Chapter 1

As dawn broke across the ocean, the gray waves crested with pink, revealing the promise of a day full of beautiful sailing, a solitary gull danced among the few wisps of clouds littering an otherwise immaculate sky. A single star still shone in the west as a fleet of ships flying the colors of the Royal Court of Vienna, accompanied by Her Majesty's personal crest, the rearing white Lippizan on the crimson backdrop, came within sight of the lush coast. Emerging from the lower deck came a slender lady adorned in a gown of sapphire blue, her dark blonde hair pulled up in an elaborate bun, her forehead adorned with a circlet of silver. Her bright green eyes took in the scene with a peaceful joy. She was home.
The smell of the salt air, mingled with that of the vineyards and the fields aroused her, clearing her mind and making her thoughts a reality inside her mind. The Virginia, named for her dear departed mother, was by far, her favorite of all her father's ships. She had made it her personal flagship for dignitary visits, which her father placed her in charge of since her mother's death. Her right hand she dragged along the railing, tracing the intricate carvings and molds that decorated the upper deck. As the ships pulled closer, the cry of 'land ahoy1' rang through the early morning mists still shrouding the upper decks of the dignified vessel. As the sun came higher and cleared away the mist, The Virginia slowed as she neared the docks. Cries of joy and welcome shot out from land, a welcome sound to the maiden's ears. When the ship finally docked, she had to bite her lip and restrain herself to keep from flying down the ramp. Sure enough, her father, King Leopold, was waiting for her on shore. His line of attendants and guards stood by his side, and, like a mothering hen, his advisor, Fritz Moheinert, stood whispering in his ear. Anger surged through every part of the maiden's body; her dislike of Moheinert was not unbased. She had heard him more than once whisper lies, weaving a web around her father with his forked tongue. He did not want what was best for his country; he only wanted what was best for himself. Her fists clenched, she sighed, releasing her grip on the rail. There was nothing she could do about it, but when she ruled.well, let's just say that that slimy worm would be lucky to leave with his life. Someone on shore yelled for the ropes, and they were thrown, and dozens of men pulled the magnificent ship into harbor. The princess walked over to the gangplank, and as it was lowered, ran up and leapt, whistling in midair for her stallion Jupiter. He came out of nowhere, and she landed gracefully on his saddled back. She'd thank Jonas, the stable master, later. Riding down amongst the people at a walk, she sat sidesaddle, her azure gown lying neatly over her mount's rump. Waving a delicate hand, she moved the crowd aside and came to her father. Leaping from her perch, she hugged him tightly. She had missed him greatly during her stay. "Father it is so good to be home!" Her silvery tones fell upon deaf ears, for her father already had his back turned. Waving and smiling, she walked further down the road. Her knees shook and she felt dizzy. Land legs would not be something to return quickly. She put on a brave face however, and continued on, moving as steadily as she could, and with a final wave, turned to face the side of her mount and pulled herself back into the saddle. Forcing him to remain at a stately walk, Zala glued a smile to her lips, knowing full well that sparks would fly at the palace. Moheinert would not approve of her un-ladylike behavior, saying it gave her a bad name. She wished she could roll her eyes. The people of Vienna were quite used to her antics by now, and surely would never speak badly of her. Her mother had been well loved, and after her death, Zala spent much of her time in the pastures and fields, working with horses since she could walk.

Her mother had been a sweet-natured woman, so everyone said, but she always had a fire, and a look in her eyes that said plainly 'don't mess with me.' Zala-Renate Rieser, that was her full name as dictated by her mother.