Prologue

Braewyn followed Rohanna through the colourful crowds, always watching for anything that even hinted at danger for her friend. It was the annual Gathering in which everyone in their city and the surrounding area came to lend their power to the Guardian spell. Rohanna was the one who every year absorbed the collective power from all the people and renewed the spell. The Guardian spell kept bandits, invading armies and other such trouble at bay. Thanks to Rohanna, Epis was one of the safest places in the world.

Though capable of performing the spell, Braewyn never cast it. She preferred guarding the Guardian, keeping her best friend safe. Having never seen her use the powers Rohanna used so freely many in the city wondered who was stronger, much to the two girls' amusement.

"Do you have enough power? Because if you need more…"

"I'm fine, Brae. You're such a mother hen you know."

"I'm just worried Hanna. I can't help feeling like this puts you in danger every year."

"Our people need a Guardian. As long as they need me I will serve them."

Braewyn sighed. "They may need you but very few of them appreciate you or understand how much responsibility and strain this spell puts you under. You heard that guy at the last council meeting. 'Having a Guardian gives too much power to one person. This creates inequality.' It's complete bullshit."

Rohanna just laughed, causing the golden waves of her hair to sway and shine in the flickering light of the many torches and bonfires set up to aid the stars in lighting up the night. "People always need something to complain about. It's in their nature." With a wicked grin she added. "You complain about me being in danger."

Flushing Brae muttered. "Just so long as they don't do more then complain I don't care."

"Come on now. No need to be so sour. This is supposed to be a Festival. Let's go!"

Braewyn followed the bright pink dress Rohanna was wearing through the multi-coloured multitudes. Her best friend was moving fast enough that Brae was forced to run to keep up. With her own purple dress swirling and flapping about her legs as she ran, she caused quite a stir, for those of a more conservative nature thought such behaviour unseemly in a young woman. Finally Brae caught Rohanna, who'd stopped at the garden on the hill, her favourite place and the place she cast the Guardian spell every year.

Rohanna actually glowed slightly from the collective energy she'd gathered from all the people present. She glanced over at Braewyn and grinned. Brae smiled back but the smile soon fled her face as she saw the creeping shadows gathering about the edge of the garden.

"Hanna, something bad's going on. Whatever happens keep the spell going. If you keep all that energy in for too long…"

"Then you must promise me that if something should ever happen to me, you'll become the Guardian of our people."

"Hanna I won't let anything happen to you. Not now not ever. You're the sister of my soul."

"As you are mine Brae. But you must also remember our people." Without another word, Rohanna began casting the spell.

From the surrounding foliage armed men burst out, weapons drawn. "No!" Braewyn cried, throwing up a wall of flames to protect Rohanna.

"If you want her you'll have to kill me first." She hissed drawing her rapier and stepping back into her fighting stance.

Several of the men rushed her, hacking at her neck and chest. Braewyn dodged out of the way in a swirl of amethyst skirts and lunged forward, stabbing one of the men in the back.

"Brae!" Rohanna called out afraid for the girl who was her only family despite their lack of common blood.

"Keep going. I won't let them hurt you!"

In the next few minutes two more men were dead and Braewyn had acquired a deep scratch along her right arm. After dispatching another man, Brae looked to Rohanna. Her friend had her arms stretched up towards the sky and was just shouting the four closing words to the spell. "Mlayt! Chos! Nirb! Duphex!"

The final word had only just left her lips when an arrow raced through the protective flames and struck her squarely in the chest, throwing her body backwards.

"Rohanna!" Braewyn screeched racing to her fallen friend, running straight through the fire wall as she went. The arrow was in halfway to its fletchings and blood had already stained much of the front of Rohanna's dress red.

"Brae," Rohanna whispered, blood trickling out of her mouth as she fought against the pain and darkness to speak. "You must become the new Guardian."

"No! Hanna our people planned this. Some of the men I fought are from the city. They helped kill you." Braewyn cried, tears trickling down her face as she fought back sobs.

"They still need a Guardian."

"Let them find it out for themselves. I won't Guard a populace that doesn't want to be Guarded." Braewyn said, tears now resembling a waterfall in miniature on her face as she held Rohanna's hand.

"You need to release the hatred sister. You must Guard our people out of love."

"They are our people no longer. They've rejected us. Until they want us again, I will leave."

"Love, Brae, not hate. You…must…" Rohanna never finished that sentence as she coughed violently, blood coming up with every convulsion as Braewyn fought to hold her still. Finally her body went limp and the light in her purple eyes went out forever.

Braewyn threw back her head and keened her sorrow to the world, causing those nearby to cover their ears in an effort to block out the piercing cry. Brae only stopped wailing when the light of dawn touched her face, glittering off the tears that seemed to have frozen there. As if the cries had been fuelling it, the fire wall died as well, allowing the attackers to approach hesitantly, weapons at the ready. Seeing them, Braewyn jumped up and screamed, wings bursting from her back, spreading out and shining in the morning sunlight.

"You! You people murdered her. Rohanna gave everything she had for you. She protected you and loved you and in return you killed her." Tears of rage joined those of sorrow on her pallid cheeks as she continued. "You killed your Guardian and have now doomed this city. This time next year there will be no one to renew the spell and all those people who've always wanted a piece of Epis will have their chance. I renounce you. You are no longer my people and I will never become you Guardian. With Rohanna you killed Epis."

Braewyn's words were heard throughout the city, amplified by her rage-fuelled magic. Those who'd had nothing to do with Rohanna's murder cried out in horror as those who had began to have second thoughts but it was too late. Brae had gathered Hanna's body and was already airborne, flying away from the city that had been her and Rohanna's home for the past twenty years.