All the Kings Horses - Chapter 16 - AppleSwan (2024)

Chapter Text

He could hear his heart beating. It was loud, thundering in his ears. His palms were sweaty, his mouth was dry. He rubbed his palms against his pants. Everything he wanted to say, hanging in the air. No one else seemed to talk and the grand throne room closed in on him. Everyone’s eyes, including those of the knights and the guards, were trained on him. He noticed a small nod from Puffy, the kind tilt of the head guard's head. It was approval.

No one else moved.

He had been thinking about it for a while. He had been pondering the act since Olive pulled him away from the window’s ledge. It was his life, and every moment of it so far had been dictated by someone else. He had lived by other people’s rules and had played the games of dead kings for too long. If he were to truly live, he couldn’t be chained to any one place. He couldn’t be restricted, even by people who he considered home and family. It would kill him. It almost did once.

He wouldn’t be the first to abdicate his right to the throne. Those who chose too in his own family, and from Kingdoms far away, are few and far between. The records of who had are even fewer. Those who chose not to partake in a life of riches and masks are erased from history. The difference between them and Tommy, was that Tommy refused to be forgotten. He refused to be erased.

There was a part of him that couldn’t stand the thought of leaving the only life he knew behind. It was a suffocating thought, constricting his lungs, wrapping around him like a boa constrictor. His stomach was ripped to shreds by butterflies with wings of razors. He wasn’t leaving his people to a corrupt kingdom. He was still going to insist on being included in conversations, and he would until corruption had been weeded out of the roots of the Navian nation.

There was an ever subtle shift in the air. Tommy’s head whipped over to Phil, whose anger seemed to simmer like a geyser. As Phil opened his mouth, Tommy’s hand went to where his sword should have been sheathed at his hip. It wasn’t there, but the desperate need to defend himself was.

It was exhaustion, in its purest form. He was exhausted. Physically. And mentally. He could not keep doing this back and forth, he could not fight to be listened to, he could not fight to be heard. He was too tired. Tired of making sure that he was not ignored. He would never be ignored again.

“It is my right, as the prince, to do whatever the hell I want with my title. And I abandon it.” He couldn’t keep his brave face. His shoulders sagged and a sad smile stretched across his face. “Dad, please. I can’t keep doing this.”

It’s him, with the Preceerians huddled on his right, and the Navians huddled on his left. He’s by himself. He’s always by himself. He’s always othered. He is different. Fundamentally different. There’s no hiding it. There’s no pretending. He cannot be like the rest of them. He might have been born to be royal, but he failed at it spectacularly every time.

Wilbur looks up to the ceiling, taking a deep breath. “You can tap into your magic.” He says. And with that one statement Tommy’s worldview shattered.


“Only recently,” he said with the furrow of his brow, seemingly wanting to step closer to Tommy but restraining it. “When you’re talking to people, when you’re helping people. There’s a glow.”

A deep breath, followed by a second one. He tried not to blow up, tried not to show his anger. His anger was as volatile as his fathers, an anger handed down from generation to generation. It was the anger of every son and daughter before him that bore the weight of the crown against their will. It was the anger of every disappointment, and every outcast. It was his anger. The anger that he had kept hidden, and buried, and locked away.

It was the righteous anger of the youngest son.


For every insult hurled his way by nobles passing by, with their single jewels made to imitate the ornate crowns this will be his justice – his retribution. “How many times have you called me a failure for my inability to bond with these f*cking gems.” Tommy ripped his crown off of his head.

The room was dead silent. A pin could drop and echo unlike any other dissonant note. There was no breeze, no small chill. It was stale air that Tommy breathed in through heaving lungs. The dark green rug that ran through the throne room seemed like the great divide. A divide that no one seemed eager to cross anymore.

The Preceerians, for all their preaching, watched in abject horror. Whether it was horror at everything that Tommy had been balling up, or horror at what he had become in the months he had been gone, he couldn’t say. But they did not look at him with pity or with sympathy. Tommy caught Hannah’s eye, and he saw pride.


“No.” He said. “No, Techno. It’s my turn to talk. Because every time I talk I have to demand it. I have to make a grand statement. So this is it. This is my last one. I am done. I am done with these f*cking crystals. I am done with f*cking Royals. I am done being told what to do. I am done with you guys keeping me in the dark. I am done being your f*cking martyr. I am going to go where I want to, talk to who I want to. And no one can f*cking stop me.”

Olive stepped forward, crossing the great divide. Purpled followed close behind. They both kneeled in front of him – both of them having abandoned formal attire. Purpled was sporting the signature tri-fold hat of sailors. They both looked more right, more sure. And Tommy seemed envious.

“High tide to storming seas,” Purpled muttered. “Our fealty is to you.”

Olive looked up, eyes shining with pride more pungent and poignant than anyone else’s. “Take it. Your future is yours, Tommy.”

His future is his and his alone. His future is for him to carve out, his to shape and make. Like a lump of clay waiting for the divine potter to mold it. But there was no divine potter and Tommy would forge his own future with calloused hands. Oh how he longed for calloused hands that showed dedication to a craft and work.

He met Phil’s eyes. “I will not be a son of Navia. I will not be a son of Preceer. I love you all, but I am a child of the stars, and they beg for me to follow them.”

Ponk took a step forward, clasping her hands. “Your mother would be proud.”

“Don’t talk about his mother,” Phil said. “You have no right –”

Without flair, without dramatics, Ponk lifted his head. “Samantha was the princess of my dying Kingdom. She was my friend. I have every right to talk about her.” They raised a hand, silencing Phil’s complaints.

Both Techno and Wilbur looked over, exchanging a glance with each other. “Mother was-” Wilbur started, words that danced on the tip of his tongue failing him.

“You knew her?” Techno asked instead.

Ponk nodded. “And I will happily tell you three all about her.” She narrowed her eyes, “with or without permission, you deserve to know about the Kingdom you hail from. You deserve to know about your mother.”

Phil placed a hand on each of their shoulders, a threatening gesture that they both flinched from. It was that slight moment, that wince, that dance of fear through the air. Phil pulled away as if he had been burnt. “I can’t lose you two, too,” he muttered.

“You’re not losing them. And you’re not losing me,” Tommy wetted his drying lips. His mouth was like a desert as he spoke, dry and uncertain as his words fell upon eager ears. “I’m not saying this without having thought about this.” He stepped forward. “I care about all of you. I care about the Kingdoms. I-” I need you all.

Purpled and Olive stood up, backing him up – encouraging him. “You got this,” Purpled said, patting his back. Tommy dropped his crown, it clattered against the marble.

A genuine smile danced across his face, his lips tugging upwards against his will. “The four kingdoms that operate a majority of the continent: Mycelia, Navia, Preceer, and eventually Enderia, are really bad at talking things out. But-” He took another deep breath. “But I am not bad at talking to you guys.”

“An ambassador,” Quackity nodded along, crossing his arms and staring at Tommy with rapt attention. “Unaffiliated between the kingdoms.”

“That way I can be with any of you guys. As much as I want to be. I don’t like castles. But you guys are all home.”

Techno nudged Wilbur forward, “Even us?”

“I don’t– I don’t know. I just… I like you guys. I want to try again. Maybe not as brother’s quite yet, but maybe as friends?”

“I am not losing my son,” Phil clasped his hands behind his back. “I was bringing you here with the unspoken understanding that you would still be my son.”

Tommy laughed under his breath, low and sardonic as he spoke. “I am not your son, and I haven’t been for a long long time. You lost me as a son the day I had to fight for your attention. I don’t need your permission to do this. But let me work with you, Phil. I can help make Navia better.”

“I don’t need help from an insolent-”

“Who started the initiative to reboot the Navian economy? Who utilized the skills of underestimated members of the court? Who? Who? Who? Who stopped the war? Who’s giving you a chance? It’s me. It’s always been me. Do not fool yourself, Phil. Wilbur has been leading the kingdom more than you have.” Tommy took another step forward, stepping onto the velvet rug. He was the one in charge here, this was his future that he was fighting for. And he would fight until his very last breath. He wouldn’t give up. He couldn’t give up. Not any time soon.

Wilbur avoided everyone else’s gaze, as Techno grabbed onto his hand. “What do you say, Bloody?” Hannah asked. “Wanna try the whole cooperation thing?”

“Or are you scared your training regime fails in comparison to ours?” Boomer licked his teeth with a snicker. It was a joke to them. A game.

Techno’s eyes widened. There was something more going on as he took a moment before responding. There was something that Techno was thinking about that he wasn’t saying. But instead of spilling his own plans for the future he simply said, “Never.”

“Y’know I’ve had some idea on how to improve Navia for awhile,” Quackity said with no real bite.

