Rivir Sunn walked briskly to the door. “I will not do your bidding,” he whispered without turning around. “I will not betray her.”
“Betray her?” the King laughed. “I am not asking you to betray her. I am asking you to kill her. Now do as I have told you, Sunn, or you shall join her in her fate.”
Stunned at the king’s revelation, Rivir let his rage ebb forth and melt back like a slow tide as he calmly turned to face the king. "I thank the gods that my father has already set sail for the seas of Almahs." With measured steps he approached the throne of the gilded king, preening as it were, in all his finery like a peacock. Stopping a few feet from the king’s right hand, he continued, his voice as monotone and as empty as the compassion that the ruler of this kingdom showed through the murderous plans of one so close to him. "For, if he still had breath to speak, it would be of only heartache and pain for his people: to see a man rule with the whims of a child...Surely we will all fall to ruin soon enough.....Your majesty.”
“How dare you speak to me with such impudence?” The king raged. “You have a reputation, Sunn, do not think I am blind. Your will holds much sway over the people of Lanolt. They love you. I am not stupid; they love you more than they do me. But you are not the ruler of this land, and you will do my bidding! You are nothing but a mongrel given the chance to grow fat off of the charity of nobles. If you wish to stay the fat dog that you are, you will kill both Imaetha and the child she carries.”
The colour left Rivir’s face, then came rushing back as he fought to control his rage. “My father was a man of good birth. Do not insult his line.”
"Your father’s line is a line of cowards! You have proved this. If you will not obey me, you will be banished from Lanolt: I will send you to the Outerlands forever! Or would you prefer to be made a slave in my household?" The king sneered as Rivir wavered in uncertainty. “Why Sunn, where has your boldness gone to now?”
"I will not betray Imaetha."
"So be it!"
As Rivir’s fate sealing words dropped from the treacherous king’s lips, the Royal guards moved in on him. With his shoulders slumped and head bowed, it would seem he had already accepted defeat, until...If one was to blink, the swift motion was missed as he drew his blade, cutting down one man who barely had time to draw his shield. As the blood pooled over his feet, he used the poor man’s carcass as a distraction, kicking it and sending the body tumbling over his adversaries. Another quick swing of his blade as he sliced through air, decapitating the throng that had gathered to detain him. The king, stiff with fear, watched as his best men were decimated within mere minutes.
Rivir’s eyes glimmered, still alight with the heat of battle as he stalked towards the cowering king. Cleaning his blade off with the hem of his majesty’s robes, Rivir whispered his words as if speaking to a child who had lost its mother.
"Speak that way about my father again, and you will find yourself among the proceeding heap of bodies, crown and all."
A silence passed between both men. Rivir had not wavered, nor stammered in his words. The king’s battle room had been properly used as Rivir stood back briefly surveying all that had been done. He knew some of the men he had only moments earlier killed like cattle. The king still pinned under the mere presence of his now sworn adversary, Rivir stretched across the king, taking up his pitcher of wine, pouring the contents over the bodies, he glared at the king one last time. "Mark my words... your majesty," and with that, he took a torch from the wall and set the pile of bodies alight, like a beacon of war.
“I-I will make this a moment you will regret for the rest of your life, Rivir Sunn!” The king’s frightened voice was tinged with rage and humiliation. Rivir stood straight, his proud, handsome shoulders held high. He did not turn to face the king. Instead he walked with a quiet dignity to the room’s entrance. The light from the magical Glass Hall spilled forth through the doorway and trickled over him, basking him in the blood red of Dursatra’s dying rays. By Sonan, he hated needless slaughter, but the king had forced his hand.
“Majesty, I regret nothing.”
“You will regret that your harlot mother ever suckled you!” cried a new, anguished voice. It was a woman, emerging from the shadowed doorway just right of the throne. She was dressed in the deep purple of a royal concubine and had the green oval eyes and dark complexion of the people of the Outerlands. Rivir thought she was breathtakingly beautiful, her exquisite exotic magnificence marred only by the anguished pain that crossed her features. “You pig! You coward! You treacherous beast!”
“Woman, you have the wrong man. The one you speak of sits upon the throne as ruler of this realm,” Rivir laughed.
