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Trapped behind the Neutral Zone – In the heart of the Romulan Empire!

The Romulan Way is a Pocket TOS novel – #35 in the numbered series, and the second in the Rihannsu series – written by Diane Duane and Peter Morwood. Published by Pocket Books, it was first released in August 1987.


From the book jacket
They are a race of warriors, a noble people to whom honor is all. They are cousin to the Vulcan, ally to the Klingon, and Starfleet's most feared and cunning adversary. They are the Romulans – and for eight years, Federation Agent Terise LoBrutto has hidden in their midst.
Now the presence of a captured Starfleet officer forces her to make a fateful choice between exposure and escape. Between maintaining her cover – and saving the life of Dr. Leonard McCoy.
Here, in a startlingly different adventure, is the truth behind one of the most fascinating alien races ever created in Star Trek – the Romulans.

Excerpts of copyrighted sources are included for review purposes only, without any intention of infringement.

The narrative intercuts between the primary action of the novel (in the odd-numbered chapters) and an episodic history of the Romulans, taken from Terise LoBrutto's writings.

On ch'Rihan, Arrhae i-Khellian t'Llhweiir, head of household for Praetor H'daen tr'Khellian, is told to prepare the estate for a special meal, since the Praetor is expecting important guests. Arrhae is stunned at the identity of these guests: Commander Jaeih t'Radaik and Sub-Commander Maiek tr'Annwhi, escorting a Terran prisoner, Commander Leonard McCoy. As soon as his translator device is installed, McCoy angrily says that the Romulans have committed an act of war.

Arrhae is instructed to place McCoy in one of the cellars, pending his trial for Espionage and execution before the Senate. After she has prepared his quarters, McCoy gives a quick hand gesture to Arrhae – in reality Starfleet xeno-anthropologist Terise LoBrutto, a deep-cover agent planted on Romulus eight years earlier.

In flashback, Terise is offered the posting as an alternative to serving aboard the USS Excalibur; although Starfleet Intelligence has a fair number of agents in the Romulan Empire, the data they provide is almost exclusively military and political; the Federation's knowledge of the Romulans' history and culture is still woefully incomplete. As dangerous as the posting is, to a scholar like Terise it is the opportunity of a lifetime, and she eagerly accepts.

Two years ago, Terise's reports stopped, and Starfleet began to worry that she had "gone over" to the other side. McCoy's capture, aboard a civilian passenger liner on his way to a medical conference, was staged to get McCoy onto Romulus to make contact with her. He was momentarily worried that Terise had in fact defected – in which case he was a dead man – but is relieved when she approaches him in private and tells him in Federation Standard what a fool he's been.

Sub-Commander tr'Annwhi approaches H'daen in secret, offering to "buy" McCoy. McCoy is wanted by the Romulans for his involvement in the theft of a cloaking device. After that incident, many heads rolled on Romulus, and many noble houses, including tr'Annwhi's, lost power and prestige as a result. McCoy is scheduled to be executed by the state, but tr'Annwhi would gladly pay a king's ransom, just for a chance to exact his own, private revenge on one member of the USS Enterprise's crew.

H'daen is conflicted; his house is one of the oldest and most honorable in the Empire, but is painfully lacking in wealth or influence. Tr'Annwhi says he can offer both. In alarm, Arrhae/Terise pulls H'daen aside and urges him that, whatever enticements tr'Annwhi is offering, H'daen's honor cannot let him sell a helpless man, even an enemy, into torture and death. H'daen is shaken, but abruptly orders her to attend to her duties.

Arrhae rushes back to McCoy and says he must escape immediately, and is surprised when he cheerfully declines. McCoy introduces his "ace in the hole": Ensign Naraht, one of the first Horta to serve in Starfleet, who was smuggled onto the planet at the same time McCoy arrived. Naraht hides as they are joined by H'daen, carrying several nasty bruises and the broken pieces of the credit-chip trAnnwhi was offering. H'daen told tr'Annwhi that his house's honor is not for sale, and the sub-commander took the refusal badly.

