An Assassin's Loyalties

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Chapter Two

As Sazami walks through the dirtied streets that afternoon, she revels in the stares that follow her. Adjusting the billowing skirts of her dress, the exquisite coloring, and the whorls of sequence transforms her into a high-ranking lady in waiting. She adds to it by purposely lifting her skirt so the people can get a look at the bone-colored slippers on her feet. One of the many aspects of her beauty. A few women even glare at her as she passes, the heads of their men turning to her attention.

Beautiful lace adorns this stunning gown, set in a formfitting silhouette with a sweeping train behind her. Its sweetheart bodice is in the color beige, completely covered with sparkling crystals and jewels cascading into a sheer midriff nude skirt with gold tulle gussets.

One of her many gorgeous dresses tucked away in her closet, along with the rest of her luxuries: her clothes and shoes and jewelry.

Her smile growing, Sazami squares her shoulders and schools her features into neutrality. Her beauty is a weapon; with her long, braided hair – now adorned with gold beads – and her features smooth and formed like she was sculpted in the image of a goddess. Her mocha brown skin makes her emerald green eyes shine, and when she wears her gold and ivory jewelry, the ring of gold around her pupil looks brilliant. Her body is tall and lean, but rock hard with muscle from her training.

Although, it would be a lie if she said she loved the way she had to keep lifting her skirt to avoid it getting dirty, or how the back of her shoes kept rubbing annoyingly against the back of her ankle. Not to mention that the two daggers strapped on the outside of her thighs made her skin burn from the friction. As for now, most of her daggers and swords are replaced with a sash and a coin purse strapped to her waist.

Sazami can’t fight the excitement bubbling in her breast as she beholds the entire scenery spread with the beautiful blazing colors of the trees mixed in with the green tilted roofs of her kingdom.

The entire town is prepping for Samhain as there are pumpkins stacked in little piles outside shops, in front of signs to churches and halls, and stacks of hay are set around the parks. Decorations of plastic spiders and bed-sheet ghosts are strung near doorways, strings of multicolored corn handing on front doors. Many leaves have fallen along the sidewalks that now crunch underfoot. Off in the distance, along the horizon of the town, the snow tipped mountains stand guard. With the bright autumn colors against the clear blue sky, the town is as vibrant this afternoon as it was at the height of summer.

The assassin weaves through the crowd with a kind of casual grace that anyone eyeing her envies. As she walks down the crowded avenue, Sazami weaves with that grace no matter how many people were shoved into her path, or stepped in her path, or cursed her for stepping in theirs, she doesn’t falter, and her boyish grin growing. Many people stop to stare at her but she takes it in stride.

As she passes by the shops, she wishes she had brought more money. Given they are the largest continent in the region east of the Redwood Forest, they have vendors from all the kingdoms on the continent – and beyond. The wares range from spices from Fireside, to jewels and clothes from Kuya; from food of Orvryn, to handmade weapons and bags from the villages of the Stallion Mountains, and a variety of books from the Wardlaw Shorelines. Many are displayed on mannequins or stacked up on boxes or set on podiums or lined in wooden crates. When she reaches the plaza area, the shops disappear and shrink down into shaded tables with merchandise spread across blankets or whicker placemats, and strings of lanterns swoop from streetlamp to streetlamp, glittering like stars.

Once the scent of something exquisite reaches her senses, she diverges from her path following her nose instead. Five minutes later, she’s carrying a bag of Kuya candy, and tucked under her arm is a bottle of Fireside’s finest wine.

She continues her walk, munching on a bag of candy until she turns a corner and enters the respectable district of Valinor, filled with townhouses and enormous estates. Her feet take her to her destination without hesitation, as she has the entire district mentally mapped out from her walks as a child.

She pops another frosted candy in her mouth, smiling at nobles who gawk at her in horror. Their pale skin and flamboyant gowns make her nauseous. At least her dresses were calm and earth-toned, and they didn’t require that confounded corsets that suffocate your ribs and pushes up your breasts for everyone to see. Even some courtesans have more respect for themselves.

