drizzle fell as the small but long-awaited delegation entered the spacious
palace yard, horses’ hooves echoing dully on the wet cobblestones. Despite the weather, all of the castle’s
inhabitants stood on the steps, waiting to welcome the newcomers.
All inhabitants save one.
From his vantage point on the ramparts of the highest tower, a lone figure watched the milling forms. He was himself motionless but for the fingers of his left hand, madly twisting and spinning a white feather so fast that it blurred. He watched as the delegation far below him came to a stop at the foot of the castle steps. His eyes narrowed as the lead rider threw back her hood, shaking out her mane of tawny curls. The young woman dismounted and then curtseyed deeply to her waiting hosts, untangling the skirts of her riding habit from around her legs with a gesture that was almost impatient.
The feather stilled.
A small smile curled the corners of his mouth, and an almost hungry expression contorted his face. His eyes followed the Kyorian royal ambassador as she was ushered inside out of the elements. Only after she had disappeared from sight did he step back from the edge of the castle wall. He took no notice of the rain, nor of the distant rumble of thunder. His eyes were fixed on the feather in his hand. He twisted his fingers again, but slower this time, making the white plume dance once more.
“And so it begins.”