Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of Rumiko Takashi. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No copyright infringement is intended.

A/N: This is my second long story. This one is going to be on a more sombre note starring Sesshomaru and an original character, Yukiko. I hope that you give it a chance. In this one I am trying to explore emotions at a much deeper level. This first chapter is something of a prologue so pardon the length. I promise you all longer chapters. As always, don't forget to review. I would love to hear what you think. Enjoy!

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NOW IS THE WINTER OF

OUR DISCONTENT

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Chapter One

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Nearly three hundred years prior

to the appearance of the strange female from

another time via the magic well.

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Deep within the cool fortress located in the heart of the Western Territory, a regal figure sat in a dimly lit room. A pair of hard, golden eyes was set on the man kneeling on one knee before him. Outside, the wind howled, swirling snow around the large stone bricks that served as the outer walls of the structure. Unlike the traditional human castles of the time, the dwelling of Demon Lords are constructed of solid rock and built to withstand any form of attack against the ruler of the land. The owner of the chilling gaze sat to the side of the only open window, acting as the source of illumination for the long hall. His eyes wandered idly to said window wearing a bored expression of indifference.

"The oracle has a reputation for never being wrong, my lord." The kneeling body spoke in an even tone.

"'Never' is a serious claim to make," a hallow voice replied.

The cloaked person seemed to deepen his bow at the shadow of a discontent in the retort of his lord. The frigid intensity of the young taiyoukai sent a chill through his spine. "I agree, my lord," he hesitated, "All she asks is that she be given an audience with your Majesty for she claims to have seen something of interest in your future."

"Hmm," he considered for a moment. Perhaps this oracle would offer some advice regarding the unrest within the territory. Since he had taken his rightful place at the throne, much opposition have taken this opportunity to challenge the new ruler. "Send her in," he said with finality.

At that command, the man rose from his knee, bowed at the waist—not daring to raise his eyes for fear that he would meet a hard, golden gaze—then made his way out of the large sliding door, happy to be freed from the stoic presence of the new lord. Although the exterior of the palace varied greatly than that of normal palaces of the time, the interior was much the same with large shoji screen doors and tatami floor mats muffling the steps of those residing within.

On the other side of the door the young demon lord, Sesshomaru he was called, looked at the pale cypress of the frame of the shoji door which the messenger had exited from. An oracle was something that was not new to the youkai. His father had often called on them for early predictions of the outcome of battles.

A frown marred Sesshomaru's angelic features. The thought of his father fuelled a deep resentment within him. The bastard was an idiot. To mate with a human female then go so far as to impregnate her with a half-bred disgrace to the bloodline. Now, even in his death, his son refused to let bygones be bygones for due to his irrationality, the title of Inu no Taisho has been passed down prematurely to his full-bred heir. Along with this, the responsibility of ruling, controlling, and expanding the Western Lands has been thrust onto the unready juvenile. Of course, he would never admit to being unprepared to fill the shoes of the late Demon Lord, the young taiyoukai has much too much pride for such a thing. Instead, he fought. Without the guidance of his mother, well-known to be chock full of blind-ambition and well versed in the way of politics, Sesshomaru was left to defend his title alone.

For the past sixty or so years, the new demon lord has massacred in cold-blood anyone who proved to be a threat to his claim on the throne. In the short expanse of time, Sesshomaru has gained a reputation for being heartless and very powerful. He has effectively paved the way to victory over his opponents with the blood and limbs of those who have doubted him. But such violence took a heavy toll on the impressionable soul for with every murder Sesshomaru lost a part of what ever little compassion he had once possessed. There is too much blood on his hand now. What is left of the once feeling being is an empty husk made up of pride, anger, hatred, and pain.

Shaken from his contemplation by a knock on the door, demon lord replaced his blank façade and ordered them to enter.

The messenger from earlier slid the door open and announced, "Lord Sesshomaru, this is the Seer of the Western Cliffs." He motioned to a darkly cloaked female, stout and hunched over, tell-tale signs of her age. She wore a hood over her head, covering her eyes and most of her face. Perhaps graciously so for what little was exposed—lips, thin and wrinkled surrounded by leathery skin which had lost its elasticity over the decades—was not a pleasant sight. One can only imagine the rest to be a ghastly show of the horror of aging.

