he cold rain hammered down like a waterfall. Combined with the gray clouds shrouding the sky from horizon to horizon, it was blinding. Peering around the corner of a peasant’s cottage at more of the shacks, sheds, and pigpens that made up the ramshackle village, Anton Marivaldi took solace in the reflection that the enemy couldn’t see him and his crew either.
Then darts of crimson light leaped out of the gloom and streaked at Atala. Like her captain, the pirate with the wheat-blond braids had been trying to spot the foe, and now she sought to duck back down behind the donkey cart she’d been using for cover. She was too slow, though, and a pair of the arcane missiles pierced her face. They didn’t leave holes or any sort of visible wounds, but Atala flopped down in the mud, shuddered for a moment, and then lay still.
“I stand corrected,” Anton murmured. “Someone can see.” Perhaps the wizard had worked magic to sharpen his sight.
nton Marivaldi grew up in the port city of Sapra in the mercantile republic of Turmish. His wealthy and well-respected family had always devoted itself to trading and the defense of their homeland in equal measure, and both traditions were bound up with sea. Some Marivaldis commanded merchant caravels while others served in their country’s navy.
It was the latter course that attracted Anton, and he became even more eager to enlist when Turmish went to war with its neighbor Akanûl. Unfortunately, he was still too young. He envied his older brother Rimardo, who was already serving aboard a warship.
Anton finally came of age just as his country and Akanûl made peace, whereupon Turmish put a goodly portion of its war fleet into dry dock. None of the ships that remained afloat had a berth for a newly commissioned junior officer, and so the navy set him to work as a customs official on the docks of Sapra, a boring, lubberly job.
Disappointed, Anton became a wastrel. This dismayed his father, who soon refused to pay for his son’s extravagant and dissipated lifestyle.
It was then that smugglers offered Anton bribes to look the other way when they moved contraband ashore, and he accepted. He recognized that, technically, he was betraying his responsibilities, but the tedious duties of a customs official were so divorced from the exciting seafaring life for which he yearned that the malfeasance felt trivial. And once turning a blind eye became a habit, he no longer felt moved to take action even when the smuggled articles were implements of dark magic.
Then a horde of demons appeared in the heart of Sapra and slaughtered scores of people, Rimardo included, before the city’s defenders managed to destroy them. Afterward, it came out that that an ambitious noble had summoned the fiends as the opening move of an attempted coup and that he’d employed items Anton had allowed ashore for the purpose.
Anton realized his responsibility for all the deaths and destruction would inevitably come out, too, and that once it did, the authorities would arrest, try, and execute him. Accordingly, he fled.
Afterward, believing it absurd to cling to notions of honor and decency when all the world knew him for the villain he truly was, he sought a place aboard a pirate ship. In time, his swordsmanship, seamanship, and daring made him one of the most feared reaver captains on the Sea of Fallen Stars, a merciless predator despised in every civilized port and not much better loved even by his own kind on Pirate Isle.
In short, the heroic naval officer he once aspired to become is as dead as any dream could be. He follows no flag and serves no cause but his own. Yet as the storm that is the Sundering sweeps him up, he may just discover that its fury can make a champion of even the unlikeliest of men.