Adventures Ahead: ‘The Herald of the Flame’
Any crews who visited Plunder Valley during the recent events of ‘The Sirens’ Prize’ would have found themselves making some new and unexpected acquaintances. Their trip to the Sunken Kingdom, and subsequent retrieval of three long-lost treasures on Belle’s behalf, was courageous enough to convince an Ancient Priest and his acolytes that pirates are worthy comrades. At the Adventure’s conclusion, they pledged themselves to the cause of defending the Sea of Thieves.
It’s always good to have allies, especially in a world where the likes of Phantoms, Ocean Crawlers and Ashen Lords delight in picking fights with any pirates they encounter. But who are these Ancients, and what precisely had Belle so concerned that she was willing to risk life and limb to secure their help? To answer all that, it’s best to start before the beginning…
Time of the Ancient Mariners
While the Pirate Lord is often considered responsible for ‘creating’ the Sea of Thieves as it currently exists, he was far from the first to set foot upon its shores. Others had previously pierced the Devil’s Shroud – but none, perhaps, left so significant a legacy as the enigmatic civilisation now known as the Ancients.
Not only were the Ancients capable fighters and seafarers, they displayed remarkable mastery of the Sea of Thieves’ special qualities. Over lifetimes, they formed their own pact with the merfolk and constructed great storehouses for their vast treasures, leaving behind plenty of powerful artefacts – and quite a few cursed relics – when they suddenly departed.
Why the Ancients chose to leave their home, and where they sailed to, was a profound mystery for many years, though Belle’s recent intervention has provided an answer. The Ancients undertook a mass exodus into what they called their ‘Sea of Tribute’, an ethereal realm that pirates know better as the Sea of the Damned.
Not all the Ancients were able to make the trip. The spirit of their legendary Great Warrior remained unaccounted for, trapped in skull fragments long since stolen by the Sirens. By retrieving these fragments and reforming the skull, Belle was able to release the soul of the Great Warrior to be with his kin once more. In return, the Ancient Priest has sworn that when the time is right, he will answer her call.
Fanning the Flame
Years spent exploring the Sea of the Damned may have given Belle extensive knowledge of the Ancients and how to secure their loyalty, but it was a card she played reluctantly, having stumbled upon one of their most troubling prophecies. It details a looming Time of Resurrection, when a powerful enemy is destined to return and wreak havoc upon the Sea of Thieves.
Belle believes that this can only be referring to Captain Flameheart, who has haunted the seas in a spectral state since his release in ‘The Seabound Soul’. Given the chaos he caused when manifesting as little more than an ill-tempered cloud, the damage inflicted when he reclaims a physical form could be catastrophic – and his return would serve as a rallying cry for The Reaper’s Bones.
The Servant of the Flame, meanwhile, is aware of this omen and will be striving to ensure his father’s rebirth comes to pass. After all, Belle only discovered the prophecy’s existence while exploring the lair of a man who was instrumental in the creation of The Reaper’s Bones, and whom she now suspects will assume a fated role as the Herald of the Flame. A man named Stitcher Jim…
A Stitch in Crime
Before the Sea of Thieves had so much as been given its name, Stitcher Jim was working to undermine it. Sneaking into Ramsey’s pirate paradise and beginning his days as a devoted servant of the Gold Hoarder, Jim eventually found himself switching sides after being saved from a fiery fate in The Devil’s Roar.
His rescuer was none other than Wanda, the Warsmith, at the time fiercely loyal to Flameheart. Jim immediately pledged his own allegiance to the Flame, all too eager to throw his lot in with the Reapers if it meant being in the good books of both his ‘beloved’ and the world’s most dangerous pirate – classic Stitcher Jim, in other words. He masqueraded as a Bilge Rat to acquire valuable resources, helped construct The Reaper’s Hideout and ultimately fooled Arthur Pendragon into freeing Flameheart’s spirit.
And yet, Jim’s loyalty was repaid with unexpected betrayal during the ‘Heart of Fire’ Tall Tale, when he became an unwitting sacrifice in Flameheart’s plan to summon the Ashen Lords. Jim fled the scene in a blind panic, and nobody has laid eyes on him since that fateful day. This leaves Belle unsure of what part, if any, Stitcher Jim is destined to play in the battle ahead.
It’s a question that may not be left unanswered for long, as the normally tumultuous Devil’s Roar has fallen eerily silent. Believing that the Time of Resurrection is almost at hand, Belle prepares to summon her pirate allies once more, hoping that they will uncover the truth behind the prophecy – and the whereabouts of the Herald of the Flame.
Events that have been unfolding since ‘Heart of Fire’ will reach a crescendo when ‘The Herald of the Flame’ launches on October 13th. You’ll have two weeks to scout for Stitcher Jim before the Adventure reaches its end on October 27th, so get ready to return to his hideout at Liar’s Backbone and finish what was started all those months ago. Oh, and be sure to keep an eye out for an old friend along the way…