~*~ The Prophecy ~*~

The Least shall become Most

Common Pain shall bind their Hearts

Sorrow Will Strengthen

Love Shall Bloom like a Flower in the Midst of Darkness

Gold and Violet Will Merge

As the Demons Rise

They Alone Shall Stand Against Them


The bouncing and jolting of the carriage had long since past the point of uncomfortable- ness. Now Kaoru just felt numb and unfeeling. She had gone past the being able to feel any sensation.

Misao sat across from her, staring out the window with all encompassing interest, watching the red sun baked dirt of the desert change to dark wet brown and tall leafy trees rise out of the soil. Her long braid snaked over a shoulder and she had tucked her feet underneath her. Her arms rested on the window sill and she was totally enraptured, eyes wide in the midst of her small face.

The sky outside was clear and free of any clouds. It was a deep blue, blue as forever, and blue as eternity, blue as Kaoru's feelings.

Yahiko lay curled up beside Misao, long since having fallen asleep despite the torment the carriage had unleashed upon its occupants. He murmured softly in his sleep and making a soft mewling sound that was meant to be a snore. Kaoru's mouth quirked wryly into a grin, and for a moment she was able to forget exactly why she was in this carriage, headed to a an alien land to marry some barbarian king in order to consummate a pact that would keep Kasshin free from the threat or war or raids for several long years.

Kaoru's mouth pulled down into a frown.


Weakness and fear.

That was the causes of her predicament. Had it only been a moon since the runner had ridden into the courtyard, his horse flecked with foam and staggering from weariness after being ridden so hard for so many miles, bearing a message from the King?

The message was clear: Send a woman of royal blood or risk war.

But what hadn't been so clear was who were they to send? The Kasshin Royals had many marriageable princesses (they even had some princes of the appropriate orientation too if the King had so desired), but none had wanted to go. Kaoru didn't blame them; tales of the King's cruelty were well known - as well known as his flame hair and golden eyes.

So Kaoru had been the one they had delegated.

Oh she was of Royal Blood, though hers was tainted in their minds. She was the result of a one night tryst between one of the Princes and a servant. They had been overlooking that fact for years, giving her no more consideration than they would any other servant (and that was little).

But suddenly her mixed blood became a blessing to them. Here they had a person of Royal Blood who they could send without care and not have to risk any of their precious daughters (many of whom were set to be engaged to various princes and dukes) and they would still get their treaty. It didn't matter to them at all if the King beheaded her at first glance; their hands were clean from the matter.

My dear relatives, Kaoru's thoughts were bitter. I'm just a convenient pawn to them, nothing more, and nothing less.

The silk dress she wore felt heavy and stiff, abrading the skin across her shoulders and rubbing it raw. Her head ached from the tightness of the elaborate loops and coils her hair had been put in and she could barely breathe from the constricting fabric wrapped snugly about her waist. Her toes felt confined in the hard shoes she was made to wear.

Kaoru missed her servant wear: a simple kimono top and flared hakama, soft sandals. They had been comfortable and functional at the same time. This dress was just for show, she could barely move around in it.

The bright polished wood of the carriage leered her reflection back at her. It was clearly visible due to the large amounts of varnish that had been applied to the wood. Her face had been painted bridal white, her lips stained with red and her eyes edged with black kohl. This girl with her painted face and doll like features was not Kaoru.

Her very reflection felt as alien and as distant as the lands the carriage was being driven through.

The bouncing and jostling of the carriage lessened in intensity and Kaoru could feel them slowing.

"Riders are approaching," Misao murmured softly, her gaze rapt to the goings on.

Kaoru pulled back the curtain slightly to peer out. A ring of riders had circled the carriage and one seemed to be talking to the driver.

The horses they rode were dark chestnut each one standing at least sixteen hands and dressed in golden elaborate tack that gleamed like the sun. They themselves were dressed in red livery with the symbol of a golden tongue of flame on the left breast.

A golden flame. that was the King's symbol!

The next second the door was pulled open and one of the riders looked in. "Miss Kaoru?" He asked, his voice carried a faint accent and he spoke carefully as if unsure of his words and wanting to be as correct in their use as was possible.

Kaoru nodded, feeling her throat close up. "Yes."

The man bowed low at the waist in one sweeping elegant movement. "We will be escorting you to the palace, if you would come with us." He held out a hand and unthinking, Kaoru took it.

Misao and Yahiko came out after her, blinking in the brightness of the sun after being cooped inside the dimly lit carriage for so long.

