Sword of Rhivenia fanfic

Another current work in progress that I love. I’ll be buying it when released, and if it comes to Steam, I will be gifting it to some friends.

This is a one-shot, and no major spoilers if you played the demo.


Queen Katherine sat astride her horse, worry marring the face of the young monarch. Her opposite number, King Erwan, awaited her in a tent set half-way between each army. She was about to order the gates to open when a hand grasped her wrist. She’d seen the owner of the hand break bones and kill many foes, but now it was as light as a feather, reminding her of her mother’s caress.

“Your Highness,” Sir Arnold said, then in a much lower voice, “…Katherine…at least let me go with you. Please.“

Katherine’s small hand patted that of her instructor and friend, “I know, but I can’t. If we are to make peace…”

“But can they be trusted?” Sir Arnold asked, his eyes focused on the one person to leave with Katherine, the southern born Princess Astryn.

“One can,” Katherine said, steel infusing her voice in a manner Arnold was still unaccustomed to, “Open the gates.”

The mechanical monstrosity groaned as levers were pulled, and gears started to creak. Once fully opened, the two youthful royals, bid their horses to go forward. All was quiet other than the hooves of their mounts striking the ground.

Astryn’s emotions warred with themselves. She was going to see King Erwan and all the rest, and yet another part wanted to find some way to grasp Katherine’s hand, to urge her back to the safety of the castle.

“You have a beautiful horse,” Astryn said by way of conversation, hoping that it might calm her concerns about the meeting with Queen Katherine and King Erwan, “What’s her name?”

“Shadow,” Katherine said, patting the mare’s mane affectionately, earning a whinny at her gesture.

“Shadow?” asked Astryn,”Interesting name for a…”

“A brown horse?” smiled Katherine, “I get asked that a lot, but you will be the first to know why.”

Intrigued, Astryn leaned forward slightly as Katherine continued, “You know I was the fourth child. Only two times in Rhivenian history has the youngest been chosen to rule. My father, Richard, Atheris…it always felt like I was in someone’s shadow.”

Astryn’s lips quirked slightly, “Your secret is safe with me.” She looked ahead nervously, fear gripping her as Erwan and his friend Allen entered the tent first. “Are you sure you want me here? Surely you know how it will look…”

Katherine reached out, squeezing Astryn’s hand, “I think you should know by now that I am not concerned by what others think of me. And I…I trust you implicitly.”

Astryn shivered at the touch, aching to reciprocate it, but didn’t as she felt both sides focused on the two of them. Instead she dismounted, opening the flap of the tent to let Katherine go in.

It took a moment for the women’s vision to adjust to the dim light. Katherine took the seat opposite Erwan, a table separating the two of them by a mere foot. He smiled as Astryn took standing position to the side, “Between the two of us, I want to thank you for keeping Astryn safe.”

Katherine blushed slightly, “I made a promise: no one would harm her ever gain.”

“And yet that didn’t extend to the scouts you captured, did it?” Erwan said with a frown.

Katherine wilted slightly under his scrutiny, but nodded “If I had known, if I had any say in the matter, I wouldn’t have allowed it to happen.”

“But the one who did it, are you going to bring them to justice?” Erwan said righteously.

“And would you do the same for the ones who butchered Daemir’s men?” Katherine said, fury in her tone, “I know not all his men died in combat; you aren’t the only one with spies in their enemy’s camp. What about chopping off their head and sending it back in a sack? Was that your idea?”

Erwan blanched slightly at the young queen’s fury, while Allen turned his head aside when he felt Astryn’s gaze fall upon him. Then all the anger left Katherine’s body, sadness making her seem much older than her seventeen years displayed.

“Lady Isabelle should be tried and hung for her crime,” Katherine said, “But it is hard to conduct a fair trial in a time of war?”

“Fair trial?” Erwan sneered, “Was my father given a fair trial when Charles had him killed? When my mother had to run for life?”

“No, they weren’t,” Katherine said, momentarily shocking Erwan with her agreement, “Nor was it fair when you and yours poisoned my people. Men, women, children, all who died so you could get at my soldiers.”