Wilbur seemed to perk up at that. It was pathetic, how they got at each other’s throats like that. “Yeah, okay. If I saw Preceer, I bet I could improve it within days.”

Sam took a step forward, walking towards Phil. “We’re reaching our prime, somehow. If the kids want to give this a go, I’m fine with it too.” He extended a hand and Tommy, at last, decided to let hope sing within his hollow bones.

Eyeing the hand warily, Phil shook Sam’s hand with great hesitance. “Here’s to a new era, aye mate?”

“A new era indeed.”

Phil turned to look at Tommy, “Just don’t forget to visit, please,” and with that kind of desperation… Tommy couldn’t say no. Curse his bleeding heart.

Hope. Real true hope as he turned around and hugged Olive and Purpled. Everything he wanted, right at his fingertips. A weight cut from his ankle, a key fitting into a slot. He could roam amongst the stars, see what life was like outside of stingy castle walls. He could be free. And he wouldn’t have to worry about having to rule over a kingdom should any of his numerous older siblings die.

Because with lines of succession who needs enemies?


There was a pond, it had been there longer than either of them could remember. It sat on the border of two Kingdoms that seemed at constant war with one another. But this pond, deep as it was in the forest, remained unguarded. Which gave way for two very young girls to meet, and meet again, and meet again. This pond was small, placed in the middle of a clearing; it was the perfect meeting spot for a young knight in training, and a young personal assistant, to speak without fear of being found out.

They both knew that they were committing treason. They didn’t care. They grew close. They grew together. They grew to watch what they had both anticipated to be the downfall of their kingdoms. And they grew to watch a single boy save them both. They grew into a time of peace, where their conversations no longer had to be held under the guise of night, and they could laugh and speak in words louder than a whisper.

The forest was alive on a clear spring day. Niki stepped through a familiar down trodden path, her feet knowing the way by heart. Her dress snagged on the occasional overgrown bramble. Though she did not wear the big twirling gowns that she did in the castle, the fabrics were still precious and each small breeze swept them into some unruly plant’s grasp.

It was a tedious process, but one she enjoyed thoroughly. She loved hearing the distant rush of river water in tune with bird song carried through the winds. She loved the way that she could hear woodpeckers drill into dead trees. The occasional squirrel would scurry into her path before leaving it be. The forest was not without its dangers, but Niki was prepared for anything.

There was nothing special about this day to Niki, she was simply seeing Puffy as she typically would. Their visits had become more frequent since their relationship had been revealed. She wore the promise ring Puffy had given her around her neck on a simple silver chain. Her hair was half up and a sword sat on her hip. Her smile was bright, having been promoted to a court advisor earlier that day.

Things were better, nicer even. The courts were being cleaned of the rotten filth that had defined them for so long; Tommy had made sure that Niki, Eret, Beau, and Eryn would spearhead the operation as they were well aware of what changes had to be made. Techno had started gardening. Wilbur had taken up visiting villages and teaching children how to play various instruments. Were things easier? No. They never would be, not in a land as complicated as a castle. But they were nicer.

When the path opened up to the clearing with the pond, Puffy was already there waiting. She sat on a fallen tree, moss and mushrooms growing from the decaying wood. Niki’s posture relaxed, her shoulders fell. Her smile got so much softer.

She made her way over to Puffy, who sat staring at the clouds, well aware of Niki’s presence. Niki sat down next to her, gently laying her hand over Puffy’s. “Hello there, stranger,” she joked.

Puffy leaned her head against Niki’s shoulder. “Hello to you too.”

“Anything interesting happen lately?”

“Not particularly. Things are slow. There’s no need to train new recruits, the war’s over.”

“Isn’t it a marvelous thing?” Niki laughed under her breath as Puffy sat up, staring Niki down. Her eyes were solemn and serious.

Puffy had many tells, and the one that Niki saw was her nervous one. She pulled her hand away from Niki’s, tightening her ponytail. Niki could see as she chewed on her inside lip, and there was the slight quirk of a lopsided smile. Niki was good at reading people, she had to be. But that wasn’t the point.

“Are you okay?” She asked.

She had hoped that nothing bad would happen. Niki didn’t make it a habit to catastrophize, she preferred to be a realist and an optimist, but the way that Puffy looked at her made her nervous. Things were supposed to be simple for them, better, but now she had reason to fear the worst may have been happening.

Puffy slid down off the tree, on one knee she held one of Niki’s hands. Niki’s heart fluttered, butterflies tearing up her stomach.

“Once upon a time I promised you that when it was finally safe for us, we would get married.”

“Puffy-” Niki gasped.

“Niki Miller-Nihachu, will you make me the luckiest woman alive and marry me?”

Tears slid down Niki’s face as she launched herself at Puffy, hugging her fiance to near death. “Yes. Yes, I will.”


She opened up her fan, watching everyone below her dance as she fanned herself. It was always a pleasure to attend these balls. The people gawking, the political intrigue. They all fascinated her. Most people didn’t bother talking to her. After all, she was the simple, lowly duch*ess of most of the coastal ports. It wasn’t as if her entire operations were responsible for stimulating the economy. No, they had no interest in the ports. It was why her family was both noble and rich, it was simply good investment in the right places.

Like always, Beau stood on one of the balconies, savoring the crisp summer air. Things were changing. For the better. For one, Tommy was smiling. The second most important part being that people were starting to take her seriously in her duties. Ah yes, let’s all kiss up to Beau now that she saved the city and our pathetically small wallets.

How joyous. The moon was shining high above her. She had alway loved the night, especially when she would sneak away to the beach. Seeing the stars far away from any kind of poisonous light pollution was positively dreamy. It was why she loathed the necessary trips to the capital. Every single lamppost that she passed had been a reminder of how much she hated those dreary skies.

This ball was different from the other ones. It was the scholarship kids’ first ball as something more than a simple peasant. It was the first time they would be allowed to network; it was the start of something bigger than they all realized. It was a crack in the structure of their very society and Beau was sad to say that she would likely die before she saw the death of this system.

Don’t get her wrong, she loved the benefits she got from it. But it was hardly a big deal when her own achievements were overshadowed by her name and her title. All of the glory went to Tommy, and though she was proud of him and the fact that he lived to see his own work blossom into something more, it was quite annoying that she and Eryn were relegated to pawns.

She was not a pawn.

The peasant kids all lingered in a single little corner. Someone would have to give them a push. And it didn’t look like any of the other nobles down on the dance floor were going to do it. It would have to be her… eventually. For the moment, she was content to watch. Nothing more. Nothing less.

“Lady Tie,” Eryn bowed.

Beau smiled from behind her fan. “The bastard prince himself. I was starting to wonder if you had chosen to remain in the badlands.”

“It seems they hate me more than the pricks here,” Eryn fiddled with the cuffs of his suit. Though his cuff links were crooked and his tie wasn’t quite slim enough for the outfit, he always did seem to clean up well. The two black sheep of the courts, brought up by the renegade prince. Weren’t they a sorry group?

Beau herself wore a sleek blue dress, differentiating herself from the bigger more spherical dresses of the rest of the nobles. She considered herself a trend setter. It was a satin, navy blue that seemed to compliment the sky. It was still fuller than a nightgown, with plenty of petticoats, she just lacked the very ballish figure of the rest of the women. In addition to her dress she wore red ruby earrings, a symbol of her fealty to the now ex-Prince. Eryn wore a red tie with a sleek black three piece suit. They were quite a dynamic duo, weren’t they?

She raised her eyebrows in mock surprise. “Oh really? Who would have ever guessed.”

“I’m blaming my mum for it, y’know? The whole being hated thing.”

“Blame your dad for being a king of a foreign nation. If it were me I would have just run away and become a peasant in, say, Preceer or Hypixel. Hell, I even would have settled for Kinoko at this point.” Beau narrowed her eyes as she noted the very vibrant colors of the noble kids’ dresses as compared to the more subtle dusty colors of the peasant kids.

This was a long road that they’d have to tread with thick skin if they were going to survive this part of their life. Eryn followed Beau’s gaze until he realized what she was looking at. “It’s quite weird, isn’t it.”

Beau shook her head. She allowed herself another sweep of the ballroom. The alternating tiled floors mixed with the dark green rugs that ran underneath tables stocked to the brim with hor’ d’oeuvres and drinks. There were the tall spiraling columns of marble that curved and met at the center of the vaulted ceiling. There were dozens of glittering gold chandeliers. The entire ball was meant to flaunt wealth and elegance, and they made the kids look foolish in comparison to their gaudy expressions of wealth.

“It’s not weird, it’s pathetic. C’mon.” Beau grabbed Eryn’s wrist and pulled him along with her. If she was going to do this, then she was going to have an accomplice to take the fall with her. The courts already hated them, what’s one more thing in objection to the status quo.

