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Chapter I


When I woke and found the room around me finally completely white, without the slightest tint of red, nothing even remotely pink, I got up and walked out and hoped never to enter the room again. I’d been in bed for weeks, and spent my time staring at the ceiling, dreaming, and daydreaming. None of it had been pleasant: not the endless waiting, not the dreams that were always the same nightmare — my little four year old feet cold on the stone corridor, the passageway dark and clammy and unfriendly, and up ahead in the welcoming light my uncle and my mother standing together, in their nightclothes, smiling at me. Then my uncle would call out to me: neffe, nephew.

It had taken weeks for my eyes to clear. The dark lord, my uncle, had burned red into my eyes, all three of them, when he had killed Marga, the mother of my best (and only) friend.

Once I had been just another sixteen year old, although I can’t say I had a normal childhood – instead of school, I had a tutor, and my parents locked me up in my room to study for long periods of time. The only good thing back then was the time I spent with my blademaster, swinging a staff, and with his wife, Ana, a witch who had taken care of me when I was little. Then I was sixteen, and Giancarlo, the blademaster, had let me pick out a wooden sword. And I’d picked a magical sword, and then everything had gone crazy. First my sword sang to me, making me do this crazy dance, which helped me beat my blademaster in a sparring match. Then later trying to concentrate in my locked room I formed a gateway instead, and pulled Kara, a kriek princess, out through a hole in the wall.

Kara had been at my bedside almost every day, and my face got warm, thinking about her. We had escaped the castle with the help of Kalle, another kriek, escaped narrowly from a powerful wizard, Gerard, escaped only to be attacked by giant wild boars, keiler, talking beasts who stood on their hind legs when they wished and who served the dark lord. And they had called me herr, or master. And in the battle against them I had killed, for the first time.

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