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White Robes: An Interesting Army (Seasons of the Sword Prequel)


White Robes

Kunoichi Companion Tales1

(A Risuko Prequel)


David Kudler

[+ Stillpoint/Atalanta+]

[+ Stillpoint Digital Press+]

on Shakespir

Mill Valley, California, USA

Copyright © 2016 by David Kudler

All right reserved. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, or other—without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. For more information, contact the publisher at

[[email protected]

First edition, July 2016

Version 1.0.0 (Shakespir)

Also by David Kudler

[+ The Seven Gods of Luck+]

[+ Shlomo Travels to Warsaw+]

[+ How Raven Brought Back the Light+]


[+ Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale (now available)+]

Samurai, Assassins, Warlords…

and a Girl Who Likes to Climb

[_ Though Japan has been devastated by a century of civil war, Risuko just wants to climb trees. Growing up far from the battlefields and court intrigues, the fatherless girl finds herself pulled into a plot that may reunite Japan -- or may destroy it. She is torn from her home and what is left of her family, but finds new friends at a school that may not be what it seems. _]

Magical but historical, Risuko follows her along the first dangerous steps to discovering who she truly is.


(Teen historical adventure novel)


Coming Soon!

Bright-Eyes (Seasons of the Sword #2)

Find out more on Risuko.Net


Follow on:




Table of Contents

White Robes

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Preview: Risuko – A Kunoichi Tale

About the Author



White Robes

White snow. White robes.

White is the color of grief.

This isn’t a new thought to Chiyome. At this point it isn’t even a very interesting thought.

Grief is not terribly interesting.

As her carriers lug her, squashed in her palanquin, up the switchbacks to Rice Paddy Pass, Chiyome considers the snow covering the slopes above and below, all around.

Not terribly interesting.

And yet as the garrison that guards the pass finally appears at the top of the mountainside, it strikes Chiyome as appropriate that the whole landscape is covered in white. The whole nation is wrapped in grief. A hundred years of war have left no province, no family free from more than its natural share of sorrow.

Even so, Chiyome feels her own losses like physical wounds. Two daughters and a son, taken by disease and Uesugi raids — years later and yet these still swath her in blank, white grief. And of course, her husband. That loss is the hardest of all, as unforgiving as these mountains.

Not terribly interesting.

A crimson Takeda flag adds a startling flash of color over the wooden palisade wall that marks the very top of Rice Paddy Pass — why it’s called that, no one has ever been ever been able to explain to Chiyome. She doesn’t particularly want to spend the night among her husband’s old soldiers, but the Little Brothers have had a long, miserable walk up from the valley and they won’t make their way down to a safe shelter until well after dark, and so as her palanquin reaches the brief moment of equilibrium there at the frozen, white top of the world, she leans out the small window of her cramped box and barks, “In. We’re spending the night. Bugano had better have heated the baths.”

The carriers grunt in acknowledgment and turn toward the palisade gates. Steam streams from their bald heads like snow from the top of these mountains.


The baths are in fact hot — the garrison has little to do here but gather wood and watch for enemy invasion, and so the hot tub is in fact blessedly hot, returning a small semblance of humanity to Chiyome. The Littler Brothers have set up her traveling tent inside the garrison’s storeroom — better than the stables, at least, and private. The days when she might have enjoyed a night trapped in the company of a hundred young men are long gone.

When Lieutenant Bugano shows up with a serving of the garrison’s rations, steaming if greasy, Chiyome waves her carriers away to take their own turn in the baths. They’ve more than earned it.

“Chiyome-sama,” murmurs the dog-faced officer, placing her bowl on the traveling table. “You honor us, as always.”

“Liar,” Chiyome says, and then laughs when the lieutenant has the good grace to look uncomfortable. Chiyome can’t remember the last time she laughed. “I’m a soldier’s wife — was a soldier’s wife. I know you’re not running an inn. But where else are we to stop?”

“Indeed.” Bugano laughs along, but it’s still uncomfortable, and that makes Chiyome laugh some more. He raises an eyebrow, and she does her best to try to be moderately polite.

Bugano was there at Midriver Island, after all. He fought with her husband, was there when he fell. Bugano deserves some respect, even if his face is unfortunate.