While she is out shopping in the capital city, Arrhae is approached by Nveid tr'AAnikh, a young scion of another noble house, who believes the Empire's treatment of McCoy is shameful, and wants to help him escape. Again, McCoy cheerfully declines the offer, but says that Nveid can do him a favor by transmitting a coded message on a certain day, at a certain hour…

Arrhae escorts McCoy to his trial before the Senate, where McCoy demands the Right of Statement, which he drags on for as long as possible to buy himself time. McCoy's epiphany, when it comes, is spectacular: Naraht bursts through the floor of the Senate, knocking aside McCoy's guards and dissolving those foolish enough to try to fight him. During the fracas, McCoy grabs Arrhae, pretending to use her as a hostage, while whispering in her ear that if she wants to go home, now is the time to say so. With some surprise, Arrhae/Terise realizes that she is home: she loves her life among the Rihannsu, whereas back in the Federation she'd be just another Starfleet officer. McCoy understands, and she pretends to break free from his grip, grabbing a phaser to fire at him before she is knocked over by Naraht – a convincing charade to maintain her cover.

The renegade vessel Bloodwing lands on the Senate roof and Commander Ael t'Rllaillieu beams into the chamber. It is her first time back to Romulus since her reluctant alliance with James T. Kirk, and she takes the opportunity to tell the Romulan Senate what she thinks of them: that they have given up their honor, their nobility, everything that makes their people great, for the sake of galactic power politics and the need to be feared by their enemies. In a move that stuns the Senate, she removes the sacred sword from The Empty Chair, both of which have remained undisturbed for millenia, and says they are welcome to try and get it back from her – assuming that they don't conform to habit and ask the Klingons to do it for them. With that, she signals the Bloodwing to beam her, McCoy, and Naraht out.

Bloodwing is pursued through Romulus's atmosphere by the vessel Avenger, with a furious tr'Annwhi in command. Ael's vessel's systems are still not operating at peak efficiency, and for a moment it looks like they will be caught. Then Ensign Luks, sent by Starfleet Intelligence to rendezvous with McCoy, pilots a small fighter craft from the Bloodwing in a daring attack on the Avenger. When his fighter is hit, he decides to go out in a blaze of glory, and drives the fighter in a suicide run on the Avenger that destroys both ships. Bloodwing escapes to Federation space, carrying McCoy home.

Back on Romulus, big things are happening for Arrhae/Terise. Her actions in the Chamber have made her a popular hero, and she is offered membership in the Senate, to the delight of H'daen, who no longer has to deal with people like tr'Annwhi for influence. Terise has also reached her own peace with her adopted home among the Romulans, having realized she prefers it to her "old" life in the Federation. She knows the Romulan people well, and knows that peace and understanding will one day come between them and the Federation. It may not happen soon, but when it does, she – or her children – will be ready for the day.

History of the Romulan People[]

(N.B. This history is not canon, although several of the historical episodes depicted have not been explicitly contradicted by a canon source.)

The First Rihannsu[]

The simplest explanation of the Romulan people's origins is that they were traditionalist Vulcans born during their planet's violent, anarchic period, who reviled Surak's teachings and decided to leave Vulcan rather than accept their planet's eventual pacification and embrace of logic. The actual historical truth is more complex, and still subject to controversy.

The founding father of the Romulan people was S'task, a Vulcan poet and one-time disciple of Surak. Surak's rise to prominence among Vulcans coincided with their first contact with an alien species – which, unfortunately, came in the form of pirates from the neighboring planet Etosha (the ancestors of the 23rd century Orions). Under the pretext of peaceful contact, the Etoshans lured many of Vulcan's most prominent political, military, and scientific leaders into a trap, killing many and kidnapping the survivors to hold for ransom. One of those captives was S'task, who, while he professed to be a man of peace, eventually broke out of his prison and led a revolt of his fellows that killed their captors. A bloody war with the invaders followed, in which the Vulcans were eventually victorious.

S'task argued that the galaxy was an inherently hostile place, and the only way to meet it was from a position of strength; Surak argued just as fervently in favor of peace. Neither man could sway the other, and the "logical" conclusion to their argument would have been civil war, but S'task was unwilling to go that far. S'task knew that such a war would result in unacceptable loss of Vulcan lives; moreover, he was a moral man who had taken his former master's philosophy that the ends cannot justify the means deeply to heart. The logical alternative was for S'task and his followers to leave Vulcan and make a new beginning elsewhere.

