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Rated: E · Fiction · Fantasy · #2260572
The Empress Kohn has a secret passed down from previous Empresses
The Empress's Gifts

Chapter One

Deruda sat on the bank, dangling her feet in the stream. The noonday sun felt hot on her back as she studied her reflection in the water. Deruda’s image stared back with the same deep blue piercing eyes and aristocratic features. She stroked her long, wavy, fair hair with slender fingers as she hummed to herself, feeling content and at ease. Deruda sighed, pulling on her boots; she got to her feet and mounted her horse. She had been away long enough people would start to wonder about her absence. Turning her horse, she headed back, following the well-worn trail to the city at a leisurely pace. The trail meandered through a densely forested area on both sides. Eventually, the forest thinned and opened out before approaching the city. Before leaving the forest, Deruda heard a noise off to her right, sounding like a scuffle or fighting. She hesitated a moment; her curiosity peeked, and she decided to investigate. She turned her horse in the direction of the sounds. Brushing aside low branches obstructing her way. She entered a small clearing. Two rough-looking men with swords faced off against a single man who looked by his dress to be a noble. Deruda took in the situation at a glance.

“Ho there, don’t you think this is a bit unfair, two against one,” Deruda said, dismounting. She drew her sword and walked up to stand beside the noble. Glancing at him, she nodded with a cheeky smile. The noble was slightly surprised but seemed unperturbed.

Glancing at her, he gave her a nod, “This is no place for a lady. I can handle these ruffians, my lady.”

Deruda gave a broad smile, “Who says I’m a lady? Hey boys, if you really want to do this, then I will teach you a lesson you will never forget.” She spun her sword, passing it from hand to hand deftly. The two ruffians hesitated to look at one another. Before they could move, Deruda lashed out with her sword and disarmed both men. They stood dumbfounded a moment, then, coming to their senses, they took flight and ran off through the woods. Deruda sheathed her sword as the noble stared at her in disbelief.

“Don’t let it hurt your pride too much. I know a trick or two is all.” Deruda said with a laconic grin.

The man bowed, formally regaining his composure. “Erm, it seems you are a better swordswoman than I, my lady. Not that I could not have handled those bandits myself; nonetheless, I’m grateful for your assistance. I am Faron Donway at your service. May I know your name, my lady? As I am indebted to you and would like repay you when I can.”

“You can call me Ru for now, and you owe me nothing, Faron Donway. Say no more on this matter if you please. As it may be troublesome for me later.”

Donway frowned, looking curiously at Deruda. His first impressions of the young woman indicated to him she was of the aristocracy. Her pale blue lacy dress and the way she carried herself, she was surly of noble birth, at the least a lady of some standing. Still, her manner and speech at times seemed common and contradictory to his assessment.

“Why so? My... Erm Ru.” He corrected himself.

Dduruda pursed her lips with a distant look in her eyes. “Well, only if you are headed for Kapor, which I presume you are?”

“Well, yes, of course, I'm headed to Kapor, but...”

“Let’s travel together at least as far as the city gates,” she interrupted, showing him her sweetest smile yet. He stared back in silence, bemused, lost in the warm glow of her smile for a moment. Then, coming back to himself, he gathered his belongings. They both mounted and rode the rest of the way with only the occasional word between them.

“Well, here we are. It was nice to meet you, Faron Donway. Mayhap we will meet again soon. I wish you a good day.”

“And you, Ru,” He gave her a courteous bow of the head. He watched her back as she rode off on her own, disappearing among the throng of people. “She must know the city well.” He mused to himself.

It was early evening and Deruda was dressed as a kitchen maid. Her hair tied up at the back, mop and bucket in hand mopping the stone floor while listening to the maids gossiping.as they went about their tasks. Keeping her head low, she let her gaze slowly lift, hearing footsteps approach. Had her old friend found out where she was? The footsteps stopped before her, and she stared at brown buckled leather shoes that looked vaguely familiar.