Nodding, he says, “Actually, we have a couple more travelers who begged our hospitality tonight. That’s what I was going to ask you about.”


“It…” He scratches the top of his balding head. “It’s a couple of young ladies. Shrine maidens, trying to get away from the fighting.”

“There’s nowhere away from the fighting.”

Now Bugano’s eyes meet Chiyome’s, and she can see that his eyes too are filled with white grief. All he says is, “No. Not really.” Then he shakes his head, causing his jowls to quiver. “But away from where it’s worst right now.”

“Shrine maidens?” Chiyome can’t imagine why a pair of miko would be trekking through the mountains in mid-winter, but she supposes everyone has something to get away from.

“Yes. And see…” Again Bugano scratches his head. “See, one of ‘em’s real pretty, but even the other one is getting more attention from my men than’s good. I was wondering if they could spend the night in here. Not in your tent!” he adds. “Just, you know, in the storeroom. Away from the men.”

“Ah.” Chiyome knows that there are women who earn a meager living providing soldiers with feminine companionship, but it is not an easy life, and clearly these young women would prefer not to walk that particular path. “Certainly. They are welcome to sleep in the storeroom.”

With a nod and a grim smile, Bugano leaves Chiyome to her barely edible meal.

By the time she has eaten all that she can stomach, there is a knock on the rough wooden door. Again, Chiyome gives a snort of laughter, caught by the incongruity of the whole affair. “Come in.”

Two figures in red and white shuffle through the door, carrying bedrolls. One looks like a man in a dress — broad-shouldered, square-faced, and sullen. The other couldn’t be more different. Pretty, the lieutenant called her, and yes, she certainly is that. Fine features and smooth skin. But there’s something about the way she moves….

“My lady,” the two girls in shrine maidens’ dress murmur, kneeling on the dirty wooden floor.

“Oh, for goodness sake,” Chiyome clucks, “close the door. It’s cold.”

The bigger one slides the big door shut with one hand, turns around, and they both kneel and touch their heads to the dirty floor. Without looking up, the pretty one says, “Thank you, my lady, for letting your humble servants share your quarters.”

“Well, they’re hardly mine,” answers Chiyome. “It’s a spare storeroom the lieutenant is kind enough to let me have when I’m stuck here. Now, what are your names?”

“Mieko is this humble servant’s name,” says the pretty one.

“Kuniko, lady,” says the other.

“Somehow, I don’t get the feeling that either of you is at all humble, or much of a servant for that matter. Are you even miko?”

“Oh, yes, my lady,” both girls murmur into the boards.

“Mph.” She finds herself staring at them. Chiyome knows liars, knows she’s being lied to, but can’t spot the lie. And she isn’t sure she cares. “Fine. You’re sleeping out here.” She points at the bags of rice against one wall. Then she points to her tent. “I’m sleeping in there. My men are sleeping in the barracks. If you so much as open the flap of my tent, they will happily break your fingers, do you understand?”

“Yes, my lady,” they repeat, heads still down.


Chiyome wakes with a start, the tendrils of dream streaming behind her. A girl with white hair flying through the snowy night….

Shaking her head, she shivers, though her thick bedroll is comparatively comfortable and warm.

From outside of her tent comes a click, the slow creak of a hinge. What are those two—? Chiyome stands, wrapping her silks around her, and peers through the entrance to her tent.

At first she sees nothing; all seems still. But then she notices the open storeroom door and watches as two bulky shadows sneak through—not out into the snow, but in toward where the two girls are curled up like cats on the floor.

Chiyome is about to shout, to call for the Little Brothers, when the larger of the girls, the one with the square face—Kuniko—leaps to her feet as if she hasn’t been sleeping. As if she was waiting for just such an invasion. Knees bent, she balls her fists and grunts, “Get out.”

One of the shadows chuckles and steps toward Kuniko. “Like this one,” he laughs. “She’s got fight.”

The other one—Bugano’s soldiers, they must be—says, “That leaves the pretty one for me.” He steps toward Mieko, who Chiyome is shocked to see standing, motionless. Unflinching. When did she stand?

“Please,” the smaller girl whispers. “Please don’t make me hurt you.”

