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PART ONE:

MACSEN


On this day, a week after the harvest, Macsen dun Mocredd helped Adag the underside hide his crop from the tax collector. This was not considered unusual in those days on Perun.

"Careful, there!" Adag shouted, gripping the rope, his good right leg jammed in a foothold. Macsen slowly lowered the basket, bracing his feet against a wooden post. "Down...down....stop! All right, tie it off!"

"Hold on." Macsen picked up another rope, looping the free end through the wooden ring at the back of his climbers belt. He braced his bare feet against the edge and rappelled down the ancient rocky side of Perun. The open sky was below, the Endless Blue, a handful of clouds in the distance. Anything that fell would plummet until it hit something, or was taken by the Great Storm.

"Come here, boyo." Adag had the lid off the basket. Thirty gray mushrooms were within, the size of a man's fist, their stems dried and shriveled. Adag took one and inhaled the aroma. "Ah, isn't that lovely? Far to nice to waste on a Naurite thief."

"This is the last one?" Macsen asked, shivering a bit. Winter wasn't far off, the wind had a bite to it.

"Aye. Get in there."

Macsen swung himself in feet first, stifling a curse as his elbow bumped against the side. He'd grown six inches in the past year; mossholes that had been easy fits were now tight. Lanky with youth, he was only now starting to fill out with muscle. He had black hair, common on Perun, green eyes that people claimed he got from his mother and a squarish chin from his father. Both died when he was young.

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