He ran a calloused finger over the scar. It stretched from above his left eyebrow to his jaw. It served as a reminder of how quickly life moves from joy to pain and sorrow. He let himself remember.
It had been a crisp autumn morning on the day of his crowning. He was to be the new king of Katerina. He had been watching his father do the work of a king since the day he was born and was excited.
He was awoken early that morning to prepare for the ceremony. The entire kingdom would be there, watching as he took the place of his father, King Edward the Great. His mother, Queen Aria, fussed with his outfit and he felt a wave of gratitude for his parents. He looked in the mirror and saw them in himself. His wide, brown eyes were gifts from his mother along with his high cheekbones and straight nose. His father had passed along his height, a grand 6'5, and his strong jaw. His hair was a comfortable middle between his mother's dark brown hair and his father's auburn.
"Mother, calm down. Everything looks great and the ceremony is going to go just as you planned, I'm sure." He assured her.
"Oh, Artimus. You know I'm just proud of you." She smiled at him as her eyes filled.
They were interrupted by one of the staff, reminding them that the ceremony was to start soon.
The walk from the castle to the courtyard was a short one but nerve-wracking nonetheless. Upon arrival, they found themselves being watched by thousands of people. The audience ranged from the richest of Katerina to the poorest though they were united by the feeling of excitement and pride for their kingdom.
His father stood in the center of the courtyard, his golden crown glinting in the sunlight. He was a tall, proud man. He was positively gleaming with strength.
"Artimus, are you prepared to become the king of this great and free kingdom?" He asked when his queen had moved to stand at his side, his son on one knee in front of him.
"I am." Artimus replied as he had been taught.
"Are you prepared to defend these people in battle, no matter the cost to yourself?"
"Are you prepared to make this kingdom strong and prosperous for its people?"
"Are you prepared to keep the peace and order of this kingdom?"
"Then I present you with this crown, a symbol of your new status as king. With this crown, you will command great armies, protect many people, and build a kingdom worth living in." Slowly, his father placed the crown atop his head. The crowd erupted in cheers and applause as Artimus stood and embraced his father.
The next few seconds seemed to take hours as, in his memories, they moved in slow motion. Before he even knew what was happening, an explosion was echoing through the air and the wall protecting them from the violent north was blown to pieces. Debris rained from the sky as his mother tried to pull him into the castle.
"No, mother. I made a promise by becoming king to protect my people. That is what I must do." He pulled his arm from her grip, ignoring the pain that her sorrow-filled features caused. He pulled the sword from his hip and turned to the head general.
"Prepare for battle." He instructed. He turned to the hole in their barriers. Through it, hundreds of enemy soldiers were invading. Standing directly in front of him was their leader. If he had hoped to talk some sense into the other man, he was sorely disappointed by the glint of madness in his eyes.
He didn't know how it all started. He just knew that one moment he was debating tactics in his head and the next he was fighting. Swords could be heard clashing all through the kingdom but the screams were louder.
He knew he was losing this battle. He had been cut all over and was covered in blood. The leader of the north had only taken a few lashes and was confident this would be a battle he would win. Artemis knew that could not happen.
He let his opponent injure him again, his sword coming down in a strong arc. Even as he felt the cold metal cut through the center of his eye, he knew this would be the last injury he sustained from this battle. He fell to the ground, his left hand gripping the dagger his grandfather had gifted him when he was named as the next king.
He cringed as his opponent knelt on his chest.
"This is only the beginning. Your kingdom will burn with your body."
He used the anger he felt at those words to gather the strength he needed to lift the dagger and jam it into the other man's neck. He watched as his eyes went wide with pain and shock.
Only seconds later, the enemy had fallen. Artimus lay there, unable to move as the adrenaline of battle wore off and exhaustion took its place.
He woke up days later, bandaged up, lying in his bed. He learned that when the enemy soldiers had learned of their leader's demise, the majority of them gave up. Some continued fighting but were killed quickly. The kingdom had been damaged but it was nothing they could not fix. His father had been killed in the fight while protecting a family that had been unable to make it to their home. Artimus likely would have died as well if not for the quick work of a helpful civilian. She had pulled him into cover and sewed up his injuries.
It wasn't often he let himself remember the beginning of the long war that ensued when the enemy leader had been replaced by his son. But he was happy now. Married to the helpful civilian that had saved him with a beautiful daughter, soon to be the new leader of their kingdom.
"I still wish I could have saved the eye. You have such beautiful eyes." His wife, Lyla, said as she pulled his hand from his scar and replaced it with her own.
"There's nothing you could have done, love. Now, let us crown a new queen."