Authors: Michelle L. Levigne
Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Arthurian Legend
Uncial Press Aloha, Oregon
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and events described herein are
products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real.
Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely
ISBN 13: 978-1-60174-053-3
ISBN 10: 1-60174-053-0
Copyright © 2010 by Michelle L. Levigne
Copyright © 2010 by Judith B. Glad
The Crab Nebula from VLT
by FORS Team, 8.2-meter VLT, ESO
All rights reserved. Except for use in review, the reproduction or utilization of this work
in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means now known or
hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the author or publisher.
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Before the ending of all things worthwhile and strong,
there will be three drops of blood born to the bloody sword.
shall walk in light and be strong, but the son shall overstep them.
serve and one abominate and one will triumph.
One will sleep and one shall
wait and one shall suffer.
They shall do so forever, and yet even to forever
there is an ending.
The blood drawn from the third shall open the doors and
smooth the road and waken the sleeper.
Protect the strong and vigilant, so
that the three drops of blood may come.
Though you look for the
abomination, you will not find her until she has destroyed innocence. Keep her
from the blood drawn from the blood, or all is lost.
Time ran out for them, the summer that Meghianna's sons turned fourteen and
To the rest of the world, she was the Widow Ianni, who ran a small, clean inn in a quiet,
respectable quarter of the growing port city of Quenlaque. Her dark-dyed hair had a strong
reddish cast, which neatly explained her healing talents to her neighbors and friends, and her two
suitors, Kaldar, a merchant sailor captain, and Ector, head of the garrison in Quenlaque.
Technically, only one of her sons was her son--Lycen, the elder. The younger boy,
Thrarin, was Ianni's little brother, orphaned when he was three years old--at least, that was the
story Meghianna told her friends when Mrillis, disguised as a horse trader, brought the little boy
to live with her one blustery winter night.
In truth, Thrarin was Athrar, Warhawk's heir. The attempts on the boy's life had grown
severe enough to prompt Efrin Warhawk and his queen, Glyssani, to send the boy away into
hiding, just as Meghianna had predicted nearly four years before.
She had prepared for that need, establishing herself as a healer and innkeeper and widow
with a son. Enemies would expect the Warhawk's heir to be hidden at the Stronghold. They
would waste resources, magic, and years trying to break through the protective spells enfolding
the Rey'kil fortress. Meanwhile, Athrar would grow up believing himself the orphaned brother of
an innkeeper, safely hidden in Quenlaque.
Meghianna had adopted Lycen, the orphaned infant son of Lysette, one of her ladies
who had left the Stronghold to set up a school in the foothills of the Wayhauk Mountains. She
and her Valor husband, Syndal, had died defending their Encindi and Rey'kil students from
pureblood fanatics who preferred murder to cleanse the land, rather than allowing Encindi and
Noveni 'invaders' to pack up their possessions and leave. They justified the murder of the Rey'kil
students by calling them traitors to Rey'kil purity. Meghianna planned to tell Lycen the truth of
his parents' identities and lives and deaths someday. She wasn't sure when. It was the sweetest
joy in her life to have the fair-haired toddler follow her about the inn, determined to help with
little chores, asking for stories and calling her Mama.
When Thrarin joined their household, Lycen was duly impressed with the
responsibilities of being an older brother. He made Meghianna want to laugh and cry at the same
time when he immediately took Thrarin under his wing and insisted she was to be called Mother,
Her disguise as an innkeeper and healer brought the world to Athrar/Thrarin. People
knew who he was, knew he was there, and yet ignored him when he was underfoot, running
errands, listening to stories. From Kaldar and Ector and the soldiers and sailors and tradesmen
who frequented the inn, Lycen and Thrarin learned about the world, about warfare and danger,
about swordplay and the tricks of the wind and weather, tracking and wounds, treachery and
heroism, through the stories the men told on long, cold or rainy evenings. When Lycen wanted to
learn to handle sword and bow and to ride something more spirited than the carthorse that hauled
the inn's supplies, Ector snuck him into the garrison for lessons on the sly. And of course, where
Lycen went, Thrarin was his shadow.
By the time their life of simplicity and safe anonymity ended, Lycen and Thrarin were
toughened by short trips along the coast with trustworthy men like Kaldar, and hours of
swordplay and helping tend the horses of the garrison. They were restless, eager to spread their
wings and explore the world beyond the streets of Quenlaque and the harbor and the
What am I to do?
Meghianna complained to Mrillis that morning when
prophecy and destiny caught up with them. She sat in her inn in Quenlaque while he rode
through a midnight forest in Moerta.
My little boys are growing up. Does every mother feel
Mrillis told her.
I know we planned to wait until Athrar was
seventeen, but the boy is good with weapons, alert, agile--and he has his brother constantly
watching over him. The Estall blessed us when he put Lycen into your care. Most older brothers
would consider their little brothers a burden and punish them for it daily. He doesn't make
Thrarin chafe against his leadership, either.
Hmm, yes, that's true. I keep forgetting my boys are a little unusual,
responded, earning laughter from the enchanter.
Such talk depressed her. She didn't look forward to the day her boys were too big for
snuggling together on the big, broken-legged, lumpy couch in the front room of their quarters,
telling stories and laughing together. Truthfully, her boys had outgrown the need to cuddle with
their mother, but she hadn't outgrown that need to cuddle them, to smooth their hair out of their
faces and tug their clothes straight and hug them, pretending that was all she needed to do to
protect them from the bumps and scrapes of life.
