Fantasy author, Melissa E. Beckwith, invited me into her story world to meet with her character, Rhiannon Kossi. This gave me the opportunity to sit down with the young woman originally from modern day Montana who found herself in a whole different world when she was trying to discover what happened to her mom. She learned a lot more than she ever expected, and this interview explores a bit of it. ‘Kelly’ is written by me, and ‘Rhiannon’ is written by Melissa E. Beckwith. Enjoy!
Rhiannon Kossi watched as Flath and Teo brought out a table and sat it in a sunny spot of the small opening. Tim followed behind them carrying two chairs then quickly ran back to camp to bring some refreshments.
“Thank you, boys!” Rhiannon called and smiled up at Flath
“Anything for you, your Highness.” Flath gave a ridiculous bow then stood up and smiled at her. A soft summer breeze ruffled his blond hair, his golden panther earring glinting in the sunlight. She leaned in and kissed his lips. “Do not linger too long, Greannmhor, we must be on our way north soon,” he said then turned and left to help the others pack up the camp.
Rhiannon walked over to the table. Tim had put out some hard bread and a little cheese and some sliced apples. There was a jug there she knew held some kid of dark liquor and two wooden cups. Rhiannon sighed, no silver tea service here, she thought. She hoped Kelly would not mind.
Nervously she walked around the table and picked things up then mindlessly sent them back down. She thought it was odd that The Muse would want to interview her, but ever since she got taken through that darn Tree of Jur and brought into this world, nothing made sense. Oh well, what harm would there be in giving an interview? Queen Baobh already knew she was in Beaynid with the rebellion and was now on her way north to Ventra, to her people, the Archigos.
Rhiannon looked through the trees for any sign of Kelly, The Muse, and so far, saw nothing. She turned her face up to the warmth of the sun and took a deep breath. Soon she would face the Archigos. Would they even accept her? With her eyes closed she listened to the sound of the camp being packed away. She heard men’s relaxed voices and horses off in the distance. Song birds sung joyfully in the boughs of trees as squirrels scolded each other.
Suddenly she heard soft foot fall coming towards her and Rhiannon opened her eyes. There was a beautiful young woman standing in front of her with a knowing smile on her face. She could only be Kelly, the Muse.
Rhiannon held out her hand in greeting, “Hello, Kelly, it’s nice to meet you.”
Kelly smiled as she shook Rhiannon’s hand, but she also gave her a respectful bow at the same time. “So, what am I to call you? ‘Your Majesty’? ‘Empress’? People with titles can be finicky with how others address them.”
“Oh, well, you can just call me Rhiannon, really. I’m not sure how all that will go when we finally reach Ventra,” Rhiannon laughed nervously, “I’m not the Empress yet, right?” Rhiannon motioned over to the table. “Here, please set down. You’ve probably traveled far. I mean, we are out in the middle of the Alba Forest.”
Kelly followed Rhiannon to the table and sat down. Then she glimpsed around, taking in her surroundings. “It’s quite a pretty place here. How do you like it compared to Earth?” She glimpsed back at Rhiannon.
“It’s different, that’s for sure. Every decision I seem to make is either life or death. And I’d kill for a bubble bath right about now,” Rhiannon snickered. Just then Luna, Rhiannon she-wolf trotted up and lay at Rhiannon feet. “Please don’t mind, Luna. She comes and goes as she pleases.” Rhiannon smiled and petted her wolf’s furry head.
Kelly smiled at the beautiful wolf. “She’s lovely. However though, before we start talking about life here and how you’re adjusting, tell me a bit about what life was like back on Earth for you. Where did you work? Did you get a degree? I’m just curious to see how that life may have helped prepare you for this life.”
Rhiannon looked out over the forest basking in the summer sun trying to remember her life on the ranch. Then she suddenly remembered she hadn’t even offered Kelly anything to eat or drink. Please forgive my manners. Would you like something to eat. I’m afraid we don’t have anything very fancy here. But we do have some strong liquor.” Rhiannon smiled nervously and cursed herself for not being more outgoing. How would she ever lead a nation of warriors if she can’t even keep herself under control during a cozy interview with a friendly woman?
