A woman stalked through the thick overgrowth of the forest, her hand hovering absent-mindedly around the richly incrusted twin daggers that hung about her waist. Her gaze, of darkest brown, which looked black in all but the most brilliant light, swept through the dense landscape with piercing attention, almost bloodlust. Almost. Though she was young, undoubtedly, she was wise and honorable - the perfect Amazon princess with plenty of passion, yet the self-control to keep her head in a battle. Her skin, roughly tanned and already fairly weathered, showed in many different places the prices she had paid for her wisdom. The most prominent was the long scar tracing her left cheekbone, which against her knowledge only added to her beautiful, exotic appearance. Other scars, ones on her arms or legs or what not, these were not hidden. The princess was proud of these scars - she would bare many more for her people with honor and pride.
Again, a rustling in the bushes, and this time Austeria had seen it. Her horse, Alti, had never been wrong - it was silly for Austeria to doubt the intelligent creature at all. Her lifetime as a warrior and somewhat a scholar (as far as Amazons went) had unfortunately made her a creature of doubt and caution.
Princess Austeria approached the bushes slowly, making no more noise than the dancing shadow beneath her feet. In one swift movement, she charged, rather hoping for a large creature she could kill and bring back to her tribe. Unfortunately, all she found was a small bird, not even fit to kill. Austeria shook her head - this would never have caused Alti to prance so, there must be something more. Just as the thought occurred, there was yet another sound - this one coming from across yonder clearing. Before Austeria could draw her dagger in anticipation, however, a man emerged from the thick bushes. Austeria was about to attack on reflex, but something about the man stopped her. He had a wild, foreign look, he was much taller than any human she had seen, and his muscles sang of warrior hood. He was dressed in a well-made long fur coat and from what she could see finely made leather breeches with dark leather boots. The coat, she had to admit, was a wondrous thing, though it was obviously made for a much colder climate, adding even more to his exotic appearance. Austeria herself was wearing a blood red long tunic with short sleeves and open lacings up the sides, and naught but knee high boots to cover her legs - even she was sweating, yet this man, his coat hanging open to reveal a broad expanse of a very muscular if pale chest, only glistened with the sheerest sheen.
Such muscles she had never seen, the warriors of her tribe were fierce, skilled, and strong, yet none were so big! In fact, the only thing that was in conflict with his warrior-like appearance was his fair skin, which in the bright moonlight looked white, almost as silvery as the night itself.
He had long, shinning blonde hair that was of every shade, yet at the same time there was a red tint dominant. Such hair was not to found on any woman in her tribe. What was really capturing, though, were his eyes. They were a mossy green with golden streaks and an unearthly dark wisdom in them. Austeria could feel the power radiating off him like the great predatorial cats of the Amazon’s patron Goddess, Athena.
“My Lady?” he said questioning, with a slight, lazy smile that reminded Austeria all too well of those divine creatures she had just compared him to. It also reminded her that she had been staring with her mouth slightly ajar. She told herself firmly that this was because she had only ever seen a man once before - not because there was anything special about this particular one.
“Do you realize you are in Amazon territory?” she asked. She easily regained her Amazon Princess composer, and gave him a vicious smile. “Any animal found on Amazon hunting grounds is fair game for an Amazon to hunt,” she said tauntingly.
He did have the decency to spare a moment looking properly abashed, though as soon as he spoke, he slipped back into his natural role as a predator. Vidar would normally have already killed such a person as this foolish little girl. Something stopped him, though, the way she carried herself, the way her dark gaze shone with the sad wisdom of one who had been forced to grow up all too fast. Though at lease her clothing filled out her form fairly decently, she looked like her tribe had seen hard times - though to give her credit, it did not look like she lacked anything for strength, intelligence, or passion.
“I had no idea where I was, I was simply traveling through the country side when I heard horse’s hooves, and I came to see if the belonged to friend or foe,” he said, offering a smile that reminded Austeria of a cat after a feeding.
Friend or foe? Which was she? In such dealings, many Amazons were known to simply kill to reduce complications - though to give credit where it is due, the man did not look like an easy kill. When he turned, the moonlight caressed a broadsword that was wider than her hand splayed, and longer than any sword an Amazon could well manipulate. The way the large man moved, such an easy grace, loudly proclaimed that this man was indeed accustomed to its use.
Still contemplating what to do with the man, she asked, “Who are you, where are you from, and where are you going?”
Vidar’s eyes clouded for a second with indecision. He almost moved to kill her and go on, but again he was stopped - he told himself it had nothing to do with the loneliness of a vampire’s eternal night. Vidar decided to play the mortal a little longer - he had already fed, and he needed some entertainment in this wretched existence anyway.