The courts hated being challenged. Beau loved challenging them. Perhaps it was a result of growing up so young. Perhaps it was a result of not living in haunted castle halls. But she despised the hypocrisy of most nobles, and most nobles detested her brutal honesty. As she made her way down the grand staircase to the main dance floor, she winked at everyone whose stares she caught as she descended.

She closed her fan. The kids looked, quite frankly, terrified. And it really was such a pity that the obviously secondhand dresses and suits were leant to them how they were. Beau could see the beautiful ghost of what they used to be. They were being set up. Why wouldn’t they be? They’re challenging the status quo.

Eryn leaned forward, hissing into Beau’s ear, “What are you doing?”

“For once in my life?” She whispered back, taking a deep breath. “For once in my life, I’m doing the right thing just because it’s right.”

She’d be lying if she said her helping Tommy was a completely selfless act. Her ports were struggling with the soldiers swarming the inns and taking rooms, demanding them for free, and they didn’t allow any of the fishermen out on the sea in case they were spies or traitors. On top of that, with the lack of trade…. Her poor town was being suffocated during the war. Her ports were the only thing that typically mattered to her.

It was her legacy, one that she was going to ensure was good and true..

The kids all retreated as Beau approached them. She scoffed, Eryn following a step behind her like he was her servant or something. It was unbecoming of someone of his position, but alas, it was hard to break fear riddled habits.

“Hello.” She said, “I am duch*ess Beau Tie, it’s a pleasure to meet you all.” They all trembled as Beau frowned. This wasn’t quite how she saw this whole thing going. She was hoping they would, dunno, talk to her? At the very least maybe a bow. But instead they all stood frozen in place, watching her with the wide eyes of a prey animal caught in the presence of a predator.

Oh, no wonder the rest of the court officials were staying away. These were easy meat, young and naive. The court nobles could sense the fear and see a target that was too easy of a kill to even bother. These kids were already dead before they set foot into the ballroom.

“I don’t think this is working, Beau,” Eryn whispered under his breath.

Beau sighed as she opened her fan again, rolling her eyes at his statement. “Quite obviously, Eryn. Their education is severely lacking if they’re this scared to talk to someone with more status than them. I’m going to have to talk to Phil, or Wilbur, or whoever the f*ck is in charge because I just–” She shook her head, perfectly aware of the fact that she was not whispering and was complaining rather loudly. She turned her head to look away from the children. “I promise I don’t bite. Really you ought to put yourself out there, or else your futures will start and end with this program, and that would be quite the shame.”

One of the girls stepped forward, “I’m sorry, my lady. It’s just that… we’re busy being taught things like math and, um, writings.”

Beau’s mouth dropped. “Are you hearing this, Eryn?” Eryn nodded. “What’s your name, girl?”

The girl tilted her head, as if analyzing Beau from the inside out. “Amelie, my lady.”

“Well, Amelie, if your tutors are so idiotic as to not tell you the basics of proper ballroom etiquette, allow me to give you a crash course. For f*cks sake, there’s only so much I can cover in a short time.” She pointed her fan towards the thrones that resided at the end opposite of the grand staircase. “Those pricks over there are not to be treated any better than you. In fact, I’d hazard to say that you’re all better people than a majority of the bastards in this room – no offense, Eryn.”

“None taken.”

“Many of the people here are not good people. That being said, politics are tricky things and as such they’ll expect for you to refer to them by a simple honorific. You must show your respect no matter what. There are a terrible amount of honorifics though and I doubt that your tutors informed you of all of them,” Beau pursed her lips as she continued, the music of the orchestra picking up. “When in doubt, simply refer to someone as a Lord or Lady, as that will cover most people here. Typically, you’d be expected to partake in a dance, but I highly doubt you’ve got any dance instruction either. You need to mingle. These things aren’t just parties, the’re political battle fields, and if you can get in good graces with the right people you’re set for life.” She licked her lips. “Understood?”

The children all nodded. “I want you all to go out there and talk to at least one person. I don’t care if you bumble your way through a conversation, practical experience will get you so much further than theoretical.” When the children didn’t move, Beau closed her eyes. She took a deep breath. “I mean now.”

And so, with the children scurrying off their way, Beau found herself leaning half against Eryn. “You’re good at that.”

“I suppose I am.”

“You could be their etiquette tutor, y’know? I bet no one would object if you asked.”

Beau snorted out a laugh. “Have you lost your blooming mind? Me? Etiquette teacher? Have you seen how I behave? I ignore, like, 90% of the rules.”

Eryn shrugged. “You can only do that if you know the rules in the first place.”

As Beau looked out at the kids, her thoughts moved to those of the children. If she wanted to assist in taking down the system, she supposed it would start with this first wave of children. She found the concept of children dreadfully boring, and understanding that she was supposed to carry on her family lineage was an abysmal thought that deeply depressed her. But, a teacher? Her? She found herself not completely repulsed by the idea.

The children talked to random strangers who all seemed to turn their noses up at the kids, though none of them left knowing full well the consequences of not following the royal mandate. It was social suicide to go against a direct order from the King, in front of the king.

“I suppose so.” As the music calmed itself, Beau reached a hand out towards Eryn. “May I have this dance?”

Eryn laughed under his breath, accepting the hand. “You may.” Yeah. Beau watched the kids. Maybe she could do this whole teacher thing.


Amelie was born in strife. She had been born in the midst of war and had known nothing but that searing violence. Amelie was born amongst chaos, and despite her less than ideal circ*mstances she had found not quite peace, but acceptance. She had found that it would prove more efficient not to dream of what could be but accept what was. And young Amelie had accepted that her life would be nothing but war, that she would die before she saw the windows of every house open and welcoming the day.

Throughout the years she had learned to pick the pockets of patrolling guards, silently praying for forgiveness to whatever wretched deity existed out there. She knew that they were struggling just as she was, but her desperation bled into her every action – her nimble fingers sought out the coin pouches of every nobleman who was stupid enough to leave it out in plain sight.

Her dying mother. Her father, of whom she had learned to never expect again. Every knock at the door had been terrifying, seizing her heart as she wondered if it would be news of a deadman – a man she had learned to forget about. Every moment could signal her end, her stomach caved and she understood she had looked like a sickly child, but it was her job to make sure her mama got out of the war alive.

Before she had reached ten years of age, she had become the sole provider for her family. It was a truth that had settled to the deepest parts of her bones. Even if some mornings she had become so fatigued she could barely make it out of bed, she had to get out there and beg and barter and steal so that her mama could see another day. She had to fight the sickness, she had to fight her own hunger, she had to live even if the only thing she wanted to do was curl up and die.

It was not her place to die, not when she still had shaking fingers and a stubborn heart.

She still remembered those times, even years after the war. She could still feel that heart shattering acceptance. She had been just a child, yet she had her own pain and demons that rivaled those of the adults that she got to know. She had been so old for someone so young. Her calloused hands had been proof that Amelie was not a quitter.

She remembered the day her father came home. He came home a broken man to greet a broken child. But they understood each other’s pain, each seeing the echoes of a different war – one that they could never understand. It was that understanding that brought them closer to each other, closer than Amelie would ever admit.

On that day the burden of the world – a shackle around her ankle – broke and freed her from her personal torment.

Things didn’t get easier right away, that would be the foolish thinking of a naive child. Amelie had become anything but naive, a sharpened mind that knew the harsh truths of the world. But things did get better, slowly and with careful, tender love things got better. With access to frequent medicine her mother got better, the coughing fits that once resulted in thick clots of blood spilling from blue tinted lips disappeared over the course of a few months.

On top of that, Amelie had been one of the first children to earn Scholarship to learn at the castle with noble children and respected scholars. Things were changing, everyone could see that. Something happened behind those looming large walls, out on the battlefield, and stirred something new deep in the Royals hearts. Something happened to change things, to change the royals. No one knew what it was. No one could tell what they were in for, but change is a funny thing and it doesn’t stop much like the passing of time or the blowing of the winds.

Of course, she had to fight. As the first peasant from the kingdom’s capital to brace those halls, to sit on that desk, to never have been given anything besides a chance – she had to fight. They spat at her, they called her names, but she refused to back down. She had her right to know, to learn, to grow. And Amelie would not give it up. She would get the respect that was inherent to her as a person.

Lady Nihachu and Duke Powers both helped her get used to things, they helped her catch up to her peers as they have years of knowledge that she had been severely lacking. They taught her to write and read, they taught her letters and vowels and the wonderful use of words and how to string them together to make sentences. Lady Nihachu revealed that she was once in Amelie’s same position and taught her how to throw a punch should it ever come to that.

All in all, things were on the up and up.

Amelie sat on the ledge of the town fountain, the one that nestled itself in the capitals square. Her cheeks had filled out, she was no longer the sickly child that Prince Tommy had once taken pity on. It was that fateful day, so very long ago, where Amelie could first feel the gentle hush of the winds of change.