"Good day, my lord," the sound that came from said lips did not reflect the exterior. It was steady and wise much more fitting to come from a woman half her age.

The messenger took this as his cue to leave. Again, he gave a deep, courteous bow to the person seated in the far end of the room then left swiftly, closing the cypress screen door behind him.

The female began to walk toward Sesshomaru, "I thank you for granting me an audience with Your Grace."

"What is it that you have come to tell this Sesshomaru?" he ignored the formality and got straight to the point.

A smile appeared on the wrinkled lips, "Well, my lord," she halted her stride in the middle of the room, directly in front of him. "I have seen a pivotal moment occurring in your very near future and I felt compelled to warn you..." She paused, watching him to gauge his response. As one would expect no clue came from his exterior. Instead, after a span of a few moments, he merely said:

"Proceed."

"It is nothing political for all know that your power is unmatched by any of your challengers." She saw him raise his chin infinitesimally in a show of pride.

He raised one eyebrow. If she has not come to tell him of future battles, what has she to tell him that is of any importance? It seems that this woman has come to waste his time.

Sensing his slight annoyance, the oracle decided that dancing around the point is not welcome in his presence. Such youth, such impatience—in time, he will learn. She had planned to prepare him for the information she was about to give. To strategically ask him questions so that she may know how to deliver her news. However, she cannot do that now.

Just as he was about to open his mouth to speak, she flipped her large hood, exposing two endless ice-blue orbs. Like her voice, her eyes held a strange youth about them, as if it had escaped the assault of time. Sesshomaru, who was about to send her away, had settled back into his seat, mesmerized by the pale gaze. Suddenly, they began to cloud. The white from the outside fogged her irises at first then seeped until finally, the beautiful colour was hidden behind this strange cover.

Sesshomaru prepared himself for a magical attack. In case this was a trick, he would not be caught off guard. He watched closely as a strange black mist appeared beneath her feet and swirled around her form. The oracle scooped some of the mist into cupped hands before her and she bowed her head seemingly to look into it.

"You salvation is soon to come," she spoke hauntingly in her steady voice, "In the form of a broken female—a snow child. She will fall from the heavens, cast away by the gods. Taken from her pain, she will rescue you from your despair." She frowned. As she continued, her tone became sombre and foreboding. "Her blood will be on your hands and her final breath in your arms. Now is the winter of your discontent, my lord, and she will be the beam of hope that will save you from the self-destruction that you are headed for."

She lifted her head. Had she not had the cover on her eyes, he guessed she would be looking right at him. There was only silence that passed between them. His brows furrowed, confused and apparently aggravated. This oracle had indeed wasted his time. The information she had given was absolutely useless to him!

He was about to conjure his poison whip to kill the woman who made a fool of him with such false claims when he was stopped by a loud knocking on the door. The person of the other side did not bother to wait for a response when it began to announce frantically:

"My lord, there has been a breach in security!" Sesshomaru's attention snapped to the voice. Immediately he ran, opening the door, startling the guard who was there. Such an announcement was serious. Intruders were very rare within the heavily guarded fortress. After composing himself the guard continued, "A girl, my lord. What little clothes she has has been torn from her. She is unconscious, lying in the snow of the courtyard. Some of my men claim that she appeared from the sky in a blinding beam of light."

The taiyoukai's sight bled red at the news. This cannot be. He turned to the oracle who looked at him knowingly. The fog was gone from her eyes and the piercing blue was watched him steadily.

The guard hesitated as he saw the inuyoukai become enraged. "M-my lord, I will send orders to dispose of her immediately."

"No," he barked suddenly at the terrified guard.

"Wh-what d-do you wish for me to do, sire? I co—"

Sesshomaru cut him off, speaking to the oracle in a tone that is louder than his usual soft-spoken manner, "Is this what you spoke of?"

The knowing look remained placated on her features. She did not answer. The mist only thickened around her and she melted into it. He could do nothing but to watch in confusion. What is happening? In a matter of seconds, she had dissipated into the black mist and swirled out through the open window, blending with the snow, eventually leaving no trace in the wintry abyss beyond.

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