Chiyome, who has been frozen between rage and terror at what she was watching, gawks at Mieko, even as the soldier laughs. Don’t make me HURT you? What can the idiot girl be thinking?

The first soldier reaches out to grab Kuniko, but the girl slaps his hand away with the knuckles of one hand. “I do like’em feisty,” he says with a grunt, and steps toward her again.

She punches at his face; he grabs her hand, but doesn’t anticipate the swift knee to his crotch that bends him forward. Before he can howl and push her down, Kuniko slams her free fist into his throat, then as he begins to crumple, grabs his hair and slams his face against her still-raised knee.

He drops to the floor as if shot.

Chiyome’s eyes flick to Mieko, standing statue-still over the other soldier, who lies motionless on his back. The man’s eyes are open. A dark stain that must be blood spills from his ear onto the floor.

In the doorway, Chiyome sees two more large shadows. The Little Brothers. Her carriers stand wide-eyed, gawking at the scene.

It reassures Chiyome that her carriers are as shocked by what they’ve just seen as she is. Otherwise, she would be tempted to believe it never happened. Trying to sound as if she is in control, she barks, “Take these two ruffians out of here. Drop them with Bugano.”

The carriers bow and drag the two men—the one flailing, gasping man and the slack body—out of the storeroom.

Chiyome considers the two girls, still dressed in their oh-so-innocent miko garb. They are standing now, no pretense of humility. Kuniko’s face is dark, her nostrils flaring. Mieko looks as if she’s been enjoying a lovely nighttime stroll, except for the dark circles in the middle of her cheeks and the splash of dark red across her white sleeve.

“Well, well, well,” Chiyome laughs. “Aren’t you two entertaining.”

“Yes, my lady,” Kuniko grunts through clenched teeth. Mieko says nothing.

Two homeless girls, Chiyome thinks. Harmless. And yet they took down two Takeda soldiers in less time than it would have taken me to tie my robe shut. “You two have done this before. You’ve had training.”

This time Mieko joins Kuniko in mumbling a polite assent.

“Weapons? Or just your hands and feet?” Not that their hands and feet weren’t lethally effective.

The girls stare at each other for a moment; even the ridiculously calm Mieko has the good grace to look nervous when she says, “Glaives, my lady.”

Ah. Chiyome smiles at them. It is clear now: these are no village girls. They must be from a samurai family or possibly even nobility to have received training in the long-bladed spears. Who would think it?

An image: a beautiful screen Chiyome saw at the imperial palace, when her father brought her there to observe some ceremony or other. The screen seemed to her child’s imagination to have shown the whole of Japan, peopled by thousands of figures: armed samurai, elegant nobles, monks, merchants, and, scattered throughout, young girls in red and white. An army.

An anonymous army. Invisible. Able to go everywhere. Able to gather information. Able to strike.

With her toe Chiyome writes on the dusty floorboards: ku (), then no (), and then finally ichi (). “Can you two read?”

Kuniko scowls down at the marks. “Nine… in… one?”

Mieko’s peers at Chiyome. She murmurs, “Kunoichi.

Kuniko blinks at her companion. “Kuno… What’s a kunoichi?

Mieko’s eyes remain on Chiyome. She knows.

“Ah,” says Chiyome, grinning to herself, “it is… a very special kind of woman. Tell me, ladies. Would you like to end this ridiculous war? Would you like to be kunoichi?

“Yes, my lady,” the girls answer. Kuniko’s eyes are dark, but Mieko’s glisten.

White snow. White robes.

White robes over red skirts.

White is the color of grief.

Red is the color of blood, the color of luck—the color of weddings.

A miko marries herself to that which cannot die. A kunoichi marries herself to duty, and to Death.

Watching the two special girls walking alongside her palanquin, Chiyome considers that, perhaps, the time for mourning has come to a close.

An anonymous army.

Much more interesting.

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Kunoichi Companion Tales

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I hope that you enjoyed this first tale of Lady Chiyome’s Kunoichi. If you did, please tell your friends what you thought. Word of mouth is an author’s best friend — and I’d like to think you’d be doing your friends a favor too! You can share an honest review on your blog, post a pic on Instagram or Snapchat or a link on Facebook, or leave a review on Amazon.

