Chapter 1: the Eternal Forest Endry and Aislin It was night, the cold air brisk on both Endry's and the Empress' faces as they looked skyward. The small town they had taken temporary residence in – then unnamed, and now named High Birth town – was still alight with fires inside homes. Strange people they were, once in the service of Aislin herself, now under the iron rule of Anglidar, and yet they were still so welcoming. In the time when they were under the empire's rule, they had never once seen a tax man or any kind of deputy, and yet they loved their former empress as if she were still their sovereign. Most of the houses in the town were shanties, barely pulled together years ago to stave off winter. Very little repairs had been made on the buildings, and there were huge slits in the walls where anyone could see through. They were taxed too much, now, and the timber they were aloud to keep was so scarce that they couldn't afford to make the repairs. This particular town was created just after the last war, ten years ago, the Anglishr kingdom making haste to tear down the Eternal Forest. “It's rather quaint, this little place,” Endry said aloud, to fill the emptiness of their shared night. “But, I guess I'm growing fond of these... peasants.” Peasants was probably not the word, but he couldn't think of anything else to call them. Serfs? No... Empress Aislin was far more understanding. “They're not peasants, my Protector, they're people. And yes, I too feel fondly for them.” She turned her head away from both Endry and the town. “It's almost sad that we have to leave this place to Anglidar.” Bitterness, regret. The Blademaster sensed both of these in her voice. “I think, given time, we might not have to,” he replied wearily. “What?” the elven monarch said, “I do not think they have the ability to start any sort of resistance to their new king. They have not any proper weapons, nor money or food.” Endry smirked in the dark. “My dear Empress, a wood ax may not be a 'proper weapon' as you call it, but it can kill a man surely as a battle ax or a broadsword can. You may need money down the line in an uprising, but someone so desperate as these people could eat grass or even bark if they had to. There are deer and rabbits in the forest, as well. I've hunted a few myself. “Perhaps I am thinking irrationally, but we could probably help them. I have twenty trained men with me, they could train these 'people.'” Aislin shook her head in the dark. “I do not see how that could work. I just... Do not see it at all.” She considered things a moment. “We go with our previous plan. We ride to our borders in a fortnight.” “My empress, forgive me for being so forward. That plan is as idiotic as you think mine is. What good do you think twenty one men could do against an entire city that has been turned against us? Kill everyone? We would die by the end of the night. Home is a week's march away. By the time we get there we will be road weary again and in no condition to fight. We left to find a strategy.” For all her muster, she could not bring herself to be angry at him. “I suppose..."