Still, Sazami notes at least three dresses she wants to look into as she mounts the steps to one of the more luxurious townhouses. The designs and décor so extravagant it nearly matches that of The Royals. The assassin knocks on the door, balancing the bottle and bag of candy on her arm. There’s a moment of silence, her patience easily wearing thin. But just as she’s about to kick at the door, it swings open.

There stands the only person in the world that Sazami has grown to love. The only person that saw her for what she truly is, and accepted her nonetheless. The only person who isn’t a babbling idiot with oversized breasts and tiny waists.

“Well hello, Sazami.” Aela smiles as she leans against the doorframe. The girl’s eyes flick to the candy and she purses her lips.

“Could you not have waited until you ate dinner?!” she exclaims with amusement.

Sazami smiles. “At least I was courteous enough to leave some for you. And got you some delicious wine.”

Quickly, the girl’s house servants come and take the bottle of wine out of the assassin’s arms and scurry back inside. Aela smiles, giggling as the two girls gather each other in hug. Aela smells of red plum and freesia, the scent of her homeland of Fireside. She snatches the bag of candy, her hand reaching in and pulling out a hazelnut truffle without looking. She pops it into her mouth and moans in pleasure from the flavor.

Sazami smiles back brightly, admiring her friend’s natural beauty. Her wine-red hair breaches past her shoulders, detailed in gorgeous curls with beaded pearls weaved through and pulled back half-up and out of her face. Her pale skin is sprinkled with freckles, her sapphire blue eyes making her just as exotic as Sazami.

Her dress is just as beautiful as herself. It’s the color of a pale turquoise stone that carries through the beads of white woven into her hair, and impressively clashes with the diamond droplets that dangle from her ears. It has a beautifully draped bodice featuring perfectly laced appliques, and a chapel train. Atop her head is a small tiara with a single sapphire stone at the center; ornate vine tendrils curling around one another.

“I’m so glad you could make it.”

“Of course, I did. You dare underestimate me?” Sazami retorts, mimicking exaggerated hurt. “I wouldn’t dare miss the birthday celebration of the most important person in all of Valinor.”

Aela rolls her eyes, and Sazami couldn’t resist doing the one thing that always pisses her off. The assassin steps back and curtseys low, using the cape of her cloak as if it were a frilly gown.

“Happy Birthday, Your Royal Highness, Princess Aela Kormeloth of Valinor.” Sazami grins.

The princess smacks her arm but giggles, taking the assassin’s hand and escorting her inside. Instead of gathering at the castle, for some reason, Princess Aela prefers gatherings of the more, commoner standards. The house was nice for a vacationing noble: wall to wall red carpet with gold trim, plush couches scattered in a tasteful manner, the smell of exquisite foods, and of course, hundreds of guests crowded into the living room, the skirts of their dresses brushing each other.

As the princess leads her into the room, the girls all gasp, some not afraid to scowl at her, curling their red lips in disgust. Sazami nearly snarls, until she beholds a group of handsome noblemen and their sons clinking glasses of champagne in the backyard. When their heads turn, their eyes widen and some even give her sly smiles. Sazami’s eyes shine bright like the jewels they represent. She winks and gives a twiddle of her perfectly-polished fingers as she continues to follow the princess.

She leads Sazami over to the buffet table, the assassin immediately spotting the karkalec set in ice and spread in a circle with multiple spicy concoctions ready to be dipped. The delicious prawn fish is a staple appetizer of her homeland. As Sazami plucks one of the prawns from the tray, Aela pours them both two glasses, and they cheer one another.

“I can’t tell you what it means you’re here.” Aela says, speaking to Sazami in the Orvryn tongue. “All of these other women are nothing but babbling idiots who only wish to impress the men.”

The assassin grins as many of the women’s heads turn. Aela certainly has been keeping up with her lessons on Orvryn’s common language. Her pronunciation is perfect.

“Of course.” She smiles.