Her dresses now hugged her body, her ribs no longer prominent as she had been able to enjoy food. There was still that lingering fear in the back of her head, that nagging notion that one day she would lose it all. Every day she fought against her instinct to ration out every loaf of bread and to hand as much as she could to her mama. Every day was a different battle against war-made habits. Every day she won a little bit more of herself back from that man-made hell.

A smile rested on her face, complimenting her rosy cheeks – proof of the blood that kept her alive. It had been a rare site back then, way back when, but her smile had become something precious to her, something she refused to part with no matter what.

The cool mist of the fountain was pleasant against her back. The sky was clear with clouds dotting every so often across the great expanse – it was truthfully a beautiful summer day that Amelie cherished with every fiber of her being. For a day without death looming over the capital was a great day.

She sighed, head turning to the clock tower. He was late. But he was often late. He owed her, time and time again. She had quite a list for him piling up of all the times he was late. It was quite a list, but he could afford to pay her back for the wasted time.

A shadow fell over her, tall and lanky. She perked up, crossing her arms as she frowned. It was a game they often played, as she dramaticized her emotions to play at his heart strings. He knew of her antics, yet fell for them every time. He really wasn’t that smart, was he?

“Do you know how busy I am?” She asked, humphing out disgruntled breath. A fond hand ruffled her curls, ruining the hair she had spent so long that morning perfecting. Amelie swatted the hand. “f*ck you!”

“You have a mouth worse than Purpled’s.” the Crown Prince smiled down at Amelie, nothing but fondness etching his sunken features. Maybe sunken wasn’t the right word. But he looked older, wiser than he used to look. Time had been kind to all of the main continent.

Wilbur wasn’t anything special, not really. He was just a god. He used to look so godlike in his royal attire, donning a crown of fools gold; he seemed to be atop a pedestal of marble and unreachable. To Amelie, at least, he was like a wet cat, prickly but sweet. In a dorky sort of way. He was actually quite a big nerd.

Amelie stuck out her tongue, goading him into losing a battle of wit and words. “Maybe I should go and become a pirate like him then. Huh? What do you think of that? Huh? Huh?”

Wilbur wagged his finger. “But how will I teach you guitar then? Can’t very well do that if you’re on a ship.”

“Can’t very well teach me if you’re not here!” Amelie mocked him, she tried her very best not to crack as he placed the back of his hand to his forehead.

“I am a very busy person, Amelie. You wouldn’t believe it! All of my castle duties and such and such.”

She shakes her head, not buying Wilbur’s excuses one bit. “I call bull!”

“Call whatever you want, but I promised you, Amelie Tallulah Soot, that I would teach you how to play, so I am going to teach you how to play.”

“You promised Prince Tommy,” Amelie scrunched her nose.

Wilbur sat down next to her, pulling his guitar bag from off of his back as he did so. “Oh, now that’s just mean. You refer to him with honorifics but not me? He’s not even a real prince anymore, y’know. He gave that up.”

“Shut up, music man, and teach me how to play.”


He was standing in the halls of his youth, years removed from the moments of confrontation that would redefine his future as something permanent — as something real. He remembered, distantly, the heartache, the hatred, the contempt. It had been a poison rotting at his heart, rotting at his soul. It had been his death, living atop a tower, waiting for the wind to blow it down. It hadn't been his failure, but it had been close.

Tommy was closer to his family. They were rebuilding, and in the slow process of reintroducing trust as all four of them healed from the cycles and systems that had wronged them. He loved them. In some sick and twisted way, he knew he could never hate them, despite the way they goaded him to a precipice and urged him to jump with broken, clipped wings. He couldn't fault them. They had been hurt. But they had still hurt him. And he wasn't quite sure that was something he could easily forgive.

There was a stained glass mural of him. Tommy hadn't asked for them to build it, but it was there. He floated above the kingdom, his crown glowing like a halo above his head, bright blue wings stretching from his back. They depicted him like a saint. He was no saint. He was a damned fool just like the rest of the court, just like the rest of the world. He was able to clean the corruption from their rotted foundation because he had stood upon the uneven stage not as an actor but as a member of the stage crew. They depicted him like a saint. It was an odd feeling to know that he was revered.

Familiar shoes click against polished wood. A familiar gait that had haunted his childhood, that he knew by heart. "Phil," Tommy said with a tight smile. It was easy to forgive his brothers, to let time heal old wounds. They were all victims of the same kind of evil. And despite the understanding that Phil had been a victim himself in many ways, he had still been the cause of his own pain, of his brother’s pain and of the kingdom’s pain. He had created the problems Tommy had to solve. He ruined as many lives as he had saved.

The two of them walked over to a balcony, letting the chilly air bite their skin. Winter was on its way. The seasons change. The rivers flow. The winds blow. And nothing stays the same forever. That is the truth of life. Change is inevitable. And sometimes change is the hardest thing to accept.

Tommy had been told that he seemed happier, that he glowed with a brilliance the staff had not seen on him before. They told him that he was smiling and laughing, and so much brighter than before. The years had been good to him. The same cannot be said for King Phil of Navia. His age was showing. Deep stress lines had been etched into his face, and his hair had turned grey and was starting to thin. But despite it all, when Phil smiled, the corners of his face crinkled to show that he had been happy.

It was no secret to the citizens that Wilbur had pretty much taken over the duties of the throne. Phil had seen too much, had lived through too much, and the idea of ruling in a new world with new peace was something that Tommy thought his father would never be able to fully comprehend. Tommy was proud of Wilbur, he was proud of the King his brother was becoming and he was proud of how much he had grown.

"I'm glad you could come for my birthday. I know you can't always make it, running around doing this and that." Phil waved his hand, his cane becoming more of a mobility aid as he aged than it was years ago. His voice was raspy, having the old man gravel that Tommy had grown accustomed to in his travels.

He had been everywhere. Camping under the stars, he had made friends and foes. He had mapped the constellations and told of the stories to townspeople. These stories were whispered into his ears on fleeting winds. It was as if the universe itself was telling him, Go! Tell our Stories. Under the open skies he had visited Kinoko Kingdom and had met with Eryn’s father, seeing the Badlands with his own eyes. There was yet still more to explore. More villages to see. More lives to hear about. More people to meet.

He's... free. And he loves it.

“You’re… family.”

Phil shook his head. “I’m a fool, Tommy. I’m nothing but an old fool.”

“You’re not a fool,” Tommy swallowed back his tears. Every time he thought he was over it, that his childhood would never bother him again, he would feel it all over. There would be a smell, a sound, a melody, and he would be back in those moments. He would be crying anew.

“I fear that I always was.”

Tommy licked his drying lips. Standing next to his father he would always feel like a naive child, like a hapless jester. “Niki told me about her father once. I looked into him.” Phil didn’t respond, instead he nodded. “You organized the whole thing.”

“Perhaps I did.”

“You’re a clever bastard. And you were a selfish one too–”


Everyone changed. But sometimes, no matter how hard Tommy tired, his perception of those people never could. He would never forget the hurt Phil forced onto him. He could accept that Phil had been hurt. He could never forget those sleepless nights, those dreams of death. The dreams he loved. And the dreams he hated.

“You’re not the man you were. But neither am I.”

“One day I’ll send a message to you, and you won’t return.” It wasn’t a question. It was a fact and a statement. One day.

Tommy knew that no things were permanent. He feared that coming back, each and every time, reopened wounds he had thought healed. If he kept returning they’d never close, one day he’d be comfortable in his own skin. He didn’t know when that day would be. Not when 17 years had been cut from him. Not when he still had little idea of who Tommy was, as a person outside of the title ‘Prince’.

“Yeah.” Is all he said. “I’ll always come back, but–” He didn’t need to say anything more. They both knew.

“I love you.”

Tommy didn’t respond. He didn’t know if he could. As much as he hated Phil, he knew that being away from Navia killed him as much as the castle did. He still cared. He didn’t want to care. But he did. And maybe that hurt the most.

“Ah.” Phil stood there, next to Tommy. And together the two of them watched the sunset.


The men in the Navian armies didn’t respect the art of the fight. It’s a simple fact that Niki had observed through her many years of technical knighthood – though she was knighted, she typically didn’t follow through with any of the astute duties of a knight. She was Wilbur’s personal attendant, a fact that she has come to accept rather than loathe over the years.

To the men in Navian armies swords were nothing more than weapons to be wielded and used. Their opponents were nothing more than their enemy. They didn’t understand nuance in the craft, strict in their procedures, devoid of attachment to the very thing most of them had dedicated their life to practice and hone. They didn’t see the freedom of movement, or the beauty of expression in a battle between two willing souls. They didn’t respect their opponent as a fellow artist – as an equal.

