The Tempest and the Sunflower

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Author (in-game): Nivienne Tonnerre

Based on True Events

Lady Mara smiled upon the jousting lanes of Castle Navire. Never had there been so fine a day when two knights, two rivals, two hearts so alike, would clash and tangle inextricably.

Sir Sunflower, the golden son of shipbuilders, faced the brooding Lady Tempest, eldest daughter of Galen. Each had been raised to taste poison at the other’s family name. Their lances tilted hard toward one another. In the grand melee, sparks flew as their blades met. But when the helmets came off, there was silence between them, a tender surprise and curiosity that bystanders would mistake for seething enmity.

The two shared a few words, then limped home to their respective estates with broken hearts as the worst of their injuries. And though it was Lady Tempest who had reigned tournament champion, it was she who would break first, as storms often do.

* * *
Sir Sunflower held Lady Tempest’s heart in his trembling hands. She had gone through great pains to ensure her letter reached him, enlisting the Eldertide druids to secret it across the archipelago. Now, he could be her ruin. After all, this was the woman who had made a fool of his house with her tourney victory.

But her words broke over him like a summer storm. It was as if she were transcribing echoes from the chambers of his own heart. When their swords met, she too had wished they might stay locked together, that the two of them might remain steps rather than islands apart. What greater agony was there than pretending he felt nothing for her in return?

The enmity of their houses felt so small now compared with the enormity of his affection. What bravery on her part! What cleverness to enlist the druids for help. He wrote back, nakedly spelling out his love for her, signing as “Your ruin,” hoping it would make her smile.

Through seasons changed, tides high and low, they wrote. The Eldertide ferried their secret letters across the Systres. Through words, they delved to the corner of each other’s soul. But in time, words were not enough.

This time, it was the Sunflower who bent first.

Would the Tempest marry him at tourney’s end, when next they met at Castle Navire?

Lady Tempest, flooded with emotion, agreed. But who would marry them, and where?

And here, Sir Sunflower turned to the druids for aid.

But now, the druids asked for something in return.

* * *
On the eve of their wedding and the grand melee, Lady Tempest and Sir Sunflower met under cover of night, knowing they had only moments to be together.

Sir Sunflower held her in his arms, as he had ached to do for so long. He knew better than to ask his love if they might comply with what had been asked of them.

Quit the isle of Galen, the druids had said. With your marriage, your houses united, let none who are not druid set foot on her shores forevermore.

It was all well to pretend there was no price too high for love. But the two knew that their families would never let it stand. They would see the two of them dead before they let them be together, especially if they were to give the Eldertide what they asked for.

“Were Galen mine alone, I’d surrender it gladly,” said Lady Tempest, as if reading his thoughts. “Only—”

“Your subjects come first,” the Sunflower finished, knowing her heart.

He looked into her eyes.

“I don’t care where we marry, or if we marry at all, so long as we’re together,” he said. “Under any name, any banner, wed or otherwise, I am yours. On tourney’s end, let’s steal away and take my father’s ship. Forget the festivities. Forget the secret wedding. If the Systres will not let us be together, let us find a land that will.”

And they parted to meet on the morrow, blissfully unaware of Eldertide ears in the darkness, and the plot for recompense trickling in around them.

* * *
Sir Sunflower faced his bride, the Fearsome Tempest, champion apparent. It was all just for show, he told himself. Tonight, he and his beloved would leave these shores and be together until their dying days.

But for that, he was only half right.

Their swords met for the last time. It mattered not who won, only that their enmity looked real. The specks of blood as his sword nicked her wrist were real. The way she faltered, fell to her knees—that was real. The way he cried out and caught her. The pain contorting her face. No! Was this real?

“Druids,” Lady Tempest managed. They saw it now, the poison shimmer on both their blades. The Eldertide had ensured that if the Tempest and the Sunflower would not give them Galen, they would be each other’s ruin after all.

And as Lady Tempest breathed her last, Sir Sunflower bent his head and wept. If the world would rather see them dead then together, then dead he’d rather be.

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