The Assassin and the Merchant's Widow

For the Movella Heir Of Fire writing competition I wrote a story about Celaena confronting a secret about her past. It follows the similar structure as the stories in The Assassin's Blade.


1. The Assassin and the Merchant's Widow

Celaena couldn’t believe she was finally off of that wretched ship. Two weeks with limited training and having to watch her back around corner for the vagrants and sailors who might try to take advantage of her. Although, she would have liked to see them try. They, like everyone else, would be surprised to learn that such a beautiful young woman was the assassin who had taken so many lives. 

And then there was the matter of her being the King’s Champion. She knew the ship had been full of those seeking refuge in Wendlyn who despised Adarlan’s king and his rule. Celaena knew that had they been aware of her identity, they certainly would’ve jumped at the opportunity to slit her throat while she slept. Much to her dismay, no one had tried any such an action. Celaena was itching for a fight.


Fresh off the ship in Wendlyn, Celaena was unsure of where to go. She knew she must fulfill her mission to the King by killing the royal family of Wendlyn or else he would make good on his promise of killing Nehemia’s family and Chaol. 

Chaol…Gods. She wished she could’ve left him with a better explanation than her riddle about the day her parents were murdered, but she felt she couldn’t risk it. The truth was that she never fully forgave Chaol for the role he played in Nehemia’s death. Celaena knows logically it wasn’t his fault but as she learned as a child, logic doesn’t always win out when pitted up against emotions. 

If Chaol knew who she really was, that she was Aelin Ashryver Galathynius rightful Queen of Terrasen, she wasn’t sure what he would do. Chaol was a soldier at heart and his ideals and beliefs were rooted in honor and duty. What would he do if he knew the King’s Champion was really the lost princess of Terrasen? He would know that with her, the chance of rebellion and war for his country lived on, and Chaol loved his country. But Chaol also loved Celaena, still after all she had put him through. The trouble was she didn’t know which emotion would be the deciding factor for his actions, Chaol’s love for his country or his love for Celaena, who was the one person who had the power to bring his world crashing down.

She had to believe that Chaol would be able to take care of himself though and hope that nothing would become of Nehemia’s family because there was no way that Celaena would be able to live with murdering the royal family of Wendlyn, her distant family.

Standing out on the docks, Celaena let herself imagine what would’ve happened if the King of Adarlan never murdered her family, if she had grown up a princess instead of an assassin. Gazing in the distance, she thought that maybe she would’ve known the ruling family of Wendlyn, having visited often. Would she have liked them? How would she have been different as a person? Was Celaena who she was because of her upbringing under Arobynn’s care or was she always destined to be as ruthless and cunning as she was now?

Turning away from the water Celaena realized that ‘should’ve’ and ‘could’ve’ would be things that she would never know no matter and long and deeply she pondered them. She had only the life she’d lived so far as her memories and experiences to help guide her to what lay ahead in her future, lost princess or not.


Now faced with the uncertainty of what to do next, Celaena slipped her way past the customs waiting on the small shore village and into the nearest pub, intent on drowning herself in liquor. She seated herself at the farthest table in the dank establishment and peered out the nearby window, surveying her surroundings as Arobynn and Ben had taught her so many years ago.

Her position gave her full view of the bay. Celaena saw the ships that were docked and the people who milled about. The ship she arrived on was still in port, unloading various supplies and goods. She was about to turn away and get the barkeeps attention when the men tending to the ship began escorting women from the ship’s deck. Escorting was putting it kindly. These men were shoving and dragging eight women onto the docks to be taken gods know where.

Celaena thought back to her time aboard the ship at sea, to if she’d seen any women. There was a healer she remembered, vital on any long distance journey. A few other women onboard with whom she’d had contact had been lovers of the crew, just a step above the courtesans like Lysandra. These women chose to go on these horrible endless journeys across the waters in hope that one of the crew would take a liking to them and make them their wife. Why someone would want to marry a filthy crew member of a ship was besides Celaena. 

But these women who were being carted off the ship were not the ones she had scoffed at on the journey. These women looked broken, shuffling along, blinking like mad and shielding their eyes in an attempt to get adjusted to the bright sunlight of Wendlyn. Where did they come from and where were they being taken?

Celaena decided to find out.