Rhiannon quickly poured two cups for her and Kelly and then she took a quick drink. The liqueur burned her throat and warmed her body. “Okay, back to the question. Sorry. I grew up on a cattle ranch. My father, Peter was a ranch hand working for Daniel Foster. My childhood was pretty normal. I went to public school, and though I was mercilessly teased for having darker skin and being the tallest kid in class, I liked school.” Rhiannon took another drink trying to bolster her confidence. Why was talking about her childhood so hard? She started talking again, “I didn’t want to go to college, though I just stayed on at the Ranch. Eventually, Daniel’s son, Matthew, and I fell in love and we were engaged.” Rhiannon smiled at the thought of Matthew and wondered how he had taken her disappearance.
Kelly leaned forward, setting her chin in her palm as she was curious. “And what happened between the two of you?”
Rhiannon was brought back to the present by the sound of Kelly’s voice. “Oh, well over the winter I started having these really vivid nightmares. I could really understand them but slowly I just started to feel numb about Matthew.” A sad look darkened Rhiannon’s face. “After a while I broke up with him and moved off the ranch. I started waiting tables. God, I hated that.” Rhiannon shook her head and frowned. “Finally, in the spring I had had enough and called my father and told him that I wanted answers about how my mom died. I knew all those nightmares had something to do with her.” Rhiannon shook her head and sighed. She quickly took another drink from her wooden cup. “My father finally said he would tell me everything, so the next afternoon I showed up at his cabin but he was missing!”
“And you went to look for him but somehow ended up here,” Kelly assumed with a nod. She furrowed her brows though as she thought back this some more and sat back in her chair. “And now you’re the leader of a rebellion on an entirely different world. How did that happen?” She chuckled, bewildered at the thought.
Rhiannon looked over at the men still breaking down camp. She saw Flath busy at work and smiled affectionately at him. She looked back over to Kelly and smiled. “Well, Flath is leading the rebellion. He and his men have been fighting Queen Baobh for over a year now. But I guess me and my Archigos Warriors are their only chance. That’s why they are taking me north. I’m not sure if they will even accept me, but I guess they have to…” Rhiannon’s voice trailed off. Then she pulled the neck of her tunic open and showed Kelly the bright, red diamond-shaped birth mark over her heart. “This is supposedly the Mark Of The Empress. I don’t think they will have a choice since I am the daughter of Sernia, their Empress that was killed when I was six.” Rhiannon sighed, “But I’m still nervous about being accepted. The stakes are so high. Flath and the Rebellion can’t win without the help of the Archigos.” Rhiannon had a sad look on her face as she looked at Kelly.
Kelly considered Rhiannon for a moment, and then she leaned forward, locking eyes with her. “Going from being a nobody to being an Empress is a massive change. Are you ready for that?”
Rhiannon laughed softly, bitterly. “No way.” She shook her head. “I don’t want it. But I’ve seen too much here. I’ve discovered who I am and what my purpose is in all this and it is as The Empress of Ventra.” Rhiannon ran her hand through her long dark hair and leaned towards Kelly, looking into her eyes. “I was told about about a prophecy,” she began. I didn’t want to believe it. I fought not to believe it. But I can’t fight it any longer. I must take my place in this prophecy and bring an end to Baobh’s rule.”
“But how do you expect people to believe in you and to follow you when you have nothing to show for it?” Kelly lifted her brows as she sat back in her chair. “I’m merely asking these questions to get you to think, so when the time comes, if others ask the same questions, you will have a ready answer. But truly, these people have dealt with their current ruler for quite sometime now. You’ve a complete stranger. What knowledge do you have of the ways of the court? Or all the traditions and rituals of this land? Has Flath or someone sat you down and given you a crash course?”
Rhiannon’s laugh was bitter again. “Living here has been a crash course. I don’t know anything about the way of the court, and even if I learned about things in Sona Tuath, I’m sure things are much different in Ventra.” Rhiannon shook her dark head. “All I have as proof of who I say I am is this birth mark,” she put her hand over the birth mark on her chest. “and the memories I know have of my mother, their empress, and how she was killed by Baobh.” Rhiannon took a deep breath and patted Luna’s head for reassurance. “I suppose the Archigos will train me in the ways I need to know to rule their nation.” Rhiannon got an unfocused look in her dark eyes as she pictured what it might look like in Màrrach, the capitol city of Ventra. “The problem will be getting them to agree to come down here and fight with rebellion. You see, the Suens and the Archigos hate each other.” Rhiannon gave Kelly a direct look.