Sazami originally came from the lower half of Orvryn – the kingdom set on the west side of the Redwood Forest – living in Valinor after her uncle bought her from slavery. She and the princess unknowingly met one day when Sazami was nine, sitting behind a building waiting for her age group to be brought onto the stage for auction. Aela had come over, realized what Sazami was and showed her long-extinct kindness by giving her some fresh food and cold water. Sazami gobbled it down quickly before anyone could see, and all she could remember were the princess’s stunning eyes; the passion, the determination, the defiance. It made her self-conscious for someone of such beauty to see her in such a decrepit state: her body reduced to a walking skeleton, her face gaunt ad haunted.

Years later, after getting settled in with her uncle, the two girls met once again when they were fourteen and Sazami had pummeled a group of boys picking on Aela one day in the Square. She gained a split lip and bloodied knuckles, then the princess insisting she let Sazami heal her in exchange for her bravery. The princess then invited her back to the castle, of which the girls spent time talking while the healer patched up Sazami’s wounds. Hearing Sazami’s accent, the princess kept asking her about Orvryn and its customs.

Friendship blossomed from there and they soon met together for lessons in the afternoon for lunch. Sazami taught Aela Orvryn’s language, Aela taught Sazami Valinor’s language. The rest is history.

Sazami always prides herself in her Orvryn tongue, the language difficult to learn for outsiders. She was worried she had lost it when she was forced to learn the common language.

“You know, I happened to hear about what happened with Nobleman Nathaniel.” The princess says in Orvryn, her tone quieter.

“Did you now?”

“Oh yes. Quite gruesome, I must say.” Aela’s wasn’t pleased nor was she upset.

“I assume that’s a compliment.” Sazami tips the glass to her lips.

“You know, he wasn’t the worst man alive,” the princess says quietly, switching her dialect to the common language.

“I wouldn’t know, Aela, as you can testify I don’t like to involve myself much in politics.”

The princess sighs shaking her head. Sazami droops her shoulders as she takes another sip. The princess knew exactly what Sazami was and what she did. She knew everything. Sazami told it all to her while she was over at the castle one night. Of course, there would be some things she would never tell Aela, while the all came pouring out that day. Like water from a destroyed dam, Sazami’s life flowed forth in a stream of words.

While there were small bickers here and there, Aela accepted it – which surprised Sazami beyond words. After that, Sazami told her uncle the three conditions she required when it came to her contracts: no children, no one from Orvryn, and no one from Aela’s family.

“Before I forget,” Aela speaks in Ovryn, popping a frosted candy into her mouth. “I want you to come back to the castle once the party is over.”

“For what?”

“Personal business. My father wishes to see you.”

Sazami nearly chokes on her wine. Ignoring the turning heads, she coughs and wipes her mouth, blinking away her watering eyes. “What? For what?”

“I’m assuming he wants your – assistance. That’s all I know, I’m afraid.”

“Defiantly reassuring.”

Aela leans in, her voice dropped to a whisper. “I’m sorry, Sazami; but you know I can’t get all information on my father’s business.”

While it’s true Aela knows everything about Sazami, that doesn’t mean her father – or the rest of Valinor – knows it too. As far as Aela’s father is concerned, Sazami is actually Skylar Lichenthorn, who is still the niece of her uncle Dahnor Altileth, but instead of killing and manipulating, Skylar spends her time reading in her uncle’s library and taking long walks in Valinor’s parks.

If anyone found out that the kind and beautiful Princess Aela was best friends with Valinor’s infamous assassin Sazami Altileth, why conspiracies and rumors would fly out every window.

Sazami sighs. “Alright. I’ll be there as soon as I go home and change.”

“Thank you.”

“I’m just worried what I will do until then. These women are just preposterous. I’m assuming the men are merely here for your mother’s need.”

Aela rolls her eyes and groans. “She’s becoming more and more merciless when it comes to matters of my betrothal. I can’t go one evening without hearing: “So did you find a suitor, my pet? I have a whole list ready if you can’t decide.”

Sazami snorts. “So does that mean that all of the men here are princes from every country?”

“Oh no, of course not you buffoon.” Sazami smacks Aela’s arm and the princess giggles. “Most of them are the sons of high-ranking dignitaries, or wealthy business men. For once I’m actually happy I have so many . . . ‘friends’, otherwise you would be my distraction for them.” Aela grins like a fiend.

