The woman on the horse reined in her weary steed. It stood with its legs wide–braced, its head drooping, as if it found even the weight of the gold–tasseled, red–leather bridle too heavy. The woman drew a booted foot out of the silver stirrup and swung down from the gilt–worked saddle. She made the reins fast to the fork of a sapling, and turned about, hands on her hips, to survey her surroundings.
They were not inviting. Giant trees hemmed in the small pool where her horse had just drunk. Clumps of undergrowth limited the vision that quested under the somber twilight of the lofty arches formed by intertwining branches. The woman shivered with a twitch of her magnificent shoulders, and then cursed.