Prologue
A New Charge

AN 1196 (AZ 1433) - Early Summer
Girondin, Notos

The screaming from the other room hurt Simona's delicate ears. Was childbirth truly so painful for humans? Though she had never born any offspring of her own, no sister of her people ever made so much noise. She was thankful she had never been ordered to act as a midwife in her many years of service. They did not want one of her kind touching the newborn and she did not particularly want to sully her hands either. This was one instance where their mutual prejudice gave each side what they wanted.
As an Inguri, she knew the meaning of separation only too well. Her people had long been the objects of scorn and hatred of their brethren races. The lot of the outcast was familiar to every Inguri. Even in the rare times when they ruled over others, they were a people apart.
She was there when the forces of the Chaos Dominion first set foot on the shores of Notos. She was not a fighter, but mere entertainment for the men of her kind who led the legions of brutes and monsters. In one of the few successful counterattacks by the Notian army, she was captured by a man, a knight wielding a powerful enchanted blade. He offered to spare her life if she would serve his descendants throughout her years. Though the hated Alari in their contemptuous pride would claim her kind knew nothing of honor, she was bound by her word. And so she had served the men of that knight's bloodline for three hundred years.
"Simona, come here."
It was the voice of Carolus, the current head of the family and father of the child being born. As she entered the room, she saw the mother pale and drenched with sweat, her breathing shallow from her exertion. The midwife had just finished cleaning the infant and wrapped it in a fresh sheet. Carolus looked at the child and then to her.
"Go ahead," he said. "Hold him."
The midwife showed some hesitation before handing the child to her and the mother watched with great apprehension, but the father paid no heed to their concerns.
"This is my son," Carolus said, "my heir. You will protect him with your life and serve him all his days in accordance with the age-old pact you made with my ancestor."
How many sons had she held over the generations? How many men did she watch over from cradle to the grave? Would he be kind or cruel, clever or foolish, strong or weak, brave or cowardly? The ones before him came in all sorts, after all.
Simona ran her finger down the contour of the infant's face. The child reached out with his tiny hand and grasped her finger. For something so small, his grip was already strong. She sensed something special about this child, something greater than anything she had seen in a human before, and she smiled.