Celaena followed the group of women and their handlers through the village’s streets, opting to take to the rooftops and leap from building to building to gain a better vantage point. She continued her pursuit until the women were herded into a run-down cottage on the outskirts of the village. Celaena sat on the edge of the neighboring roof, listening for sounds coming from where the women were taken. Frustrated that she could hear nothing of suspect, she scrambled down from the roof and crept along the side of the building, inconspicuously peering into the cracked and dirty windows. 

Nothing. There wasn’t anyone there it appeared. But where did they go?, Celaena thought to herself. She knew she saw them enter that building and yet she could see any signs of activity on the first floor—the only floor. Unless…it wasn’t the only floor. Celaena crept to the back entrance of the cottage and jimmied the door open with one of her knives. Unsheathing a second knife, she slipped into the cottage. She tiptoed from room to room, searching for the hidden door that she knew had to be there somewhere. 

A heavy thud caused Celaena to stop in her tracks. Another thud and she found herself silently racing to the farthest room in the small cottage. This was where the noise came from, she thought to herself. The entrance has to be here. The room itself was nothing special, decent-sized for a cottage of this condition but half-full of what appeared to be trash and discarded antiques. On the far wall she spotted a crease in the plaster and in front of that wall, a pile of old book lay in a topple heap on the floor. This must be it. Celaena sheathed her knives and quietly push the books out of the way. Pushing on the wall, it popped in and slide to the side to reveal a narrow staircase. Light from the room flooded into the staircase and revealed one of the men in a crumpled heap at the bottom.


Celaena’s first step down the stairs let sound a loud creak which was followed by some whispering from down below. She resumed going down the stairs, both of her knives unsheathed yet again, thinking the three other men from the ship had to be down there. Upon finishing her descent she peered around the corner and found that it was not the men down here in this one-room hidden cellar, but the women from the ship. 

Celaena cautiously revealed herself and walked out in the center of the room facing the women huddled in the corner. The other men were nowhere to be found, only the unconscious one by the stairs. Did they do that? She locked eyes with one of the women, a woman of average height and weight. She looked to be the oldest of the group, around 40 years of age if Celaena had to guess. 

“What’s your name?”, Celaena asked her considering this one was the only one who would look at her.

The woman’s response was firm, not at all scared and timid as you would expect from someone who is apparently a prisoner, slave, or worse. “Ravenna.”

Celaena eyed the other seven women. All but two of them looked to be not that much younger than this Ravenna. However, Celaena saw that two appeared to be barely older—if older—than herself. Except for Ravenna, all of the women were trembling. Each had on dirty, cheap looking dresses. Their hair was disheveled like—well like they’d been on a ship for the past two weeks and dragged to this dirty cellar under the cottage. 

Celaena wasn’t sure where the other men had disappeared too but knew that they could make their return at any moment. What was she supposed to do now? If she were thinking of how Nehemia would had wanted her to act, she would admit that she’d have to help these women. Celaena had always had a soft spot for slaves, rescuing so many from the clutches of Arobynn and the Pirate Lord and herself ending up as a slave in Endovier. For the first time since her death, Celaena found herself on the same mind track as what Nehemia would want. She’d have to help them because she wouldn’t be able to live with herself otherwise.

Celaena began her round of questioning with Ravenna, whom she now considered to be the leader or spokesperson of the group. “Okay. I’m going to help you all.” The other women finally looked her way. “But first things first, I need to know what you all are doing here and where the other men from the ship went?” She looked to Ravenna again. “I also need to know what happened to him.” Celaena gestured to the unconscious oaf of a man. “I’m assuming his buddies didn’t do this to him so you need to answer my questions as quickly as possible before they return and get some idea about avenging what has become of him by taking their anger out on you.” The other women looked away from her gaze again, but Ravenna stood firm.   

Ravenna stepped out from the women’s little huddle and spoke to Celaena in a lowered voice. “We’re from Northern Adarlan. All of us. They captured us because our families were accused of traitorous acts.” She spoke in a whisper. “They were all executed. But we, being deemed not accountable for the actions of our families were spared from the gallows. We were however, still to be punished. They sold us to some barbarian outlander and brought us on a ship.” 

Ravenna paused and Celaena stepped back and let this sink in. Their families were accused of traitorous acts? But, would that have anything to do with the names that Leighfer Bardingdale had? The names that she had received after Arobynn hadtricked Celaena into murdering Benzo Doneval. Celaena knew that this would come back to haunt her. She knew that she should’ve never trusted Arobynn, even for so much as a job, when she returned from her time with the Silent Assassins.