“Ah, I said we might meet again, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this soon.” Deruda finally looked at Faron Donway. This close, he looked quite handsome. His jet black hair shone with a lightly tanned face, grey eyes and a pencil-thin moustache. She reckoned he would turn many a lady's head.

“What! Are you just a scullery maid?”

She scowled at him. “What, how dare...” Seeing someone else approach and knowing who it was, she turned and fled out of sight before being spotted. Faron Donway was left shaking his head in confusion.

Ah, there you are, my lord Donway. The empress is running a little late, but I’m sure she will arrive soon if you follow me, please. By the way, was there a problem with the kitchen maid?” The lord chancellor asked as they left.

“What ah, no, I was just asking directions,” Donway said, remembering what Ru had told him about being troublesome for her. He chose not to say anything. Still, it was hard to believe that she was just a kitchen maid.

The lord chancellor ran his fingers through his neatly trimmed, greying goatee. “Well, erm, anyway, I remember your father served under the late empress. Is he keeping well these days? I hear he has trouble getting about now?”

Donway scrutinized the wily old fox. “You are well informed, my lord chancellor. He is as well as can be expected. As you well know, he couldn’t be here today because of his ailments.”

The chancellor nodded sagely as they arrived outside the throne room. As a candidate for the new empress’s honour guard, I wish you luck, my boy. She is a feisty one and quite unpredictable at times, unlike her mother before her.” He grinned, patting Donway on the shoulder. Faron sighed with a crestfallen expression. that made the chancellor’s smile turn into a short laugh as he parted ways, leaving Donway to enter the throne room alone.

Many lords and ladies in the throne room stood talking in groups as they waited for the empress to enter. The candidates for the honour guard were gathered near the front. This was what Faron had made the long trip from his home province of Wildirhem for. It was a great honour for the one chosen to be honour guard and to his family. Faron wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. As he made his way forward to the front, he overheard snippets of conversations. Youngest ever empress... I believe she is quite a beauty, only twenty-seven years old... Has a temper, though. I’m told... I wonder how one so young will last, though... There will be those out to dethrone her by any means. That last bit of conversation turned his blood cold, and he already felt sorry for the young empress. Finally reaching where the other candidates stood around, he bowed formally in greeting them. They all looked nervous like he and spoke in low whispers.

“Apparently, there are only two positions left open in the honour guard.” One of the candidates told him. Before he could reply, the lord chancellor entered from a door behind the right side of the throne. The throne room fell silent.

The lord chancellor cleared his throat noisily before speaking. “The empress Kohn, ruler of all Kapordium,” He announced grandly. All eyes were on the empress as she entered dressed in a full-length silk gown of green and gold topped with a ruff of white. A beaded veil covered her head and face. Walking towards the throne with effortless grace, she seated herself comfortably on the gilt throne. After a few moments, the empress gave a bow of her head to the chancellor.

Faron watched the candidates step forward, giving their name, rank and a summary of why they wished to become one of the honour guards. The first five were rejected, and the empress gave no explanation why. The sixth, a young noble from Kapor province whose father was a staunch supporter of the previous empress, was accepted. Faron waited with bated breath as several more candidates were rejected. Suddenly, the empress raised her hand, halting the proceedings and speaking briefly to the chancellor. She got to her feet and studied the remaining candidates. Finally sitting down, she whispered to the chancellor; he nodded before stepping forward to speak.

The lord chancellor cleared his throat again. “Faron Donway, step forward, please. The empress has chosen you as the final entry into the honour guard.”

Faron, taken by surprise, hesitated in disbelief as the remaining hopefuls stared at him dumbfounded, some with suspicion, others with outright hostility. The chancellor nodded and prompted him to come forward. Faron, still stunned, stepped forward amidst whispers of discontent and astonishment amongst the nobles gathered in the throne room. As he was sworn in alongside the other successful young noble, the empress beckoned him to come closer. As he stepped nearer the empress, lifted her veil, and Faron almost tripped over himself, his eyes opened wide in shock!

“We meet again, Faron Donway. This must be fate, don't you think?” Deruda Kohn, empress of all Kapordium, said with a brief but cheeky grin

Chapter Two

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