PrologueMature

Niir "Wisp" Petani has spent her entire life secluded in the country. Suddenly, the life she knew is turned upside down and she must find her way to the edge to save it.

When the pain in her heels caught up to her and yet another bramble ripped yet another hole in her traveling breeches, Wisp would try to remember why she was out here in the first place. Here, when she’d spent so many years sequestered away from the turmoil beyond the mountains. Her, raised among fields and farmland, now scrabbling to find solid footing and reliable handholds out on these miserable low-hills paths. The eldest child of Wa Reen Petani, rightful future Laurenne of Stronghold Petani, Warden of Pertania and Provider for Ereld, covered in rock dust and bleeding pools into the bottoms of her worn-out boots. Wisp reached to her neck and ran an absent finger over the pendant of three golden sheaved stalks of wheat that lay in the hollow of her throat. She might have managed a strangled laugh if her mouth weren’t as dry as the gravel strewn all around. What she wouldn’t give to be back in her own room. No, not her room – the kitchen. The long hall with its gigantic cooking fireplace taking up an entire wall, hung with simmering pots and spotted with drawers for baking bread and roasts. Cook, all bustling energy and red cheeks and pinched eyes but always brimming with good cheer, handing out the occasional secret sweet to any of the huge Petani brood.

She knew imagining home was useless – even if her daydreams were so realistic she could almost reach out and touch them, they wouldn’t take her back – wouldn’t change anything. She peeked back over her shoulder, tossing back tangled black curls, clearing her view of the single column of black smoke rising from beyond the peaks. Even this far away, all she could smell was blood.

The End

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