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As the ship Gwenna glided through the entrance of Rajmuat harbor, a young woman of seventeen years leaned against the bow rail, taking in her surroundings through green-hazel eyes. Despite her white skin, she was dressed like a native raka in sarong, sash, and wrapped jacket. The sarong displayed her neat, if thin, figure–one with the curves that drew male eyes. The calf-long garment also showed muscled legs and neat ankles protected by leather slippers. Her jacket, worn against the chill of the spring air, covered her muscular upper arms, while the loose areas of her clothes hid an assortment of flat knives designed for her needs. She had a small, delicate nose, inherited from her mother, just as her eyes were her father’s. The wide mouth, its lower lip fuller than the upper, was all hers, with smiles tucked into the corners. Her reddish gold hair was cut just below her earlobes to fit her head like a helmet.

Aly looked the soul of repose as she lounged against the rail, but her eyes were busy. She swiftly took in the panorama of Rajmuat as the city came into view. It sprawled over half of the C-shaped harbor, arranged on the harbor’s rising sides like offerings laid on green steps. Steam rose from the greenery as the early morning sun heated damp jungle earth. Patches of white and rose-pink stucco marked newer houses, while the older houses, built of wood and stone, sported roofs that were sharply peaked and sloping, like the wings of some strange bird sitting. The higher the ground, the more complex the roof, with lesser roofs sprouting beneath the main one. The roofs of the wealthier houses blazed with gilt paint in the sun. Strewn among the homes were the domed, gilded towers of Rajmuat’s temples.

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