The Exodus[]

S'task began gathering support for his plan in a way that pained his former mentor, Surak: with logic and subtlety. Instead of making a bold public declaration, S'task began by publishing an article in the journal of the nascent Vulcan Science Academy, examining, in dry academic fashion, Vulcan's frequent wars and their hampering or encouraging effects on Vulcan's technological advancement and developing interest in space exploration. With this article, S'task planted the idea that a mass migration was a logical means of relieving the overpopulation and scarcity of resources which tended to lead to war between Vulcan communities; in other words, that such a migration was not only possible but imperative.

While the first interstellar ships were being built in Vulcan orbit, S'task's followers deliberately re-created themselves as a different culture, including a new language. They began referring to themselves as "the Declared" (seheik in Vulcan, rihanh in their new language, rihannsu in adjective form). Some elements and artifacts of Vulcan culture were retained, including three priceless swords created by S'harien, the greatest sword smith of that age. Ironically, S'harien had begun destroying his own blades after converting to Surak's pacifism, and Surak himself "rescued" three swords and gifted them to S'task for safekeeping.

In 14005, approximately eighteen years after they were begun, seventeen ships left Vulcan, carrying S'task and eighty thousand rihanh, led by Rea's Helm; of these, fewer than eighteen thousand, in five ships, eventually reached the 128 Trianguli star system, after the others or their populations were lost to cosmic disasters, disease, or predatory species, after more than a hundred years of relativistic time, equivalent to almost five hundred years by Vulcan's reckoning.

Discovering two inhabitable worlds in the system, the rihanh settled and named them ch'Rihan ("of the Declared") and ch'Havran ("of the Travelers"), the worlds later christened Romulus and Remus by the Federation.

Force and Power[]

Romulus and Remus were both fertile worlds, and their initial settlement was remarkably free of shortages of resources, or the other problems usually attending colonization. Yet of the 18,000 "Declared" who landed safely on the Two Worlds, fully a third died during the first ten years after settlement, mostly from the relentless wars, of all scales, fought as the Romulans splintered into factions over land, old tribal disputes, and all manner of other reasons. As the later-condemned historian Lai i-Ramnau tr'Ehhelih wrote, even in the midst of plenty, the former Vulcans could not rid themselves of the compulsion to survive by seizing as much for oneself as one could.

The initial government of the Two Worlds was intended to be an extension of the council system that had administered the ships, but this system quickly became unwieldy and ineffective, especially with the slow progress of building planet-wide communication and transportation systems (another incentive for conflict, as Romulan families became divided between "haves" and "have-nots").

A famine in the southern continent of Remus provided the catalyst for the rise of T'Rehu, the Ruling Queen, a minor councilor's daughter with an unusual charisma. Declaring that the government had failed by not responding to the crisis in sufficient time, she declared herself sole monarch, backed up by the threat of her country's standing army (the first of its kind on Romulus, since prior to then, Vulcans were used to simply assembling warbands of kin and followers on an ad hoc basis). S'task, aged 248, demonstrated his contempt for her ascension by walking out of the council chamber, and one of her soldiers killed him with a thrown spear – himself a victim of the "old" Vulcan way of life that he had fought to preserve.

T'Rehu ruled for eighteen years, personifying every capricious and bloody habit of the dictator, before she was overthrown in a coup led by a coalition from the Eastern continents of Remus, adopting a Spartan model for their military – small, utterly professional, dedicated and fiercely patriotic – that was able to defeat T'Rehu's more numerous army.

In the aftermath came the development of the Romulan government that endures to this day, a resurrection of the council system, combined with the more compact institution of the twelve ministers attending the Ruling Queen: the Praetorate, which wields executive and judicial power, and the Senate, divided into two houses, which wields legislative power.

To an outsider, this system appears dysfunctional and inherently unstable, since it encourages factionalism and secret dealings, and prevents power from resting for any appreciable length of time with one person or group. Yet the system has endured, and the Romulans would not have it any other way: they distrust absolute rulers, and find vitality and strength in the constant intrigues that sustain their politics.


Having successfully founded a new culture, the Romuluns, paradoxically, suffered a sudden cultural and scientific stagnation (almost as if they were choosing to retain their Vulcan traditions, even if they attached new names to them). Despite the wealth of technical data stored in the Ships used on the Journey, there was little interest in maintaining the Ships, which eventually de-orbited and crashed or were used as museums, or in building new ones. By the middle of the third century after the Settlement, the Romulans could not have left their planets in a hurry even had they wanted to.

