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Blathering on about two side characters from my 2004 NaNo story that have been jumping around in my head lately. Writing between classes.

There was once a girl. She was born to a noble family and never had anything denied her. She was a sweet child that played well with other children and showed a caring and kindness towards everyone she had ever met.

There was once a girl. The years had only made her kinder and she quikcly sprouted like the bamboo shoots in her mother's garden: tall and strong. She also blossomed into a creature of such radience that poets were already making tributes to her likeness, each vying for her attention. She was graceful and delicate and everything any man could ever hope for in a wife.

There was once a boy. He was not from noble roots, being the second son of a poor merchant. He knew that it would be his lot in life to carry on his father's trade when he was older and he also knew that he would never inherit any wealth since his older brother would gain everything. The best he oculd hope for was to etch out a niche for himself and make a humble life below the palace gates.

It was chance that the two of them met in the first place, the girl was traveling with her guardians in the market and their eyes had met for the briefest moment across his stall. She had blushed and quickly looked away, he had done the same. By the time he got the nerve to look back at her, she was gone, her companions ushering her along and out of his sight.

Since that initial meeting, the two had remained in the other's thoughts. She made up constant excuses to go to Market, he made sure that the rarest of his father's silks were closeted away for her perusal only. They never had a chance to speak to the other save for a few snatches of conversation about the weather or about some of the wares in his stall. The years went on by and it was the same thing nearly every day, heated glances out of the eyesight of the girl's companions, small notes passed along with the currency or goods. As they both grew older, they grew bolder, stealing away in the night to meet in a rush of lips and hands and hushed voices. By dawn they would part, she to her bed, he to his stall.

It lasted for a long while, until one of the palace guards caught them. The girl's father was enraged, how dare his daughter betray him and smirch her honor with a lowly peasant? He arranged for her marriage to a far away warlord immediately. The boy was crushed, he begged her to run away with him, yet she could not do anything of the sort. Their last time together was full of arguing and tears.

It was several years later that they saw the other again. Again, it was by chance. The years had been hard on both of them, sadness had turned the girl's mouth down and her eyes had lost their shine. Her warlord husband was cruel and constantly beat her and her servants. The reason for his ire was that in the two years the girl had not been able to conceive a son for him. He punished her for shirking her wifely duties with his fists and soon became tired of her in the bedchamber because she cried silently every time, her tears soaking her hair.

They boy hadn't fared well either. The once open and jovial boy had grown into a hardened man, his face closed and his lips rarely curled upward in humor. After the girl had been married off and sent away, her father had taken his anger out on the boy's family, wiping away their stall and sending them into poverty. Out of duty, the boy joined the lord's army and became part of the infantry. He had seen much on the battlefield that had toughened him, and his body bore scars from his fights. After the first year, the general his group had been under saw his potential and promoted him to calvary. The boy continued to grow up the ranks, soon becoming a general in his own right. He had a quick mind and strategy came easily to him. He soon caught the attention of the warlord, who assigned him to his own personal army.

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