“Do not mock me,” she warned, outstretching her arm to take the king’s scepter from his royal hands. She ignored the angry look her lord gave her, focusing instead on Rivir. “For my love, the man you so dispassionately murdered moments before this one, I wish my revenge. If you are not a coward you will face me and give me my satisfaction.”
Rivir looked to the now charred pile of mangled men. Which of those had been her love? “Woman, I am sorry—”
“My name is Ma'moturhatha.” She held the scepter high, as a fighting staff. “Face me.”
“Ma’moturhatha, I have just dispatched a number of highly trained guardsmen. Do you not think you may be at a disadvantage here?”
“You have dispatched the man I love. If I do not defeat you, what is the point of breathing?” Without any further warning, she rushed at him, using her makeshift staff with surprising skill and ease.
Rivir was taken aback. He had not expected this. He drew his sword and they began a strange dance. She, on the offensive, only seemed to gain in strength and fluidity, as if this battle were awakening in her a warrior long buried. Conversely Rivir, parry after parry, was beginning to find that his strength was waning. Impossible! She was a mere servant girl, forced to fulfill the obscene desires of the king. From where had her skills emerged?
Ma’moturhatha grinned a feral grin. She was forcing Rivir closer and closer still to the river of blood he had released earlier. Rivir saw this and tried to gain the upper ground, but it was too late. Down he fell with a sickening lurch, Ma’moturhatha standing over him victoriously. She brought the scepter down, and the world went black.
When Rivir awoke, it was in a cell. He groaned as he sat up to investigate his surroundings. To his surprise, he was not alone.
His neck felt as if he had been pulled, like a child breached from its mothers womb, from a vise. Massaging the knot in his neck he heard a light rumble of laughter. He sat up, pressing his bruised back against the cold damp stone as he struggled to pierce through the darkness to see who was taking pleaser in his pain.
"So she has spurned you as well," the voice crackled like wood in a dying fire and. A warmth was once there, perhaps in their youth but, it would seem the very mudbrick of this dark dank cell had swallowed that all up.
Rivir said nothing as he began to feel the full result of his ordeal, passing his hand over his lip, groping a cut that had started to bleed once more. "Tell me son, what did you do to be received with such… Kindness?" Again the laughter rumbled out as lightly as a child kicking a pebble. But, there was more. A glimmer of familiarity crept up on Rivir as the old man's voice echoed in his ear.
"I could very well ask you the same question, old man." There was a deep silence followed rustle and the jingle of chains, no more laughter came back to Rivir's ears as he closed his eye. The result the same as if he would have opened them. Again, another rustle and before Rivir could react, a pair of hands gripped him.
"It can not be," The old man's voice was now closer, his breath cupping over Rivir's very earlobe. "It can not be....Rivir...? Rivir Sunn?"
Rivir laughed painfully, valiantly attempting to hide the fresh pain that the old man's brittle grip had caused to wash over him like polluted waters. "Gfedrick, Gfedrick, you old Northman. I never expected to see our good King Udias get the better of you. Or me, for that matter," he grinned sheepishly. "But then I have not been bested by Udias, but by a maiden of foreign lands. I do not know which would be the worse on my poor battered ego."
"What of your poor battered body?" Gfedrick laughed, some of the bold colour that Rivir remembered from his childhood returning to his voice. "Do not worry, I know the maid of whom you speak. She is a good woman."
"Good with a weapon!" Rivir exclaimed ruefully. "I was bested very quickly, Gfedrick. It was as if I were a boy again, back in the provinces, being trained by you and Pelusis the Younger."
"If only you had paid more attention back then!" The two men laughed heartily, and the cell seemed to grow lighter and airier with their fond memories, as if some of the noble quality of the old days were leaking in through their honest joy at seeing one another. But Rivir's mind was still troubled.
"Gfedrick, what are you doing here? When you left Father's estate, you swore you were returning North, to your people, never to set sight on Lanolt again."
The older man sighed, the rejuvenated youthful flair departing from his form. "Ah, Rivir. Things change. Udias changed things. There have been rumours in the North of the wicked king's plans to build a vast army to overtake us. Were it not for the recent famines and blights on the land, this would not be possible, but I'm afraid we of the North have grown weak. I was sent as a spy... and as an assassin." Gfedrick hung his head in shame. "Oh Rivir, if your father knew... This is not the noble way we taught you. I am sorry."