PROLOGUE - A Winter's Day

It was a cool winter day as Katherine walked down the cobbled street distractedly, in a hurry to get home on time as she entered the town square, where she had to struggle to get past the crowd growing around the elevated platform that had been erected especially for today's celebrations in the center of the square.

With only a slight glance in its direction, she imagined the uproar there would be when the next chosen one was finally shown. She snorted, unamused, at the thought of all the fools gathering to get a glimpse at their sovereign; how she pitied them! The only purpose in their life seeming to be to believe the pack of lies that was thrown at them. She angrily pushed a tall blond man out of the way as he leered at her, ignoring his shouts as he swore at her receding back.

She headed for the back streets to put as much distance between her and the crowd as possible and hurried home, hardly noticing how the shadows seemed to deepen ahead of her. She wished ferverently she hadn't forgotten her gloves, as her fingers were beginning to go numb in the cold. Clutching her scarf closer to her as it continued to snow, the cold air stinging her cheeks relentlessly, the hair at the nape of her neck suddenly rose as a woman's scream broke through the silence around her, and she froze in mid step, before looking around urgently, searching for the source of the scream. Acting purely on an instinct, she ran for the entrance nearest to her, a narrow doorway carved into the stone wall to her left, as her rapid footsteps echoed in her own ears.

There, lying in the middle of the snow, dressed in a deep red cloak that made her pale face stand out stark white, lay a beautiful woman with ginger curls framing her face, her lips tinged with blue and her eyes half closed.

Katherine knelt to her side quickly, resting a hand on her arm.

"Are you hurt? What happened?" she asked in a rush, searching the stranger's face for some sign that she had hear her. The woman's lips trembled slightly as she seemed to struggle to speak.

"It's you isn't it?" she croaked suddenly, her eyes flying open as her head snapped to one side to look straight at her.

Katherine jumped slightly and shook her head, not quite understanding, as her frown deepened and she opened her mouth to stammer "But I -"

"You won't be able to kill me" the woman said suddenly, grinning manically as she watched Katherine, her eyes gleaming unnaturally.

Katherine leaned back slightly, horrified, this woman was crazy! she thought. She never should have gone near her! But as she went to get to her feet the other woman rose unexpectedly, her hands flying to Katherine's neck like a vice as she strangled her. Katherine struggled, clawing at the other woman's face as her world went dark, hardly noticing that her hands were covered in blood where they had been holding the other woman's arms as they left crimson streaks on the bony wrists she tried to pry from her neck. The other woman's face seemed to swim in and out of focus as she grinned, her hands clutching her tighter as Katherine's vision faded, darkening around the edges like spilt ink in water. Before she blacked out, the last thing she saw were the woman's vivid eyes, such a light blue that they almost seemed icy white, never leaving her own.