THE FALL OF FARCARINONEven as we reckon time, our history is long—so long its beginnings have been worn away by the passage of time. Long before Man came to be, we were. It could be said that our history begins with the Endarkened, for that terrible conflict scoured away all that we had been before it, leaving us one purpose:Survival.—Peldalathiriel Caerthalien, Of the Reign of Great Queen VieliessarPerchelion used to tell me the Hunt rode through every storm. When I grew old enough to question I said I did not believe her. I remember how she slapped me, and said I would never become a knight of my father’s meisne, for to doubt the Starry Hunt meant I would never wield a sword. I remember I laughed, and said there were not enough storms in all the year for them to do that …
Ladyholder Nataranweiya forced her mind to focus on such ancient trifles, for to allow it liberty would mean she thought of things it would not be good to think on now. Her child-swollen body shuddered harder than the cold should merit, even as the horse’s body shook with weariness.
Lightning stitched the woods to sudden brightness, and in its light she could see Falthiel, his face turned toward her, shouting something. She could not make out the words over the howl of the wind and the thunder of the horses’ hooves. Dioniron had given their mounts enough of the battle cordial to poison them: they would run until they died.
They would have to. Caerthalien’s dogs were a candlemark—no more—behind them now, and Nataranweiya knew they outnumbered the scant handful of her surviving protectors.
Suddenly her mount put a foot wrong, slipping and staggering through mud and autumn leaves for a handful of terrifying moments before finding its balance and running on. The near-fall jarred her agonizingly, but Nataranweiya did not cry out. She would not shame her Bondmate, even though all her broken soul yearned for was to follow him into the death he had found. Serenthon Farcarinon would have made her queen over all the Hundred Houses. If only Serenthon had never known of Amrethion’s Curse. If only he had not taken it into his heart, as if it were a lover’s message meant for him alone.
As reasonable to wish he had never known of the sun, or the sky, or the trees.Why was our Bond not enough for you? Why must you reach for more?
“Near, my lady!” Beleval shouted, his voice loud enough to cut through the roar of the storm. Near to the Sanctuary of the Star.
Near to safety. Near to revenge.
Pain gripped her, this wave coming sooner than the last, and when it passed she tasted the blood from where she’d bitten her lip. She had been upon the birthing couch when the traitors had come. That the child had delayed even from nightfall to nightfall was more grace than she had hoped for; the unborn babe would not grant her yet more clemency. She must be delivered soon or this nightmare ride would have been for nothing.
Only within the Sanctuary of the Star could she be safe.
The bright call of a warhorn sheared through the noise of their flight and jarred her back to full consciousness. Any daughter of the Hundred Houses learned early the strategies and treacheries an enemy might use to
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