GENRE: HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Tang Dynasty China, 758 A.D.
The palanquin dipped sharply and Ai Li had to brace her hands against the sides to stay upright. Amidst the startled cries of her attendants, the wedding sedan lurched again before crashing to the ground with the splintering crack of wood. The ceremonial headdress toppled from her lap as she was thrown from her seat.
The clash of metal upon metal rang just beyond the curtain. Sword strike, a sound she woke up to every morning. She struggled to free herself from the tangle of red silk about her ankles. This skirt, the entire dress was so heavy, laden with jewels and a mile of embroidery thread.
The shouting outside sent the blood rushing through her ears. She fumbled behind the padded cushions of her seat, searching frantically for her swords. Where were they? She had put them there herself, needing some reminder of home while she was being sent so far away. The way another girl might find comfort in a doll.
Her hand finally closed around the leather wrapped hilt and she tightened her hold to stop the shaking. From outside the sounds of fighting grew louder.
She ignored the inner voice and pulled the other sword free, straightening as much as she could. The short blades barely fit in the cramped space. She had no time for doubt, not when so much was at risk. With the tip of one sword, she pushed the curtain aside.