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DEDICATION



To my family. See, the odd ones can turn out okay.


To those who are no longer with us. Keep an eye on them Lord until we meet again.





PROLOGUE


Lightning flashed and thunder rolled. White-barked birch and budding spruce whipped in the wild wind, groaned under the onslaught of frigid rain. Willows rustled in protest as massive trunks popped and groaned. Some fell under the force of the brewing storm. It was winter’s last gasp for control before relinquishing its seasonal reign.

Nothing living moved.

A violent flash of lightning split the night, illuminating a clearing on the side of one of the forested hills. In that instant of light, two men appeared.

Thunder boomed.

The tallest, a blond warrior with brilliant green eyes, lifted his face to the wind. His nostrils flared as he tested the currents. Finding only the scent of wood pitch and damp earth, he relaxed.

“So this is where we came from,” said his bemused companion, a warrior as dark as he was light. “Earth…” He frowned as he took in the naked birch limbs and dead tundra. “No wonder we left. Barren sort of place, isn’t it?”

Fallon laughed. “Their winter ends, Mathin. They have snow and seasons, remember? And not all of us chose to leave.” He studied his companion’s appearance. Mathin had taken well enough to the comfortable denim pants and soft cotton shirts of the locals, but was visibly uncomfortable in the leather jacket that protected him from the dripping spruce boughs. Such heavy clothing was never needed on their world, but it was better than being wet.

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