“I am Lord Vidar, I hail from a land far north of here. I journey through these lands on a mission. I stopped at a village north of here, and they told me if I traveled southwest through this forest, there would be a village on the other side. Apparently, though, my informant was just a trickster who thought it would be humorous to direct me right into Amazon territory. I mean no offence by my presence, Lady Amazon,” he said. Vidar could see the Amazon trying to work through his story, pulling pieces here and there, probably discarding a fair amount of what he had said. She was intelligent, and Vidar looked forward to seeing what kind of conclusion she would come to. Surely not even she could guess his vampiric nature.
Austeria thought hard on what he had said. Lord Vidar? No, probably not. He was too much of a warrior to be a lord - and why would he be running his own errands? Of course, other things were not very easy to figure out. For one, why does he move in the night? Not only for this encounter, but his skin, so pale, strange for a warrior, almost befitting a high lord, but then how to explain the rest of him? Perhaps he comes from some ice desert, like in the stories. Like the people of the hot desert, might it be safest and best to move after the sun has lowered itself? Perhaps, then, he may be a low-ranking Lord of some kind, but most undoubtedly he was a warrior.
Again, what to do with him? She could bring him to the male tribe, the men who rode opposite the Amazons, and they would treat him fair enough. That was many days journey, and since both tribes were nomadic, it was hard to guess exactly where they would be at any given time. What would the Amazons say if she brought a man back to her hut? Not a very good idea, though they could hardly believe her interested in him in any particular way. She had even refused to go on the last annual visit to the male tribe.
Lord Vidar cleared his throat, and Austeria was again pulled from her pensive pose. Sometimes, when she fixed someone with her dark, pensive gaze, it made people very nervous, but to give due credit if her legendary gaze affected him, he hid it well. It has been said it is impossible to lie when it seems her hard gaze can see through your flesh and into your soul.
He looked her straight in the eye with that cat-like smile, and politely inquired, “Who, pray tell, are you?”
“I am Princess Austeria Derkesthia Shadewea, heir to the Amazon throne, and commander of the Amazon warriors,” she said in formal introduction. Normally people were intimidated by this, knowing what power she held, but to her great surprise, an amused smile crept over his lips.
Though one would believe Vidar’s immunity to Austeria’s regal nature would be an annoyance, the girl was young and she found such . . . humane treatment refreshing. Without fully thinking it over, Austeria made her decision on what to do with Lord Vidar.
“Come with me, and I’ll see you stay alive. I’ll keep you in my hut for a few days, I cannot allow a man through Amazon territory without talking to the Queen. When I have her blessing, you are free to go,” she said.
“I thank you, Princess, for your hospitality,” Vidar said with a slight bow, though it certainly did not show any respect for her station. It was more a mockery of formality, and Austeria, against her Amazon instinct grinned, as she was pleased with this man’s presence.
“Get your horse and follow me, Alti is waiting -“ Austeria started to say, but Vidar interrupted her.
“Beg your pardon, Princess, but I traveled here on foot,” he said. Austeria turned, and walked towards Alti, beckoning for him to follow, hoping that someway she would figure out what to do on before she got to her horse. They both needed to ride - it was a three-day journey back to her hut. The issue was not, of course, anything to do with Alti’s strength. The horse was tall, strong, and intelligent - a prized horse among her people, and the best warhorse in the world as far as Austeria was concerned. The only thing swifter than Alti herself was her fierce temper when insult was done to her mistress.
The problem was that Austeria felt her face go hot at the thought of how close they would have to be to ride together. You’re being silly, Austeria chastised herself mentally. She was not like those other girls, the ones whose life revolved around the one moment when they were decreed mature enough to go on the annual visit to the men’s tribe! She was the Amazon Princess!
Naturally, Austeria took to riding in front. Soon, though, she regretted greatly this decision, as Vidar wrapped his strong arms around her. She was pleased, at least, that he did not see her face. Unfortunately, she realized she was not pleased that his was hidden from her sight.
What was it about this man that made her heart beat so? Pale skin among her kind was a disgrace, yet his pale skin only added a sort of white-rose-elegance to his rugged good looks. Good looks? Was she crazy? This man had more scars than she did! A glance behind her, though, startled her immensely. By far the most noticeable scar on his person was a long scar tracing his cheekbone, mirroring her own marking. Why this unnerved her she did not know, but she could not help feel that perhaps this was a sign from the Gods . . .