For Your Consideration

The Prologues

Gregor

The map in front of him showed the northlands. There, Chasse with its rich mines, and there, Dordheim, higher in the mountains to the northeast, and there, Indigo, commanding the salty coasts, and farther north of Chasse was Fairdheim, promising richer and rarer metals than Chasse could.

And all of them promised Passages to other cities, just as rich, with wines and meats from Losseck, and yew from the little outpost of Kinswood, and gold from Horntop, and spices from the Crossing.

And yet Gregor's father wanted none of it. The man had grown old and weary, and he was no longer the great being that the histories would remember him as.

It didn't matter. His father would come around; Gregor had already assembled this army. And if not, well, Gregor was the eldest, and things would be different as soon as the old man passed away into the ink of history texts and the carved stone of a grave marker.

Gregor enjoyed looking at the map. There was a certain thrill in seeing all that would become his, all that his father had assembled, and imagining this little block of territory annexed to that. It appeased him, just the idea of it, like playing at cartography.

Except that he wasn't just the recorder of another's boundaries; he was the builder of kingdoms, and war was no game. Gregor knew that.

He needed sleep. He called out to his servants, and no one came.

Gregor was annoyed and frustrated at first, but it didn't take long for him to grow suspicious. He was never one to trust the night.

He drew his sword and slid its point carefully between the tent-flaps, parting them.

There stood a little child, hard to see against the dark of the night. And at the boy's feet there were armored boots and legs, one of Gregor's men, lying down.

Gregor looked to the child's face. It had been watching him for so long, saying nothing.

Now its lips slid back and a sharp white animal's grin pierced Gregor to the bone with fear. He tried to lower his sword, to get it between him and it, but not quickly enough.

The monster flew at him, and he fell back against the table.