Roseraie de l'Hay
by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
In the steep-walled country of Hy Rugosa, where the women guard their swords and the men guard their tongues, dwelt a daughter of the fey named Roseraie de l'Hay. She had been born to gentility, armored in beetle carapaces and twinkling magic while still in her willow-wood cradle, and grown slowly in the manner of the fair folk into a woman of subtle beauty and profound power.
Her face was an apple, sweet and round, with just enough lines that one might believe she had stories to tell. Her laughter was a summer storm on the high peaks where giants throw lightning for sport and ghosts howl for heaven. She was lithe and quick, supple as a spring otter, graceful as an autumn leaf spinning out its last dance from branch to earth. And still she had her power, the lacquered armor of the Magenta Knight--which was her war-name--and the needle-thin fey sword called Promise.
In short, Roseraie de l'Hay was a woman no man could pass without looking twice, but more dangerous than armies. A danger to heart and soul as well as to body.
Now there dwelt in Hy Rugosa a tribe of the Oldest People. These were gnarled little men who worshipped smoke and drew dark-limned images on cavern walls, coming to trade furtively at the edge of market towns or on the grassy verges of the fey hills. To the Oldest People everyone else, fey and human alike, were just so many chattering, chaffering children.