“It is war; there are always casualties,” Erwan said, though Astryn couldn’t help but notice that some of it sounded like deflection.

“Maybe so,” Katherine said, “And yet, I’m willing to it go. The bloodshed must stop; otherwise, years, decades, maybe longer of violence will continue. What would it take for you to agree to peace?”

Erwan gazed at Katherine, feeling a bit unsettled. Something about her told him she was sincere. Before Erwan could say anything, Allen laughed, “Can you believe this? How could the Rhivenian’s choose someone so…so…foolish…to assume the throne?”

Astryn grimace since she had said much the same thing many times before. She wanted to say something, but Katherine stopped her “They didn’t; that was the Sword. And you aren’t exactly the first one to say that about me. You won’t be the last.”

Allen let out an exasperated laugh, “Have you no pride? Why…”

Allen stopped when Erwan put a hand on his chest, “Enough. You want to know what it would take for there to be peace? Only the death of Charles’ heirs will suffice.”

Katherine tilted her head slightly, “Would one heir curb your vengeance? The one you see before you?”

Astryn felt sick to her stomach, hating the way the talks were going, and yet something told her that Katherine was sincere in her offer.

Silence filled the tent as Erwan weight the offer, then he shook his head. “I’m afraid the answer is no. But I should thank you for at least making get the first one a lot easier.”

Erwan launched himself across the table, grabbing Katherine tightly by the arm, while Allen firmly pressed downward, preventing Katherine from rising. However, their actions proved useless as Katherine offered no resistance. Astryn was paralyzed for a moment by this action, but found her hand hovering toward the hilt of her sword.

“Don’t,” Katherine told Astryn, offering her a gentle smile.

“But,” Astryn tried to say, seeing looks of dismay on Erwan’s and Allen’s face.

“It’s alright,” Katherine said, as the two men brought her to her feet, “I knew they had no intention of honoring the peace.”

“Please,” Allen said, “trying to sound like you expected this after your capture…it doesn’t look good on you, your highness.” The title was said with such sarcasm, Astryn was slightly taken aback by the emotion.

“If anything, you should be thanking us for doing you a favor. Did you honestly think you could rule without getting your hands dirty?” Allen added.

“No,” Katherine said, “But at least I will be bringing down those who would do my people harm.”

Katherine said this with such conviction and certainty, it gave Erwan pause. He immediately started to look around the tent, expecting someone to emerge from underneath the folds. His action stopped when Katherine began to give a mournful laugh.

“Poisons are funny thinks don’t you think?” Katherine said, “So many people in my life dead because of them. It only seemed fitting that I should dip my toe in that hellish brew, don’t you think?”

“What do you mean?” Erwan asked, when Allen suddenly collapsed to the table, his eyes starting to bulge while his right hand clung to his throat. Then Erwan started to feel a tightness in his chest, and he slid back into his chair, trying to remain upright.

Katherine coughed slightly, and a small drop of blood dribbled down her chin, “Whatever they say about me, at least it won’t be hypocrite. You were dead the moment you laid hands on me.”

Astryn felt a great sadness and terror fill her chest as those near and dear to her started to die around her.

Katherine laid her head on the table, eyes gazing on a distant shore the living can’t quite see. “Astryn…are…are you there?”

“Yes,” Astryn said, grasping hold of Katherine’s limp hand, but this didn’t seem to register with the dying queen, “Why…why do this?”

“I…I can’t see…hear…it doesn’t matter,” sputtered Katherine, “The Sword…not chosen…for…war…but…you are safe. You…antidote. I live…no one will harm you…especially me. Maybe…maybe with us gone…maybe that is e…e…n…o…”

Katherine closed her eyes for the final time while Astryn considered what she could do. As it was, she was the sole ruler of the southern alliance. Maybe, Astryn thought as she made her way to the Southern lines, maybe Katherine bought enough time to forge a new peace, however tenuous especially if it was true the next Rhivenian king or queen got the previous one’s thoughts.

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Katherine closed her eyes, the sound of instruments and a clear, soprano voice momentarily taking her from the flurry of activity surrounding her.

A sharp, stabbing pain wrenched Katherine out of her reverie, Lena’s hand pressing tightly enough to leave a red mark.

