The wooden chest rested under her dressing table. When she had arrived alone in the days before their wedding celebrations, her new husband had tried to inflict servants on her. How could she trust strange girls born and raised in Nordalti? She sent them all away and braided her hair into an elaborate crown to demonstrate her self-sufficiency. After their wedding, when her belongings were moved into his chambers, he offered her anything she wanted to feel comfortable. She needed little, and the simple carved table hid the chest from view, from notice.
Now she knelt in front of it, holding the key that had never been used. Squaring her shoulders, she slid the key into the lock and threw open the lid. Rocking back on her heels, she closed her eyes against the reflection of the armour within. “It is done,” she whispered.
She pulled out the golden armour and began to dress herself, pulling on the silk and leather padding, then the shining armour. She had never dressed herself for battle, never worn these pieces, but they fit as if they were made for her. They were. The crest of Sudalti on each shoulder plate capped the intricate designs spellbound to protect and strengthen her for the battles ahead.
Standing before the mirror, she brushed her hair long and loose. Time enough to shave her head for the battle helmet. Fingers traced the simple gold crown resting on the table, then she clenched her fists and reached once more into the chest for the Gate Keeper’s Blade. Refusing to look around the room, the haven she had shared with her beloved, she clenched the pommel of he blade with both hands and held it at her waist, pointing straight up. She must not waver as she went to declare war.
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