THE ADVENTURES OF TRISTANUÉ YALE
A dangerous one comes!
Beautiful like a smooth cedar in winter: leafless, lordless.
She is coveted by men; she is desired by women.
Wing and stone! She battles from above.
She is wrapped in the sky—a crown of sky, eyes of sky.
She judges from a hard terrace.
Under her, the night has grown wings!
The Prophecy of Voncubréja
THE SIXTH KUINKAZNER
In the 19th, 20th, or 21st year of King Donahue’s reign—depending on which calendar one used—an estrangement in the Western Fortunes, now ten years old, had escalated to civil war. A warlord had risen to power by the name of Kuinkazner, and it was to that cold and pitiless name that many strange rumors had come to be nailed. The fast-moving and well-financed Kuinkazner had humbled many of the ancient cities and shrines of northern Sanzakarth. Desert kingdoms seem to breed tyrants—one kind of desolation begetting another—and this Kuinkazner was as cruel as any other. He made an open show of those who denied his ancient claims: burning whole towns, crucifying entire families, seizing whatever assets pleased him, executing peaceful priests, burying scholars alive, throwing handicapped children into pits of starving hyenas, desecrating temples erected to those better spirits who refused to hear his bloody vows, and enslaving tens of thousands for their unwilling part in his coming kingship.
A PRINCESS COMES OF AGE
As for Tristanué herself, the last few years revealed she had not inherited her mother’s slim Nymirian figure, but her grandmother’s proud Khytherian stature. No longer tall and gangly with blue hair, boyish shoulders, and oversized eyes and lips, Tristanué was now a strikingly beautiful young black woman—a Khytherian. Her hair, once an embarrassment, had grown so thick and luxurious as to be coveted by those who previously teased her on account of it. Against the background of her cousins’ uniformly amber eyes, the bright blue of hers were now distinct and envied. Her body had caught up to her bones, now wrapped in a lean concord of muscle that, owing to her family’s strict regimen of calisthenics, weight training, and sparring, permitted her athleticism to extol her femininity instead of obfuscate it. Adding to her sensual profits, her breasts outpaced the brassieres she bought to reduce their proud sways until they had bloomed to the bold size and shape of her grandmother’s, who, somehow having kept her young look, appeared no more than thirty years of age. Tristanué’s full Khytherian lips, her Nymirian nose, her large blue eyes, her cheeks, her chin—all now set in a configuration so astonishing, few men, or women, could look at her without captivation.
Having grown up on the legends of Tzyar Paal, that Avenger of old, Tristanué had expressly asked for black armor, but Sephragelo ignored her (as he did everyone) and cast the whole work in varying shades of azure: glossy, matte, satin, textured, plain. The suit was accented by black and silver and enchased with runes, especially around the edges of the plates. Tristanué was initially furious over the change until a chorus of compliments convinced her Sephragelo, the legendary artist, knew far more about art and beautiful women than she did.
As Mr. Midnight lowered his head, Tristanué laid her forehead against his polished beak, her fingers softly tracing the Vyn Vanir runes carved in shallow lines along it. After a time, she stepped back and tied her long blue hair into a ponytail with a black leather thong. She looked back to the vypern saddle then to Mr. Midnight. “Time to hunt,” she said.
THE DANGEROUS JANDAQOR
“That’s right, girl. I am the dangerous one here. Don’t worry, I never share my glory,” he said, leering at her. “Or my bed. Abrazor be praised!"