A harsh arid wind swept through the vast deserts of Shinshiro, carrying with it the faintest scent of fire and ash. Sand swirled in the air high above and settled itself into the sleeping cities below. Night had come and tightened its icy cold grip on the desert kingdom and would not let up until sunrise came, a sunrise that only Aelmont's ruthless denizens would be rejoicing over.
Meanwhile the Queen of Shinshiro, Hisakata Suzaku, was staring out the 2nd floor window of her desert palace. Her icy gaze was firmly fixed upon her kingdom, now freshly marked with the scars of war and fires burning as far as the eye could see. There was not a single living thing in sight. All that Hisakata saw below was a grim darkness that engulfed the very soul of her kingdom, leaving nothing but a faint outline of the city.
Hisakata continued to stare out her chamber's window, until late in the night when darkness had finally taken every last little bit of her kingdom; making it physically impossible to make out anything below.
She became very cold sitting by the window. Her long brown hair mated in the fierce winds that blew in and made their way around the stone room. Hisakata sat there listening to what was left of her staff downstairs scurrying about, tending to their regular castle duties. Most the staff left was women and children who were too young to be drafted into the Shinshiran Army. As Hisakata sat listening to all the castle hustle and bustle below, she noticed that the air began to reek more strongly of ash than it had ever before. The air had become thick and dense with soot flying everywhere. Most of the fires had been put out by now, and those that remained where licking their last breathes of air from the sky, just as the wind picked up chocking all of them out. Most of the surrounding city, Takara, had been burned to a ground, and what was left was broken down and destroyed into a pile of rubbish.
Hisakata's kingdom had fallen to rest in peace for the remainder of this cold, dark night. The war between Aelmont and Shinshiro was at a dead halt. No one could possibly hope to accomplish anything but suicide in the soon to be sandstorm and its thrashing winds that were threatening the frontier of Shinshiro's freshly war marked kingdom.
The Queen was appalled at the sight of her kingdom that she sat watch over all night. She quickly jumped from her seat and began swearing under her. Hisakata impudently began to curse louder and louder. "You traitor!" She spat. "How could you curse me with a fire that forever reigns over my kingdom? How is fire a blessing you stupid fool!" She pleading cried out once again, "You have blessed my brother's and sister's land so graciously, so why have you forsaken me? Have my people and I not honored you in every way we know how? So why, why turn your back on us now, and use the very element you gave to so call bless us to destroy our very being and wipe us from this land?" Hisakata began to take several deep breathes trying to calm her mood. She repeatedly ran her hands through her dark, tangled hair, as she paced back and forth in efforts of clearing her grieving mind. While pacing, she continually muttered curses under her breathe until she began to just stand still in the eerie silence.
After a few moments of silence had passed Hisakata began to break down and sob uncontrollably. "How can you let Aelmont take my kingdom from me? You have already taken my husband, so please do not take my country too." She cried aloud. Hisakata became weak and fell to her knees. Just as Hisakata hit the floor, her maid servant, Taya, burst through the door to the royal chamber where Hisakata had been grieving all through the night.
Taya was one of the queen's more quite and reserved servants. She wore her light brown hair in a short bob, ending just below her chin. She dressed in a rather odd type of clothing for a Shinshiran maid; a tailored kimono made just short enough to deal with Shinshiro's scorching desserts, but not short enough to reveal too much, as she was indeed a lady of integrity. The brightly patterned red dress cut off just above Taya's knees, and the sleeves were cut between the elbow and wrist. The way she dressed was a reflection of her personality; bright and cheery. Hisakata was always in better spirits when Taya was at her side. She seemed to know just what to say to put her troubled, old mind at ease.
As Taya came to a halt after bursting through the door she began to yell to Hisakata, "Your majesty! Please, come quickly. It is very important that you come down stairs immediately."
Hisakata found her maidservant's outburst to be quite odd. Especially considering how quite the girl normally was. No one had ever heard Taya yell anything her entire life, and expected that if she ever did, it would most certainly not be directed at her ruler, whom she adored more than anyone.
"We have found a little girl out in the sandstorm. She is hurt badly!" Taya continued on. Her face gave way to just how worried she was. Everyone on staff had been working double shifts so Taya was tired and exasperated over the night's events. She looked on edge and shaken up as she told Queen Hisakata about the girl downstairs.
Hisakata grunted at the news and replied in a harsh tone, "Why should I care! I am losing my country to Aelmont as we speak." She took a deep breathe and dejectedly added, "What is the point in saving one little girl when thousands of my people are dying this very second. What is the point Taya! Just throw her out in the sandstorm and let her die, or let her be. Do not waste the precious time of my servants on someone we do not even know."
Taya blew off the comment as if she had not even noticed; even though it did not sound like the loving, merciful queen she had grown up serving. "You will just have to see for yourself Milady. She might make you think twice about our situation." She replied earnestly.