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Thanks again!

David Kudler

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Seasons of the Sword #1


1—The Left-Hand Path

Serenity Province, Land of the Rising Sun, The Month of Leaves in the First Year of the Rule of Genki

(Totomi, Japan, late autumn, 1570 a.d.)

Spying on the lord of the province from the old pine was a bad idea. Risky. Stupid. That’s why I didn’t see what was coming. I knew it was a bad idea, but something about being there, high up in that pine, made me feel free.

And, of course, I was always fascinated by what happened in the castle. Can you blame me?

I watched where Lord Imagawa stood in his castle with a samurai, pointing at a piece of paper. Paper covered with splashes of color. Green, mostly. Blue and red shapes marking the edges.

It was a hundred paces away or more. I must have been squinting hard, trying to make out what they were pointing at. That’s the only way to explain how I didn’t notice the palanquin until it had almost reached my tree.

Below, two hulking men carried the shiny black box by the heavy bar between them. The thing scuttled like a beetle through the slanting morning shadows that darkened the woods. It was coming from the direction of the village.

Seeing it startled me—made my chest tight and my hands colder even than they already were.

I scooted to the top of the pine, hands chilled and sticky.

Half-way up the pine tree though I was, I had the urge to stomp on the dark, gleaming thing. Only nobles traveled by palanquin. And when had nobles ever done my family any favors?

I sensed danger in the steady, silent approach. Had they seen me spying on the castle?

“Risuko!” My sister called up to me. I could not even see the top of her head.

The black box crept closer, into the clearing below me. Then the palanquin stopped.

I scrambled to hide myself. The cold sap smelled sharp and raw as I pressed my nose to the bark. I gave a bird whistle—a warbler call, the one that I’d told Usako I’d use if she needed to hide.

I had actually been looking for birds’ eggs, though it was the wrong season for it. Hunger and the desire to do something, as well as my own pleasure in climbing, had driven me up the tree. Mother had not fed us that morning. Once the weather turned cold, she could not always provide us with even a small bowl of rice a day. Also, the castle had been bustling like an ants’ nest that’s been prodded with a stick, and I had been curious….

Someone below me began talking. An old woman, I thought, her voice high and birdlike, though, again, I couldn’t make out the words. Usako—my sister—stepped forward into view. I could see her head bowed, like a frightened rabbit. The old woman spoke again. After a pause, Usako-chan’s face, open and small, turned toward my hiding place. She pointed up at me.

Risuko,” the old woman said, “come down now.”

She and her men were at the bottom of the tree. I considered leaping across to one of the other pines, but there weren’t any close enough and big enough to jump to. And I was worried that my hands were too cold to keep hold.

Usako scurried off on the trail toward home. Thanks, sister, I thought. I’ll get you for that later. I wish that she had turned and waved. I wish that I had called out a good-bye.

If I was going to be grabbed at the bottom, I decided that I might as well come down with a flourish. I dropped from limb to limb, bark, needles, and sap flying from the branches as my hands and feet slapped at them, barely breaking my speed. Perhaps if I came down faster than they expected, I could make a run for it once I reached the ground.

My bare feet had no sooner hit the needles beneath the tree, however, than a large hand came to rest on my shoulder. The two huge servants had managed to place themselves exactly where I would land.

“What an interesting young girl you are,” the grey-haired noblewoman said.

Somehow I didn’t want to interest her. The two men stepped back at the wave of her hand. She stood there, still in her elegant robes, her wooden sandals barely sinking into the mud. “Do you climb things other than trees?” she asked, her deeply lined face bent in an icy smile, her eyes lacquer-black against her white-painted skin.

I nodded, testing my balance in this uncertain conversation. “That’s why my mother calls me Risuko. I’m always climbing—our house, rocks, trees….” Her eyes brightened, cold as they were, and I started to let go and brag. “There’s a cliff below the castle up there.” I pointed to where Lord Imagawa’s stone castle stood on the hill at the edge of the woods.

“Ah?” she said, looking pleased.

“I like to climb up the cliff.”

“Oh?” she sniffed, “but certainly a skinny little girl like you couldn’t get terribly far.”

