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Book 2 of The Narrative of Riven the Heretic
Part 1 of The Arcanian Chronicles


By Toni V. Sweeney

Raised by the Margrave of Francovia after his sellsword father is killed in His Majesty’s service, Riven kan Ingan is an opportunist and a nonbeliever, accepting neither the kingdom’s magic nor its religion. In retaliation, the gods who plot their revenge. On his scheme for acceptance by marrying the Margrave’s daughter the gods see an opportunity to punish the young skeptic.

When Aleza is kidnapped by the sorcerer Mahldimir Djaan-Baih, Riven follows them to the demon-ridden desert of Izhmir. With the aid of a barbarian slave girl and a reluctant rebel, he’ll rescue the Princess, discover his true love, and lose her to another man. From then on, his days and nights are haunted by the memory of the one woman he can‘t have. There’s nothing he can do to forget her and no way he can claim her because the gods aren’t finished with him yet.

Genre: Fantasy

Sensuality rating: 3

Cover Art by James Robinson


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Author: Toni V. Sweeney
Description

Chapter 1

 

When the red raw mists cleared, he was alone.

That was how the mortuaries found him, face down in the bloody slush where his body heat had melted the snow, the black warhorse standing guard above him. They had to blindfold the animal to lead it away, for it bared its teeth and struck at them, determined to protect its master, even at the cost of his life, rather than let the men touch him.

In desperate haste, he was carried back to Aljansur, given over to the ministrations of his long-time enemy, the Royal Leech, who put aside their differences long enough to treat the margrave’s favorite, declaring it would not be because of a lack of skill on his part if the young warrior died.

That said, he did what he could and abandoned his patient to the compassion of the gods.

At this point, the gods were still merciful.

~ * ~

The slow and painful process of healing took many months; it was winter when Riven was injured, late Spring before he was able to leave his sickbed. Too weak to mount a horse or lift a sword, shamed by his infirmities, and the knowledge he’d been unable to defend either his princess or his men, he felt himself a laughingstock and his anger grew until it supplanted his humiliation.

Nearly a year passed before he declared himself returned to health, ignoring the leech’s half-hearted advice. From one winter to another, four seasons of impatience and the accompanying guilt gnawed at his heart and raged at him in his dreams. When that day came, he prepared to go after the raiders in spite of the protests of the court physician and the twelve brave knights to whose counsel the margrave always listened.

Even Hraeth, his Sword Brother, closer than a real brother, closer than blood, tried to dissuade him.

“Nay, Riven, wait,” he cautioned, though he knew his reasoning fell on deaf ears. “Wait until the snows have melted. Early Spring is an occasion for prudence, not a time to enter the Snow King, when the mountains are treacherous with change.”

Hraeth was right, of course, but Riven was determined. Hadn’t he always been the more headstrong of the two, ready to brave dragons in their dens and call out anyone who dealt him what he considered a slight, whether intentioned or otherwise?

“Those thieving B’akshir bastards braved the snows,” he argued. “Why shouldn’t I?”  

Shrugging off Hraeth’s comforting hand, he stood before Leontilf’s throne, ashen with pain and trying vainly to ignore it, and railed at the others to hide his shame.

“Stay safe if you wish. None of you has had your body wounded near to death, or your men slain.”

Neither had any of them had his betrothed snatched from his arms but no one knew that, and he was wise enough not to reveal his and Aleza’s secret.

“It’s my responsibility, Your Majesty. I lost her...I’ll bring her back. I’ll go. Alone.”

     He’d rescue the woman he loved and, more importantly, avenge his honor.

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