However, other aspects of Romulan culture flourished. Wars continued, and the Romulans developed into an intensely martial society, that, like the Klingons, prized honor above all things. For both cultures, war was the ultimate expression of worth, and self, and was an activity to be enjoyed as much as waged for survival or gain.

Likewise, with Romulus and Remus being such fertile planets, compared with Vulcan, the Romulans developed an avid interest in cuisine that did not conflict at all with their martial culture, including their wines (more than five thousand varieties) and their ales, which quickly became legendary throughout the galaxy.

Similarly, the Romulans made enormous strides in literature, painting, sculpture, architecture, and the sciences. One of the lingering outgrowths of this era was the codification of the Romulan religion, which stemmed from a philosophical colloquy aboard the Ships during the Journey, starting with one Vulcan's half-humorous observation that "things notice," which eventually developed into an animistic theology based on the worship of the four Elements – earth, air, water, and fire – and the "Arch-Element" that rules over all. S'task himself made an occasional contribution to this colloquy, suggesting that it would do the Romulans no harm, and might even bring them benefits in the long run, to "take care of the universe," starting with their two home planets.

The fifteen hundred years after T'Rehu's downfall are generally reckoned a Golden Age of the Two Worlds, which came to an abrupt and painful halt upon their first contacts, coming almost simultaneously, with the Klingon Empire and the United Federation of Planets.

The Earth-Romulan War[]

From the Federation's point of view, the Earth-Romulan War was unprovoked and a sure sign of the Romulans' warlike, aggressive nature. From the Romulans', it was a different story. Three years before the war, a single Federation explorator vessel approached Romulus; its crew was excited when their long-range scans discovered an advanced civilization and transmitted the standard first contact data – language primers, mathematical formulas, images – without receiving a response.

It was the Federation's misfortune that their innocuous approach bore too close a resemblance to the way in which the Etoshan pirates had probed Vulcan centuries earlier. Fearing another invasion, the Romulans launched a frenzied military build-up, including a fleet of some seven thousand starships. The next Federation vessel to enter Romulan space was instantly surrounded and destroyed, as were the increasingly large task forces sent by the Federation to retaliate. Although the Romulans' ships were technologically inferior to the Federation's, they were superbly engineered and piloted, and produced in such numbers that even the most advanced Federation ships could be outnumbered and overwhelmed. It was also during the war that the Romulans acquired warp drive, which they reverse-engineered from some of the earliest Federation ships they salvaged.

The war might have dragged on for much longer than it did, but upon Vulcan's entry into the Federation, its newly-appointed Ambassador, Sarek, advised Starfleet's admiralty to sue for peace (if the Vulcans suspected what the Romulans' origins were, they did not share it with the Federation Council; when asked, they responded only – with complete sincerity – that they could not be sure).

On Sarek's advice, Starfleet sought, and received, a treaty with the Romulans, negotiated entirely by data upload, since the Romulans refused to let the Earthers get even a glimpse of them. The result was the creation of the Neutral Zone.

The Romulan Star Empire[]

The treaty that ended the Earth-Romulan War referred to the latter combatant as the "Romulan Star Empire", but no such entity existed at that time. The Romulans did not seek to build an empire until after the war, when they commenced aggressive expansion throughout their space, against the possibility of future wars. Out of this necessity was also born the first alliance with the Klingon Empire, through which the Klingons acquired the Romulans' prized cloaking technology, while the Romulans were able to augment their fleet quickly by buying Klingon warships in bulk – a dubious bargain, since Klingon ship design and manufacture were inferior to the Romulans' in every way except weaponry – in Terise LoBruto's words, "the equivalent of Rolls Royce buying parts from Ford."

The Romulans remain xenophobic and distrustful of the Federation. Some moderates in the Romulan Senate have pointed out that the Federation certainly has the resources and the numbers needed to conquer the Empire, yet they have refrained from doing so. In response, the more numerous "hawks" dismiss this as cowardice, or worse, a cynical desire to use the Empire as a buffer against the Klingons.

Terise's history closes by saying that the debate continues to rage, but she believes it cannot last forever, and when the Romulans and the Federation finally reconcile their differences, there will be no limit to what either can achieve.