“In your dreams, Your Highness. But at least it’s nice to know that your air-headed idiots aren’t completely useless.”

The princess links their arms as they giggle. “Well come,” she says brightly. “Enough of this standing around. Let’s go. Now don’t worry, we survived too-tight shoes, we can get survive this.”

“At last shoes don’t talk back.” Sazami rolls her eyes as Aela laughs and tugs her head first into the throng.

Hours soon pass and Sazami mostly sticks close to the princess, but once the time came for feminine talk, she was reduced to sitting in a lone armchair, picking at her nails. Aela sits to her left on a couch sharing with two other women in brightly colored dresses.

The two women, along with the group that has gathered around them, are talking about how rude a certain girl was on wearing the same dress but in a different color. Sazami was bored to tears, nearly crying when another woman off to her right started talking about how her co-worker had stolen her job position through means of intimate flirtation with her chair manager.

Gods give her strength. How could women do this to one another; talk horrible about a certain person while she was just off in the corner, and then smiling and befriending her the moment she comes over? Her fingers ripple, eager to reach through the slit she made in her skirt and grasp the handle of the dagger around her thigh.

Finally, when a fourth woman brings up the topic of her husband cheating on her, Sazami simply gets up and leaves the gaggle of women. She doesn’t bother saying excusing herself or dodging elbows; anyone that sees her immediately steps out of her way, their eyes following after her. She makes it to the buffet table, now holding less food than before, and fills a small dessert plate with mashed potatoes in gravy, and a heaping scoop of pasta in a thick, creamy sauce.

As she spins her fork in the long noodles, she casts her gaze around the room. Despite her better judgement, she can’t help but glance over to the men, who have since moved inside with the ladies. She supposed she would’ve talked to them – if the men did more than fondle the women, and if the women did more than just giggle and show off their cleavage. At least she was turning their heads, though.

However, she can’t fight the surprise as she watches a man approach her. An impressively attractive man at that. He is achingly handsome; his honey brown skin is smooth but sharp, and beautiful beyond reckoning and yet he can’t have been older than twenty-two. Yet there is something in his eyes, strikingly blue – a crystal, sparkling blue – and the way they contrast with his chocolate-colored hair that makes Sazami pause. But oddly, what fascinates her the most isn’t his unfathomable beauty, but the gold torque around his strong column of a neck mixed with beaded necklaces.

His entire ensemble represented that of her homeland: from the sleeveless, beige colored tunic around his muscled torso, to the ivory and gold arm cuffs and bangles around his strong arms. A hand-weaved, multicolored sash envelopes his waist, and he has cream colored trousers that cut off at the knee, and sandals the color that remind her of the glittering sands that were a stone’s throw from her old home. Clasped to his shoulders was a cream-colored cape.

It isn’t until he is nearly a foot from her does she notice how tall he is, and the belt hidden under his sash that holds a couple of impressive daggers.

This man . . . he’s from Orvryn.

“My, my,” he begins, smiling. His thick accent and deep, smooth voice makes chills run up her spin. “how my heart soars at the sight of an Orvryn Sister.”

For some stupid reason, Sazami feels her cheeks grow warm. Heads are turning, faces are scowling. She blinks, and allows herself to chuckle. She replies in his language. “I suppose I too should feel honored, as his graces me with his presence.”

The man chuckles. “I am not a noble, though I appreciate the compliment.” He extends out his hand, Sazami taking it naturally and the man kisses the back of it, bowing low. “Elrys Geldeylin, at your service.”

Sazami swallows, hoping her skin hides her flushing cheeks. She mentally curses herself to snap out of it. “Tell me, Elrys, what on earth are you doing here? From your attire, I would’ve pictured you seated next to the king during some extravagant ball.”

“The same could be said for you, my little poppet. Seeing so close to the princess, I had your pegged for a lady-in-waiting.” He reaches out a hand, his bracelets clinking and her heart thumping, and then feeling foolish as he plucks a karkalec from behind her.

