The stench was overwhelming. Thick and heavy, with a single breath the smell would flood the nostrils and rush onward into the lungs, invading all of the senses in one furious assault. It would be tasted in one's mouth. It would block out all sound. It would make one's vision darken. It would make one's body feel grimy. There was no escape from it.

The area had an inner feeling of silence even though there were close to a hundred carrion birds screaming their glee to the skies. Blood was all over the battlefield making a special wet crimson carpet. Bodies, some wearing red most wearing green, were strewn everywhere. It was a scene of death. It was a scene common to these lands.

In the midst of a small mound of the dead, one young man, a boy really, still struggled to breathe. Despite his many wounds, he had somehow managed to stay alive and retain his consciousness. He was too weak to move but not yet close to death. All he had to hope for was a slow painful death from either loss of blood, or from the enemy. He prayed it would be from loss of blood. Just as he had that thought, a shadow covered him. He looked up and dread curled up his spine as he realized that he would not be granted a merciful death.

A slight figure wrapped up in a blue-hooded cloak stood over him; the cowl pulled up. He could feel its eyes gazing at him from the black opening of the hood. They stared at each other. Then, the figure reached up and pushed back the cloth to reveal a veiled face with storm gray eyes and long silver hair piled on top of a woman's head. At the sight of the woman, the wounded warrior began to feel panic creep into his mind. He recognized what she was instantly. This woman was a noble of the Avin court. In the centuries old war between Avin and Serapan, both countries taught their children almost from birth how to distinguish an enemy with noble blood. Later, they taught them how to kill them.

Off in the distance, voices could be heard, getting louder every second. The man's eyes jerked towards the voices then flicked back to the figure. The woman continued to stare right at him. Despair began to seep into him. There was no way the Avin wouldn't recognize him. Aside from his obvious Serapan features, his armor's emblem could not be mistaken for anything else but an enemy noble's. She might even be able to recognize him as one of the younger brothers of the current king of Serapan, Prince Gregory, only sixteen years old. When she stirred to move, he closed his eyes and tried to enjoy the last few moments of freedom and sanity he had.

The soft feeling of silk brushed his cheek. He opened his eyes and stared. The Avin woman, the noble Avin woman, was kneeling in the blood and dirt beside him. She pulled off one of her gloves revealing her fair skin. She laid her bare hand over his eyes. Within one second to the next, he was deeply asleep.

The woman straightened; and suddenly another, larger, figure dressed similarly to the woman was kneeling on the opposite side of the wounded noble. The newly arrived figure looked at the woman and they communicated silently. The larger person asked what the woman wished to be done. The woman commanded the larger person to take the prince and leave. The larger figure complied, leaning over the prince and vanishing.

A few minutes later, soldiers dressed in the royal livery approached the woman. "Milady, there have been no survivors found," said the lead one saluting with a bow, hand on his sword hilt. The woman nodded and turned to leave. Just before they left the outer fringes, she stopped, turned, and gazed out at the scene. Then she turned back and continued walking.

The campsite was large and lavish. Some would have said it was more of a target than campsite, but there was no fear of an enemy attacking this camp. Soldiers, royal ones, the best of them all, were swarming everywhere. Some were sitting around a campfire eating, joking, and laughing. Others were sparring, the clang of their weapons ringing throughout the area. Still others were dancing attendance to a large group of giggling, obviously noble females. Regardless of what activity they were engaged in, they all had their weapons close by and scanned the perimeters of the camp constantly.

The woman entered and passed through the camp without paying any attention to any of the things around her. As she walked further into the camp, the soldiers dropped away to join their comrades. By the time she reached a plain, medium-sized tent, she was alone and entered it without a backward glance. Inside, there were three pallets, a trunk, three small travel bags, and a pitcher of water. One of the pallets was rolled out and on it lay the wounded boy from the battlefield. Beside the pallet, knelt a large man with dark blonde hair cut an inch from his head.

As the man nodded to the woman, she reached up and removed her mask, revealing a clear, heart-shaped face of eighteen years or so. Swiftly she walked to the prince's side yanking off her gloves in the process. The instant she touched his bare skin with hers she froze, and her face took on a distant, glazed look. The large man sat back on his heels and settled to watch.

For the next four hours, the young woman and the young prince stayed in that same position. If one looked closely, they would have observed the worst of the wounds begin to knit, that the girl began to sweat profusely as her whole body began to shake. Darkness had fallen by the time the girl shuddered and blinked, breaking her frozen state. Too weak to support herself, she slumped backwards and was caught by the man. He lifted the pitcher of water to her lips, and they again had a moment of silent speech. Assurance was asked for and given. Then the man carefully laid the young woman on the second pallet next to a tray of food. Before she had lifted the lid of the first dish, the two men were gone.

It was well past midnight when an old Serapan farmer and his wife were awakened by an insistent knock on the door. The old man immediately got up and grabbed a mean looking club from beside his bed. Those who lived on the eastern border always had weapons ready. The knocking cut off as the man made his way to the door. When he reached it, he glanced out of the peep hole. Seeing no immediate threat, he cautiously opened the door an inch to peek out. Not seeing anything at first, he moved to shut the door and return to bed, when, he heard a small moan. He looked down and his jaw dropped. He recognized the Serapan prince at once but could not imagine what on earth he was doing on his door front in the middle of the night. Bending down to try to ascertain it was the prince and not a dream, he then saw the rent armor and torn and bloody uniform underneath. Jerking his head up, the farmer scanned the area, but still, he could not see who it was that had carried the prince there. Finally giving up, he gently picked up the prince, carried him inside, and set about taking care of him and informing the king of his brother's whereabouts.