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Prologue


They urged their horses on, faster and faster, hooves merely a blur beneath them. They had to stay ahead and maintain a distance. Spurs flashed in the moonlight sending shards of silver into the night, disappearing into the deep forest surrounding them. Four pairs of legs willingly carried their masters with as much speed as they could muster despite the weariness that edged its way into their lean muscles. The riders’ mounts were built for such endurance but even they could not run forever.

A ruthless sounding horn blasted a hole in the quiet night; the valkari were gaining on them. The distance between them was closing at a rate that could not be matched by any human, elf or horse. The lights from welcoming houses glinted in the distance. They were a league out and spurred their horses onward. The horses blew streams of white frosted air into the night with every breath; every step counted here.

They pulled their mounts to a halt having imperceptibly passed all the dimly-lit houses in the town. A dark-cloaked man mounted upon a silver-white horse waited patiently in the middle of the Rathos Firth. His face was not visible behind his hood but without hesitation the child carried in the embrace of a fair-headed elven maiden was placed in his arms. They could only hope to chance, luck and fate that they had chosen true. Without a word the stranger turned his horse into the current and flew upstream away from the elf and the man.

The two remaining riders eyes met and as another horn blasted behind them they urged their horses forward through the foaming water toward the far side. If they could only keep these foul creatures on their trail for a few more leagues – before they finally had to turn and fight. Their horses lurched up the damp earth along the side of the Rathos Firth and charged into the inky night. Hooves struck against the stones and loose soil that covered the ground scattering showers of damp earth into the night. Leagues flew by and the moon passed overhead as the creatures closed the gap. They reached a small clearing surrounded by gnarled oak trees. Reining their horses to a sliding stop at the far side they dismounted and turned loose their weary steeds. They were prepared for battle.

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