“I am simply a close friend here for the enjoyment. How about you? I presume you’re merely a suitor for the princess’s picking?”

“I am here on business.” the young man grins.

Sazami’s eyes suddenly narrow, but she grins. “You’re awfully bold.” Sazami purrs. “Wouldn’t you rather be chatting up these other court women?” Sazami almost feels insulted with how close the man dares to stand, especially when she can set her dagger in his throat faster than a striking asp.

“If they were interesting enough.” He says roughly, taking another step closer. Despite her gut twisting, Sazami stands her ground.

Gods, he smelled so good. Smelt just like the lilac trees from the park where she would run and weave the flowers into crowns. All now a faded memory.

“I see you don’t know anything about personal space. Step back.” Sazami suddenly snarls. Her anger seems out of nowhere, and yet, there’s something about the way he is dressed, the way he keeps his daggers hidden under the sash – its, familiar.

“Aw, am I making you uncomfortable?” He winks.

Sazami’s lip pulls back from her teeth. Dignitary or not, he’s asking for a dagger down his throat. “Dare step closer, and you’ll see where your stupidity will lead you.”

He chuckles and turns from the assassin. “Don’t make such a face.” He calls over his shoulder. “It squishes that little nose of yours.”

Sazami could only gape as the man winks and shuffles away, the cape rippling behind him.

Once he has disappeared into the throng, Sazami violently shakes her head, eager for a heavy drink.

Why are her cheeks red?! Why is her heart fast?! She’s an assassin for gods’ sake! She has seen guts and gore and blood and carnage. She has caused each of it! Her hands are soaked with the blood of her foes, her soul tainted black. Why is it – out of everything in the entire world – that this man is the one thing that leaves her as helpless as a new born lamb? She’s had the occasional feelings, of course. But that was all innocent, puppy-like when she entered her adolescence.

Gods damn him!

Sazami wishes to never see the stupid man for the rest of the night. Just to make sure, she orders to have extra liquor in her drink.

When she got home well before the concluding time of the party, she wasn’t even lightheaded. A part of her felt bad not staying long enough to watch Aela open her presents, but she would understand. Her feet bring her through the doors and to her bedroom where she disposes of the dress and shoes, and steps into a hot shower. Relief floods her aching feet and warming her hips where the lining of the skirt dug into her skin.

She removes the gold cuffs from her braids, grateful for an extra thirty minutes of freedom, as she didn’t have to waste it taking off any makeup. It didn’t matter if it added more detail to your face, Sazami prefers the freedom to scratch her eyes and cry as much as she pleases. Her beauty was a weapon – one she kept honed to the best of her abilities.

Opening her wardrobe, Sazami finds her black clothes and gets dressed. A hop and a skip and a slide down the stair banister later, she turns right into the kitchen where the housemaid was preparing some bread, her uncle seated at the long mahogany table sipping some tea.

“Uncle Dahnor,” Sazami says.

“Yes, child.” Dahnor doesn’t even lift his head to look at her, carrying on with some documents spread in front of him. His spectacles could use some cleaning.

“Did you know anything about the king wanting to see me tonight?” Sazami asks as she approaches and leaning against the table.

Her uncle’s head angles up. “I don’t recall.” He removes his glasses, Sazami now peaking his attention. “What did he say?”

“Actually Aela told me, at the party. She had said that her father wanted to see me tonight for some, personal business.”

“She didn’t say anything else?”

“No, but I’m going anyway.” She states. Her uncle grunts and adjust in his seat. “Uncle please, don’t start this.”

“I didn’t even say anything, Sazami.”

“No, but I can sense when you’re about to. I’ve told you, Aela would never betray me.”

“All I want to remind you is just to be cautious.”

Sazami can’t help but grin. “Aren’t I always?” That earns her an eyebrow raise from her uncle. “Even if it was a trap – gods forbid – I can handle myself. Don’t you have faith that you taught me well?”

“I do, my child.” He says, reaching his hand up and setting on the table, palm up. Sazami takes it, the feeling of the callus around her fingers as her uncle grasps her hand. “But I am still family, and I still worry about you.”

Sazami smiles gently.

