(This book directly follows the events of Avenari. You can find that story in my profile.I strongly suggest that you don't read this until you've read that, since, well, you know...spoilers and whatnot. Anyway, the same rating and same warnings carry over from the last book to this one. Lemonade and violence.)

(A/N: This one isn't nearly as refined as Avenari was, since I'm not actually done writing it. Please let me know if you catch any errors/typos/anachronisms.)


Ambri-Qis: Prologue

Buried deep within impassable, snow-capped mountains was a crack in the stone just barely large enough for a thin human to pass through. Inside were winding caves which snaked like arteries throughout the largest mountain in the cluster, leading to various chambers and dark crevasses. The wind howled outside, but within the mountain it was silent, save for the drip of water or crumbling of stone.

The main chamber was the only one with light, cast by a thousand beeswax candles flickering from alcoves in the granite walls. Various artifacts and trinkets littered the stone floor, most left untouched for years, and some worn from decades of use. At the center of this chamber stood a large, ancient olive tree, gnarled with age and worn smooth in patches, with leaves and fruit the color of blood, and roots which sank deep into the earth like the tentacles of some frozen beast.

That place was known only to one being, one who had found it by accident and decided to make his home there.

He had planted the tree thousands of years ago, but it quickly began to die without sunlight. To save it, he had shared his own immortality, and given the tree its deep crimson color. In return, the tree became a silent companion, the only one to witness his years and listen to his thoughts.

When lonely, he told it stories of his childhood, of how he had once been the son of a tribe leader in a land not so far from the mountain. He missed his mother because she had been a sweet, loving person. He missed his father because he had been strong and just to their people. He spoke of hunting and playing with other children, and growing to be a man. A bride had been chosen for him, and he spoke of pleasure and confusion.

But then he had changed, had become something different from his own people, his own family.

The tree listened, and made no reply, but it knew his pain. It understood, for they shared a bond of blood, and the blood allowed knowledge to pass between them.

Home had ceased to exist, and he had been forced to abandon all the things he had loved. He was alone for the first time in his life, and he did not know why. There had been no other option but to travel continuously, searching for answers to questions he did not know to ask.

When hunger came, there was no food his body would accept. He spoke of other tribes who had called him a monster, and he spoke of the blood.

A piece of him had known that the scent he craved was not flesh, but the blood of animals did not suffice, and humans left him just as hungry. It seemed that nothing could satisfy the burning in his veins. The pain pushed him to the edge of madness. There was a voice in his blood, an angry, demanding presence that seemed as confused as he was with the incessant hunger.

Then came the other ones—the ones who seemed to share his monstrous appetite.

However, he was much stronger, and he had learned quickly that these other monsters were something else, and that they were his prey. He had at last discovered how to sate his hunger, but the brief spells of clarity afterwards only made his loneliness more acute. He was a monster among monsters, and now the tree was his only companion.

After many years, he became restless and left the cave for a brief journey. Upon his return he spoke of hunters who had been fascinated by him. They had tortured him, thinking that his resilience would prove useful in testing weapons for the smaller monsters. He had slaughtered them to survive, beginning a deep grudge that would span thousands of years.

He had cried in the tree's arms, demanding to know why his one friend had betrayed him.

The tree could not answer, but accepted his tears. It knew that he was still a child, that immortality would not give him wisdom if he did not experience the world.

He came and went often after that, determined to know more about the monsters he seemed to surpass. Upon every return, he told the olive tree what he had seen, of the hidden forest where there were so many weaker ones, of the name by which they called themselves: Shimaren.

And he was a Nariuvne, a creature immune to the sun they so feared.

They would not take him at first, yet he would later decline a seat on their council. They came to hate him, but none were powerful enough to stop him from leaving with their secrets. They hunted him, but he knew how to hide.

Determined to discover more, to learn more, he went out into the world and traveled across mountains and oceans, learning languages and reading scrolls, or simply visiting the humans who seemed to have that spark of brilliance. He spoke with people whose names would remain in the annals of history for all time. He decided that there should be nothing to keep him from knowing everything about the workings of this world upon which he had been cursed to live.

Only once did he return from a journey with no story to tell, and the tree let him sit quietly, accepting his silence and unwillingness to discuss it.

After millennia of travel, he discovered that the hunters, had begun to move. They were making pacts with clans of humans who possessed aberrant powers. He knew that they would eventually come after him.

He struck first and killed the humans, following the lines of power until only one clan remained, until only one child remained.

And he could go no further.

He returned to the tree and ranted in confusion, perturbed by his lack of willpower. How could his nerve fail so easily? Why did her tears make his heart ache? She was a human child and nothing more, so why? Why did he want to stay when her very existence could ruin him? What made her so special when so many millions of others had meant nothing to him at all?

The tree wondered, as well. The tree hoped, for his sake, that this would mark a change.

It had. That little girl changed everything.

II