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Chapter One

Beginnings


A long time ago, in a town beside a river, there lived a young boy named Jeremy, and he had red hair. Not like a carrot or an orange, but really the reddest you ever saw. . . red as apple peelings or rose petals, red as cherries in May. Now this might not have mattered much, after all, except for what came of it later, which I am just about to tell you.


On the day it all began, Jeremy would never have guessed that anything unusual was coming. He’d taken the cows down to drink from the river, as he usually did every evening when the sun had gone down a bit. It was a dull job most of the time. Now and then he had to prod one of the cows with a long stick to nudge her back onto the path, but that was all.


The distant shadow of the Cesmean Mountains lay ahead of him, and for a while Jeremy let his mind wander, imagining himself on the back of a wild stallion with a sword in his hand, tracking down and destroying the evil barbarians who were supposed to lurk there. He sighed, so quietly that he barely noticed it himself. There were so many things more exciting in the world than thirsty cows.


That sigh would have earned him a swift kick in the shins if his brother Melech had been with him that day. Melech was seventeen, and he didn’t approve of daydreaming. Jeremy secretly thought it was because his brother was too stupid to imagine anything himself, but he would never have dared to say such a thing out loud. Melech would have smacked him for it.

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