A/N: New novel! Set in the world of Orlath, but in the Kingdom of Ilantra. And it's set after the trilogy beginning with Royalty of Wind, and Fire, and Clay, so if you haven't read that and would rather not know important things about the ending, don't read this.

The points of view will be three in number: an extremely silly rambling and digressive, first-person-point of view, a fairly normal third person, and a third person one in present tense, also very strange.

Welcome along, whether it's your fifth time or your second or your first. Or whatever.

Splendor's Shadow

Prologue

It happened in 339 in the reckoning of Orlath, or in the year 1189 in the reckoning of Doralissa. But since this is Ilantra, we might as well use their system, and call it the year 740.

What? Oh, yes, I was babbling. But it is wonderful to have someone to talk to, after so long…

Of course, you want me to talk about important matters, and I'm not talking about important enough ones to suit you. I would cough in embarrassment, if I could cough, but I can't. It's inconvenient. There have been many times that I wanted to cough as the blood ran over me, but I couldn't. Can you imagine how irritating that would be?

What? Oh, yes, the Princess Loriel.

Of course I saw the Dark ones who came and took her away the night she was born! I was hanging on the wall, wasn't I? Of course they hung me on the wall. King Delian was of the Dark; he wasn't going to want a sentient sword that was loyal to the Light. They all hated me.

Oh, yes, if you must. No one ever wants to hear about poor Luden's troubles. They only want to hear about the Princess.

Well, there she was, lying in her cradle, and burbling, and staring at the ceiling. Nothing so much different from other babies, you know; I didn't understand all the fuss over her, and I still don't. She had rather odd eyes for a human baby, dark with a silver lightning bolt in the middle of each one, but that was only expected, given her mother and her mother's liadra blood. Her mother, Queen Aloriadell of Arvenna and Ilantra, was lying asleep in the bed. I remember the fire painted her face with shadows.

Of course, that was nothing unusual then.

But you want to know about then, not now.

The door burst open, and two figures stepped in. They were filifernai, you understand, dark blue of skin and naked, with strange glaring eyes. And why shouldn't they be naked? They have none of those ridiculous features that you humans are at once so proud of and so ashamed of.

Yes, if I must, I'll get back to the story.

One of them snatched the baby from the cradle. The other came to the sleeping Queen and held a chain above her throat. I rattled on the wall then, because I have seen filifernai lash out the throats of their victims, and I didn't want that to happen to the Queen. She was quiet and quite inoffensive, in her way, though it seemed she was always singing or crying. No in between, with her.

Then King Delian of Ilantra and Arvenna stepped through the room, and said, "No. Not the wife. We need other heirs. But take the baby and go."

The filifernai looked at him, and for a long moment, I thought that they wouldn't obey him. But he was of the Dark, after all, and very powerful. The one stepped away from the bed, and the other tucked a fold of the blanket over the baby's face, so that no one would see the eyes that would reveal her.

I suppose they said something to King Delian, but they speak silently, and I don't know what it was. He nodded impatiently back, and then said, "Her name is to be Loriel, if that matters."

I noticed he kept his eyes averted from their bodies as he spoke with them. Do you have any idea why that is? You humans are embarrassed about those features the filifernai don't have, true, but you're also proud of them. You'd be surprised to know how many jokes I've heard, talking about "the sword this" and "the sword that," and then I speak up and offer to duel with their swords, and it's amazing how quickly they shut up.

No? You don't want to know anything more about my life? Very well, then. It's inconvenient not being able to sigh, as well, you know.

Humans have spoken many words to me over the years, but I think the most familiar are, "Shut up, Luden."

What? You told me to shut up.

Very well, then. Temperamental human.

The filifernai took the baby away, and then King Delian woke his wife and told her that Princess Loriel would have been Destined to be a champion of the Light, restoring the Light to the throne of Ilantra, and he'd had to have her taken away.

Do humans never read the histories, or listen to the stories? Do they know nothing of Destiny? You can't get rid of a Destined child by giving her to filifernai and telling them to dump her in the forest. Of course she'll be found and reared by wolves or something, and that's exactly what happened to Princess Loriel. Then she'll just return to claim her throne, and you have the same problem all over again. Much simpler just to kill her.

For some reason, this never occurs to them.

But I happen to know a thing or two about Destiny, and, I have to admit, even I was surprised by the courses it took in this case. No, you can't stop the Destiny of a Light-born Princess by dumping her in the woods. There are wolves, and other things. The Destiny will be there to bring her back to the throne. In some ways, the world is as it has always been.

But this isn't the world as it has always been, either, since all that upset in Orlath and the breaking of the bonds Destiny wove around the world. Nothing is sure, though the worshippers of Destiny and the Light, and even the Dark, like to pretend it is.

This time, when Destiny came back, it found something standing in its way, something it couldn't have anticipated.

A drink? My throat is getting dry.

Yes, I know I don't have a throat. I only wanted ale poured over me for old times' sake. There was a time when I rode at the hip of warriors who were quite glad to treat me as one of them, you know.

Ale would rust the blade? How do you know? Blood doesn't.

You're no fun. I'm not talking to you anymore.