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Book of Days
BOOK ONE IN THE CHRONICLES OF TIRALAINN SERIES
Our Price: 5.99 USD

ISBN-10: 1-55404-295-X
ISBN-13: 9781554042951
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Medieval
eBook Length: 325 Pages
Published: September 2005




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Total Readers: 2

From inside the flap

The ordinary and seemingly unrelated lives of Trejaeran Muirel and Qynh Reoder are forever and irrevocably changed when they learn they are brother and sister, twin heirs to the throne of Tiralainn, and the children of a murdered King of Men and Queen of the Elves. By Elfin prophecy, one of them will one day defeat Ciardha, the evil and immortal Queen who now reigns over the realm, and restore the alliance of men and Elves.

The twins have been raised apart and in secret for sixteen years to keep them safe from Ciardha and her dark army of Damantas. When their havens are discovered, their families attacked, Qynh and Trejaeran are rescued from certain death and brought among the rebel forces of the Comhar, an alliance of men and Elves who mean to see the twins fulfill their promised destiny.  While Qynh has witnessed the butchering of her family at the sword points of Ciardha’s soldiers and is more than willing to greet this fortune, her brother Trejaeran is not so eager. His father still lives, abducted by the Damantas, and he would risk his own life--even his very soul--to see his father freed. Trejaeran follows his heart, embarking with a group of Comhar warriors to rescue his father, while Qynh follows the path destiny would seem to dictate for her, riding forth with the Comhar army to wage war against Ciardha.

Along each of these perilous and battle-fraught journeys, as new friends are made, unexpected enemies are discovered, and loves are fostered and broken, the twins must ultimately decide whether their fates are predestined, or determined by their own hearts.



Reviews and Awards

Trejaeran Muirel and Qynhelein Reoder are twin heirs separated and placed in the care of good families when their parents, the king and queen of the realm, die at the hands of a treacherous uncle. The tragedy is orchestrated by Ciardha, an ancient being who has found a way out of her earthbound prison. Building a magically possessed army known as the Damanta, Ciardha begins to take her dark revenge on the world of Tiralainn.

But the twins are far from safe. It is foretold that one of the heirs will defeat Ciardha to restore the Kingdom. Sixteen years later, the Damanta finally succeed in discovering the whereabouts of Trejaeran and Qynh. Their adoptive families are slaughtered. The two narrowly escape. And events begin that will unite dwarves, elves and humans in a fight against Ciardha's dark army.

Sara Reinke is an author to watch. To attempt a fresh telling of the universally recognized story of Middle Earth is a challenge that would give pause to even the most seasoned writer. Yet she pulls it off. I had fun comparing her elves to Tolkien's, the Arthurian hints were a treat, and the experience of walking down a familiar road that kept mutating into something never before seen made me a fan.

The plotting in this book was solid. Reinke's talent for telling a story through dialogue: amazing. Even her narration was better than I would have expected for her level of experience.

Some exceptions?

The use of Gaelic throughout the book was an unusual choice that may make the read difficult for some. It worked for me, though. I appreciated the effort Reinke made.

I also noticed her characters consistently reacted to fear and pain. Overall, this was a great choice. It made both antagonist and protagonist seem more real. But I did sense the author's hand in places. If  I had to put a finger on it, I would say she used the same descriptive words for a number of different characters (eyes flew wide, whimpered, etc). This can be confusing to a reader and often results in the blurring of character identity.

One big criticism. Sara Reinke missed an opportunity to make this book soar. The world of Tiralainn is but a sketch. I understand this was an editorial choice that accomplished two things: it streamlined the book, and it supported the choice to tell her story through dialogue. Yet the emotional impact Reinke could have made and the richness she could have infused into the novel would have been worth the extra struggle. In a work as sweeping in scope as Book of Days, the land deserves to be a main character.

This is the most talented new writer I've come across in some time. With a great editor on her side and some hard work in the problem areas mentioned, Sara Reinke could be formidable.

Clayton Bye, gottawritenetwork.com
copyright ? 2006 Clayton Clifford Bye


Valerie, with Love Romances Reviews rated BOOK OF DAYS 5 out of 5 and said: "Sara Reinke has written a marvelous fantasy of the highest caliber. Rich in imagery and multi-dimensional characters, the reader is drawn into a world of men, elves, dwarfs and magic. Lavishly written, the plot moves along nicely and is both exciting and emotional. Ms. Reinke creates a masterpiece as she describes her characters, the lay of the land, the magic and the villains. The reader will be held captive while reading wondering which of the twins will be the final catalyst to thwart the plans of the villainess, and the reader will be kept in suspense until the very end. Ms. Reinke has put a lot of emotion into her story and the reader will be crying and cheering with the characters. This reviewer spent a very pleasant afternoon reading this book and will look forward to more from the flourishing pen of Sara Reinke."

