• Chapter 2

    Three days later I sat in Ashien’s council ring. I was the only woman present besides her, and definently the only one with a military insignia. I didn’t bear the great honor lightly. We were gathered to discuss the matter of Dernhillean, he who so willingly dared to break the peace of the realms. “We must seek aid. Let us send a rider,” a man next to me said, slamming his fist against the table.

    Another piped up, “If Dernhillean truly means to conquer us, then yes it would be the best way!” There were nods of consent all the way around the table, expect from me. I merely stared at them all, choosing to keep my own ideas to myself for the time being.

    “A rider shall be sent then, now who shall it be?” came my sister looking from face to face. Even before I knew what I was doing I was on my feet. The members turned to stare at me, many if not all of them gaping. A low murmur ran between them, something about it being hardly proper for a woman to ride as messenger, but as no one else was up to it… A vote of four to my leaving and one against it came from the council, and we stood, bowing in unison. My sister caught my arm on her way out. I knew what she was going to say, and I personally did not want to hear it again.

    “You shouldn’t go, you can’t,” she pleaded. I shrugged off her arm.

    “I have to, for our people,” I said turning. Ashien was always a little overprotective of me. She had even argued with our guardians –my parents had been murdered when I was three years old- against my chosen field. She grabbed again and I glared at her. She slowly released my arm and I stalked from the room, but not before I saw the tears pooling in her eyes and the glistening streams of them down her cheek.

    ◊ ☼ ◊

    It was decided that I must leave right away and I went straight to my room. I was in no mood to care about neatness and so simply shoved my clothes and provisions into my pack. I shed my robes and slid into soft, dusty leather pants and a tunic, the whole time wondering what the hell I had been thinking when I volunteered myself for this task. It all seemed absurd; the general of the city riding as a messenger, leaving the city wholly without military command. My arm was still bandaged and I winced as I brushed it on the corner of my dresser, chiding myself for not having paid attention to what I was doing. It would be a while until the pain would cease, but I was still ready to fight with both arms. I pulled my weapons from the wardrobe and strapped them on. First came my swords. They were fashioned of fine mithril and engraved with ancient elven runes that guarded against scratches and wearing.. I wore two, one on each hip. Next came my bow and quiver. My bow was made of white ash, again engraved with ancient runes, these to keep the wood strong and without cracks. I hooked the bow and quiver to the soft leather strap I used to keep them on my back.

    A crowd had assembled to watch my departure, and as I came into the hall a hush settled over them. My face was stern and solemn as I started toward the doors, the crowds parting to create a path. A small girl reached an arm out to brush my leg. I looked down at the touch and knelt briefly in front of her, placing my hand on her shoulder. She turned away shyly and I stood, continuing on my way. Outside the doors my Uragesh, an animal with the head and body of a horse, but the wings of a white eagle and the tail of a lion, stood waiting. He was flapping his tail impatiently, his heavily muscled legs rippling in anticipation. He knew the journey to come. Amrahnd was in truth a very intellectual being. He knew that we were bearing a great burden and that the fate of Falen’Sacath was practically sitting upon the very saddle he bore.

    I pulled myself into Amrahnd’s saddle and turned, saluting the crowd. They cheered, at last breaking the silence that had settled over them the moment I entered the hall, and I smiled turning again to look down the cobbled pathway. I relaxed at the almost soothing noise of Amrahnd’s hooves against the stone. He tossed his head up once as he turned, but fell quickly into the trance-like state he was always in. My sister bade me farewell and I started on the long journey that would be the turning point of my normal life. As I turned the first bend in the road, I began to feel apprehension, wondering if they would be safe and when I would be able to return.