of our discontent."
-William Shakespeare


A travel weary messenger pleads with the guards standing at the gates of King Eren's castle.
Prince Vernon, second-eldest of the nine - well, formerly nine, now 8 heirs of the Lornaldi royal family noticed the commotion and made his way over.

A hush fell over the men as the prince approached. Though already well into his late thirties, Vernon still managed to cut a striking figure in the traditional white and gold colours worn by the islands royalty.

"Lieutenant, what seems to be the problem here?"
He asked in a deep, rich voice.

"Your Highness," said the men in unison, fumbling to bow before him as was custom when near a member of the royal family, or any other person of nobility.
"This man is speaking nonsense. He claims he is a courier from Aelford and that he brings with him an urgent message from Queen Adelaide. Sir, Aelford is ruled by the young king Xander, there is no Queen Adelaide," the stout guard explained, keeping a straight posture.

The messenger leaned in.
"Your Highness, if you'll allow me to explain."

The prince nodded curtly.
"Go on," he said, gesturing for the messenger to speak. The messenger continued, a sheen of sweat appearing on his young, acne covered face.

"I require an audience with your king. It is an urgent matter, as King Xander has been pronounced dead, his younger sister Adelaide has since been coronated as the new queen of Aelford."

Prince Vernon felt the colour leaving his face. Whilst he had not recognised the name of the kingdom, he certainly remembered the names of the two siblings his scheming younger brother had attempted to destroy.

"Guards," began the prince, worry flooding his heart.
"Let this man in at once."

King Eren soon sat upon his throne, listening intently to the harrowing tale the young man weaved before him. He stroked his salt and pepper beard as he heard of the neighbouring Aelford falling under siege to the ruthless and merciless Vikings, men who many considered the scum of the earth, who preferred to rape, pillage and conquer instead of adopt diplomacy and forge peaceful relationships between countries. The messenger explained how the good King Xander had fought valiantly against the scourge until he succumbed, leaving Adelaide with no choice but to become ruler.

The news washed a wave of woe over the aging monarch as he realised that if the Vikings succeeded in their occupation of Aelford they would surely be coming to his own next. Deep down, he knew that with his highly trained army and large fleet of the fastest warships in the world, Lornaldi would be more than a match for the Vikings.

What weighed the heaviest on his already busy mind was that if he were to send one of his sons to Aelford to give assistance, he would leave his own country weaker, more vulnerable to the barbarians, should they attack. Despite this, he realized he owed a great debt of gratitude to the late king for not executing his youngest and most wayward son for his grievous crimes. Sending troops to repay this debt would surely be enough, but sending any of his offspring to lead the troops would undoubtedly be a suicide mission, as the commander is always the first to be killed in the event of capture.

Most of his children were either married, or engaged to be married, and leaving any of his grandchildren without a father was almost too much for the old king to bear. All of a sudden, a brilliant idea sprung into the king's mind.

"Thank you young man. Your loyalty to your kingdom is admirable. Aelford will receive aid from us. Now please, rest, eat. You appear so thin that I'm almost afraid you'll break in two."
With these words, the young messenger breathed a sigh of relief before bowing deeply to the king.

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