by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Smooth Angel came out of the uttermost east, across the great Sea of Grass into the lands of the Roses. She traversed the farthest kingdoms, crossed the Ivory Mountains by hidden passes, and descended through Hy Rugosa, already arrayed as a knight with her pale banners the color of the first orange of sunrise. Her armor was lacquered in the manner of the Sallow Men of the Sea of Grass, and her horse had stripes never before seen by the breeders in the West. It was as if she had ridden across the world.
She met the Sun's Viceroy on the road outside Fenixtown. He rode fast, without his courtly array, just a hard-eyed company of soldiers and three lesser Rose Knights, bannermen of the knight Snowfire. They were dressed and geared for rough travel.
The Sun's Viceroy pulled his mount to and raised a hand to stop Smooth Angel. Stop she did, for politeness and curiosity.
"Greetings, knight. I do not recall your banner." The Viceroy spoke with the iron courtesy that only a man of absolute power can summon, his voice smooth, though he failed to introduce himself or his party. "Do you follow the Sun or the Moon?"
Smooth Angel rested her right hand lightly on the hilt of her longer sword. "Neither. My banner shines equally in starshadow and daylight. Who are you to ask?"
The Viceroy's men stirred at this base insult to his dignity, but his raised hand remained palm open. "One who follows the Sun, as all right-thinking men do. What is your purpose abroad in the Sun's lands?"
"I seek Sister Ocean, and the fate of the fabled Rose Knight Marie-Luise Marjan." Marie-Luise Marjan was a rising goddess in the land of Smooth Angel's birth.
The Viceroy closed his eyes a moment, and took inner counsel, perhaps with his conscience, perhaps with his sense of strategy. When he opened them again, his smile had freed itself to play across his lips.
"Pass, then," he said. He nodded at her sword, her spear slung to one side of her traveling saddle. "I have no doubt of your puissance, of course, but 'ware armies, for there are battles afoot."