Memorable quotes[]

"I am a Vulcan, bred to peace."

- S'task, to his pirate captors

"It has been said that evil frequently triumphs over good unless good is very, very careful. This is true: but it should be added that good frequently has help that looks evil on the surface of it, and that 'even God's enemies are some way his own.'"

- Terise LoBrutto, writing on the Vulcan/Romulan Schism

"The Ruling Queen's rise is paradoxical to this day, even among Rihannsu. She was one of those people with that inexplicable quality that Terrans call 'charisma' and Rihannsu 'nuhirrien,' 'look-toward.' People would listen to her, gladly give her things they could hardly spare, forgive her terrible deeds. Her power was astonishing, and unaccountable. She was not a great physical beauty, or a mighty warrior, or marvelously persuasive, or any of the other things people normally find attractive. She simply had that quality, like Earth's Hitler, like (at the other end of the spectrum) Surak, of being followed. Some have used the word 'sociopath' to describe her, but the term loses some of its meaning in Rihannsu culture, where one is expected to reach out one's hand and take what one wants… as the Travelers did."

- Terise LoBrutto, on the reign of T'Rehu, the Romulans' first (and last) absolute monarch.

"I shall kill you if you do not ask leave."
"You may do so. That is the prerogative of force. But I give no honor to force. Power, yes. But you have no power, none that I recognize. I ask no leave of you."

- T'Rehu and S'task, walking out of the Senate Chamber, unbidden, after T'Rehu's seizure of power.

"The beginning is contaminated, and force will not avail you, or it."

- S'task (his last words)

"Perhaps the citizenry were looking, as the governed sometimes will, for something, anything, to replace a government that bores them. For eighteen years the Rihannsu got one that was not at all boring… and that was about all that could be said for it."

- Terise LoBrutto, on the reign of T'Rehu

"Certain it is, and sure, love burns, ale burns, fire burns, politics burns. But cold were life without them."

- Traditional Romulan song

"People drink Rihannsu ale for the same reason they drink Saurian brandy – to prove they can."

- Terise LoBrutto

"Make peace with them and close the door. Stop fighting. You will probably never beat them. But you can stop your ships being destroyed."

- Ambassador Sarek, advising Starfleet's Admiralty to seek an end to the Earth-Romulan War

"The building is ringed with soldiers. They are not Rihannsu. And there is a starship on the roof."

- Rihannsu officer

"Soft spot? My mother?"

- Ensign Naraht, responding to McCoy's jibing

"Poor thing. For a millennium and a half no other weapon less noble has been permitted under this roof for any cause, not even for blood feud. Now they bring in blasters wholesale to guard one poor weak Terran. Or simply to terrify him for their pleasure."

- Ael t'Rllaillieu, addressing the sword in The Empty Chair

"You have sold honor for power. You have sold what a Rihannsu used to be for what a Klingon thinks a Rihannsu ought to. You have sold your names, you have sold everything that mattered about this world – the nobility, the striving to be something right – for the sake of being feared in nearby spaces. You have sold the open dealing of your noble ancestors for plots and intrigues that cannot stand the light of day, and sold your courage for expediency. Your foremothers would put their burned bones back together and come haunting you if they could. But they cannot. So I have."

- Ael t'Rllaillieu, addressing the Senate

"You sound like my ex-wife."
"I'll assume you meant that as a compliment. Don't correct me if I'm wrong."

- McCoy and Ael t'Rllaillieu

Background information[]

Cover gallery[]


Leonard McCoy, 2270s

McCoy in the 2270s

The Federation[]

Leonard McCoy
Starfleet commander, chief surgeon of the refit USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)
Sarek (mentioned only)
Horta (mentioned only)
Terise Haleakala-LoBrutto / Arrhae i-Khellian t'Llhweiir
Starfleet lieutenant commander, a xenobiologist
Stephen C. Perry
Starfleet commodore, head of Starfleet Intelligence;
Horta Starfleet lieutenant
Ron Luks
Ensign, of Starfleet Intelligence
Michael Reaves
Captain of the passenger ship Vega


