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Prologue


Impenetrable darkness shrouded the cold caves, and Wendel Volker shivered as the freezing dampness crept into his bones. His persistent cough rattled in his chest. Though he had gone to his bedroll hours ago, his mind refused to quiet. His troubles demanded attention, demanded he find some way to act, some way to set things right. He had thought of little else for days, but no answers were revealed to him, only feelings of guilt, anger, and despair.

Catrin was gone, and he would probably never see her again. For all his strength and devotion, he had failed to protect her, just as he had failed to protect Elsa, and now they were both lost to him. Like a coward, he'd hidden in the cold caves when Catrin had needed him most. He had relied on Benjin to stand in his place. He'd been a fool. Perhaps Elsa had been wrong all those years ago; perhaps she should have chosen Benjin instead.

Balling his hands into fists, Wendel tried to drive the thoughts from his mind, but memories of Catrin would not relent; they flooded him with guilt and remorse.

When he turned his thoughts to his present situation, there was no relief. Catrin had left behind a troubled land. Though he knew she had done the best she could and was immensely proud of her, her actions had not been enough. To achieve peace under these circumstances was more than any individual could accomplish, and Wendel wondered how the Godfist would ever overcome the turmoil threatening to consume them all. General Dempsy's men still held the harbor, and no one could know what they planned to do next. Headmaster Grodin was succumbing to age, and he ruled over those within the Masterhouse only in name. It was Master Edling and his followers who truly held sway, and their stubborn arrogance only exacerbated the problems. By refusing to grant amnesty to the Zjhon soldiers who defected, they had divided the citizens of the Godfist.

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