Niki had always defaulted to respecting her opponents as her betters. It did not suit her purposes to assume that she was better, it would often end up with her laying beaten on the ground. She had killed her ego a long time ago. It was the only way to succeed. She had to treat each battle like the opponent was holding back, that they were waiting to slit her throat.

When she first picked up a sword she had been a young peasant girl. She had forced herself to join the training of princes and nobles. She was in a world she did not understand. Niki had been facing down people who could afford private tutors and extra time in the sparring arena. Despite it all, knight training had been her escape from the onslaught of lessons thrown on her.

The boys she had fought never respected her. They didn’t understand that while it was their hobby and dream, it had been her respite and responsibility.

They hadn’t understood the artistry in their craft.

Hannah understood the art, though Niki guessed it was due to a different reason than her own. It was obvious in the frantic movements that the two of them sparred as if they had everything to lose. For both of them it was a learned habit they would never break. They fought for survival. They fought to stay alive, in the barest quality of it.

Two women drawn together, not by any force other than their shared desperation and ability of self-preservation.

Their blades clashed as sparks flew between them. It was a dance of death, both fighting for dominance and control as they took turns leading the other. Metal met with metal, distantly grinding against Niki’s ears in a way that would have made her wince if her focus were not drawn onto Hannah.

The Princess Preceer’s body flowed more than it moved. It was fluid, twisting and turning, parry, block, strike. Each slash was calculated, each movement intentional. There was trickery and deceit in the way that Hannah moved, but Niki could not allow herself to be fooled.

Each of them took heavy breaths. Niki’s own lungs stung, pushing herself to the limit as she finally met someone who wouldn’t hold back. Her shirt clung to her back, the cloth turning uncomfortable and irritating as it rubbed against her skin.

She couldn’t relent. She wouldn’t allow herself to relent.

The time passed as dust kicked into the air in clouds, ruining her sight. Niki swung her sword as it struck Hannah’s. They press against each other, both attempting to force the other to recede. Neither are successful.

Through gritted teeth Hannah glanced at the sky and asked, “Truce?”

Niki nodded and they both stopped. They were panting, heaving messes as they caught their breaths before discussing anything.

“You’re—” Hannah takes a deep breath, straightening up and offering to take Niki’s sparring sword to put away. “You’re really good.”

Niki lets Hannah take her sword, smiling. “You are too, your highness.” When Hannah says it, she knows it’s not coming from a place of shock or surprise but rather respect. It doesn’t have the same edge that the admirals and generals have when they speak to her.

“Please, Hannah’s fine. You are married to Puffy and Puffy’s practically family,” Hannah put the swords back onto the training rack. The swords there are typically on their last leg of life, years old and suffering the wear from it. “How’s that going, by the way?”

Niki played with the wedding band she had strung around her neck with a chain. It was great. The only problem was that they were both too stubborn and devoted to move. Niki couldn’t leave Navia. As horrid as it was, Wilbur and Techno and Tommy and Eret had become family. They were all she had left besides Puffy, and she couldn’t give it all up… not again.

“We’re trying to figure out where to move right now. One of us will give in eventually. Sending messages is a lot easier with the borders more open than they were before.”

Hannah smiled, it twinkled with a familiar mischief and Niki could see where Tommy had gotten it from. “I might have a solution to that problem.”

Despite the light hearted way that Hannah said it, it gave Niki pause. Her stomach dropped. “Oh, please don’t fire Puffy, she loves her job.”

“Never! I just told you that Puffy’s family.” Hannah rushed up to Niki. She grabbed one of Niki’s hands in both of hers. “Just trust me. Please.”

Niki rolled her eyes, she hadn’t expected all the royals to be this dramatic but it made sense in a weird sort of way. “Lead the way then, your highness.”

Hannah dragged Niki along through the castle halls she had grown up in. Hannah was visiting Navia to train the armies in order to diversify their fighting styles. Techno had been on leave in Preceer doing the same with theirs. It was supposed to be a show of faith for each one. It was effective too, Niki had seen the improvement just from watching.

As they got further and further into the castle, Niki got more and more confused. They were headed towards the castle village. It was a pretty self explanatory name; there was a small village of nice houses for visiting nobility to have in case they wanted more than a room inside of the castle. The castle village is within castle walls, just not inside the castle.

Niki knew that Eret had a place there. It was possible that they were heading there for this ‘trust me’ thing. Though Niki didn’t know what to expect. How could this possibly solve her problem of trying to convince Puffy to come live in Navia with her?

Of course she was right when they entered the small plaza of nobility houses. They came up to one that Niki was positive was empty. No one rented it out or lived there. So when Hannah produced a key to slip into the lock, suffice it to say that Niki was confused.

“I’m sorry? What is going on?”

Hannah turned the key, the door unlocked with a click. “Just trust me,” Hannah repeated as she opened the door.

Niki was pushed into the living room. Standing in the center was Puffy, beautiful with a bandana holding her hair out of her face, a simple flowing dress of a laborer rather than a noble. What else was Niki supposed to do? She broke into a wide smile, running up to Puffy.

“What is going on?”

“Surprise,” Puffy said.

The room lit up as the lanterns were all turned on with a snap of fingers. Other people jumped out from hiding. “Surprise!” A banner unfurled, reading ‘Welcome Home NewlyWeds.”

She couldn’t stop the tears from pricking at the corner of her eyes. Her nose stung with that pre-cry feeling. “Puffy–”

Puffy grabbed Niki’s face, wiping the tears away. There were so many people there. Tommy stood to the side, arms folded over his chest. Wilbur and Techno and Eret and even some of the Preceerian royalty like Boomer and Quackity and— it was all too much.

“Don’t cry, yet.” Puffy said in a voice that was too soft, and it was going to make Niki cry even more.

“There’s more?”

Techno stepped forward, as Puffy stepped to the side. He was holding an enchanted netherite sword with a golden ornate hilt — it was the exact same one from when he had been knighted and appointed to be the General-Price of Navia.

He cleared his throat. “I’m not good with speeches. That’s why, uhhh, Wilbur does all the fancy stuff. But I am good at fighting. I am not, however, the best strategist, or the best swordsman in the Kingdom.” Niki’s hands jumped to her face, resting on her nose as Techno continued to talk. Tears continued to stream down Niki’s face. “Niki Miller-Nihachu. You are a better strategist than me. You are a better swordsman than me. And you have wanted this so much more than me. If you would kneel.”

“Techno you can’t—”

“Please let me then.”

“I’m a peasant, I’m—”

“You are a Lady of the Court. f*ck your ancestors and bloodlines. We’re starting a new chapter in Navian history. You’ve worked for this. You deserve this.”

Niki kneeled. With trembling hands she kneeled, just like she did when she was being Knighted the first time. This time one of her best friends was passing a torch that she didn’t know if she could carry — but she would try her hardest to live up to his expectations.

“Lady Niki Miller-Nihachu, I, General-Prince Technoblade Craft, hereby anoint you as the Admiral of all Navian militia. You will do your best to uphold the values of the kingdom and lead our armies into victory.” shoulder to shoulder, the blade lightly tapped.

Niki stood up. Techno stood up, spinning his hold on his hilt, handing it to Niki. And with trembling hands she took it.

Tommy stopped leaning against the wall. “I brought cake, who wants some?”

And with that Niki bursted into tears, eternally grateful for her friends and her family.


The world was a large place. Even larger than Tommy had anticipated. There was so much to the world, even more than he’s seen on his own little continent. There’s everything that’s oceans away. He grinned from ear to ear as he walked down a small path. He knew exactly where he was, and yet he had never been there before.

It was everything he could have ever wanted. He wore simple clothes, his shoulders squared back and chest forward — he was no longer weighed down by expectation and duty. He could go wherever he wanted to go and see whatever he wanted to see.

At the moment, he was in the middle of exploring every inch of the continent as much as he could, wandering between Navia, Preceer, and Enderia to see who he could meet. It was getting late and he was running out of supplies. If he was right, he should have been coming up across a village sometime soon.

The sun was setting, bleeding across the horizon and setting the forests into a beautiful shadow. He tilted his head back and forth while humming a small tune. The sword that Preceer had gifted him sat on his hip while an expandable shield that Tubbo had thought up was resting on his wrist. On his head sat not a crown of golden lies, but rather a crown of flowers and thorns that some kids from the last village he had been in created for him.

He was happy. For the first time in a long time, he was happy. Before the sun could set all the way, before the village must have decided to call it quits for the night, Tommy made it. There weren’t a lot of people out and about, but it was a larger village bordering on a town. People were at last closing down their market stands while chatting amicably with those next to them.