Not even her power and authority as Queen of Snows would be enough to protect her
boys when they took their destined places in front of the world and prophecy swept them up in
We might be wise to change our plan,
Our enemies constantly
watch all the castles of the highest ranking nobles on Lygroes, and the most loyal of the minor
kings here on Moerta. And I fear for you, my dear.
Now Meghianna could laugh, more in surprise than anything else.
It has been fifteen years since anyone has seen the Queen of Snows. The
enchantments we wrapped around the Stronghold, to keep out visitors and permit
communication are still strong--but someone must suspect the enchantments, because I have
heard a dozen rumors in the last moon that the Queen of Snows is dead.
How many of our enemies spread rumors of my death to force my hand? How many
of them have decided I'm not there at all, and are looking for me throughout the
Exactly. Someone who remembers you originally had red hair, before power
bleached it white, may have an idea of what you should look like, and eventually find
Do we leave our life behind, then? Move the boys to the Stronghold for a few
Give them a strong foundation in magic. Lycen needs to explore his heritage. And
Athrar certainly has more magic in his blood than Efrin, from living with you,
Meghianna opened her eyes and looked around the tiny loft room, where she kept the
account books and tallies of supplies. It let her look out over the main room of the inn and keep
watch over all the traffic. Someone was bound to come looking for her soon. It was a law of
nature that she couldn't have more than ten minutes of privacy at a time. She got up and leaned
against the window in the wall.
There were her boys, two fair heads, Lycen with his curls and Thrarin with his straight,
coarse locks, their crossed arms resting on the table, their shoulders hunched as they listened to
Captain Ector tell them about his latest adventures while out on patrol. The Encindi rebels were
more active and destructive than usual, meaning the winter illnesses and starvation hadn't
decimated their numbers. Meghianna welcomed Ector's visits because he made a point of
emphasizing the darker aspects of a soldier's life--wounds and long hours in the saddle and
danger. If only he wouldn't insist on asking her at least twice a year to marry him.
She admired Ector, and loved him as a good friend, but he always smelled of sweaty
metal and sour leather, belched too often, and ate with his fingers. Meghianna knew those were
ridiculous reasons to refuse a man, but she couldn't find any reasons to accept him. He didn't
make her heart sing. Until her heart sang for a man, she wouldn't give it to anyone.
Mrillis...you said they're looking for Thrarin at the castles of minor kings? Are
Pirkin and Ynessa and their family all right?
I'm going to Goarlotte now to bolster our protective spells. What more logical place
to hide the Warhawk's heir than in the kingdom of his most loyal ally? Especially someone
related by blood to the Warhawk's Enchanter?
Mrillis' mental voice sounded utterly weary
with that last admission.
Meghianna ached for him. If any harm ever came to Pirkin and Ynessa, their three sons
and five-year-old Ynfara because of their connection to him, he would never forgive
Mrillis broke the connection through the Threads. Meghianna was still running their
conversation over in her mind when her link with the Lake of Ice opened. She nearly snarled her
anger aloud. When she chose to abandon the Stronghold for her false identity in Quenlaque, she
and Mrillis had woven the enchantment that blocked everyone from entering the Stronghold, and
let her speak to all visitors standing at the Lake of Ice. The lack of any visible proof that the
Queen of Snows still lived discouraged visitors and requests for aid. Visits to the pebbly shore of
the Lake of Ice had gone down to just a trickle, maybe three in a year, by the time Thrarin was
ten years old.
Now Meghianna had to think back to the last time someone had come to the Stronghold.
Maybe eight moons? Why did they have to seek the help of the Queen of Snows now? Especially
when she needed to get downstairs and interrupt what looked like a plotting session between her
boys and Captain Ector? Meghianna didn't trust the way they kept looking up at the window into
the loft, as if all three had guilty consciences. If she wasn't careful, she would come downstairs
and find out that she was not only betrothed to Ector, but the three men had already contacted a
Star-Mother to perform the vows at the ceremony. Worse yet, Bethian, the inn's cook and
manager, would be involved in the plot, providing the feast for the festivities.
What do you seek, that you come to the Lake of Ice?
she asked, and didn't flinch
when her impatience made her voice snap and boom across the ice.
The enchantment brought the image of a man in the Warhawk's brown and gold livery to
her mind's eye. He dropped to both knees on the pebbly edge of the Lake of Ice.
"The Warhawk has sent me to ask you to bring his heir to him, Queen of Snows.
Treachery rises in the Court. He is ill, and his enemies will trick him into naming one of them
heir unless his son comes to him now."
The man, far too handsome to be trusted, in Meghianna's opinion, was an unfamiliar
face. She pegged him as a Moertan, or of the new generation of Rey'kil Valors who hadn't
trained at the Stronghold. She pushed a little against the enchantment, to test the harmonies of
the Threads wrapped around him.
Her impatience turned to anger when she found the Threads too tight, held with an iron
fight so they didn't chime at her testing touch. He couldn't tell that she had tested him, and that
was a foolish trick she would never have allowed one of her students to use.
She gripped the arms of her chair to keep from leaping to her feet or
reaching out physically to slap him.
I am well aware of the health of Efrin Warhawk, who
knows his heir is not in the Stronghold.