When she walked into the dark emerald painted room, all eyes were on her. Though she didn’t see them, her focus was on proving that she was more than Kainth’s daughter, more than a fragile woman, she was strong and unwavering. Tempest Duuris had been in the battle field in her youth, been a scout for hire to guide explorers through treacherous lands, and even faced down dragons furious with rage. And yet walking into this hall filled with eyes watching her every step, made her nerves feel like they were burning with internal flames.
Not even the beauty of the throne room with its scarlet stars painted by masterful hands could ease the discomfort of this mission. This is humiliating. But I will not let my kind down. This in-bred prince knows nothing of honor and legacy. It is up to me to convince him.
One step at a time in these small useless shoes she wore on her graceful feet would lead her closer to her goal. Used to the feel of heavy leather boots, Tempest felt like she were walking on slippery river stones and wondered how these fragile females managed to do this day after day without throwing themselves on this fantastic tiled floor. However she considered giving the women a little more credit as she looked at the puny men that they had to choose from and pitied them for their having to resolve to a life of wasted dreams and catering to these men.
Tempest wondered if any would notice if she removed the tiny shoes, ditching them into one of their odd potted trees. She longed for her leather boots and breeches. Pushing off a scowl, Tempest growled lowly as she adjusted her walk. Her feet feeling as if vipers were biting into them and her swag slightly off as the heavy skirts weighted her hips. She caught the eyes of several males, bulging at the idea of laying a hand on her pale fresh skin. She’d rather sever those hands then allow any of them to press upon her.
Her match-making mother would just have to get used to that idea. there was no question that she could handle herself between man and beast amongst those in her family. But this was different; she would need a different sort of armor and weapon. Her fiery viridian green eyes searched the room for those that would stop her. Picking up her determination, she ignored the whispers of those around her. Her hearing better than theirs picked up their questions of who this maiden was that marched to the gates and demanded time with the prince. It was her demeanor of strength and royalty that gave her passage into the main hall of Rivvenhurst castle. Now, if only could convince the prince he needed to call off his advance into the high mountains, the mountains her family had lived for many generations. Their fate was left in her care.
Tempest felt the turn in the room as the crowd’s eyes left her and found their royalty moving from the drawing-room into the grand hall. So much formality made Tempest fight from rolling her eyes at this exhaustive display of power. Gripping the delicate lace trim of her sleeve, ignoring the slight tearing feeling as she forced a calm and charming smile and dipped her head low as she respectfully gave a low curtsey. Even if it meant taking on this half-wit prince and his whole army as well, the secret of her family’s existence must never be known.
Though she was courageous in battle and would defend the lives of those in her family to her last breath, Tempest had little trust in her own charms. Leaving her beloved sword behind and walking nervously into this beautiful hall dressed as a Lady and not a warrior, Tempest had no choice but to be polite and use proper manners taught to her just the previous morning. But this exhausting display of power had her fuming already. Tempest glared at the floor and wondered what she would do. Would she have the patience and temperament not to flare out at him and demand her way? She was no Lady, but today she would need to pretend to be.
Coldly, without notice of his subjects or the young woman in front of him, the royal heir took his seat and waved that he would hear her plea. His obvious lack of consideration for Tempest’s humble presentation did nothing to make this meeting start off well. As Tempest lifted her eyes and pushed her dark locks away from her face, she could not help but already feel as if this was a lost cause.
“My Lord, I come today to ask that the march lead over the high mountains at Bathel’s crest by your army be avoided.”
Curious the young prince sat forward and placed his hands together as this female began to tell him how he should proceed with his military. “Is that so? And why would I do this?”
“It comes as a great danger to your men. The mountain is volatile and there has been movement threatening great slides and danger to any who might move through the high mountain pass. Those trails have been closed off for many generations due to the increased risk. I ask you, that you keep your men to the low valley passage to the shores of Easton.” She spoke firmly, brave for a woman to take such a stand.
“I’ll do no such thing. The route through the valley is not sufficient, my cartographers have studied the land and have given no such warning. You may be on your way, your concern for the men of my service is honorable. However I am sure the men of my armies would be more appreciative of your female attributes than your inane ramblings.” He said, mocking her with his grand smile as he waited for his court to agree with his announcement.
“My Lord, I do beg you to reconsider the route. I fear great harm will come to Rivvenhurst should the great land’s best men come to an early grave at the mountain’s temperamental movements.” Deeply she wanted to tear this unreasonable prince apart. How could he not have concern for his own men? Truly he would not be as easy to sway as considered. His taunt about her romantic services to his men did not go unheard, yet she would need to take great care as to not to reveal the heat of her anger.
“You linger here any longer, woman and I will see to it myself that you are taught your place in this world. “He sneered as he sat back and waited for her reaction.
Tempest locked her eyes on those of this man who without knowing would send his men into the mountains of her people. It would not be long before a decent scout would discover the truth that the long dead tribe of Duuris had only been sleeping, resting a bit. Hunters would come seeking searching for the greatest treasure, and the head of the last Kanteris dragons. “Yes my Lord… I am sure you are right. I beg your forgiveness. I only feared for the lives of the innocent. But their blood is weighted not upon my hands, but trusted upon the throne.”
The prince snarled as he looked away from this challenging female and motioned for his guards to show her out. But Tempest would turn and be on her way, sending one of the guards off balance with a not so delicate push as he dared to take hold of her arm. “Back off!” She snapped as she stormed out. Her father was wrong, these people didn’t deserve a word of warning. Soon enough they would be sorry they didn’t heed her advice.
Storming out into the foyer of the great hall, Tempest steamed with anger. Cursing this place and it’s ludicrous monarchs, she didn’t see the pale thin man step out of the shadows. “You gave it a good try.” he said softly.
At the sound of his voice Tempest turned and spotted him, her hand ready to retrieve her blade beneath the layers of her borrowed skirts. Blinking back her surprise, Tempest stepped back. “YOU! You bastard… you are dead!”