She never liked the rain; there was something so drab about getting soaked through and freezing half to death. Even summer rains ruined the day, taking the sun’s warmth and turning it into a miserable liquid concentrated afternoon. Plus it ruined the few good clothes she had, which were, unfortunately, limited to a handful of nice dresses and one beautiful dress that had been her mother’s wedding dress. The rest were men’s pants and loose fitting shirts that she usually secured with a corset.
She listened to the rain hit the roof, one blanket between her and the cold of the room. Spring was her least favorite time of the year; it was when the serene snow let way to mud. She much preferred the static fields of white or the happy shade of green in the well-established summer. Everything in between was just a changing state that was leading to a better time.
Olivia was in that changing state she hoped and that soon better times would befall her. Her almost black curls spread around her head like a dark halo against the cream of the pillowcases, and her bright green eyes were the only thing she had left of her father. She was just like her mother, or so her father had told her, right down to her sweet little toes. She had her mother’s even temper and her father’s wit. She was the better parts of her parents in most ways, but now she had neither of them and they lived on only through her.
She sighed aloud and turned over; the bed moaned a protest of age and odious discomfort. Was she ever going to be able to sleep?
She had arrived not four hours ago at her aunt’s residence in the Kingdom of Indar, a merchant city with great palaces and over whelming wealth. She had been born here, on the road towards her only known home on the outskirts of the Badlands. There was a wall that the men of the four kingdoms were assigned to guard and her father had been a general there.
The house was in the farmlands that boarded the Kingdom of Centa, which was ruled by a supposed wolf king who managed his kingdom with a sword. Despite his rumored hardness and need to join every battle he adhered to the alliance of the four kingdoms. It was likely because his father, little more than a commoner at the time, had taken the throne by force and many royals thought his son unqualified to rule.
Her family had been at the posting between Centa and Kelarus, because it was milder there and her mother had loved the winter. Her father had insisted, even after her mother died giving birth to her; that they remain and continue to do his duty. She had been free there, to run wild in the forests on the other side of the wall, always ruled by that forbidden barrier. She had been one of two children that lived in the small barracks that overlooked the Badlands. Merry, her only friend, had left when Olivia was 11 when her father had been killed by a night raid by the creatures native to the Badlands.
They had continued to write to each other even now that Olivia was 17; they wrote to each other every month without fail. Merry’s father was a war hero who died on the trench and the King had granted her family favor in Indar, enough wealth so Merry could marry well. Her last letter had mentioned a man that had shown her favor who was of a very prestigious title and had shown her such unconditional affection that they would be married straight away.
Olivia had been free for so long that marriage had never occurred to her, she had thought herself an asset to her father and that she would always care for him. Her plan had not involved his death when she was so young and unprepared to make decisions about the uncertainty of her future. As Olivia felt sleep come to her, she decided it was impractical to decide her future in one night. She closed her eyes resigned to fall asleep when a distant sound stirred her once more.
She sat up and strained her hearing for any sound, any glimmer of what could be in the rain. Her eyes widened as she realized it was hushed voices in the first level of the house, and they were male voices. She pulled herself from the bed, rushed to her trunk and threw it open in haste to dig out her father’s sword.
Pulling the sword from the trunk, she bolted to her door and ran into the hall where she could see the flicker of the intruder’s lights. She ran to her Aunt’s room and slowly opened the door, her bare feet making almost no noise on the polished wood floors. She rushed to her Aunt’s side and shook her vigorously.
“Aunt Teresa, wake up there are people in the house. Wake up!” She pleaded, wishing only to wake her Aunt and for them to flee from the house.
“What is it Olivia?” Her Aunt said sleepily, a green mask over her face.
Had it been any other time Olivia would laugh at the silly way her aunt looked with her green mask and tied up hair, “We need to go, someone is in the house.”
“Lordy!” She said pulling herself from the bed, her face set in a quiet horror.
There was a creek in the hall and they froze, watching the door with utter fear. Olivia pulled the sword from its sheath, it was heavy in her hand and she wished she had her bow, even if she didn’t have the time to unwrap it. She handed the sheath to her Aunt, silently, her eyes never wavering from the door.
