As they rode through the town, Alexandria stopped to look at a dead tree by the castle moat. It had died years ago, but it had remained untouched by the locals. She continued on into the castle but the tree reminded her of the past.
The sun was setting as a strong north westerly wind was blowing in. Alexandria walked up the hill just outside of the town, with her guard down below with her horse. Upon reaching the hill she found that it was not unoccupied. The woman stood there with her arms crossed, wrapped in furs and with a great bow across her back.
‘I figured I would be able to find you here.’ She said to the Queen. Alexandria only nodded and walked up next to her, ‘How did you know?’
The woman shrugged, ‘You stopped at the tree in the morning.’ Alexandria wasn’t surprised. Catarina was always one who could predict your actions. Hunters instinct most likely she thought. ‘So why are you here?’ she asked the Sud huntress.
‘This town is full of ghosts,’ she said looking over the wooden buildings, ‘I see them every time I come back here. His ghost is one I wish I didn’t have to.’ Alexandria stood next to her, looking over the town. A lot had changed in fifteen years, but the smell of the swamp, and bright stones of Castle Braganza still remained, as did the tree and the hill.
Alexandria turned to Catarina, ‘Do you regret what happened?’ The huntress shook her head, ‘Regret is for fools. We cannot change the past, only accept responsibility for what has happened by our hand, or others.’ Alexandria scoffed, spoken like a true follower of the Goddess Chie. Catarina turned to the Queen, ‘And what of you? Why do you climb to the grave of a long dead knight?’
Alexandria bristled at the question, ‘I come to honour him. He died due to my failure and to protect me. He did not deserve the death he was given.’ Catarina shook her head in contempt, ‘Death does not care about the manner in which you die. A rope in a tree is just the same as sword in a battle. You feel you should have done something to save him don’t you?’
‘Yes, what of it?’ Alexandria replied, ‘We all could have done something to save him from your cousin. He was mad for power and blinded by vengeance.’ Catarina raised a finger, ‘Niccolo only did what he thought was best for his people. He had only the best of intentions in his actions.’
‘Which is why he murdered innocents, uprooted thousands from their homes, and sided with corrupted Elves.’ Alexandria spat in reply, ‘Sir Miguel had done nothing wrong.’ ‘But,’ Catarina replied, ‘be the descendant of those knights who conquered my people and subjugated them to centuries of foreign rule.’ She looked the Queen in the eye, ‘A conquest and subjugation enacted by your ancestor for the greater good of all if I remember his justification.’ She turned back to look over the town, ‘Odd how the same justification is being used today.’
Alexandria’s fury boiled over, ‘You want to accuse me of something? My actions as Queen has brought peace and prosperity to Arcadia. Even you must admit that today the kingdom ruled far more justly and fairly then ever in our history! What I do, I do to ensure that we are ready for when the true enemy arrives. One that you saw, just as I did in the Dragon’s Meadow!’
‘Indeed,’ Catarina replied continuing her gaze, ‘yet you seem to forget that your actions have long reaching consequences. Your war with the Dwarfs, your plans to get involved with the civil war in Howaito Shima, even allowing the Orcs to enter into Arcadia as citizens. All you do will reverberate through the ages. You are so focused on the present and the near future you don’t see what is coming over the horizon.’ She pointed out to the clouds rolling in, ‘That is the foe you focus on, but clouds don’t last forever. The storm will break and the sun will shine, but another storm will come. And your actions will determine how and if the next storm will be weathered.’ Catarina sighed, ‘Perhaps I should speak to Iago as well, he can see the truth and can dispense justice, but he is so blinded by it that he doesn’t look beyond that. His mind is trapped in the present.’
Alexandria stiffened, ‘So what would you have me do? Leave the Elves to rip themselves apart and fall? Allow the internal divisions so obvious in Arcadia fracture us?’ Catarina shook her head, ‘No, just know that in five hundred years, someone may still be cursing your name, just as my cousin cursed the Orc-Slayer for his actions.’ She patted the Queen’s shoulder as she turned to walk down the hill, ‘Remember, for Niccolo and his followers, the end justified the means. Don’t forget that.’
She walked away, leaving Alexandria alone on the hill next to the grave of Sir Miguel Mendoza, the Phoenix Knight. ‘Your Majesty!’ Catarina called up from down the hill, Alexandria turned, ‘The Gods bless the bold, not the scapegoat!’
Alexandria smiled, as the huntress waved, ‘I’ll tell Kori you said hi! And tell Glaucus he looks fat for me! Remind him that as flag bearer he should wave the flag, not let the wind do it for him!’ Alexandria roared with laughter as her friend set off away from the town where the fallen haunted her dreams.