The child Barenziah stood on the upper balcony
of the palace, staring down into the courtyard where soldiers
milled, splendid in their armor. Presently they formed into
ordered ranks and cheered as her parents, the lord and lady
emerged from the palace, clad head to toe in ebony armor,
long purple-dyed fur cloaks flowing behind. Splendidly caparisoned
shining black horses were brought for them and they mounted
and rode to the courtyard gates, then turned to salute her.
"Barenziah!" they cried. "Barenziah,
The little girl blinked back tears and waved
bravely with one hand, her favorite stuffed toy animal, a
gray wolf cub she called Wuffen, clutched to her breast with
the other. She had never been parted from her parents before
and had no idea what it meant, save that there was war in
the west and the names Tiber Septim and Symmachus were on
everyone's lips, spoken with hate and dread.
"Barenziah!" The soldiers cried,
lifting their lances and swords and bows. Then her dear parents
turned and rode away, soldiers trailing in their wake until
the palace was near emptied.
Some time after came a day when Barenziah
was shaken awake by her nurse, dressed hurriedly and carried
from the palace. All she remembered of that dreadful time
was seeing a huge shadow with burning eyes that filled the
She was passed from hand to hand. Foreign
soldiers appeared. Her nurse vanished and was replaced by
strangers, some more strange than others. There were days,
or was it weeks?, of travel. One morning she woke to step
from the coach into a cold place with a large gray stone house
set amid endless empty gray-green and hills patchily covered
with gray-white snow. She clutched Wuffen to her breast with
both hands and stood blinking and shivering in the gray dawn,
feeling very small and very black in all this endless space
A large gray-white woman was staring at her
with dreadful bright blue eyes. "She's very -- black,
isn't she?" the woman remarked to her companion, a brown
skinned, black-haired woman named Hana who had been travelling
with Barenziah for several days. "I've never seen a dark
"I don't know much about them myself,"
Hana said. "This one's got red hair and a temper to match,
I can tell you that. Take care. She bites. And worse."
"I'll soon train her out of that,"
the other woman sniffed, "And what's that filthy thing
she's got? Ugh!" The woman snatched Wuffen away and cast
him into the fire blazing in the hearth. Barenziah shrieked
and would have flung herself into the fire after him, but
was forcibly restrained, despite her attempts to bite and
claw her oppressors while poor Wuffen was reduced to a little
heap of charred ash.
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