“You are strong, you are fierce, but you’re still my niece. And I will always try whenever I can to protect you. Especially when it comes boys. I will always be there to chop off their groins.”

“Ew!” Sazami laughs. She rises from her seat, kissing her uncle’s hand before kissing his cheek. “I’ll try to be home soon.”

Her uncle nods and as Sazami turns to leave, he calls, “Don’t forget your sword!”

“I got it!”

She closes the door behind, making sure to pat her hips and her calves to ensure she has all of her weapons present. She tugs the mask over the lower half of her face, securing her hood around her head. Then she grabs the bars of the black gates in front of the mansion, and vaulting herself over, she’s free into the streets.

As she walks, the heads of the gazing citizens turn at the sight of her – her billowing black cape, the dark exquisite clothing, and the mask transforms her into a whisper of darkness. A weapon forged by Death itself. Some vagrants hiss at her, even tracing mystic marks in the air as if it can ward off whatever evil she is. Sazami adds to it by purposely adjusting her cape so the people can get a look at the long dagger with a bejeweled hilt strapped to her waist. A little intimidation never did any harm.

Then when she spots a couple of guards walking on the other side of the street, she ducks into an alleyway, shimmies up a drainpipe and to the roof. As she rotates in a circle, her heart thunders.

This, was the best part of her job.

Sazami walks to the other end of the roof, turning around and hunching forward, her hands on her knees. The stone castle was ahead, towering over the smaller buildings and houses.

In a heartbeat, Sazami’s feet take off in a full sprint, bringing her to the opposite edge of the roof. With a push of her toe, she’s in the air one second, atop another roof the next. She doesn’t stop, following her momentum, letting her feet carry her across the rooftops. She leaps from here to there, sliding along clothes lines and sloped roofs, flipping from ledge to ledge, climbing the walls and soaring across the sky. Against the black sky, she is nothing but a shadow in the night.

Sooner than she’d like, she reached the shoe shop that’s located closest to the castle’s white gates. Embossed on two giant gold medallions is the etching of the gryphon. Guards stand on either side of the gates, sentries patrolling along the outer walls. Since the king is expecting her, she could just walk in.

But then again, what fun would that be?

In the four corners of the wall, turrets rise and guards exchange patrol shifts. One comes in, and another comes out. Catching her breath, pulling down her mask to allow herself some fresh air, Sazami walks around the roof to steady her heartbeat. The roof she stood one was three stories high and faces the section off wall in between the two turrets. Neighboring roofs didn’t have any guards, and the ones on the street didn’t look up to her.

The distance between this roof and the lip of the wall is thirty feet. Fixating the duel swords against her back, she adjusts her legs and bends her knees. Her feet burst into a run once more. They carry her across the roof, Sazami briefly imagining she is an Orvryn stallion bounding across the plains of the countryside.

She reaches the edge of the roof and leaps. Flipping herself in midair, she gains a couple feet, but it also intensifies the pain in her fingers when she manages to make it embrasure in between the parapet. She quickly braces her feet against the wall, adjusting her fingers delicately as she hears the footsteps of the guards pass her by. Peering down below, no one has noticed her – yet.

Grunting her teeth, she hoists herself up and vaults herself over the other side of the wall and into the castle courtyard. Her calculations were decently correct; as she swings herself over the edge, she sees brief flashes of green and red before her toes miraculously hit a thick branch and she squats low, taking the available cover of the remaining leaves.

Gripping the branch with her hand, she scans her head around the courtyard, past the large fountain with a voluptuous statue, and peering into the shadows crowding the corners. She can enter through the servants’ kitchen, knowing nearly all of their passageways after she came over to the castle one night when she and Aela were young. While Aela was asleep, Sazami spent the better part of the night exploring the castle.

Slinking down from the tree, Sazami keeps close to the wall, careful to avoid rays of moonlight as she stays crouched behind the trimmed bushes. To her right, she sees the door to the servants’ kitchen. The rounded door with black rustic knocker looks well used compared to the other doors of the castle that merely stay closed or open for show.