Now curious about what her maidservant was so delighted about in these horrid times, Hisakata got up to quickly follow Taya downstairs to the main hall. As they made their way down the stairs Hisakata continually glared at Taya. Although she willing followed, she was still irritated that Taya had come up stairs and interrupted her. She held her head high and proud as she marched down the stairs with Taya, hiking her long dress above her ankles so that she would not walk on the hem of it. The stairs spiraled down quite a ways, but after several minutes, they had finally made it to the main hall. It was here in the hall that several of the castle medics were crowded around a small curled up figure. Hisakata presumed the pathetic looking lump in the center of the room was the child Taya had been talking about. Whatever was so special about a half dead child was beyond her. The old queen scoffed, "Is anyone going to tell me why I am here, or do I have to figure it out for myself? I'm the queen for goodness sake. I should not have to be kept waiting." She searched the room for one of her servants to speak up. When no one answered her, she turned to her left and motioned for Taya to explain.
"Well Milady," Taya began to say. "The little girl
she is not human. She has a small pair of wings growing from her back. They are a bit tattered up and puny, but I am sure of it. And what is even more peculiar is that they are brilliantly colored like fire. They are just like the wings of a phoenix!" Taya gasped. "Our kingdom's symbol is a phoenix is it not? Do you not think it is a sign? I have never heard of someone with wings before, except in stories of course. Maybe she is an angel
"A Mutt!" Hisakata stated bluntly, as she cut off her maidservant. "She is a half bread filthy rat. The poor unlucky soul probably came across the wrong group of people and was cursed. She is bad luck. Get her out of here." The old queen demanded.
"I believe she was sent to us as a sign that we will survive this war." Taya argued. "The legend of these animals state that it is reborn from its own ashes. We too have a chance of being reborn from the ashes of our scorched kingdom. Just think about it Milady. We had to burn until only ash was left in order rise up again and take back our land from Aelmont." Taya said with such conviction even the King of Aelmont may have believed her. As Taya went on, excitement filled the room. All of the medics were entranced in Taya's idea of their god sending his people a great and miraculous sign. They would not openly join the conversation because they were not permitted to speak in the presence of their queen, unless spoken to first. However, many questions swirled through their minds about what this all meant. None of them had ever imagined a tale so exciting and magical like this when Taya excitedly asked them to bring in the young girl and tend to her.
"You put a lot of faith in fairytales my young one," replied Hisakata in response to Taya's wild story. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself. You actually dragged me all the way down here in my time of grief to dangle a bad luck charm in my face. Have you not any respect for your queen? Have you no head on those scrawny shoulders of your? Think before you act child." Hisakata scowled at Taya, her face giving no signs of changing her opinion.
Taya was shocked. How could her queen accuse her of such things? Everyone in the castle knew how deeply devoted Taya was to not only her queen, but her kingdom as well. She never would have brought the girl to Hisakata if she thought she was nothing more than bad luck. As strongly as Taya felt about her own opinion, she felt ashamed that she had made her queen think such a thing about her. "I-I am sorry Milady." Taya barely got out the words as she was still in shock from Hisakata's words. "That was not my intention at all," She continued to say. "I thought this would bring you some peace and maybe a bit of hope as well. If you had some hope for our kingdom, then maybe you could finally get some rest. You have not slept in days. I was beginning to worry." Taya stood with her head faced down in shame as she waited for her queen's reply.
Although Hisakata was putting on a cold face in front of everyone, Taya was right. It did bring her a bit of hope and even left her at peace. But of course she would not let anyone know that. To tell her people that she had a glimmer of hope all because some child showed up half dead would mean admitting she had given up in the first place. And that Hisakata would never let happen. She was too proud to admit such a thing. Besides, it really was a stretch for anyone to think such a small child would change their fate just because she had the wings.
Hisakata finally decided to stop being so hard on Taya because she was right about having hope. Tearing her down with words would not help matters anyways. Nothing Hisakata said to Taya would bring back the glory of her kingdom. She had changed her mind almost immediately about the girl, but she would keep that little detail to herself.
Instead she simply smiled and said, "Why are we still discussing such matters? It is clear this girl needs immediate medical attention, regardless of if she can help us or not. Please see to it that she gets the medical attention she requires. After all it is cold hearted to throw a little girl, or anyone else, into such a monstrous sandstorm. This may be the worst we have had in all our history. Because she is not a citizen of this kingdom, be sure to tend to everyone else first. We do not have the time or the supplies to waste. In the mean time take care of her wounds when you can, and when she awakens send for me immediately. I should be the first to know of any news. Oh, and one last thing. Keep her our little secret for now and hide those tacky wings of hers in a large coat. I do not want the other maidservants hearing about this and getting a false sense of hope. It would be a cruel, unjust thing to do. And of course after our break in the defenses I am more than sure we have spies among us. I will not be the one to deliver the head of Shinshiro to Aelmont on a silver platter. Understand." After barking her orders, Queen Hisakata marched out of the room and disappeared back onto the dimly lit stairwell.