The streets were illuminated with the warm light of various lanterns. It was a beautiful sight. Everyone was smiling, laughing, having fun. He needed a place to sleep, and with his coin pouch secured to the inner lining of his long vest like coat, he knew he could afford an inn room. He just needed to find the inn.

While many people greeted him with a friendly wave all of them seemed apprehensive about Tommy’s presence. Stranger danger and all of that, innit? He walked up to one of the closing market stalls and greeted the woman running it with a smile.

“Sorry to bother you ma’am, but I was looking for the local inn, if there is one?” It was always awkward when Tommy had to ask someone if he could sleep in their house or their barn or something similar. It was painful too. Where most inns at least had somewhat comfortable beds, the most a random person could do was lend him their couch – and in the case of the barn… well… hay was not a substitute for a bed.

The woman looks up, she’s got black hair and a kind smile. “Oh, are your parents not here?” He’s gotten that a few times, apparently he’s babyfaced enough that people are concerned that he’s out on his own. It’s sweet, if not a bit annoying.

“No ma’am,” Tommy cowed his head, blushing a bit at the sentiment. “I’ve been traveling without them for a while now.”

“Well, the inn is currently under construction, as we’re not that used to travelers. But for a nice man like you, I can spare the room.”

Tommy beamed up at her. “Thank you, that’s much appreciated, ma’am.”

The woman waved him off. “Oh, come off it, you can call me Kristin.”

Kristin turned out to be a small jeweler in the town. She was born and raised there, having only left once or twice to visit the Navian capital which… he could have sworn he was in Preceer, but he’s been wrong before and he was certain he’d be wrong again. Krisin lived alone and was honestly grateful to have Tommy’s company.

She was a great conversationalist. He didn’t give a lot away from the get go, he rarely did. Of course everyone knew of Prince Tommy, but not many of them knew what he looked like and even fewer people knew that he no longer lived in the castles. All they knew was that he was a Prince, so Tommy took every opportunity to not tell people that he was related to royalty, seeing as he didn’t want to be treated terribly differently.

“So you’re alone?” Kristin asked as she handed Tommy a small mug of hot cocoa. It wasn’t that cold, summer bleeding into autumn, yet the cup warmed his hands and warmed his heart. He rolled back his shoulders, his bag slumped over next to the couch he sat on. It was rough, yet strangely comfortable.

Tommy tilted his head back and forth. “For now. I always have some place to go back to, though.” It was true. While he traveled by himself, discovering who he was and who he wanted to be away from the complicated politics of courts, he always had a home in Navia, and Preceer, and Enderia. They all welcomed him back with open arms and bright smiles.

“That’s good. I’d hate for a kid to be alone. I hate being alone.” Kristin stared down into her own mug before shaking her head. “So you’ve got a family? Where do they live?”

Does he have a family? He had a few, but that was where it got complicated. And Tommy did not want to explain his whole life story at the moment, so he decided to go for the easy answer. “The Navian Capital.” Specifically the castle, but he decided to omit that part.

“Well, then it’s just plain irresponsible to let you go wandering around by yourself.” Kristin shook her head. And it was at that moment where Tommy got an idea — a horrible, awful, wonderful idea.

Tommy shrugged, attempting to act nonchalant. “I mean. If you want to meet my dad, I was about to head back to the capital anyways,” He wasn’t. “He needs to be told off every once in a while.” He wanted to see Phil scolded by a normal citizen, it would be funny.

“I couldn’t…” She was pretending, Tommy could tell. He had gotten very good at reading people. It was something he had to get good at. All those days, desperation and paranoia filling his judgments had turned into a fairly useful tool as he traveled across the continent.

He hadn’t planned to go back to the Navian capital anytime soon, the last time he had been back ending with less than ideal circ*mstances. It had been anger, shouting, yelling. He had stormed out, cussing out the royal family. Things were getting better, they were all slowly healing the rift that had been gouged between them… but Tommy would love to place an emphasis on slow.

It ended up being a bunch of smaller actions, small olive branches. They had yet to address any of the elephants in the room. But that was something that would take time and hated how it took time. So perhaps his actions were fueled by petty notions of getting back at Phil. It wasn’t like it would be the first time he had done something similar. He had pulled plenty of petty pranks since he abdicated his right to the throne, this one was just going to be slightly different.

Tommy tilted his head. “Sure you could! I mean I’d pay for anything and you could stay at my place while you’re there –” He left out the part where he lived in a castle – “And really, is there anything keeping you here?”

After checking a map to make sure he was leading Kristin in the right direction, they headed out the next morning. Throughout that time, Tommy and Kristin bonded. She was kind, yet worrisome. There were moments where Tommy wondered if the care she extended, having barely known him, was what unconditional maternal love was supposed to feel like. Or maybe he was just projecting the fact that he never had a mother onto this random stranger.

That was totally possible and a concept he left out.

It was going to be a few days of travel to the capital. Tommy showed Kristin how to start a fire, how to hunt. He pointed out his favorite constellations late at night while they waited for sleep to take them — laying in fields of poppies. They laughed and told jokes. Tommy even divulged some of his childhood. He told Kristin about his dead mother, about his complicated family relations, but none of the specifics.

By the time they got to the capital, Krisin only knew that Tommy was probably a nobleman of some sort. He laughed under his breath as the dirt roads started turning into cobbled paths.

“Welcome to the capital!” He said with a flourish and a bow. The flower crown he had worn had died and dried. The capital had become so much more lively. There were children screaming in the streets and excited artisans flaunting their wares. No longer did Tommy feel that same grip of death around his kingdom.

He waved to every guard, and talked to every child. “You’re popular here,” Kristin commented. “Something you’re not telling me, Tommy?” She asked, despite the knowing smile on her face.

“I’m a mysterious man, Krisin!” Tommy boasted, sticking out his chest. “You don’t know the half of it.”

“Alright then, where’s your house? I’d love to get to know your father now.”

“Center of the capital.” He gestured vaguely towards the capital. As they got closer and closer, Kristin got more and more nervous.

Each guard started to bow to him, which was annoying, but he wasn’t going to stop them. It wasn’t like it was illegal to bow to him, though he wasn’t exactly of a higher authority than them. He didn’t really know where an Ambassador fell on the hierarchy but he assumed it was below guard. He was just a person.

Tommy signaled to the guards to open the castle gates and Krisin cleared her throat. “So… Tommy? Is there something you should tell me now that we’re casually walking into the castle? Who’s your dad?”

“No one really–”

There was a loud gasp as they stepped foot into the castle, before he got absolutely rammed by a very hyperactive child. Tommy picked her up with ease. “Tommy, you’re back!” Amelie squealed. “I didn’t think you were going to be here! Oh my god, Wilbur’s been—” She tilted her head, noticing Kristin’s presence. “Who’s this?”

“This is Ms. Kristin. We’re gonna go pop in and visit Dad for a moment. Do you know where he is?”

Amelie tilted her head back and forth. “I think he should be in his study? Wilbur’s in a meeting right now, they’ve been like — phasing out His Majesty. Niki got promoted! Did you know that? Techno resigned and Lady Nihachu is the Admiral now!” Amelie grinned. “Think that could be me someday?”

“I know it can be you,” he placed her down. “Now hurry up, before Eret realizes I’ve been keeping you from your studies. No one likes being scolded by her.” Amelie giggled under her breath before nodding and running off.

Kristin raised an eyebrow. “His majesty?” She didn’t seem in disbelief. “So, Prince Tommy, anything to tell me?”

Tommy held up his hands in mock surrender. “Hey! I’m technically Ambassador of Peace now, none of that Prince sh*t for me. However, Phil is still my dad and at least in title he’s still King. Still want to meet him?”

“I won’t get hung for speaking against him?”

“Hm?” Tommy shook his head. “No, not at all. We got rid of corporal punishment. I’m working with the Navians to lower crime rates by improving living conditions. It’s wild! You treat people with basic decency and give them the means to live and most of the time they turn out to be good people.”

“Radical,” Kristin laughed as Tommy led her through the labyrinth of halls.

What Tommy had been expecting was some yelling, some crude words exchanged. Maybe a shake of Phil’s head followed by a ‘Tommy’ and a defeated sigh of disappointment. That wasn’t what he got. In the slightest. No, he couldn’t have guessed what would happen.

He stood outside the study next to Wilbur and Techno as they whispered between the three mixed with pointed looks and nudges with bony elbows. The three of them were baffled, confused, and such. It wasn’t expected at all. It started as Tommy expected it too. Phil shaking his head, adding a slight ‘Tommy—’ but in a more aggravated way.

Then Kristin started speaking and it was like Phil broke. Tommy had been trying to break his Dad for awhile, he’d been pushing and pushing and nothing had broken the man yet. But this did it. Kristin was scolding him — being so polite — and Phil just took it. With no qualms, no ‘peasants shouldn’t speak to me like that’. No. His eyes were all wide and his cheeks were turning a bright red.