Gliding her way through the shadows, she makes it there effortlessly bringing her elbow up and shoving the door open. The servants gasp and squeal at the sudden thrust, their skins paling as Sazami enters. She kicks the door shut behind her, casting her gaze around the room.

The servants start backing away, some of them in the middle of cutting vegetables back away, holding the knives tightly in their hands. Some of them start to nervously wring their aprons, their lips quivering. Even if they can’t see it, Sazami grins beneath her mask.

“Evening, ladies.” She purrs as she starts to walk towards the stairs.

The servants back up further, avoiding her like a plague. She’s a bit surprised; she had thought the king would at least notify his servants she was coming. Her coming into the castle this way should’ve been expected.

Slipping through the kitchen door, Sazami glides through the halls and going by memory, she navigates her way through the castle up to the throne room. She stops by a corner, peering around to find two guards standing with their weapons straight. Hopefully their captain isn’t holding a grudge.

Keeping her one hand on the hilt of her sword, adjusting the other two crossed at her back, she approaches the doors. Her cloak sweeping behind her, she smiles beneath her mask and raises her eyebrows at the guards as they stare.

Muffled voices come through from the crevice of the doors. “Your Majesty, please. My men are more than capable of traveling the continent.”

“No, Captain Gregory. I don’t want to risk sending you out so far. I need you here.”

“I can send out a party, My King. They’ll send weekly reports and status. We don’t need some conniving assassin –”

A loud bang echoes through the chamber as the doors are shoved open. The conversations fall silent as Sazami walks in. Her black boots are nearly silent against the plush checkered carpet leading to the dais.

The first thing she notices is the large, three-paneled window located at the back of the room behind the thrones. The three throne chairs, poised on a four step dais bear green cushions, are carved ornately with mahogany wood set by the king’s chair in the middle, the Queen’s and the Princess’s on the either side. The entire throne room has high ceiling, flanked by thick stone pillars with banners falling down and swaths of silk in hues of white and emerald green float from the ceiling. Doors on either side lead out to different ends of the castle, simply wooden chairs set along the walls.

Heads turn and the captain of Royal Guard, Gregory Mansfield, snarls. Sazami grins wider even if he can’t see it. He’s a fairly handsome man with dark brown hair stopping just at his chin, and hazel eyes with the green dominating the brown. His features are sharp, jaw chiseled with a faint shadow, and a muscled torso detailed by the armor he wears. Thin enough to travel light, but strong enough to stop a blade.

Ignoring his glare and keeping her swagger at peak, Sazami approaches the dais.

Seated atop the throne chairs is the entire royal family: the King of Valinor – Aela’s father – Jared Kormeloth, and to his left is the Queen Eleanor, and to the right is Aela. She’s changed gowns since coming home from her party, and now she wears a lovely lavender gown with lave sleeves and a ruffled skirt. With all of the attention on Sazami, she could easily smile towards her friend.

Sazami gives an inconspicuous nod. She reaches the dais and stands straight, holding her hands casually behind her back. Silence. Both the royal family and the captain stare at Sazami, waiting for her to bow. When she remains upright, Captain Gregory shifts on his feet, and the king glances at his captain before lifting his chin a bit higher.

Bow to him indeed. She is Sazami Altileth; they should be bowing to her. She could slaughter everyone in here – if she wanted to. In her mind, she is just as important as the King and Queen of Valinor.

“Bow.” Captain Gregory barks.

Sazami slowly turns her head, as if she has just notice his existence. She cocks her head with fraudulent coyness. “No.”

“You will show your respect to the family or I will make you.”

“Oh, I’d love to see that, Captain.” Sazami purrs. “It’ll give a chance to reconnect from this morning.”

Captain Gregory snarls, growling like an animal as his hand reaches for the hilt of his sword. Sazami’s hands loosen at her sides, ready to reach for her daggers.

She watches as Captain Gregory flicks his eyes to the king, a perfect opportunity to strike him, but Sazami waits until his gaze returns to her – and then a smirk crawls across his face.

A shiver runs up her spine and she hears a snap of fingers. Then four of the captain’s men charge at her with their weapons drawn.
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