“Ahh…” Kelly nodded. “Sounds like you have quite a few complications ahead of you. Okay, so…to understand correctly, is Flath Suen? And you technically Archigo? I’m sorry I don’t know the terminology. Consider this a mini-crash course for me.” She smiled at Rhiannon. “I need to understand a little better, so I can ask the right questions.”
Rhiannon laughed and gave Kelly a warm smile. “Yes, I am, so I’ve been told constantly since I arrived in this world, an Archigos.” Rhiannon looked back over to Flath who was in an animated conversation with Tim and Teo. She looked back over to Kelly. “And Flath is a Suen, yes. There in lies the rub…” Rhiannon’s voice faded away.
“Because you and Flath have feelings for each other?” Kelly raised her brows.
A huge, bashful smile crossed Rhiannon’s face. She almost blushed. Oh, come on, she thought. You’re almost 30, what is wrong with you, acting like a school girl. She looked back up to Kelly, still smiling. “Yes. I have quite fallen for the rebellion’s leader.” She laughed quietly. “The Archigos will have a hard time accepting him, but they won’t have a choice. After this war is over he’s going to come up to Ventra and help me rule.” She lifted her chin, almost in defiance, then thought her self silly. Kelly didn’t care. She must be practicing for when she had to face the Archigos.
Kelly regarded Rhiannon for a long time, seeing the defiant look on her face. “Want my personal opinion? Marry him before you become Empress. That way the court won’t have any say in who you marry. Once you become Empress, your life is no longer your own. The people and court will dictate what you will and will not be allowed to do. You may think you will be the most powerful person in the land, but…” Kelly shook her head. “You are a stranger. All you have is a birthmark and memories–which may or may not be induced by some magic user. You need them to trust you. So before all that happens, if you and Flath love each other, marry him before all the royal requirements come into play.” But then Kelly shrugged and smiled. “Of course, you may do it however you see fit, but…knowing how royal courts can be…just because you and a few people believe you are the rightful ruler, doesn’t mean everyone will have the same opinion…especially if they’ve been ruled by another by some time.”
Rhiannon took another drink from her cup and set it down slowly, thinking about just how true Kelly’s words were. She wondered if Flath would marry her now, before they went to Ventra? She sighed. It did look so hopeless. Kelly was right, all she had was this birth mark. Would her cousin, Shankee, who had been ruling as the proxy empress for twenty-four years even accept her? Rhiannon looked up at Kelly and smiled. “You are very wise, Muse. I think you’ve seen much.” She smiled. “You have given me a lot to think about, for sure.” She lifted her head and laughed, “even more to worry about, too!”
“I’d rather you know the possibility that are ahead of you instead of having you go in with blind confidence.” Kelly shook her head. “Of course, if you marry him now, the court may demand you annul the marriage before allowing you to take the crown. But on the other hand, if you don’t marry him before you take the throne, they would demand you marry other suitors, and if you insist on Flath, they may want you to abdicate your throne. It’s a tricky situation you’re in. If you can get the two different races to come to an agreement and not hate each other so much, then you have a chance.” Kelly then tilted her head to the side. “How do you plan on accomplishing that anyway?”
Rhiannon shook her head. “It sounds hopeless, doesn’t it?” She frowned a little, thinking. “Well, most of the hatred for the Archigos comes from the Seuns within Sona Tuath.” Rhiannon swept her arm across the opening. “Out here, further from the castle people seem to be more tolerant. But I figure that if the Archigos finally rid Beaynid of their despised queen, they will feel enough gratitude to at least start feeling less hateful towards their neighbors to the north.” Rhiannon took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Now the Archigos might be a whole different story. I have no idea how deep their hatred of the Suens goes. I will have to asses the situation once I get there.” Rhiannon shook her head. That seemed like a lame plain, even to her.
“Do you have any idea why the hatred is there?” Kelly lifted her brows.
“Luckily it’s not a long standing hatred, so perhaps there is hope.” Rhiannon looked out over the forest as a flock of starlings flew overhead. She slowly gathered her thoughts. Finally she started talking again. “After Baobh killed my mother and took her necklace, The Necklace of Verna, so that she could take the throne of Beaynid, the Archigos descended upon Sona Tuath seeking vengeance. However, with the power of the necklace and the help of Lord Rull, the mighty Archigos were slaughtered. But not without taking most of the men of Sona Tuath down with them.” Rhiannon shook her head. “Even though they were not happy with Baobh, they never forgave the Archigos for that war.” Rhiannon smiled sadly. That is what I have to overcome.
