Scroll down for free chapter

Broken But Unburnt

Broken But Unburnt

Fantasy ・ Science Fiction

A.N. Horton


They say nothing was left of Ravenna Aphelion... nothing but her ancestral amber ring and a scared little girl clinging to it and crying in the ash of her home, broken but unburnt. *** Years later, three kingdoms are on the verge of war. Karil seeks to wipe out the magic that Idoria worships and Delos is caught in the middle, taking refugees and making alliances that are raising tensions more than diffusing them. A man in the West calls himself The Chaos and is doing his best to live up to the name, a prophecy has scholars on the edge, and religious zealots are flooding the streets and committing violent acts against those against the belief. This world needs salvation. And it may come from the most unlikely of sources; the bastard of a sullen king, an assassin with a deadly secret, and a monster hunter from an ancient order. They may not save the world but they will give it a choice. Resurrection or ruin? What will humanity choose?

High/Epic FantasyFantasy


WARNING: This story contains depictions of violence that may be upsetting for some readers.

Ravenna tapped her nails on the wooden table and peered outside at the setting sun beyond the windows. It was late. Too late.

He had said three days. He had promised. When she’d begged and pleaded with him not to go, he had taken her face in his hands, stared into her eyes, and promised her that he would only be gone for three days. Curse him. Curse his foolish sense of duty.


Ravenna turned to the little girl standing in the doorway of the bedroom they all shared in this tiny, unremarkable hut.

“Where’s papa?”

I don’t know.

“He will be here soon, my sweet,” Ravenna told her with a smile, rising from her chair and approaching the girl, hunched over and grinning. Perhaps she should call Orick. He would know what kept him. Or, at least, he would come and ease this sense of impending doom she hadn’t been able to shake all day. “For now, why don’t you go and play and—“

She stopped, straightened up, standing to her full height and whipping her gaze to the window. Something was wrong. She had sensed it. A shift in the wind, a familiar scent, and then—

“Ravenna!” The bellowing voice came from the other side of the door as angry fists began to pound upon it. Ravenna spun around, wide eyed, to the child.

“Come,” she said, hurriedly, pushing her off toward the pantry on the opposite end of the kitchen. “Get in here. Hide yourself. Do not come out until I say, do you understand me?”

“Mama—“ the child stared up at her, eyes widened with fear.

“Promise me,” Ravenna spat desperately. “Promise me that you will not come out until I say so.”

“I promise.”

The girl nodded emphatically and Ravenna had just enough time to close the pantry and whirl around before the entrance to the hut burst open, the door swinging half off its hinges. But Ravenna hadn’t closed the pantry door entirely and the child could still see what was happening beyond. Though she held her breath, afraid to move. She didn’t dare even reach out to pull the pantry door one inch closer to shut it.

“Ravenna,” the same bellowing voice from before said, but this time it wasn’t so loud and it seemed almost relieved. “There you are.”

“How did you find me?” Ravenna asked. Her hands were shaking behind her back but her voice was strong, confident, firm.

“This has gone far enough, don’t you think?” The man asked and he finally stepped out of the blinding sun and into the hut. His features weren’t all that remarkable, except for the fact that they looked astutely like Ravenna’s. The same dark, tousled waves. The same bright green eyes. The same high cheekbones and pale face. He held out a hand but Ravenna did not take it. In fact, she took a step back, away from him. He sighed and when he spoke again, his tone was exasperated. “Come home, Ravenna. Put this wretched business behind you and come home.”

“Wretched business,” Ravenna bristled. She set her jaw and stepped forward but a soldier was there in an instant, drawing a sword and holding it between them in defense of the man. Ravenna hardly seemed to notice. She sneered at the visitor over the blade, her face inches from his. “That’s what you call my family? My home?”

“This,” the man replied, gesturing grandly at the hut around them in apparent annoyance, “is not your home, Ravenna. He is not your family. I am.”

“Some families are made of blood,” Ravenna spoke indifferently, crossing her arms and settling back away from him. “Others are made of choice.”

“I love you,” the man snapped. “I’m your brother, Ravenna. I’ve come to bring you home. Mother misses you. Father—“

“Father is the one who exiled me in the first place.”

“What was he supposed to do?” The man exploded. “The way you’ve been behaving, the things you’ve done. What other choice did he have?”

