Ardent (The Kingdoms of War)

Part of the multi-author novel compilation deemed The Kingdoms of War. Brycin de Mursch isn't all that she thinks she is. Not under the King, anyway. *Republished for additions to what is now the first chapter.*


2. One.


“Lieutenant Bernandy.” She didn’t notice. “Lieutenant Bernandy,” she did. Gulping down the last few sips of gin in her canister, Aeimon stood up from the counter-seat at the pub near the Houses and turned around, trying to shape her vocal structure for when she would talk a moment later.

“Sir Longford,” she said, her voice coming out surprisingly masculine. Aeimon inwardly smiled, and wiped her hands on the unfiled wooden counter behind her, the roughness but tickling her once supple, now experienced skin. “What can I do for you?”

He glared at her, pale blue eyes that were so light but so dark pierced into her being. Aeimon felt self-conscious. She instinctively pulled her bowler hat further in front of her eyes, pulling her trench coat across her chest. Sir Bran Longford was many things, but flattering wasn’t one of them.

“Your service is needed. The Swan is to leave by dawn, and the King’s Navy are somewhat . . . anxious about the journey. As you well know, the last voyage outside of Kalis was wholly unsuccessful.” His lip curled, a vein appearing on his forehead as he recalled the disastrous journey. Indeed, the whole crew on board the Moson did not return, but now dwell in the stomachs of some fearful creature of the sea.

“And you want to me to go with them?”

“That is what the King wants, he has sent word,” Aeimon bit her lip, the fear of death or worse picking at  her mind, but that which the King willed was that that she did.

“Aye, I’ll come around to the harbour by dusk this day. I have some business to attend to beforehand.”


It had been so long that Brycin had forgotten. She had forgotten the sound, the number of syllables, the way the ‘r’ curled with the accent of the people around her.

Brycin was in her chambers at Kurabrae. The room was large, adorned in dark decor and magnificent black curtains that matched the Gothic style of the room, laced at ends and chosen by the King himself. At one end was her bed that much too big for one person. Silver silk fell from the four posters at each corner, the bed itself arranged with at least ten feather pillows, and blankets to suit every occasion.

Though she did find herself sleeping lesser and lesser these days.

On the other end of the room, a whole half of a wall was dedicated to being a mirror, the other half a walk-in wardrobe. Brycin rarely took advantage of it and its contents. She was a man. And Aeimon Burnandy, who was a male, certainly did not care about his appearance.

Or so he showed not to.

“Brycin,” she exhaled, and inhaled just as quickly. It sounded awfully strange. Like a memory long past that no one but her remembered. A peculiar, new, but familiar taste in her mouth. Something to be explored.

“Brycin.” She said, slower. It felt . . . nice. It felt satisfying. Brycin was quickly forgetting of her past and of herself, and that certainly needed to change.

Brycin glared at her reflection: a woman that was once beautiful, with untainted skin smooth, waist-length brown hair and the most vibrant of green eyes, now bruised, with hardened skin, pale due to the lack of exposure to light she received. Her green eyes were dead, murdered by the sharp blades of change, and her hair.

Oh, her hair.

Those strands of perfectly straight pure burgundy that used to be kept neatly in a plait at the side of her head were now completely ruined. Uncut, unbrushed, untended to; Brycin's once-stunning hair now was tied tightly in a bun at the back of her head. The hair used to be the best feature, but she hardly saw it, always hidden underneath the hat that was coated in the ash and blood of her enemies.

Aeimon’s hat.

Now, the woman tried something different. She decided to to explore a name that she knew too well; much too well to be her own.

“Aeimon.” Aa-ey-mon. Why did she even choose such a  . . . pompous title? Indeed, Brycin de Mursch wasn’t exactly the most low-birthed name, but Aeimon Bernandy? It might as well have belonged to a mercenary under the High King of what was once known as Scahts and now as Kalis.

Which is why it worked perfectly.

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