It’s tough running a country.
Especially when your father (the king) dies suddenly in suspicious circumstances. And at just twenty-two you have all the responsibility and decisions surrounding his kingdom hurled, like a heavy wet flannel at your face. That was where I found myself just over a year ago. I am Queen Ariane of Kelwyn, btw, and I’m taking brief respite from my duties and stresses to explain, dearest reader, about the awful mess we’ve fallen into. I need to vent, people, so please bear with me 🙂
I’ll start with father -King Nogel. Beloved by his people, strong, stalwart and fond of the hunt – which as you know led to his ruin. Or did it? I loved him. Nogel was a kind father, he doted on me – especially after mother died in childbirth, back when I was a wee girl. Baby brother died too, back then. They had no other children, only me. But father was strong, his love, optimism, and the adoration of his counselors and fighting men kept me going. I idolised Nogel and his warriors, some of whom taught me swordcraft, a skill that has proved invaluable of late. But when someone so steadfast dies so suddenly it’s like a lone oak blasted by lightning, the field surrounding it’s never the same.
Rumour had it father fell from his horse whilst pursuing the elusive white hart through Elglavis Wood. Yale Tolranna, my father’s aid at the time, informed me that King Nogel’s neck broke as a snagging tree limb pitched him from his saddle. But I have doubts about Tolranna’s account now, having recently encountered father’s shade in that willow glade on the Kelthaine border. It could have been a dream but I swear that it wasn’t. I was under duress, true, it being a very bad time. But I saw what I saw. Father’s fetch appeared just before dawn, its voice hardly a rustle of leaves, the words informing me how the king been murdered.
‘Who?’ I’d asked, as the colour fled my face. “Caswallon,’ the spirit replied as dawn’s stiff breeze stole its shadow from my teary eyes.
Caswallon. Back then he was our overlord, (the High King of Kelthaine’s) chief advisor. A clever, snake-eyed conniver, not liked – though feared by most in that land. And for good reason. A few months ago this Caswallon showed his hand. We all suspected him a sorcerer, but nobody realised just how powerful the ‘advisor’ had become until too late. Old snake-eyes struck fast. The High king was murdered by Caswallon’s associate, Rael, Master Assassin of Crenna, whilst my foolish cousin, Prince Tarin was coerced into placing the Crystal Crown on his unworthy head. A deed so heinous, it not only shattered the crown but broke the will of the people its chosen ruler had protected.
I had to act fast. I knew Caswallon had hated my father. Nogel was one of the few men strong enough to challenge his views, (the High King having been Caswallon’s poodle for so long.) But what could I do? Father was dead. I had my counselors and skill with a blade, but Kelwyn has a fraction of the power wielded by that other, larger realm. Our allies close by? They hate Caswallon too, but have their own issues. We could expect small aid from them.
Then the Dreaming fell upon me. Mother had it, they say – an altered state where the Goddess speaks to the dreamer through riddles and visions. After three such visitations I was left with no doubt of what I needed to do. What followed is narrated in the #TheShatteredCrown part of http://legendsofansu.com so I won’t go on about that now. Suffice to say as a young ruler I, Ariane of the Swords, found myself at war with a tyrant, backed up by necromancer allies he’d summoned from the other world. What chance did Kelwyn have? Well, funny that, it just so happened…
I hate cliches, but I’m going to steal one from your world, dear reader. Hope you don’t mind. ‘Come the moment come the man‘ – ugh! Awful! But how else can I describe the crazy, hectic and untidy arrival of Corin an Fol, rogue, renegade, scruffy dresser and ale guzzler. I loved him at first sight. Of course, I’d never tell him that – the great oaf! He saved us that day when the Groil creatures arrived. I acted frosty and lofty toward him. I am a queen and it was evident he didn’t wash much. That said, a relationship evolved between us during the harrowing months when we (my rag tag crew, including Barin the Northman and Longswordsman Corin, Cale the thief etc etc) set our valiant teeth against Caswallon and his allies.
Corin and I got off to a rough start. Shame really. Things have always been tricky between us, for several reasons, though mostly because of her. We almost got it together that eve near Crenna, but the weirdo wizard, Zallerak, (ponse in a cape as Corin describes him) chose to interupt our ‘magic moments,’ shattering the fragile chemistry like kettle steam on ice. Corin (idiot) stomped about and lost his temper and with that his one chance to bed a queen. My royal self having departed amid hasty storm clouds to sullen sanctuary in my cabin. And so it went for a while, frosty stares and sideways glances. Yearnings and mopings, not to mention the incident with the Sea God, which proved difficult to say the least. Then, as if we didn’t have enough problems, at Silon’s villa we encountered her.
My cousin Shallan. Sweet girl. Corin and I were just back on talking terms after the carnage in Port Sarfe -Rael the Assassin having set his nasty traps again. We arrived at Silon’s estate only to discover Shallan and her worn out father waiting for us. Word was they’d fled the ruins of Morwella where her father (the duke) ruled up there in the chilly north. Turned out Caswallon had allied himself with the barbarian king of Leeth, prompting a murderous horde from that land to put Morwella under the torch. I couldn’t give a toss, really. Shallan had her eyes on Corin.
My cousin is sly, reader. She will try and win you over. Do’t let her in. Shallan’s beautiful, sure – if you like that flossy, wavy haired, elf-dreamy kind of look. Certainly even subtle men stumble their words when mistress Shallan’s floating about. Witch! Corin (not remotely subtle) was hooked dry and left guppy-gasping on his dinner plate. Not that I’m bitter. I’ve known Shallan a long time. I know that beneath that faery whimsical smile lies the mind of a politician. Oh,well… Some you win and some you lose. Is that another cliche? Ugh! I must be getting the hang of Earthling Speak. I have to leave now, people. Turns out there’s a traitor in my court! Laters! Ariane, over and out.
Next character blog features Lady Shallan of Morwella. We hear her thoughts on her cousin Ariane, the mercenary Corin, the haunting Faen, and her mysterious encounters with The Horned Man. Bet you can’t wait! That’s in three weeks time folks. It’s back to me next week. See you then! J.W.W.