The Kingdom of Ainmyr, the year 467.

He was a sentry, and he worked the afternoon shift, the long hours from noon to night, when the sun had set. He had been stationed at this post for 3 days now, eyes always on the castle, waiting for the signal that would decide the fate of a troubled nation.

The sun was just beginning to set in the east, and he was preparing to be relieved by the night sentry when a flag was hoisted slowly to the top of the North Tower of the castle, where it hung limply, almost as if it was ashamed of being there, as if it knew what it represented.

The sentry cursed. Half an hour more, and it would not have been his responsibility. Half an hour, and it would have been someone else who had to be the bearer of bad news.

Lord Kalmin was reading in his study when the knock on the door interrupted him. "Come in" he said tersely. The sentry entered and bowed. "The flag has been hoisted, my Lord. On the North Tower." 

Lord Kalmin nodded curtly, dismissing the sentry, who backed out of the room, feeling much relieved that Lord Kalmin wasn't going to take his anger out on the messenger.

"A girl" Lord Kalmin muttered to himself when the sentry was gone. "A girl" he got up from his chair and started pacing the room, taking long, angry strides. It was an old tradition in Ainmyr that if a boy was born to the Royal Family a flag would be hoisted to the top of the South Tower. If the child was a girl, the flag would be hoisted on the North. Most of the time, the gender of the child wasn't important; it was expected that a Royal Family would have many children, boys and girls. But that wasn't what was going to happen this time, not with the King dead. The Queen's unborn child had been their only hope at avoiding a power struggle between the high nobles. According to Ainmyran tradition, a woman could not hold the throne. Normally in such a case, the throne would pass to the King's brother, or his children. In a pinch, it had even been known to happen that a King's sister's son had succeeded to the throne. But this king had died an only child, leaving behind only a useless daughter.

Lord Kalmin stopped pacing. He would have to call a meeting, of course, between the seven or so highest nobles in the country, to try to get them to decide who would become King without war, without bloodshed. He knew it was going to almost impossible though. Ainmyr would be ripped apart, thrown into chaos for the next few hundreds years, until once more one line dominated.

6 months later

Talise, the pretty queen, (although that title meant nothing in a kingdom as patriarchal as Ainmyr), hugged her daughter for the last time, her eyes tear-filled. "I don't want to do this" she thought, wishing for a second that she could keep her daughter with her. But she knew that some of the Nobles wished to marry the young girl so that they could claim to have the most right to the throne. She didn't mind marrying for politics, but she objected to her daughter being married to someone 40 years older than her. So she forced herself to hand her over to Cien, the nurse.

"It would be best to stick to the lesser known roads" she told the nurse as she struggled with her emotions. "Dressed as you are, you hopefully won't attract much attention. I'll keep the news of her disappearance quiet for as long as possible, but by tomorrow evening they will certainly know you are missing."

"I'll be in Rhidan by that time, your highness" Cien stated calmly. "I promise you, I'll look after her well."

Talise nodded "I know." She swallowed, trying to hold back her tears. "Here. Take this" she said, as she handed Cien a purse full of coins. "It's not much, but it'll help you look after her." She noticed Cien's worried look. "Do not be worried, it's mine. They won't be able to accuse me of stealing money from the treasury, even if they do discover the part I had to play in your disappearance."

 Cien nodded again as she accepted the coins and put them in her bag. The money would help. The little money she had been saving from her wages would not have lasted long.

She picked up the bag with one hand. Holding the child with the other, she left the room quickly. Talise watched them go, not even able to cry once they'd left. It was important that no one but herself and Cien knew what had just happened, lest her daughter's only chance at freedom be ruined.