“Do you think he knows?” Wilbur whispered under his breath.

Techno shook his head. “Not at all. His relationship with Mother was arranged, right?”

“Did he never like date before that?” Tommy asked.

“I highly doubt he could have gotten anyone to go on a date with him. Courting is a long process anyways,” Wilbur replied.

The three of them all nodded. It wasn’t going to be easy, and of course it all came down to whether or not Kristin reciprocated any of those feelings, but being happy with someone who made him happy and who wasn’t afraid to tell him off… now that was something that could help him. Probably.

It would take half a month before Phil asked Kristin on a first date. It would take four more years after that before he worked up the courage to ask her to marry him. It was the happiest event that the Kingdom ever witnessed. And no one had ever seen their King in better spirits.


“Hey, Mom,” Tommy said. He sat down next to the gravestone. Still hidden away. Still as decrepit as ever. The roses around him bloomed, bright in the Summer light. It was warm, but not unbearably so. He leaned his head against the stone.

He tried to come here often. Whenever he was back in Preceer. He would sit and catch his mother up on everything that had happened. He talked to her as if she could hear him. He told her about Kristin, about how Phil was healing in his own right and for a moment he could almost hear his mothers laughter despite not remembering what it sounded like. He told her about his own adventures. He told her everything he could.

As he aged, those treasured memories that he held so close became fuzzier and fuzzier. He could barely keep those memories alive. He wanted to keep those memories alive.

Kristin had managed to convince Phil to bring most of the late Queen’s possessions out of storage, to show them off in glory. They’ve been hearing more stories about her from Phil. He still refused to say her name, but it was progress. All healing was slow, and perhaps Phil’s reconciliation with his previous relationship was something that would take decades.

“It’s been awhile. I went across the ocean, I think I accidentally bought a ride on a pirate boat. Purpled was worried when I brought up the name of the Captain.” Tommy laughed to himself under his breath. “I’ve met a lot of good people out there. It’s weird. Growing up, they taught me everyone else was horrible. That we’re the best. We’re not even close.”

“I’d beg to differ.”

Tommy startled, standing up a bit too fast with his hand on his sword, ready for a fight he knew had long since ended. It wouldn’t stop his reflexes or the paranoia that he had learned from times of war — from self-preservation. Ponk held up her hands, smiling.

“Sorry, I just-”

Ponk placed a hand on Tommy’s shoulder, giving it a gentle and reassuring squeeze. “You don’t have to explain it to me.”

Tommy nodded. He couldn’t talk. He didn’t know why. In this place, at this time, he was vulnerable in a way he didn’t tend to let himself be with others. Ponk, holding a single red rose, places it on the ground in front of the grave.

“You knew her, right?” Tommy asked, that familiar melancholy washing over him. He doesn’t think it’ll ever leave him permanently. It’s another part of him, another thing that he will have to learn how to live with.

“We came from the same dying kingdom,” Ponk nodded. She looked wistful, wishful maybe, as she looked out into the distance. “She was my best friend. We both had… duties that we had to fulfill. So we live on as we pass on the holidays, the traditions, from a Kingdom that no longer exists.”

“I’m sorry,” Tommy muttered, glancing down at his mothers grave. Moss gathered at the base, not daring to stretch onto the gravestone. He doesn’t quite understand what he was sorry for. Maybe for the death of a home.

Ponk shook her head, pulling Tommy into her side. “There’s nothing to be sorry for. I’m sorry that you never grew up with your Mother’s life. She would have loved you, Thomas. She would be proud of you.”

“That means a lot to me.” More than he could ever verbalize, the words evading him, sticking to the tip of his tongue. “Thank you.”

“If you have a minute. I can tell you about her now. About our Kingdom.” Tommy nods, not trusting his voice. “Back when I was a kid…”

And Ponk told Tommy tales late into the night, the two of them sitting down, staring at a grave they both knew in very different ways.


Purpled had not been to Preceer before. He had been to a lot of port cities by. He had been to the neighboring Mycelia, and he had been to the distant Badlands. He had visited Kinoko once, when their ship had been in desperate need of repair so they traveled the land for a few months, yet the only access to Preceer was through Mycelia or through the river so he had never been.

But there is something there that Purpled needed to see, needed to get over. So he walked by the river, by a field of poppies that seemed to mourn for deaths that had long been absorbed into the precious earth. He swayed in the subtle breeze, languishing in the way that the rush of the river mixed with the excited chirps of nearby birds.

He didn’t know how to find them, but he knew that somehow they would find him. So he kept walking. He had loved that ship and its crew. He had loved being a pirate. There had been a rush of adrenaline with every Navy ship they crossed, there had been a sense of family amongst the crew. They had been his family when his own had turned him away.

His first time meeting Olive had been when they had rented out a room at a motel for a night, having to replenish their food supply and renew the rest of their resources, which had been running low. The captain had been out, letting Purpled take his room since there hadn’t been enough for all of them to go by themselves.

Olive had been ordered to kill the Captain. They had mistaken him for the captain. He had grabbed his sword and matched their blows, much to their surprise. They thought themself unmatched. They were both just children at the time, too young to know better, yet old enough to know the horrors of the world. He smiled fondly at the memory. Of everything clicking into place on Olive’s face.

“You’re not the Captain,” Olive had said. “Are you, moon-hair?”

“Moon-hair? Okay then twinkle-toes.”


“Yeah, well, I don’t know your name!” Purpled had protested.

Olive snorted a laugh. Proclaiming that they didn’t have a name, they didn’t need one. They would run into each other a few more times. Each time they got more and more friendly. They became something akin to friends, yet they couldn’t be, not while they worked. And then Olive had saved him in Navia, where his boat had crashed. They saved him, and they ran away from the guild.

He had been the only surviving member of his crew. And yet… It was in character for Sniff, if Purpled was being honest with himself. They had always been such an anomaly, so lost in the sky and in the sea. They were more at home whenever they were on the ocean and could rarely get a wink of sleep whenever they were forced to take a night in a port city.

Purpled sat down, crossing his legs as he threw his head back and sighed. Why did this have to be so hard? Why couldn’t Sniff have decided to actually f*cking die like they were supposed too? They would laugh at this, at Purpled’s frustration as he wandered around to find nothing more than a mere whisper on the wind.

Then he heard it, the subtle yet familiar laugh.

They had been the same age. The two youngest on the crew. Yet they both raised through the ranks. Purpled had been the Captain’s second mate when they crashed. Sniff had been lookout. He had lost a home when the ship wrecked, he had found a new one when Olive had reluctantly nursed him back from the brink of death.

“I knew you’d come,” Sniff said, manifesting from nowhere to stand over and look down at Purpled.

Purpled startled, scrambling backwards. “Holy sh*t, balls,” he cursed.

“Tommy didn’t know, but I knew you would.”

“You’re supposed to be dead, Sniff. I saw your dead body.”

Sniff nodded. “That makes sense. I’m not a body. I’m a soul, tethered to the earth by the will of the Universe. They keep me here to do their bidding. Though since Tommy didn’t die, I suspect that I’ll be able to rest soon.” They sat down next to Purpled, flexing their hands. “I can feel my presence fading. I wanted to say goodbye though.”

Purpled swallowed back thick saliva, trying to hide the tears that wetted his eyes and stung the bridge of his nose. He reached out, grabbing Sniff’s head in his own hand. They felt real, but cold. So utterly cold. He didn’t care.

Sniff leaned into the touch.

“I just found you, you can’t leave, this isn’t fair.”

They placed their hand on top of Purpleds. “Purps, I’m not alive. I have to leave eventually. My only purpose was to keep the Child of the Stars safe, to make sure that he didn’t die as I did.”

Purpled nodded as though he understood. He didn’t. All those hurtful feelings that he thought he was over came rushing back. “I should have died with you guys. I don’t get it. Why was I the one who lived? I wasn’t worth it.”

Sniff was silent for a long while. They pulled Purpled’s hand up, holding it for a moment before speaking. “Survivors Guilt won’t bring us back. You have a new family, a family who needs you. You survived because you serve a purpose alive that no one else could serve.”

“And they didn’t? You didn’t?” Anger, unrightfully directed towards Snifferish, bubbled in his chest.

Dead. He was talking to a dead person, a dead friend, a dead sibling. He was talking to a ghost. A ghost who couldn’t possibly understand what it was like to wake up on Olive’s couch, aching dull pain ruling his life for months as he recovered. He was alone. Sure he had Olive, but he had spent his whole life with that crew, with that Captain, with those people. He had woken up and he had been the last one alive.

“Once you’ve departed from the physical plane of existence, you’ll understand. They lived their lives, there was nothing left for them. You can live, more than we ever could.”

