Prologue

The old Bard groaned as he settled onto a hand woven rug before the crackling fire of the town's tavern. He was well known to this village, having been born there seventy some odd years ago, and he always made an effort to return home for the winter. Outside, the harsh winds blew snow so thick that not even beast-kin eyes could see through it.

Before him, the entire village sat and leaned against the walls and bar, waiting patiently and quietly for him to start his tale. They had heard all of his stories, and yet never seemed to tire of them. He smiled at his grandchildren and their children and their children, gathered in their own corner towards the back of the tavern. It was a sign of respect toward the village, letting everyone else get front seats to their kin.

The tavern owner handed him a clay mug of homemade mead. Bowing his head in thanks, the old Bard took a sip, wetting his tongue before sitting up straight. The atmosphere changed as he opened his mouth to speak. One could feel the anticipation like a mantel as it settled over your shoulders. "When I was a young lad, much younger than many of you, the royal family was slaughtered by Conrį½¶ Fearghal's mercenary army.

"But by some miracle of the Old Gods, one member of the royal family survived. Princess Alera Niall-Raghnaid, blessed by both Hawka the God of Beasts and Kylawa the Goddess of Healing, was secreted away by her mother's people when they found her still alive in the tunnels beneath the royal castle.

"For ten years, she trained to be both a fighter and leader, but eight years into that training, an assassin, sent by the Pretender himself, scared the left side of her face, giving her distinctive marks and looks that she would then use to her advantage. The assassin was the first man that she killed.

"A mere two years later, our lost and scarred Princess, a woman who I will never forget as long as I live, decided it was time to regain her throne." The old man paused to sip his mead, enjoying the flavor. He had never found mead in his travels that could compare to this tavern's.

"Now," he began again, setting the clay mug down, "there is more than one side to every story and Crowned Prince Alister plays an important role in our tale. Remember that this is not a happy tale with a happy ending; both of these fine young people had to sacrifice much to save the land they love. Their stories became one the day that our lost Princess began raiding the wagon's that Prince Alister was sent to guard."