Chapter 2:

An annoying stranger

The wind blew across the dusty path, giving it an eerie appearance in the pale light of the moon. A lone figure walked down the path, hood pulled over its face.

The figure was short, and it kept its head bowed. But suddenly, it stopped, and looked up. The hood fell down, revealing a girl-about eighteen-with straight brown hair that fell to her shoulders. She had gentle features, and didn't seem the type to stand out in a crowd, even though she was fairly pretty. Her blue eyes had a hard glint though, and her hand was never far away from the sword that hung from her waist.

She simply stared up at the sky for a moment, the moon's white glow making her look softer, younger. It hid the scar that ran from the corner of her right eye to the center of her cheek. As if in a trance, the girl raised her hand to touch the scar, but quickly jerked her hand down.

"'Don't let this happen to you, Al'," she murmured to herself. She was scowling as she pulled a brown 'artisan's' cap out of her pack and put it on her head. She tucked her hair under it and started to walk again.

A year had passed since the 'Bloody War', and even though Alyssa had promised Jack that she would give up the risky life of a mercenary… nothing had changed. Well, that wasn't true, Alyssa had become a different person since then. But that wasn't really a surprise: she had fought in many wars now, and found that the screams no longer disturbed her. She was numb, but she didn't care. It was the sacrifice she had made to be free.

As she walked, Alyssa found her thoughts wandering to her childhood. A weary smile spread across her face as she thought of what had happened only four years ago. Inwardly, she wondered if her father had even thought about his daughter, who had run away just after he had told her she would marry one of the richest men in the city. But unlike most girls who ran away, Alyssa hadn't ended up marrying. In fact, it was doubtful that Alyssa would ever marry.

She raised her hand and twisted it slightly so the moonlight revealed the straight scar on her hand. She had made an oath, many years ago. "I will never marry, and I will never have children," she said softly to herself, then lowered her hand.

"Isn't that a rather strict oath to make?" a male's voice drawled. Instantly, Alyssa whirled around, sword in hand. She scowled as she saw a man lounging in a branch in the tree, a grin on his face. He had fairly dark skin, pale brown hair, and sparkling amber eyes.

"It's a safe oath," she snapped at him. She could suddenly picture that she must've looked fairly odd, a girl dressed in a loose white tunic and brown breeches, carrying in a sword that looked like it had a white blade. She scowled again and pushed that thought away, then noticed that the man's grin had widened.

"I suppose it is," he said with a shrug, jumping down from the tree. He landed easily on his feet. "At least then you can't ever get hurt."

"I never asked your opinion," she pointed out.

"True," he agreed. "But I decided to give it to you anyways."

Alyssa simply glared at him for a moment. But soon, she decided something, and started to walk past him. He caught her hand and yanked her back.

"Not yet, ma'am. I don't know your name."

She sheathed her sword. "You want to know my name?" She grabbed his wrist with her free hand, and with a strength that was surprising considering her small frame, yanked herself free. She then kicked him in the stomach-hard-and said, "I'm Alyssa. A mercenary." She grinned at his shocked expression and walked away.