“Sorry, beloved” Lena whispered with a faint hint of mockery and amusement, “Good thing I caught you; it wouldn’t do to embarrass yourself on our wedding night, would it.”

Katherine took a deep breath, remaining silent as Lena continued to lead on what Katherine hoped would be the final dance of her wedding night. Despite her agility and coordination in battle, she had two lead feet when it came to dancing. Of course, it didn’t help it was one of the few times she actually wore a dress, and its unfamiliarity also affected her balance.

Then again, Katherine thought, it wasn’t a skill that father would encourage.

Eventually the music came to an end, and Katherine sat on her father’s…no, her throne while Lena sat on one that was just as ornate, and certainly more comfortable than her own. She remembered the dispute that rose up where both Isabelle and Alvena, in a rare moment of agreement, argued that Lena, as the lesser queen, should be seated in something less grand than Katherine’s throne. However, knowing how precarious Rhivenia still was even after Erwan’s defeat, Katherine also knew it would be stupid to antagonize her betrothed at this time, and so the craftsmen made a throne reminiscent of Lena’s back home, just slightly smaller than Katherine’s.

Ting! Ting! Ting!

Katherine straightened slightly as she saw her half-brother Richard rise from his seat, hitting the side of his wineglass with a knife.

“I’d just like to propose a toast to the happy couple,” Richard said, “I hope the two of you will find joy as you spend your lives together.” His eyes flicked down toward a blonde woman, Clara seated beside him, his smile growing larger while she fidgeted slightly, stuffing a bun into her mouth.

Katherine ground her teeth, and bit her lip as other people started to propose their own toasts in turn. It was tempting to drown her discomfort in alcohol after each statement, but she’d rather not vomit in front of her family and nobility.

Eventually the festivities drew to a close, some people passed out at their tables, while others staggered to their room. Katherine let loose of a sigh as she realized this particular burden was finally over, and exited down a side door before anyone else could approach her.

The young queen climbed up the battlements, stopping near a crenelation. She exhaled slightly, the air misting over as she gazed into the night sky. The stars seemed especially bright this evening, almost as bright as the first time she truly witnessed them when she was but a girl of six. She smiled slightly as the first flakes of snow started to fall from the sky.

Lena found herself sharing a drink with her brother Xavier, former captive of Rhivenia and the newest crowned king of Asinea. She drained her drink, the third of the night. Lena was going to have to pace herself unless she wanted to end up drunk.

“Whatever else I might say about my wife,” Lena said, pausing a moment, tasting the words but finding them wanting, before continuing, “The person she put in charge of her drinks almost makes marrying her worth it.”

Xavier frowned at how dismissive his sister was of Katherine, instead offering “You mean Jarean? Yeah, it is kind of funny how she stumbled across him.”

Lena leaned back, “You know his name? Then again, you did spend a lot of time here, so it was inevitable you would meet or hear about everyone. What I’d like to understand is why you champion Katherine so much.”

Xavier’s face grew a little haunted, but powered through since all those memories were in the past, “I’m not lying when I say she was the only person who gave a damn about my well-being.”

He pointed at Atheris, “Her hatred of me was much like her mother’s, free to reign abuse down on the son of a traitor. In a way, I could respect that since at least you know where you stand with her.”

“What about those two?” Lena asked, pointing out Freya and Richard, “From what I’ve learned, they didn’t hurt you at least.”

“No, but neither did they stop it,” Xavier said, a low growl in his throat, “If you are a witness to an evil, disgusted by it even, but do nothing to prevent it…then as far as I’m concerned, you are almost as bad as those perpetrating it by simply looking away.”

Xavier took a deep breath, forcing himself to calm down, “But Katherine…Katherine was the only child willing to defy her father, at least in the ways that mattered. She made sure I was fed, did her best to make end the abuse, and ultimately helped me escape.”

Lena nodded thoughtfully, remembering the last battle which took down King Erwan. Of all those on the battlefield, Katherine was silent as the grave she sent scores of men and women into.

“I get that,” Lena said, “Especially since she seems to have disappeared from the wedding party.”

“She’s probably on the battlements,” explained Xavier, “I know she could be found there when she wished to be alone.”

