Chapter 1: Arrival.
The gardens of the king's residence in Fetzer lay in drowsy silence. The hot sun beating overhead subdued all living things. The flowers wilted; the grass crackled with stiff dryness, and even the bees moved more slowly about their self-appointed tasks, stopping more often to rest on bent stems in the shade of broad, drooping leaves. Anything larger had long ago sought refuge from the blistering heat.
Only one thing disturbed the garden's overheated somnolence. A woman strode briskly down the graveled path, seeming not even to notice the heat that had caused all other mammals to seek shelter. She was clothed in long brown leggings and a dark green tunic, the short-sleeves of the latter her only concession to the weather. She made almost no noise in her passing, despite her heavy boots and the large sword in its sheath at her side.
When she finally reached the great double doors that were the main entrance to the palace, she paused to push a lock of brown hair out of her eyes before knocking. A long moment passed before someone opened the door, but she waited patiently in the sun.
A servant in blue-and-silver livery blinked against the hot sunlight that now streamed into the otherwise dim, cool entrance hall.
"Yes?" he asked, staring in curiosity at this obviously insane stranger standing on the steps. Who but a madman- or woman, rather- would be abroad in such heat?
"I have business with King Felldeten," replied the woman.
"Do you have an appointment?" asked the servant.
"No," said the woman, "but are you really going to leave me out here in the heat?"
"Well, no," replied the servant, and he opened the door a little wider, stepping aside so she could enter. The woman stepped inside and he shut the door.
"This is better," she said, wiping some sweat from her brow. "Thank you."
The servant was relieved to find she was human after all. "You are welcome, madam, but if you do not have an appointment I am afraid it will be quite impossible for you to see the king. He is, after all, a very important person," he said.
The woman lifted an eyebrow. "Is he?" she asked, with a the merest trace of sarcasm in her voice. "But my business is very urgent. He will wish to speak with me as soon as possible." The woman gave a casual wave of her hand, as if she were commenting on the weather, or the deplorably high price of flour.
The servant looked uncertain at this nonchalant display. "I could have you announced, madam, if you would give me your name and business." She didn't look like any sort of noble who would have claim on the attention of the king, but, he reasoned, looking at her garb, perhaps she was a soldier with important military news.
"Oh, just tell him Rine is here and wishes to speak with him," the woman said, not bothering to turn from the tapestry she was examining.
The servant just didn't know what to make of this. This woman seemed no more than a mercenary or common soldier, and yet she acted as if she were a queen, issuing casual commands and assurances. Even if she did have important military information, she would not act above her station. And she had used the name Rine.. That was the name of the hero Mage who had helped the good King overthrow his tyrannical cousin. But she had disappeared soon after the coronation, and hadn't been heard from since. Surely this wasn' , it couldn't be. It was just some young upstart whose mother had admired the mercenary of legend.
So he just bowed and said, "As you wish, madam," and hurried off to find someone who could find someone who could find the king. This was just too much for a doorman like himself.
A/N: Well, hope you liked the start! I'll post more if you do. R/R please! I review for all my reviewers.