That stung. “Oh, yes, I’ve climbed all the way to the top of the cliff bunches of times, and up the walls too, to look in at the windows and see the beautiful clothes….”

I clamped my mouth shut and blushed. Noble as she clearly was, she could have had me flogged or beheaded for daring to do such a thing. I tensed.

But this odd old woman didn’t have her enormous litter-carriers beat me with the wooden swords they carried in their belts. Instead, she truly smiled, and that terrifying smile was what let me know that my fate was sealed, that I couldn’t run. “Yes,” she said. “Very interesting. Risuko.”

She motioned for the men to bring her palanquin. It was decorated, as were the coats of the men, with the lady’s mon, her house’s symbol: a plain, solid white circle.

They placed the box beside her, and she eased into it, barely seeming to move. “Come, walk beside me, Risuko. I have some more questions to ask you.” Then she snapped, “Little Brother!”

“Yes, Lady!” called the servant who stood at the front of the palanquin, the larger of the two men. He gave a quiet sort of grunt and then, in perfect unison with his partner, lifted the box and began to march forward.

“Stay with me, girl!” the old lady ordered, and I scurried to keep up. I was surprised by the strength of the two men—they hardly seemed to notice the weight that they carried—but their speed was what took my breath away. As I scrambled to keep up, the mistress began to bark at me again. “What did I hear about your father? He taught you to write?”

How did she know my father? “Yes, he was a scribe.” I wanted to add, but did not, And a samurai too.

“He can’t have been much of a scribe,” she sniffed. “No apprentice, so he teaches his daughter to use a brush? What a waste. And the rags you wear?”

“He… died. Mother has struggled…,” I panted. “He was a good scribe… But there wasn’t much… need for one here… What do farmers need with contracts or letters?”

We moved quickly, speeding right past the path that led back to my home. Ah, well, I thought, we’ll join up with the main road and come into the village the long way.

“Yes,” she said, looking pleased with herself, “I suppose Lord Imagawa would be about the only client worth having around here in this wilderness. Don’t fall behind, child.”

I was beginning to sweat, in spite of the cold. The smell of approaching snow was sour in the air.

The rear servant—the one who wasn’t quite as enormous as the one the lady had called Little Brother—pulled even with me. Without turning his head, the man gave a low bark. Imperceptibly, the two men slowed to a pace that I could match. Grateful, I looked over toward the servant in the rear. I wasn’t sure, but I could have sworn that he winked.

I could see the bulk of Lord Imagawa’s castle though the open shutters of the palanquin. Banners flew from the roof that I’d never seen there before—blue and red. The old lady followed my gaze up the hill. “Yes, depressing old pile of rock, isn’t it?”

I couldn’t think of any way to answer that. I wasn’t sure that she expected me too answer.

“You really climbed all the way up to the windows?” She was looking at me closely. I nodded. “Yes, very interesting.” She clicked her tongue. “And today? I don’t suppose you could have seen anything of interest today.”

“Lord Imagawa,” I panted. “Soldier. Pointing at… drawing.”

Now her eyes widened. “You could see that from such a distance? Could you see what the drawing looked like?”

Green squares, surrounded by smaller squares of red and blue. What looked like little pine trees sticking out of the squares. I nodded.

The lady smiled again, looking like an old mother pig when it’s found a nice puddle to wallow in. Somehow the smile was even more frightening.

At that moment, we met up with the main road. I was certain that we would turn right, back toward the village, to my house, my mother, and that some explanation for this peculiar line of questions would present itself.

Instead, the palanquin turned smoothly left.

Confused, I stopped in my tracks.

“Stop!” the lady yelled. Little Brother and the winking one came to a halt. “Come along, girl!”


“I told you to keep up with me, child.” She wasn’t even looking at me.

“But… the village is…?” I pointed back down the road I had been walking most of my life, to the bridge I could see just behind the spur of trees that led to my house.

“Silly Risuko. Down!” The two men lowered her to the crossroad. Now she looked at me. “You are not going back there. Your mother sold you to me this morning.” She leaned out the window and barked at the carriers, “Go!”

