Iya Neveah shifted uneasily on her horse, shoving several frozen strands of blonde hair out of her face, scanning the freshly fallen snow that gleamed dully in the sparse afternoon sun. The thick stand of pines around her were almost bent in half with their burden of snow, a heavy wall of solid white that easily hid anything moving within the trees. The quiet was unnerving, the horse's hooves crunching through the icy crust the only sound she could hear.
Their band of warriors numbered fourteen, including her brother, Aryis, the King of Arudor. Thirteen guards, an ominous number, and one she had begged him to reconsider. But Aryis, stubborn as only a king can be, had refused, laughing that the number was fourteen, and for his purpose no greater amount would be acceptable, and for her, none less.
They had ridden without speaking for much of the day, a party too small to protect the treasure it held within its bounds.
How easy to rid the kingdom of a king with so few to protect him!
Iya clenched her knees around her grey palfrey, her fingers wrapped tightly around the hilt of the sword at her hip. Her thoughts were as heavy as the fur cloaking her from the unseasonable cold. She sighed, eyeing the path before them with a measured gaze. It would be a simple matter to be overtaken, for the trail curved along the edge of a steep cliff. It forced them to ride two abreast with uneasy glances at the wide valley sprawled below them with the sweeping ranges of red pine that held little color other than white.
"So, has he said anything about his intentions?" Irave asked from beside her, shifting his gaze to her for a brief moment before resuming his scan of the forest.
"My brother sees fit to tell me little of what he plans to do," Iya complained. "All I know is that we ride toward the border with as little care as we would dance in a harvest festival. You would think us on a hunting party rather than skirting the borders of Londeshardeen! I think he has gone mad."
Irave chuckled, shaking a shaggy head of blue hair. His eyes twinkled as he turned toward her for a moment, giving her a shiver-inducing stare of two colors. "He is not mad, Iya, just determined."