"Can you ride?" The question was directed to Kaoru and she nodded. She could ride. well enough, she supposed.

A horse was led up to her. It was a tall golden palomino mare as fine as any the Royal Stables held. Her coat shone like sunlight itself and her mane and tail's were long and white as freshly fallen snow. Kaoru suddenly felt very awed and very small.

Getting up proved a tad difficult due to the heavy skirt Kaoru wore and her reluctance to rip it. The dress was the finest thing she had ever worn in her life (despite her immense dislike of it), tearing it or getting it dirty would be sacrilege.

Misao and Yahiko mounted their own horses, an elegant sorrel gelding and a small round bellied bay pony. While this was happening other riders were collecting the bags and trunks from the carriage and strapping them onto the few packhorses they had brought along.

The carriage driver spoke some words to the leader, perhaps a farewell, before slapping the reins across the horse's backs and turning the carriage around. The carriage faded from sight and Kaoru felt a pang of loneliness shoot through her.

"Come," the leader sat his prancing chestnut stallion as if he was born in the saddle. "We go now." He whirled the horse around on its haunches and took off at a smooth canter.

The rest followed.


The land was bare of habitation, miles and miles of tall treed forests and flower dotted fields. It was beautiful scenery Kaoru had to admit but she missed the tall towers of the Castle, the hustle and bustle of the village that surrounded it like the spokes of a wheel and the ever present sounds of a people's voices. This lack of sound was oppressive and cold. The silence felt chilling.

"Do you have no cities? No villages?" Kaoru asked the leader as she urged her mare apace of his horse. Anything for sound, anything to banish this gloom that had settled across her thoughts.

"We have a City. Our people are nomads; our homes are what we carry on our horse's backs and where we stay for a few nights. We stay in a place long enough for the ground to become trampled from the pattering of feet before moving again."


Not my.

Kaoru was a part of his people now.

She certainly didn't feel like it.

"Oh," Kaoru murmured. One city, endless traveling; her mind whirled with dizziness.

"In this land a man's most precious belongings are his horse, his sword, his dog and," the man's smile turned mischievous, "his wife."

Kaoru's cheeks flamed and she bit her tongue to keep from uttering a sharp retort. She squared her shoulders sharply and stared between her mares ears, ignoring him.

The man chuckled lowly, "do not be upset." He said in a manner that was supposed to be placating. "Our King is a good one; he will not force you against your will."

"Too late, that's already happened to me." Kaoru said sharply. "I was given no choice when his proclamation came to the Castle."

"But here, you have a choice if you wish to take it." The man said consolingly.

"That's good to know," Kaoru said softly, feeling some of her anger fade.

The man smiled and suddenly swung his horse hard to the right, darting through a strand of tall trees. The tight press of trees made riding single file the only option and Kaoru pulled her mare into place behind a couple of the riders.

The song of birds and the rustle of tree leaves and the soft beat of hooves against leaf strewn ground became the only noises for several hours. Kaoru found it lulling, soothing, almost comforting. Some of the tension in her body drained.

The sky above was streaked with sunset. Ribbons of color, gold, red, bright pink, indigo, there were even a few stars starting to appear. Kaoru could already spot some familiar constellations and star forms. The familiarity soothed some of the ache caused by loneliness.

Even though I'm in another country, I'm still under the same sky, looking up at the same stars, she mused.

A cry started in the front of the line rippling down through the riders until it reached the very last one. It had a wild joyful sound to it and suddenly Kaoru was caught off guard as her mare burst into a gallop.

The horses broke from the trees, fanning out and racing neck and neck. Ahead Kaoru saw a Palace. It rose to the sky and seemed to keep on going until it disappeared into the clouds. It was made of glittering white stone, stained by the colors of dusk. Her stomach lurched.

This place was to be her home now.

An answering cry was raised up ahead and Kaoru saw heavy gates swing open to welcome them in. The lines of people that edged the narrow passageway became a blur as the horses thundered past. Their voices rose in greeting, a high trilling sound that made the hairs on the back of her neck prickle.

Suddenly Kaoru's mare slowed to a fast walk, placing her feet delicately upon the smooth rock of the courtyard underfoot. The riders lined their horses up one next to the other; their backs ramrod straight and eyes staring forward.

Kaoru heard the creak of a door opening and jerked her gaze forward. A golden, filigreed door swung open with painful slowness. It seemed to take forever for it to open large enough for a person to pass through. A figure stepped out from behind the door and glided down the high white steps.

Dying sunlight turned his hair to fire and his eyes seemed to reflect the coming darkness like a cat's.

The King.