The door opened and a figure entered, Olivia didn’t hesitate to put the tip of her sword to his chest, “Breath wrong and I’ll run you through.”
He reached for his sword and she pressed the tip hard against his shirt, watching blood well as it broke the skin, “I will not repeat my threat again, I will just follow through.”
His eyes narrowed, “Git your sword off me now, and I might let you live.”
“Wrong thing to say,” Olivia pressed harder when he tried to knock it away again.
He let out a howl of pain and backed up clenching his chest with both of his hands, blood rushing through his fingers as he dropped his lantern. As it crashed two more men pressed into the room, eyes wide as adrenaline pumped though their veins. She had seen the look many times during the raids, standing as an archer on the back side, safe from the front lines.
“Git her.” The wounded one yelled, pointing at her as she backed up, pressing her Aunt farther away from the two men.
Olivia raised her sword as a fourth man stepped into the room, he was younger, and more handsome then the other three. His eyes betrayed nothing as she watched him; there was something different about him then the rest. The other men were in the room but his presence seemed to fill up the rest of it; its intensity overwhelming. As one of the other men reached across to take his sword from its sheath on his hip, he stopped him by gripping his arm.
“Leave them,” he said, his voice deeper and harsher then she expected, “What we came for isn’t here.”
The wounded one turned and all but gashed his teeth like an angry dog, “She may have information, let me make her talk.”
Olivia’s even temper made her almost fearless, and she met his inquisitive gaze with defiance. As he regarded her it was as though he sensed she would not submit without a fight. He gestured for his men to leave, and even the wounded man relented with a look of contempt he didn’t try to hide directed towards her.
“Forgive them, mercenaries are not trained in how to speak to ladies properly,” he explained softly.
“Who are you that can command such dogs so easily?” She asked tartly, but her voice held all the calm of an aristocrat, and her eyes matched the mockery of her words.
He smiled to her as though what she said amused him more than insulted him, “The one who pays their commission.”
She didn’t lower her sword, he would not beguile her into dropping her guard, “You should keep tighter leashes on them.”
“We are searching for an assassin who tried to murder his majesty; they have been tracking for two days, and they are weary of the rain and the hunt,” he smiled but it wasn’t inviting, it consisted of fabricated pleasantries, “Has a man come through here? About your height, graying hair, and a scar on his jaw.”
Olivia frowned and glanced a moment back at her aunt, “I have only been in this house for a handful of hours, Aunt have you seen such a man?”
“I have not.” She answered, her eyes glancing back behind the man and Olivia instantly sensed she was lying.
She turned back to the man and saw a shadow stir in her Aunt’s closet over his shoulder. Without hesitation she rushed towards the handsome man, and he instantly reached for his sword, obviously off kilter by her sudden advance. When he side stepped, the metal of her sword collided with the assassin in the shadow of the closet; where it should have been stuck in the handsome man’s back. As she deflected the assassin, he moved much faster than she and she felt his sword tear into her shoulder.
She gave a cry of pain as she dropped to her knees, her left arm useless. The man ran from the room as the handsome one chased after him, yelling out orders. She could vaguely hear her aunt screaming her head off, as she slumped to the ground, blood running down the top of her shoulder and over her neck.
She glanced up as the handsome man returned, worry all over his face as he bent towards her. He yelled to her aunt, asking to know her name, which the old woman gave as she burst into tears. He turned back to her pressing his hands around her wound; his fingers were strong and hardly calloused, as though his use of a sword in battle had not ruined them.
There was a quiet moment in her mind where she hardly felt anything, as though she was detached and it was happening to someone else. Her head was beating, and her ears filled with the sound of her own heart as blood spilled onto the floor. She took in a shaky breath; it was getting harder to concentrate, so she swallowed, trying to focus on that simple task.
“Hold on Olivia, a healer will be here in a minute.” He tried to reassure her as she felt the warmth of her blood spread to her hair.
She gave a half smile as her world was going black around the edges, “You shouldn’t lie.”