“Interesting that you know where she is,” Lena remarked teasingly, “As if you are infatuated with her. Perhaps you should’ve married her instead of me.”

Xavier said, “It wouldn’t have worked. It was obvious that she was attracted to those of the same sex. Plus there is something else to consider; while you live here, well, you aren’t in Asinea. So if you decide to get up to any machinations, be careful. I’d hate to lose my sister.”

Lena stilled, suddenly feeling a lot less of confident in her situation because her brother was right. Still, she quashed any doubts she had and headed outside.

Lena climbed the stairs, wishing she had brought a coat as snow continued to fall gently to the ground. She spotted Katherine looking off toward the west, the snow giving the impression of a frosty crown.

“You’re going to catch your death if you stay out here much longer,” Lena said, a little unsure of how to talk to her wife.

“Can you honestly say that prospect would bother you?” Katherine asked, turning slightly as her light green eyes met Lena’s.

“As my dear brother reminded me,” Lena said, deciding to be honest, “I’m not in Asinea anymore, so you are the one to hold the power.” At least for now, Lena thought.

Katherine chuckled, “And my father would be turning over in his grave if he knew I was chosen to lead.”

“Why is that?” Lena asked, brimming with curiosity.

Katherine shrugged, knocking most of the snow loose, “My father hated me. Really, all of Alveena’s kids, but me especially.”

“Aren’t you being a little melodramatic?” Lena asked, crossing her arms.

Katherine pressed a finger to her forehead, “I might agree with you, but since I have his memories, well…I know. My mother’s marriage was a political alliance, and once Isabelle was rendered sterile…well, father needed as many viable heirs as possible.”

She shrugged, “Richard was to much of a playboy, wanting to be loved by everyone. To be honest, he needs to grow up, having had everything handed to him on a silver platter.”

Lena listened with fascination as Katherine dissected her own siblings apart, “You can’t say that about Atheris. To be honest, I thought she would seize the throne.”

“That sounds like something Atheris would do,” Katherine agreed, “Except the sword chose me. Her problem is the throne was a means to an end, to show up Richard. And if she got it, what then?”

“War?” offered Lena, thinking of everything her spies had dug up on the oldest daughter.

“Exactly,” Katherine said, “She sees herself as a warrior queen…and much to the detriment of the country.”

“What about Freya?” Lena asked, “I mean, if Charles wanted worthy heirs, then she would be a disappointment.”

“You would think so,” Katherine said, “The thing is, he actually respected Freya’s defiance; it took a measure of strength not to become another Atheris. Of course, I think she also reminded him of his brother Francis.”

“Which he put to death,” Lena added as an aside.Katherine laughed, her voice reminding Lena of bells, but causing the Asinean queen to laugh “What’s so amusing?”

“Sorry, just remembering when my father first took me to the forest to hunt,” Katherine explained, “I got him to admit that he would not hesitate to put any of us, including Richard to death. Then I called him an evil man.”

“A need to speak truth to power? I imagine that didn’t go well” mused Lena, “But what happens if you are the power?”

“That’s when I hope those around me like my advisors or spouse would tell me what I need to know, what they think I wish to hear,” Katherine whispered.

“So everyone keeps saying you have your father’s memories,” Lena said, “Is there anyway to prove it?”

“Hmmm,” murmured Katherine as something stirred from the depths of her unconscious, from a time when Charles was able to trust Oliver, Lena’s father.

“My father was at your court. Him and your father just hammered out a trade deal of some kind when they passed you in the garden. You were playing a lute, singing…how did that go…oh yes…”

“Water and Air, Fire and Earth,
Sing of love, life and mirth
Fire and Air, Earth and Water
Give strength to never falter
Earth and Fire, Water and Air

Destiny answer this prayer…”

Lena interrupt, “Earth and Water, Air and Fire; Let love be our heart’s desire. There is no way you can know this.”

“For what it’s worth, I thought it was beautiful. Maybe you could sing it sometime,” Katherine said, “But if you prefer to despise me for what my father did, I can’t blame you. I’m already living intimately knowing one person hates me; I can certainly bear one more.”

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