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Ashes of Dearen

Sands of Hanubi



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PREFACE



The horses were saddled, the bags packed. Arken’s most trusted servants waited at the Forest Gate to open it as soon as he gave them the signal.

But he should have given the signal fifteen minutes ago.

His plan had been to leave before sunset. Now the sun sank below the horizon, scattering hues of pink and orange across the sky and stretching shadows over the stones of the castle. Arken knew how quickly night fell in Krondolee. Soon enough, the walls and towers of the great fortress would swallow the ground in darkness. Arken did not fear the night. He only feared what tonight brought with it.

When darkness closed around the castle this evening, it would fail to envelop the Grand Courtyard. Hundreds of glittering candles would chase away the creeping shadows. A thick ring of torches would blaze around the fortress walls, burning with the sweet chinder bark of the Darzian jungles, said to be enchanted by the goddess Demetral herself. The lovely wood released a scent like a garden of roses and jasmine when burned, and the light it gave off would flicker slightly with all the colors of the rainbow. This celestial light would bathe the entire courtyard with its luminescence, as well as the large multitude of people standing within it. But most of all, it would illuminate a path of bleached white pebbles, which would seem to glow under the moonlight. And nothing would look so magnificent as those who would walk down the path, glittering with jewels and fine fabrics—and soon, maybe crowns.

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