H'daen tr'Khellian
head of House Khellian, Terise/Arrhae's master
Commander Jaeih t'Radaik
Romulan Intelligence officer
Sub-Commander Maiek tr'Annwhi
t'Radaik's suboordinate
Lhaesl tr'Khev
servant in tr'Khellian's household, smitten with Terise/Arrhae;
Servant of H'daen tr'Khellian
Eviess t'Tei
Hloal t'Illialhlae
Judiciary Praetor of the Romulan Senate
Nveid tr'AAnikh
Llhran tr'Khnialmnae
Ael t'Rllaillieu
renegade Romulan commander, previously appeared in My Enemy, My Ally
Aidoann t'Khnialmnae


USS Excalibur (NCC-1664)

Excalibur, neutralized by M-5

USS Excalibur (NCC-1664)
Federation starship, a Constitution-class heavy cruiser. Lt. Cmdr. Terise Haleakala was assigned to this vessel, but transferred off shortly before the vessel was decimated by the M-5 multitronic unit.
USS Nelson (NCC-1843) (β)
Federation starship, a close-cordon patrol cruiser. Nelson fired on an uncloaking Starfleet Intelligence vessel which took deep-cover agent Terise Haleakala into Romulan space.
USS Valiant (NCC-2252)
Federation starship, a light cruiser. At warp seven, Valiant attempted to intercept the Romulan raider Avenger after the capture of the freighter Vega.
Federation starliner that McCoy was traveling on
tr'Annwhi's ship
The Right of Statement
Thieurrull (Romulan, "Hellguard")
A failed colony of the Romulan Star Empire, and the site of the "Thierrull Atrocity" (Chapter Six, p. 113). The planet is later featured prominently in the novels The Pandora Principle by Carolyn Clowes and Unspoken Truth by Margaret Wander Bonanno as the birthplace of Lieutenant Saavik.
Robert Heinlein
A prominent 20th century Earth author; Terise's history draws similarities between S'task's intellectual fostering of the Rihannsu's decision to leave Vulcan with "Heinlein's Law": that overpopulation and scarcity of resources leads to war between regions, which in turn fosters advances in technology that temporarily alleviate the scarcity of resources. By describing this process as a recurring cycle, S'task planted the idea of embracing spaceborne migration to relieve overpopulation and other ills that might otherwise lead to war.
This refers to a book published after this one, How Much for Just the Planet? Direidi was an unaffiliated planet with the richest natural deposits of dilithium in the quadrant. According to Terise's history of the Earth-Romulan War, Starfleet was initially happy to draw the boundaries of the Neutral Zone, dismissing the planets within as of no importance, but later "kicked themselves" after the discovery of a planet on the Romulan side almost as rich in dilithium as Direidi.
The most renowned swordsmith of pre-Reformation Vulcan. Described as a "diehard reactionary," S'harien professed to despise Surak and his teachings – yet after their first meeting, S'harien converted so completely to pacifism that he began buying back his own swords and melting them down. Even Surak tried to dissuade him from doing this, arguing that the swords were priceless works of art, but S'harien refused to listen. So Surak "rescued" three of S'harien's finest swords from their owners and gifted them to S'task for safekeeping. According to My Enemy, My Ally, Spock has a S'harien (a family heirloom) on the wall of his quarters, and only five S'hariens were carried off Vulcan by the Rihannsu; of these, three were destroyed, one was stolen and lost, and the last one rests in The Empty Chair, the Romulans' most sacred relic. This sword plays a major role in the subsequent novels Swordhunt and Honor Blade.
The Empty Chair
After the Rihannsu ships left Vulcan, it was several years before they re-established communications with their home planet; during that time, several decades had passed on Vulcan and word reached the Rihannsu of Surak's death; S'task withdrew into his chambers to mourn, leaving his seat in the Ships' Council chambers vacant. When he returned to the Council, he laid one of the S'hariens across his old chair, and took another one from then on. The Chair and sword were transplanted, intact, to the new Romulan Senate chamber. To disturb either of them is a capital crime on Romulus, and an oath sworn on either is regarded as unbreakable except by death. The Empty Chair features prominently in the subsequent novel of the same name.


External links[]

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#34: Dreams of the Raven Pocket TOS
Numbered novels
#36: Worlds Apart: How Much for Just the Planet?
Dreams of the Raven (#3) Titan Books release order  How Much for Just the Planet? (#5)
My Enemy, My Ally Rihannsu Swordhunt