I would be true, for there are those who trust me; I would be pure, for there are those who care; I would be strong, for there is much to suffer; I would be brave, for there is much to dare. The cries of pain and victory filled the Arena, muffled by the sound of a rapidly beating heart, as Lavanya faced off against her third opponent of the morning. The joy of combat filled her body with exultation as she swung her kwan dao at the unprotected neck of her sparring partner. His eyes widened in fear of the live blade, just as Lavanya pulled her strike. The curved steel head of the kwan dao hovering a quarter of an inch from the pulsing vein of his neck, Lavanya's opponent made the sign of surrender. Lavanya snapped to a rest position, her weapon now held by her side. She was covered from head to toe in thin silk, comfortable enough for the winters of Atanwan, although unsuited to heat found later in the year. Only her eyes were visible, gleaming with a smile no one else could see. As her sparring partner brushed himself off and started talking about taking another shot at the female warrior, perhaps when he was less tired, Lavanya looked around her. Warriors from all nations filled the packed dirt circular area at the center of a giant stadium, training and sparring with each other. Faintly, visible only to those who looked hard enough, the square outline of the dueling floor was visible. During official bouts, it would almost fifteen feet into the air, to the height of the stadium wall. Since her arrival in the famous city of Atanwan, nearly a full year ago, Lavanya had made a habit of sparring with the men and women who filled the Arena each day. It did not matter to her their station, the nation of their birth, or their weapon of choice. It was the only time she half-forgot that she was far from home. Unfortunately, today, she could not stay long. There were rumors that another of the Reconciled would arrive soon, perhaps even on the afternoon tide. After waving goodbye to the men who had practiced with her that morning, Lavanya walked toward the Northern Gate, which could be used only by residence of the palace. There was a hidden path beyond it, which went straight to the back gate. When she entered the large antechamber that marked the Gate, she bypassed both of the doors in the ground. One led to the armory, and the other to a small bathing chamber for those wishing to clean off after practice. Had she been at home, she might have used those rooms for their intended purpose. Here, however, so far from the people she knew she could trust, Lavanya kept her weapons, family heirlooms made of priceless dragon bone and blue steel, with her at all times. She also rarely showed her skin to the other warriors, unsure as to what reaction her Lowani marks might illicit. Alone she walked the path beyond the Northern Gate, striding confidently close to the edge of the cliff as she passed the Heart of Tears and neared the first palace wall. It was like entering a tunnel, she thought as she stepped beneath the 100 meters (300 feet) thick wall. Then she could see sunlight again, the shadows long ahead of her, as the sun had not yet reached the zenith of the sky. As she continued on her way, she glanced to her left, where the stables, and beyond them the guard baracks, stood proudly defiant with only one line of defense between them and the outside world. A second wall, this one only 50 meters (150 feet) thick, met her just beyond the stables. Once passed that wall, she entered the corridor, a kill zone used as a last line of defense for the palace complex. Gates along the walls, all built after the Great War, led to private mansions of the ten nations and their Reconciled. For some strange reason, the Pohoni mansion was the farthest from the Arena. Rather than weave through the low walls and decorative gardens of the inner palace Lavanya followed the corridor around the back, and up the western side of the complex. When she finally reached the mansion, she went straight up to the top floor, the fifth, and from there to the roof. She looked out over the Northern Sea, hoping in vain yet again to catch a glimpse of her homeland. Instead, she spotted the sails of approaching ships, which would have to circle around the island to the port, one of which carried a familiar banner. News, she thought, the first since leaving Pohoni. And such strange timing, coming as it did so close to the Ceremony of Investiture. Her family had seen no reason to contact her in nearly a year, and now they sent news? To quell the pain of homesickness, Lavanya looked instead at the other sails, wondering what land had sent them forth and to what purpose. I will exchange a city for a sunset, The tramp of legions for the wind's wild cry; And all the braggart thrust of steel triumphant For one far summit, blue against the sky.