Book 1: Interlude I

After their defeat at Talus’ hands, Halldor’s fleet returned to Solus, the capital of the Nova Empire. This lightless city sat in the center of a frozen wasteland, sealed off from the rest of the world by mountains. The entire valley was covered in a blanket of ice and snow, with many powerful demons lurking throughout the vast wilderness. This land was the actual result of Hell freezing over.
The capital itself was a despotic metropolis buried in eternal darkness. If anyone tried locating the city from space, they could only succeed by spotting the dark eye at the heart of the continent. All of its citizens lived as prisoners beneath the Empire’s cold shadow. No one was allowed to go in or out of the city without permission. Airships hovered over the city day and night, watching over the people with their spotlights. The Imperial Palace sat atop an enormous, black pyramid, which stretched into the sky as a monument to its master.
There, General Halldor met with Emperor Alderic in his throne room, where he had been summoned to face his judgment. Standing next to Halldor was Kaiser himself, silently awaiting orders behind his draconic mask. To the Dark Lord’s left was his right-hand man, Lok, and the other Death Riders. The Emperor sat high on his obsidian throne, contemptuously looking down on the lowly general. The tyrant’s face was scarred with a cut that completely blinded his left eye, leaving only an empty whiteness that stared straight into the general’s soul.
“So, not only did you fail to retrieve the Star of Talus, but you also let the Princess use it to wipe out your entire army. If they get their hands on the other crystals, they could use them to topple our entire Empire.”
“Great Emperor, I sincerely apologize for this egregious failure. I—”
“SILENCE!” the Emperor only let out a fraction of his repressed rage in that one, furious shout. However, he immediately regained his composure before he continued. “This Ark Knight you speak of, you’re sure he’s the same one that has evaded us these past two years?”
“I’m positive! But I’ve retrieved one of the keys we’ve been searching for. I suggest we deploy our new army immediately. They will wipe out our enemies and gather the Stars for ourselves. And with their power, our Empire will be invincible!”
“Do not put so much faith in your armies, General,” Kaiser intervened. “Even with this new legion of soldiers we’ve created, perfected or not, their strength does not compare to the power of the Ark Knights.”
“Lord Kaiser, don’t try to uphold yourself with your ancient magic! You and your pack of wild dogs haven’t had the power to retrieve any of the crystals, nor have you succeeded in eradicating the kingdom’s armed forces!”
Kaiser instantly grabbed Halldor by the neck, sadistically squeezing the air out of his throat. The Dark Lord’s hand also began emitting a dark mist that wrapped around the general’s neck. Lok simply grinned as he watched his master literally suck the life out of him.
“Be careful, General. Try not to waste your breath.”
“ENOUGH!” The Emperor shouted, banging his fist on the arm of his throne.
Kaiser immediately dropped Halldor like a bag of dirt. The sound of him hitting the hard floor echoed throughout the Emperor’s chamber.
“We must proceed as planned. Halldor! Kaiser! You and your men will scour Astrelm for the remaining crystals. As for the Ark Knight and the Princess, bring them to me, alive! And Halldor, do not fail me again!” As the tyrant clenched his right fist, the crystal on his ring shined like a crimson fire burning with his own rage.
“Yes, your Highness,” Halldor said, gasping for air. As he rose back to his feet, he followed Kaiser and his Riders out of the room. The Emperor was left alone on his lightless throne, waiting inside his grand palace as the world outside continued to burn.

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