It was meant to be a cruel jest. Having slain her husband in personal combat, Count Aleris had sent the man’s sword back to her. With her husband’s body impaled on the castle walls, and all of his belongings seized in the rebellion, the sword was the only thing she owned. It was the only tangible reminder of him, and her previous life, she had left.
Knowing Count Aleris was on his way to claim her as well, she fled into the night, with only her beloved’s sword and the clothes on her back. She stole a horse and rode it into the wilderness until it died, then she ran on foot until she collapsed. Through fate, or dumb luck, or the will of the gods, she was found by the legendary swordmaster, Taran-Ke, who now lived as an aged hermit, forswearing all violence.
At night, when the dark shadows and strange noises keep her awake, she clutches her husband’s sword to her breast, and finds comfort in in the cold steel. However, when morning comes, her fears subside and turn to anger. She trains with the sword until she collapses from exhaustion, and then she listens politely as Taran-Ke tries to teach her the futility of revenge.
Eventually, Taran-Ke nods off, leaving her alone with her thoughts, and the sword of the only man she ever loved, or will love.
She is Queen Atera of Verakhan, and she will have her vengeance.