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This is a work of fiction. Names, places, businesses, characters and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, actual events or locales is purely coincidental.

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CHAPTER ONE


The man in black ran through the forest. Blood trickled between his fingers where they clamped over the wound in his arm, sword dangling from his hand, near useless. His breath sounded loud in his ears as he ran on, lungs laboring, legs heavy as millstones, rage burning hot in his gut.

He wanted to turn. To fight the cowards pursuing him. But alone and wounded as he was, he knew he could not prevail against so many. Even so, he would do it. Were it not for his quest.

His quest. He could not fail, could not turn aside. The fate of the world depended on him alone.

Something roared past overhead. The man in black ducked reflexively, though it was high above the trees. His foot caught on a protruding root and he fell, rolling down a short, sharp slope to the dry bed of a brook. Biting back a shout of pain at the insult to his wound, he gathered his strength to rise and run again, listening intently for sounds of his enemies.

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