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Prologue
Chapter 1
Interlude 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

 

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 He escorted Firesmyth into the cottage and announced the stranger’s presence.  His papa approached the man smiling and the two bowed a little to each other with hands pressed flat and with fingers pointing up in the proper court style of greeting.  His papa did this warmly although it seemed Firesmyth arrived unexpectedly just in time for dinner.  He offered Firesmyth a seat and as he sat down, Talon caught a glimpse of his ruby hilted sword under his cloak. 

“Woah,” said Talon forgetting his shyness.  “Do you want to practice with me?  I’m pretty good.”  

Endvar waved him back.  “Now, now Talon, this man has very important business and doesn’t want to be....”

“Bothered?”  Firesmyth cut him off.  “I would love to,” he said mussing Talon’s hair.  “But not now, later.  I have some things to discuss with your grandparents.”

Talon couldn’t wait.  It soon seemed that Firesmyth’s definition of the word “later” took on an entirely different meaning than Talon’s definition.  Except for the nice things that grown ups usually say to young kids, the conversation tapered off into distant reminiscing.  By the way they spoke about their past, Talon guessed that they and Firesmyth knew each other when they were very young.

“Have you heard of anything from the south?” asked Talon’s grandmother.  Her name was Fossa, Salmi for ‘morning child.’  Only her friends addressed her Fossa, and only her closest friends, those who knew her origins called her Morning Child. 

“Nay,” answered Firesmyth, “I have been away to the north and east on other matters.  But I encountered the enemy within your own borders, at the ruins of Cah Bel.”

“How did they get across the...” began Endvar, but Firesmyth cut him off.

“I do not know.  The fact of their crossing does not disturb me as much as the devices they brought with them.  He is using the lost arts again.”

Endvar sat up, alert.  His eyes narrowed.  “In violation of the treaty?”

Mancuso shook his head.  “I do not think so.  Not the SYLC Treaty at least, perhaps one of your local treaties -- I am not familiar with the currents ones.  These shadow knights bio-implants ... well at least one of them did.”

“Like yours?” asked Fossa.

“Like one of mine, yes.”  He pulled up the sleeve covering is left arm and turned his palm upward.  “This one and yet...” 

Talon looked up, curious now, and saw a flesh colored device more like a growth than a machine.  “Euuu.”

Fossa looked over and chided Talon, “Now that’s not polite, dear.”

“And you tell no one about it, understand?” added Endvar.

Talon nodded, wide eyed.  

Their conversation soon meandered off into more mundane tales of old times, which alienated Talon and strained his patience although he tried his hardest to listen and understand.  Soon he found himself outside playing alone again hoping Firesmyth would soon join him.  Being young and inventive, he often found things that would bore adults ... meticulous things that exemplified his organizational gifts.  His attention now turned to a frog that lazily hopped across the path.  Talon followed it with eager fascination.  He liked how it looked; dark, thin front legs with webbed fingers splayed out and powerfully thick back legs.  Most of all, the brilliant blue stripe down its shinny back looked as if it had been painted with a color more vivid than he had ever seen. 

“Hey, what are you doing outta Papa’s pond?  I’ll help it back home.”  But every time he tried to catch it, it jumped away.  “Wait up,” he called out gently, “I won’t hurt you.”  Then he tried a different tactic by methodically laying down barriers in an effort to guide the frog’s path.  He continued his pursuit and before long he heard voices again.  He looked up to see that the frog had jumped off his path to a bush under the window of his papa’s shed.  Talon recognized the voices as belonging to his papa and Firesmyth.  Apparently, they had made their way over to his shed for more talk.  Talon was about ready to resume his frog hunt when he heard his name mentioned.  He stopped and listened intently.  The visitor was talking, something about the boy’s future vital to the fulfillment of an old prophecy.

“That’s what your kind said about me when I was a youth,” replied Endvar.

Now, talk about himself was almost enough to peak his curiosity to the point of eavesdropping, but talk of his papa’s mysterious past was too much to resist.  He eased his way between the bush and the cold stone shed wall.  He edged as close as he could to the window without the chance of being seen.  He wanted badly to look into the window, but dared not take the chance.

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