Ravenna studied Celaena as she sifted through this new development before continuing. “As for the men on the ship, we don’t know. They dropped us here and left one to guard us. They vanished back up the stairs leaving us alone with him. As for him,” she nodded toward the unconscious man, “I did that.” Celaena quirked her eyebrow up. “I can be forceful when I need to. He was getting too focused on the two younger ones of our group and I couldn’t let anything happen to them.” 

Celaena gave Ravenna a terse nod. She knew exactly what that need to protect someone who was unable to protect themselves felt like. “Gather the others. We must make our way out before the men return.”


After dragging the unconscious man to the corner of the cellar back behind the stairs, Celaena led the group of women back upstairs. She made them wait for her to check the first floor of the cottage to see if the men from the ship had returned. Having found no visible sign of them, Celaena along with Ravenna—who was now wielding one of Celaena’s spare daggers—led the women from the cottage and into the woods. 

 They led the others away from the village entirely and into the woods. As the day winded down, Celaena left Ravenna with another knife and made her way into the village to scrounge up some food and maybe a few blankets for the women. Gods knows they probably weren’t used to sleeping on the dirt and rocks of the woods. She gathered enough to get them through the night and made her way back to where she had left them.

On her way into the treeline, Celaena paused and scouted the cottage again. She saw movement in one of the windows and went for a closer look. Peering in, she saw the three men had returned and were eating and drinking themselves silly, probably oblivious to what had happened downstairs. Celaena knew if she were a slave owner or trader, she would be watchful of her property and so she concluded that these three men were the lowest of the low, not just slave traders, but stupid slave traders. She made her way back to the improvised camp, feeling confident that they would not meet revenge from the men until at least tomorrow after they had passed out and then sobered up.

Back at the camp the women had fallen asleep as the sun had set. Ravenna was up keeping watch, her grip fierce on the knives Celaena had left her. She knelt to help Celaena cover the women with the few blankets she was able to find and the two sat in the almost-darkness, left to their own thoughts.

After a few minutes of silence, Celaena found herself nodding off when Ravenna spoke. “You don’t remember me do you?” 


Celaena was sure the woman was talking to herself or dreaming, her voice had been so soft and tender. “Do you Aelin?”

Celaena’s eyes popped open and she was on her feet staring down at the woman, with a knife in her hand. “Why do you call me that name?”

Ravenna showed no fear or shock from Celaena’s hostile reaction. “Put that away my Aelin and sit down. I will explain. I will tell you my story.” The woman looked up at her in a challenge. “So long as you tell me yours.”


And so Ravenna began her story. “I’m not at all surprised you don’t remember me. Gods it’s been what, 12 years since I’ve last seen you? My husband was a merchant who sold to all the wealthy families of the continent. But there was one family that we favored and made sure to take a trip to see at least once a season. The royal family of Terrasen.” Celaena sat back down, shocked.

“Your father had a boyhood friend by the name of Kieran. They grew up together, one being royal and one being destined to be protector of the royal. Everything was perfect in their lives until one decided to run away with the girl that he loved. The pair married and he became a merchant, a proprietor of goods to all of the land. Even though the abandonment was unexpected the royal knew why his friend, now a merchant, had done it for he too had found his love. The merchant and his wife were always welcome to visit the royal family of Terrasen. It was always a party when they did. Old friends caught up and new developments happening in life where revealed. 

“That is how I know you Aelin. My husband was the merchant Kieran. I had seen you from the very beginning of your life. I’d know those eyes and that hair anywhere. Granted you’re demeanor has changed a bit from when you were a child.” Ravenna laughed a tired sound. “But I would recognize you anywhere, even if I shouldn’t believe.

“Now child, tell me what became of you.”


Celaena was so shocked at what she had heard that she had no response. This woman Ravenna obviously knew her, and if she admitted it to herself, there was a part of herself that felt something familiar about the woman too. And so Celaena told her everything. Finding her parents, life with Arobynn, life as Adarlan’s Assassin, her downfall and time in Endovier, and all that had transpired in her time as the King’s Champion.

When she started telling her story she didn’t anticipate telling the woman everything but that’s what she did. She let lose all that had happened that no one but herself knew. Celaena found that as she kept talking she couldn’t stop. Everything had been building up inside of her since Nehemia had died and she decided to defeat the King.

