STONE PRINCESS CHAPTER 1

She got up and sat at the mirror, brushing her hair back into shape after a night filled with dreams of flight and gold and lots of handsome guys flocking at her side all trying to get her attention. Her deep breath and sigh could me mistaken for a melancholy gesture, but she wasn't depressed. In fact, she was happy this morning. Most mornings she couldn't stand to look at her face in the mirror, cursing her father for being the way he was and forcing her to look like him.

Her icy blue eyes focused on the wire haired reflection in the cheap mirror. Her hair was dark purple, like her mother's but sharp wire like her father's. He'd once explained to her that his grandfather-or-great grandfather had turned him into a Chimera, one-third human, one-third golem, and one-third lessor demon. Her skin was tough as a rock and she weighed about as much as a horse. Her skin was not only rock, but also blue, a pretty sky blue that almost clashed with her hair. Instead of actual freckles across her nose and cheeks, she had tiny pieces of darker stone. There were larger pieces on the edges of her jaw on either side as well as one right between her eyebrows. Her eyelashes were pitch black and long, she personally thought they were her only nice feature.

Siori Graywords-Seyruun felt her mood spiral downwards as she gazed at her steady reflection in the foggy and cracked mirror. She decided that she needed something to brighten her mood. The tavern had made her pay in advance for her room and she was somewhat angry. Not because she'd been forced to pay last night, but because bandits had been stealing from taverns all along the route.

Siori got to her feet and adjusted her bangs one final time before heading toward the door, her midnight black ensemble making her expression seem more grim then she truly felt. She enjoyed her 'job' as she called it. Relieving the weight from people's shoulders (purses) and distributing it to the needy (herself) was a wonderful occupation which she prided herself upon her efficiency (how much she could get away with).

With her sword tied to her belt and her midnight cape wrapped around her shoulders like death's cowl, she descended the stairs. Silence fell upon the room when she entered. Having her face uncovered seemed to have that effect on people, Siori had noticed over her four years of wandering. She certainly wasn't a mercenary but she could be hired (for a price that was certainly well beyond the means of anyone sane).

She walked up to the bar and casually leaned against it. "You said you've been having problems with... bandits? Perhaps, I could be of service..."

The barkeep shrank back from her and shook his head somewhat, "Ma'am, I- I couldn't- um- ask that of you!" he saved rather nicely, his balding head shining in the oil lamplight. The sun was out, but the glass in the windows was so cheap and bubbly that it didn't let in much light, not to mention that the glass was quite dusty.

Siori almost let her expression change, but she wasn't called Stone Princess for nothing. Not only was the name literal, but she also ACTED royal, despite her obviously common clothing, it was simply the way she carried herself and never let her true emotions show through. Secretly, she did have a weakness, for cute guys. She'd even once offered a guy money just to see him take off his shirt.

She wasn't going to let this fat gibbering man ruin her morning. "I'll give you a reasonable charge," she said, sounding sweet, "Ten gold per bandit head," she told him and the rest of the people at the tavern.

"But- but- we couldn't possibly-" stuttered the fat man behind the bar. His apron was stained with many things, Siori idly noticed, somewhat disgusted to see what looked like urine stains here and there too.

She took a breath, firing up for a good haggling session. "That many huh? I'm slitting my own gut here! My normal price is twenty per bandit but I'm being nice! You COULD let them attack you again..."

"But we just can't afford ten-" the barkeep said, his eyes still wide.

"Ah. Nine."

"Nono- four is all we can afford here..."

"Eight," Siori leaned closer to him, looking him dead in the eyes.

"S-six!" the barkeep held his ground- mostly anyway.

Siori narrowed her eyes slightly, "Seven, I won't go for anything lower."

The barkeep nervously glanced around and gulped, "Seven," he agreed finally and Siori flashed a smile, getting out of his face. Returning her feet to the floor after she'd been sitting on the bar in her attempt to intimidate the man who smelled like a pig sty and seemed in his forties.

"Fine, I'll be back around- oh, noon-ish for my pay. For an extra twenty coppers I can bring back souvenirs-"

"No! No! That's fine! We don't need anything like that!" the barkeep said quickly, fearing what the Stone Princess would deem a souvenir.

Siori turned, leaving the tavern, she wasn't going to get any coffee from such a tight ass tavern even if it was the only place that sold the stuff left in the world. She'd acquired her taste early in life, from her father, the bastard.

* * *

Smoke floated upwards into the midmorning sky as Siori finished pocketing the more valuable looking objects the bandits had gathered. She gathered plenty of money as well which was a bonus, her pockets had been feeling just a little light lately. There were bodies strewn everywhere, those of the men who'd decided that robbing innocents was a better occupation then something honest. Well, Siori refused to consider what SHE did as anything but what they'd asked for. Her footsteps would return her to the tavern within a half hour. On the way her feet swaying her somewhat in time to a tune in her head, something rather jazzy that had just popped up. She got carried away with the tune and began humming, singing the occasional word, spinning around with her eyes closed as she made her way down the road. She probably looked silly, but she was in a good mood and it was such a nice day.

Her black cape fluttered around her ankles as she danced her way along, snapping her fingers to the beat only she could hear. Her hips swayed at every step. She heard someone coming down the road and ignored them in favor of her song, singing louder to drown out their footsteps. She prided herself on her singing voice, she thought she had a rather nice alto- soprano and could carry a tune better then most.

"Process of my love!" she sang loudly, spinning, to face the direction she was really headed instead of walking backwards, her eyes opening sometimes to check and see if she were going to go off the path or something. She wasn't. The sky was bright blue with the sun climbing higher as time passed.

"You seem in a good mood," a familiar voice said softly to her, breaking into her concentration.

She stopped while the owner of the voice proceeded a few more steps. "I was until you showed up," she told him firmly, refusing to look at the one whom she resembled quiet a lot.

He turned to regard her icily, "There's no need for hostility."

"You didn't just HAPPEN upon me. What do you want, Zelgadis?" she refused to call him her father. His hair had gotten longer over the years and now was tied back in a ponytail, the wires forced into submission through much pruning. He wore his sandy beige still, having reverted to those ragged and familiar clothes after Amelia's death. He looked upon his daughter sadly, though she wasn't even looking at him. His heart ached secretly for his dearest Amelia.

"You're right. I came to check on you."

Siori's eyes snapped back toward him, narrowing as a frown marred her lips. "CHECK ON ME?!" she fumed, "I'm NOT a little kid anymore! I DON'T need checking on!"

Zelgadis listened to her in silence, watching her face. "I missed you," he said softly, causing her to fall silent almost as if a tun of brick had fallen on her words. "I'll go now." He walked forward and past her, continuing the way he'd been headed when he'd found her.

Siori stood in silence for a long moment. "Missed me?" she whispered then shook her head and hurried onward, she'd wasted a whole ten minutes standing there and they were expecting her at the inn.

Zelgadis looked over his shoulder after her then hung his head, "If...only..." he said softly, "If only I'd done something.. anything... It's my fault Amelia's dead. It's my fault she died. Giving birth to my children..." He pressed the palms of his hands to his eyes for a moment, wiping away the tears of grief that always began whenever he thought of his beloved Amelia. Even sixteen years after it had happened, it still hurt terribly. "If only I'd been able to do something... I wouldn't have lost Amelia and our other daughter," he silently heaped more blame upon himself as he continued down the road and into the forest, his hood pulled low over his face.