Purpled wiped his eyes as they began to wet, tears that he had forgotten to shed. “But you’re here.”

Sniff shook their head. “I’m leaving. I wanted to say goodbye.”

“You can’t do this to me.” Purpled reached forward, pulling Sniff into a hug. “You can’t leave me again.”

Sniff didn’t hug him back, but they sat there. “Oh Purpled, I was never here in the first place.” He could feel them vanishing, leaving him again. He could feel the death he mourned fresh like a would to the heart. The last thing he heard them say to him was, “Live.”

And with that, Purpled crumpled in on himself. Sniff long gone, a floating – fleeting memory that would remain until the day he died. He cried to himself, soft sobs leaving desperate lips. He cried, a second death of a beloved friend. He cried, there was no one there to comfort him. Until a hand startled him out of his mourning, and he looked up to see Olive. And together, embraced, they grieved.


Rebuilding was never an easy task. Tommy should know. He didn’t have to physically rebuild any of Navia, but he had spent enough time over the years assisting in overhauling the systems in place that he understood the hardships of shaping nothing into something. He had to say that physically rebuilding must be a lot harder.

Kudos, Tommy thought, to Ranboo and Tubbo — who were quite literally taking an ashen kingdom and remaking it. For years they had spent time building, petitioning, asking Tommy to ask other kingdoms for money — normal things.

It wasn’t for naught, because Enderia was back. Not perfectly so, it had been a slow process, but a castle had been erected and people were moving back due to the young king’s promises. Ranboo was a good leader, despite him not believing it to be so.

“Tommy ho!”

The next thing he knew, he was no longer ogling the bright decorations that spanned the streets and was instead getting knocked over onto his ass. He scrunched his nose, pushing Tubbo off of him and failing stupendously. He laid down, going limp as he accepted defeat. The fact is that Tubbo could easily knock him out, win any of their fights, etc. etc. It was better to just let him do his instinct thing whenever he’s over.

The instinct thing includes getting a lot of new jewelry. Tubbo draped Tommy in all sorts of golden necklaces and bracelets. It was heavy against his skin, but he didn’t hate it. There was a warm fuzzy feeling as Tubbo picked him up and inspected him for any sort of injuries that he may or may not have gotten in the time between his visits.

In Tommy’s defense, while he was very clumsy, he had also been getting better at healing himself (without potions). His first aid knowledge was top notch. He hugged Tubbo as Tubbo calmed down and came back to.

Tubbo had long since stopped his incessant apologies after the 7th time his instincts kicked in. “You’re back!” Tubbo lowered his gaze to Tommy’s bag, flicking out his tongue like a snake. His tail flicked in the way that Tommy knew to mean that he was impatient.

“What makes you so certain that I brought something for you this time?” Tubbo only rolled his eyes as Tommy huffed out a laugh.

Whenever he visited the many families he had made himself a part of, he liked to bring gifts for everyone. He liked looking out for things that they may like, it meant that they weren’t gone. That they were still with him. For Tubbo, he pulled out a roll of paper. Tommy, after a while, had begun a quest to document his journeys. He had a journal, but he also created maps of all the places he visited. He mapped out kingdoms, the world, and even small little villages.

He charted the stars too. That was more so a personal hobby than the other things he did.

Tubbo snatched it up, unrolling it and devouring it with his eyes. “I swear to you, as soon as we have a better grasp here I’m going with you to see the world.”

“Sure, man. I look forward to it,” Tommy punched Tubbo in the arm. “Say, where’s the big man himself!”

Young King Ranboo had been making splashes across kingdoms. Tommy had heard his name whispered in the furthest corners of the two major continents he knew of. They spoke of Ranboo from Kinoko to Hypixel. He was an expert diplomat and a natural to all things ‘kingly’. It was impressive.

But Tommy grew tired of hearing of his friends exploits from the whispers of rumors. He wanted to see him. To congratulate the ‘Young King,’ to perhaps warn him of the aristocracy that may try to establish itself.

“He’s probably in his office,” Tubbo rolled his eyes. “I can take you there!”

Ranboo was indeed in his office, his head buried in books, thousands of papers scattered across the desk, floor, and walls. He looked frantic, frazzled — as if he hadn’t slept in years. He didn’t notice their entrance until Tommy cleared his throat, pulling a book out of his satchel. Ranboo jumped out of his seat, alert and paranoid like the best of them.

“Tommy! You’re back!” Ranboo walked over and they exchanged a quick hug.

Tommy pressed the book into Ranboo’s hands. “I thought you would like this. It’s not… it might be wrong. But I know not a lot about Enderia culture survived, so when I found a book-”

Shaking his head, Ranboo grasped the book in both of his hands. “Thank you, Tommy. This means a lot to me.”

What Tommy had gotten Ranboo was a book about Enderia. The fire that destroyed the Kingdom also destroyed many of the books and tomes. It was a tragedy that Tommy didn’t think the world understood. Culture, knowledge, it was all lost in that war. What Tommy had gotten was a retelling from a non-Enderian, but it was all that he could manage to find.

“What’cha working on here?

Ranboo pressed his lips into a thin line. “Well. You see,” he rushed back over to his desk, sliding the book into a bookshelf as he did so. “I’ve been researching what I could. And my parents, they didn’t save a lot, but they were consulting with scholars and philosophers and—”

Tubbo shoved against Tommy’s shoulder. “He’s been going mad over this.”

“—And,” Ranboo looked pointedly at Tubbo, annoyance evident on his face. “It seemed that they were attempting to start a new form of government before they died. Since I’m rebuilding the Kingdom, I thought… maybe it was worth experimenting with?”

“New government? Have you gone bonkers, big man?” Tommy tilted his head.

Ranboo shook his head, beaming from ear to ear with unbridled excitement. “No! They called it Democracy. There’s no, uh, King, or Queen, or nobles or— everyone gets a say. They get to vote. I mean, I’m kind of acting Minister? Or, um, President? I haven’t decided yet. But, the citizens seem excited to try it out. We’re going to hold our first election soon.”

“And you are?”

“I’m running for election!” Ranboo flapped his hands a bit. “If the citizens want me to rule, then they could vote for me, and I will! I think… seeing how well Kingdoms have gone for the rest of… the world. I think it would be worth it! Hypixel isn’t technically a kingdom, did you know that? They’re a Meritocracy.”

Tommy snorted. “Sounds like bollocks to me, but if you think it’ll work.”

“I believe in it,” Tubbo shrugged. “Oh! Before we forget—” He tilted his head and Ranboo snapped his fingers.

“We got you a gift this time.” Ranboo opened the drawer to his desk, pulling out a—

It was a golden circlet. The tempered metal mimicked the shape of leaves as it spiraled. Tommy reached out and grabbed it. It was light. Unassuming. It was vastly different from the crowns of his youth. Those were decadent. Extravagant. They held importance and meaning. This. This held a different kind of importance and meaning.

Tommy brushed his thumb against the gold, almost reverent as he did so. This, this was made for him by friends with zero expectation about who he should be or what he should do. All they wanted from him was as much as he was willing to give.

Tears pricked the corners of his eyes. “I don’t know what to say.”

“You’re not… a prince anymore,” Ranboo started.

Tubbo snaked his tail around Tommy’s ankle. “But you’re still important to the Kingdom ecosystem. You’re important. And we were hoping this would be a reminder of that.”

Despite himself, tears started falling down his face, as Ranboo grabbed the circlet back and placed it on his head. “I know our lives haven’t been like the fairytales promised. But I was thinking we could start this next chapter with Once Upon a Time?”

“I think that would be nice.”


A life lived in sheer bliss and happiness is not a life well lived. It’s hard to make out the writings, an old journal torn and water logged and yet preserved to the best of its abilities. They had found it during a dig, from centuries upon centuries ago. It’s fascinating, in all its glories. They adjust their magnifying glass and continue to read the proverbs.

I have seen kingdoms rise and fall and rise again. I have been a witness to the start and the end of wars. I have lived a thousand lives and have seen the worst that humanity has to offer. I write these words not to scare the curious, but to ignite the thoughts of the complacent. I have not yet met a person who has not suffered to some degree who is truly connected to life. To suffer is not to live, but it is to experience the fullest extent of life.

No story is ever over. Not really. Go out there. Suffer. Thrive. Live life to its fullest. Take chances. Don’t give up. I’m glad that I didn’t.

It's not the ramblings of a mad man before death, no. The words are measured. Sure. As they close the journal, they once again brush over the name of the journal. Grand Ambassador of Peace Thomas Theseus Vita Craft.

Someone once told them that there was no such thing as happy endings. But they felt confident ending Grand Ambassador Thomas’ story by saying that they all lived Happily Ever After.

All the Kings Horses - Chapter 16 - AppleSwan (2024)
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