She felt Ravenna reach out and grasp her hands and Celaena knew that telling this woman everything was the right thing to do.


The night came and sleep overtook both Celaena and Ravenna. While Celaena slept, she dreamt of her past, when she was a little girl…

She was six years old and running about the castle hiding from Aedion in the guest wing where respected visitors and friends of the family stayed. It was there, running from Aedion, that she heard a baby crying. Momentarily forgetting about her game with Aedion, Aelin followed the sound of the baby to one of the guest chambers and saw a woman rocking a baby back and forth.

With the clumsiness of a child, Aelin stubbed her toe on the door and tried to stifle her small shriek of pain. Her eyes filled with tears. That hurt. The woman turned and before Aelin could flee the room where she was sure she’d get in trouble for being discovered in, she beckoned her further in. At this point tears had begun to trickle down Aelin’s cheeks, her toe throbbing.

As she got closer, Aelin realized that she recognized this woman. Her and her husband had come from Adarlan and were selling various curious objects. They were Merchants, she remembered. But they were also close friends with her parents which is why they were permitted to stay in the castle.

The woman, Ravenna Aelin remembered, sat on the small sofa at the end of the bed with the cooing and squirming baby in the crook of her arm. She patted the seat next to her for Aelin.

“Is your foot okay Aelin?”

Aelin wiped the tears from her face and nodded. Ravenna went back to staring at the little baby in her arms.

“What’s wrong with your baby? I heard him crying?”

Ravenna looked over at Aelin. “He’s just tired is all. He wants to sleep.”

Aelin scoffed. “Then why doesn’t he just go to sleep then he needn’t be so loud.”

Ravenna chuckled. “He wants to sleep but he doesn’t want to sleep. He’s tired but he wants to stay awake and experience the world.” Aelin nodded to herself like she understood it, though she didn’t. The way the woman was looking at the baby, so lovingly, stopped her from asking anymore questions.

From down the hall Aelin heard a noise that sounded like a boy trying to be quiet as part of a game but failing miserably. Ravenna perked her head up too and they both looked to the open door. When they heard a thud and a muttered Crap they both laughed and a head popped in the doorway. It was Aedion of course. He walked up to Aelin and poked her hard on the shoulder.

“I won,” he said with a smirk of superiority. “Let’s go play something else. I’m bored with all this searching, I feel as if it’s never going to end.” 

Aedion skipped from the room and Aelin made to follow. She, however, paused at the door and turned back to Ravenna. “What’s the baby’s name?”

Ravenna smiled up at her. “Gerrit. His name is Gerrit.” She went back to smiling at him and Aelin followed after Aedion…

Celaena awoke just before dawn to the memory of Ravenna seared into her brain, knowing if there was one person in the world that she could trust, it would be her.


The morning brought a new hope to the eight women that Celaena helped to rescue from their fate. She had gone out again to find food and stopped at the cottage and found no trace of the men. This meant that Celaena would have to be ready for an attack. Now that she felt connected to Ravenna she didn’t wanted anything bad to happen to her.

Celaena brought the women back into the village in an attempt to find them a more permanent place to settle or at least until her and Ravenna could come up with a strategy of where they would go next. They skirted along the edge of the village, whilst remaining in the shadows of the treeline, until they made their way to the opposite end of the village. It was here, Celaena reasoned that the women would be most safe. She doubted anyone knew they existed here save for the four men from the boat. 

Celaena left the women with Ravenna and a knife to do some reconnaissance of the area she’d chosen. It was a small pub, different from the one she was in when she’d first spotted the women. There was a woman about Celaena’s age tending to the bar and there were only two customers in sight, both slumped over in their seats, their heads resting atop the table, asleep. 

Satisfied, Celaena led the eight women inside the pub to the far corner where she’d be able to see an attack coming. The women talked amongst themselves while Celaena thought back to her dream. She remembered Ravenna, such a close friend of her family even though they never saw each other more than a few times a year. In her dream, Ravenna was so happy with her baby that Celaena was afraid to ask what had become of Ravenna’s son. Yesterday Ravenna had said that the women’s families had been deemed traitors and executed and later when Ravenna told her story to Celaena, she said her husband was a merchant.  Although, she didn’t mention Gerrit, she knew what had become of him can’t have been good. If he were alive now he would be around twelve years old. If.