“He could have chosen to support me, to love them as I do.”

The man blinked at that and, for the first time, peered around the hut.

“Where are they?” He asked slowly. Ravenna’s resolve wavered at that. Her arms dropped to her sides and she made an effort to stand up a little taller but her concern was clear despite her best efforts.

“They are not here,” she told him firmly. He narrowed his eyes, raised a brow.

“Where are they?”

Ravenna said nothing, just jutted out her chin ever so slightly and waited.

“This is dangerous ground you’re treading on, Ravenna,” the man told her slowly. “I’ve done what I can for you at court, tried to defend your choices at every possibility. I’ve even lied for you on occasion. If you returned, they would talk at first, people always talk. But eventually, with the help of our father—“

“I’m not coming back.”

It was a blow to the visitor, that was clear. He dropped the hand he had been extending to her, hoping she would take. He gaped at her now, jaw dropped in stunned surprise. He’d never considered that she might refuse him, that she could possibly choose to remain in this filth, living in such a way.

“Ravenna,” he growled angrily. “You don’t understand. Some are calling this treason.”

“I won’t leave them, Helios,” she replied and, for the first time, her voice broke. A tear slid down her cheek. “So unless you are inviting all of us back—“

He turned on his heel and went for the door. A choked sob escaped her throat. She bit it back and felt the weight of the ring on her finger in a way she never had before. She stared down at the amber jewel as her brother stepped into the open doorway. She supposed she shouldn’t have this anymore.

“Helios!” She shouted and lunged forward, ripping it off of her finger at the same time.

She’d never been considered a threat before. She’d spent her whole life running up to her father to sit on his lap, to her mother to smooth her hair, and to Helios for playing or hugging or any other such action that siblings took. It was never a risk. Even when she had realized the strange power dwelling within her, even when she’d told them all of her magic and they had gazed back at her with fear and awe in equal measure. They’d still trusted her, still loved her, still always allowed her to approach them without fear of peril. She didn’t think that would be any different now.

But the sword was through her gut before she understood why.

“No!” Helios screamed at his guard but it was too late.

Her eyes opened wide, stunned and unblinking. The ring clattered to the dusty floorboards as her hands went to her stomach, blood gushing out of her open wound, over her fingers.

“No,” Helios shouted again, pushing the guard back and running for his sister. He noted the ring on the ground, the one she had been trying to give him, just give him. She fell to her knees and then forward into his arms, eyes staring up at him as her tears flowed freely down her cheeks now. “Ravenna.”

A horrible gurgling noise was escaping her as she gasped for air that would not stay in her rapidly filling lungs. She reached a hand up, weakly, and gently cupped her brother’s face, feeling his hot tears on her fingertips just before they grew too numb.

“I love you, brother,” she told him, gasping. “I always have.”

Then the light was gone from her eyes and her hand fell with a slap to the floorboards, her body going limp against him. He sobbed, bending and burying his face in her hair. Then, suddenly, he screamed, a loud wail, raw and ruptured. Leaping to his feet, he pulled the sword from his sister’s belly and plunged it through the heart of the murderous soldier. The man slumped to the ground without a sound as Helios stood, chest heaving, glaring down at his corpse. Then he turned to the other soldiers standing nearby and stepped forward. They moved aside, clearing a path for the enraged man to walk through. He stepped through the threshold and looked to the two men wearing robes of silver, standing just outside.

“Burn the place,” he snarled.

And they did. But not with flint or matches. They simply held up their hands and roaring flames emerged from their palms to devour the brittle hut. The wood was dry, the ceilings were old. It burnt quickly.

Remembering the last promise the child had made to her mother, she remained in that pantry. She did not leave, not even when smoke filled her lungs and left her choking and gasping on the floor, not even when the flames inched so closely she felt the beads of sweat boiling on her skin, because her mother told her not to leave until she said so. And she had not said so.

Helios left that hut behind and never spoke of it again. But he would see it in his dreams for years to come, decades even, and he would never forgive himself for what had become of his sister, his lovely, powerful, incredible sister.

They say nothing was left of Ravenna Aphelion… nothing but her ancestral amber ring and a scared little girl clinging to it and crying in the ash of her home, broken but unburnt.