To be Continued in

[+ Risuko+]

A Kunoichi Tale – Seasons of the Sword #1

Samurai, Assassins, Warlords…

and a Girl Who Likes to Climb

[_ Though Japan has been devastated by a century of civil war, Risuko just wants to climb trees. Growing up far from the battlefields and court intrigues, the fatherless girl finds herself pulled into a plot that may reunite Japan -- or may destroy it. She is torn from her home and what is left of her family, but finds new friends at a school that may not be what it seems. _]

Magical but historical, Risuko follows her along the first dangerous steps to discovering who she truly is.


[*(Teen historical adventure novel) *]

Coming Soon!

Find out more on Risuko.Net

Follow on:




Also from Stillpoint/Atalanta

Winter Tales

[+ The Seven Gods of Luck+]

[+ Shlomo Travels to Warsaw+]

[+ How Raven Brought Back the Light+]


David Kudler & Maura Vaughn

From Stillpoint/Prometheus

Science Fiction & Fantasy

[+ The Law and the Heart+] by Kenneth Schneyer

Exploring the seams where humanity and technology, society and individuality intersect, thirteen tales of near and far futures that will amuse, amaze, and unsettle

[+ The Keeping Time Trilogy+] by Heather Albano:

[+ Timepiece+] (Coming Summer, 2016)

[+ Timekeeper+](Coming Autumn, 2016)

[+ Timebound+] (Coming Summer, 2017)

Mindbending steampunk where time travel meets Waterloo meets Jane Austen meets Frankestein meets the law of unintended consequences

David Kudler is not afraid of heights. He just has a healthy respect for depths. “I’m as surprised as anyone,” he says, “that I’ve written a book featuring a girl who loves to be as high up in the air as possible.”

An editor and author, he lives just north of the Golden Gate Bridge with his wife, actor/teacher/author Maura Vaughn, their author-to-be daughters, and their (apparently) non-literary cats.

He is the founder, publisher, and editor-in-chief for Stillpoint Digital Press. Since 1999, he has overseen the publications program of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, for which he has edited three posthumous volumes of Campbell’s previously unpublished work (Pathways to Bliss, Myths of Light and Sake & Satori) and managed the publication of over sixty print, ebook, print, audio, and video titles, including the third edition of the seminal Hero with a Thousand Faces. He is honored to serve as the vice-president for the Bay Area Independent Publisher’s Association (BAIPA). He also blogs on books and publishing for Huffington Post.

[+ Risuko+] is his first novel. His children’s picture books Shlomo Travels to Warsaw, and How Raven Brought Back the Light (all co-written with his wife Maura Vaughn) are available as the Winter Tales. He is currently at work on Bright-Eyes, the second book in the Seasons of the Sword series, as well as six Kunoichi Companion Tales.


For more information about David Kudler and his writing, visit


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White Robes: An Interesting Army (Seasons of the Sword Prequel)

One of history’s most amazing armies is born — And its soldiers wear silk robes. Lady Mochizuki Chiyome is mired in grief. Recently widowed by Japan’s endless civil war, she has become tired of mourning, tired of wearing the white robes that are the traditional Japanese garb of grief. On the road, she encounters two young women who open her eyes to a whole new purpose in life — and a new way to end Japan's century of bloodshed. (Historical adventure short story.) This is the first of six Kunoichi Companion Tales, prequel stories to David Kudler’s historical novel Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale: 1) White Robes — Mired in her own grief, Lady Mochizuki Chiyome encounters two young women who give her a whole new, much more interesting opportunity 2) Silk & Service — A young Takeda warrior meets a servant who is much more than she seems (coming soon!) 3) Ghost — When Lady Chiyome receives a note from the shōgun, she finds that the messenger is much more intriguing than the message 4) Shining Boy — Plucked off of the streets of the capital, an orphan girl tries to figure out what story she's wandered into 5) Blade — Toumi doesn't want anyone messing with her business 6) Little Brother — Returning to the monastery turns out to be as hard as leaving it was

  • ISBN: 9781370019670
  • Author: Stillpoint Digital Press
  • Published: 2016-12-06 23:20:13
  • Words: 4703
White Robes: An Interesting Army (Seasons of the Sword Prequel) White Robes: An Interesting Army (Seasons of the Sword Prequel)