Celaena tore herself from her thoughts when she noticed the barmaid had disappeared. Strange, she thought to herself. Very odd for a woman to leave a bar unattended even in a village this small. Suspicious, Celaena stood up and walked around the pub. The women kept chattering amongst themselves but Ravenna watched her as she moved. Celaena stopped by the two men sleeping at the tables and poked them. They both flopped on the floor, dead. 

Celaena whirled around to the pub entrance just as four men came rushing in. The barkeep was nowhere in sight but she did recognize the man from the bottom of the stairs yesterday. He was sporting a black and blue lump on the site of his head where Ravenna must have knocked him out. Glancing back at Ravenna and the women, Celaena signaled for them to remain where they were. She unsheathed her daggers and smiled, ready for the fight she’d been itching for the entire journey from Adarlan.

The first man, short and stocky, came at her with a club. One swift swipe of her dagger and he fell to the ground. The remaining three traded a glance and another one of them advanced, this one with more caution than his friend. He lasted about a millisecond longer, going down with one of her daggers piercing his chest. The remaining two men decided their chances were better if they came at Celaena at the same time. Foolishly they stumbled in their approach, presumably still hungover from the night before. Celaena took down the one on her right with her remaining dagger while the last man got in one punch to her shoulder. Furious at the blow, Celaena turned swift as thought possible and snapped the man’s neck. He dropped to the floor like the others.


Celaena and Ravenna led the women from the pub, Celaena wondering if the traitorous barmaid was going to chance showing her face again. The women were all shaking with fear again although Celaena hoped they realized that now with these men dead, they were free. No one in this land knew they were alive. They were free. Celaena had emptied the pockets of the dead men and even taken some of the meager coin that the pub had and used it to rent out the most luxurious room that the village had to offer. While she had to admit it was nothing compared to accommodations in Rifthold, it would do nicely for the women until they decided what they were to do next.

Leaving the women upstairs to rest, Ravenna and Celaena went downstairs to the inn’s restaurant to have a drink after the hectic couple of days. When she couldn’t take it any longer, Celaena asked the questioning that had been bothering her since her dream. “What happened to Gerrit?”

Ravenna’s eyes widened and she set her mug down. “Ah so you do remember me.” She smiled at Celaena and then her expression turned somber. “He was spared from the execution as well because of his age but was taken to serve as a servant to some of the Rifthold royals and wealthy.”

Celaena nodded knowing all too well what can become of families in Adarlan. “I’m sorry.”

Ravenna grasped her hands and squeezed until Celaena looked her in the eye. Her voice was a whisper. “It’s okay Aelin. I am only happy he is still alive. I am a Merchant’s widow and he is alone without his family, but we are both alive. We are very lucky compared to what could’ve happened.” She smiled sadly at Celaena knowing that she was thinking about how she’d lost her own family.

Still holding Celaena’s hands she spoke again. “What you must decide is what you wish to do next my dear Aelin. You know firsthand the terrors of the King of Adarlan and you now know that you are the only one who can defeat him.” Celaena began to yank her hands away from Ravenna feeling all too much the pressure ofwhat she was able to forget these past two days, but Ravenna only tightened her grip. “No. Listen Aelin. You know all of these things but you’ve already been through so much in your life. It doesn’t have to be you who leads this. You can form allies, pass along your knowledge, and disappear to some far off corner of the land living the rest of your life in peace. People would understand if you did that. No one even knows that you are alive and those that do would understand if you did not wish to bear this burden on your own.” She brought her hands up to cup Celaena’s cheeks, tears pooling in the corners of her eyes. “So know this Aelin. No matter what you choose to do, your parents would have been proud of you. For all of the torturous experiences you’ve had to live through, your parents would be so proud of you.” Celaena brought her hands to her face, covering Ravenna’s and smiled.


After bidding farewell to Ravenna and the girls, Celaena sat on the edge of a dock, her feet wading in the still water of the evening. The decisions that she would have to make were unfathomable to any normal person and she didn’t know if she would be able to succeed. But Ravenna reminded her of something that she had long forgotten, her parents would be proud of her for all that she’s done to survive, for all that she’s going to do to survive. 

Because she wasn’t just Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, lost Queen of Terrasen. She was Celaena Sardothien and she would not be afraid.













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