“Well, since it isn’t longstanding, as you said, it should be a bit easier for you to unravel, but you’re gonna have to sit down and talk with them and not let them leave the table until they’ve resolved their issues. That…that’s not going to be a fun conversation.” Kelly grimaced. She knew how complicated it was with such discussions in her own family, and that wasn’t even royalty or members of a court. She did not envy Rhiannon for what she would have to do.
“However, on to another topic,” Kelly smiled. “How did you meet Flath anyway? And what about him has you so…taken?”
Rhiannon immediately seemed a smile, all thought of bloody wars behind her. “I had just escaped Baobh’s men, the ones that pulled me through the Tree of Jur, and was wondering around lost when Teo found me.” Rhiannon turned and pointed over to a stocky man in his late thirties with a shock of bright red hair and a bushy red beard. She turned back to Kelly. “Teo took me to Flath who thought I was spy,” She laughed and shook her head. “He didn’t know what to do with me. He took e to the Prophecy Keeper, who happens to be Teo’s mother, and that’s where we learned of the prophecy that says I am supposed to be the one to bring ruin to Baobh.” Rhiannon got a sad look on her face again. “It was then that Flath decided he needed to take me to the Archigos so that I could be trained and hopefully lend help to the rebellion.” Rhiannon leaned in and looked into Kelly’s eyes. “But by that time we were already in love. However, I still have to go and do my duty,” she said in a forlorned voice.
“Unfortunately duty does take precedent over love at times, and that is difficult. However, if the two of you are committed to one another, and are always honest with one another, you can make it work.” Kelly gave Rhiannon a hopeful smile. “Now though, what about your father? You haven’t found him yet, have you? When you do, what are you going to do? I’m sure you will have many questions, but…he did take you from here to Earth for a reason. Do you forgive him for not telling you everything? Or is that still difficult to accept?”
Rhiannon got a faraway look in her dark eyes. finally a tear slipped down her cheek. “I do forgive my father. He was doing what he thought was right. He was trying to protect me from Baobh.” She sadly shook her head. “We have not been able to rescue him. Baobh still hold him in her dungeons, hoping to lure my to Sona Tuath. The only hope I have of seeing my father again is if the Archigos help to overthrow Baobh.” Rhiannon smiled again. “And then we will have a reunion and I will finally get to ask all those questions that I wanted to.” Suddenly Flath called out to Rhiannon, “hurry it up, Greannmhor, we must leave soon! Looks like the weather is turning.” Rhiannon waved him away in a dismissive manner. “Sorry about that, Kelly. Go on.” She smiled warmly at the woman.
Kelly looked up at the sky and saw clouds were beginning to gather. She could also tell the time of her interview was coming to a close, so she knew she had to wrap it up.
She smiled at Rhiannon. “Flath is right. I’m going to have to go soon anyway, but one final question, do you miss the simplicity of your life back on Earth? Would you trade one for the other? Or are you very content with the new life you’ve found here?”
Rhiannon looked out again over the Alba Forest and mindlessly stroked Luna fur. Finally she sighed and spoke. “I do, at times, miss the care-free life I had on the ranch. But I’m part of something so much bigger, now.” She looked into Kelly’s eyes. “I have to avenge my mother and help the people of Beaynid who suffer under Baobh’s rule.” She got a little smile on her face, then. “And then there’s Flath, of course. I’m so thankful I met him.” She laughed. “I know, sappy.”
Kelly shook her head with a smile. “Not sappy at all.” But then she sighed and rose to her feet. “I must apologize, but my time here has come to an end. I need to be leaving. However, I appreciate you taking the time the talk with me and answer all my questions. I hope you the best with all your endeavors.” She smiled at her.
Rhiannon stood with Kelly and smiled. “Thank you for your time, Kelly. You gave me a lot to think about, and hopefully I’ll be more prepared when I do meet my people in Ventra. Have a safe journey, friend.”
“And you as well.” With that, Kelly bowed to Rhiannon and then turned and went on her way.
Melissa E. Beckwith’s novel, ‘The Empress of Ventra: The Sword of Rhiannon: Book One’ can be found on Amazon here:
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