And author Sheri L. McGathy, whose works include The Elfen Gold series ("The Season of Gold" and "The Season of Silver" ) has called BOOK OF DAYS a "wonderful read... The fantasy realm of Tiralainn is brought to life with vivid, enchanting clarity. One to savor."

    


THE CHRONICLES OF TIRALAINN - Sara Reinke
A composite review of the seven novels and two short stories that make up series.
Double Dragon - www.double-dragon-ebooks.com  - www.double-dragon-publishing.com
Fantasy

BOOK OF DAYS, Book 1
ISBN: 1-55404-295-X
October 2005

Kingdom of Tiralainn -- 1728 of the Third Age.

A great iniquity has occurred in Belgaeran, the capital of Tiralainn. The elf queen's half-brother, Lahnduren, has murdered her husband, the human King Herdranges, and usurped the throne. The queen is also presumed dead, but her maid managed to smuggle the twin heirs from the Royal Palace at Belgaeran. Dagarron Atreile, cousin of the murdered king, hid the two heirs until the time came that they might reclaim their birthright.

Lahnduren is more than a murderer for, unknown until much later, he had restored the evil witch Ciardha to human form in the dead queen's body. Ciardha had spent centuries imprisoned by the dwarves, or Abhacans, in the cursed waters called duchan far beneath the Barren Mountains. Anyone who drinks the thick black ichors of the duchan, like Lahnduren and his followers, is damned.

After her family is murdered, Qynhelein Reoder discovers she was adopted and that she and her twin brother, Trejaeran, are the rightful heirs to Tiralainn. To claim the throne, they must destroy the powerful witch Ciardha who holds the country in her evil grasp, and Ciardha will use magic to destroy anyone who threatens her position -- or make them her willing tools by forcing them to drink duchan.

BOOK OF SHADOWS, Parts 1 and 2
Short stories free at  - www.sarareinke.com/reinke_freestories.html

Kingdom of Tiralainn -- 1733 of the Third Age

Part 1:  Elf Rhyden Fabhcun goes on a courier’s mission for King Kierken of Tiralainn. His first stop is at Trejaeran’s farm where things are dismal. Trejaeran is hated by the local townsfolk as a witch, his powers having grown in scope since the Shadow War in BOOK OF DAYS, but neither Rhyden nor Trejaeran can save Trejaeran's father.

Part 2:  Elf Iasal Gabhlan must save his half-human daughter from a rapist. Gifted with the sight, he dreams this same dream repeatedly. He served Queen Qynhelein, her brother Trejaeran, and her husband King Kierkin in the Shadow War, but he knows Ciardha’s Book of Shadows has been found, bringing more war. Foresight has shown him he will die before the coming year, and will not live long enough to protect his young daughter Isbaenna from the fate he dreams.

BOOK OF THIEVES - Book 2
ISBN: 1-55404-396-4/978-1-55404-396-5
October 2006

Kingdom of Tiralainn -- 1748 of the Third Age

Kaevir Macleod, an impoverished nobleman; his older brother Eabhiros, and their friend, Eisean Fabhmeir, supplement their meager income as highwaymen. When the two minor noblemen’s presence is formally requested by His and Her Majesty, the King and Queen of Tiralainn, Kierken and Qynhelein Mailp, to attend a masked ball at the Royal Palace in Belgaeran, the three thieves see it as a rare opportunity to make their fortune.

Isbaenna Gabhlan falls in love with Kaevir Macleod, but it turns out she is being deceived, and Kaevir himself is having dreams of being chosen by a stone -- a beautiful, polished black orb that promises him the power of the wind.

Despite Rhyden Fabhcun’s promise to Trejaeran, the Book of Shadows was not destroyed. King Kierken has possession of the book with the plans to use it for good purposes. It holds secrets about the Shadow Stone, and with enemies searching for that evil piece of magic, the kingdom of Tiralainn is once more in abject danger. Only now, Elves have lost their telepathic abilities, stripped from them by Trejaeran at the same time Rhyden gave his promise to destroy the Book of Shadows. If anyone gains possession of both the book and the stone, the devastating times of Ciardha will return.

BOOK OF DRAGONS, Book 3 - Volume 1
ISBN: 1-55404-401-4
ISBN: 978-1-55404-401-6
November 2006

BOOK OF DRAGONS, Book 3 - Volume 2
ISBN: 1-55404-411-1
ISBN: 978-1-55404-411-5
December 2006

BOOK OF DRAGONS, Book 3 - Volume 3
ISBN: 1-55404-425-1
ISBN: 978-1-55404-425-2
February 2007

BOOK OF DRAGONS, Book 3 - Volume 4
ISBN: 1-55404-439-1
ISBN: 978-1-55404-439-9
April 2007

BOOK OF DRAGONS,  Book 3 - Volume 5
ISBN-10: 1-55404-459-6
ISBN-13: 978-1-55404-459-7
June 2007

All take place in Realm of Ulus in the Torachan Empire - 1748 of the Third Age

The five volumes of BOOK OF DRAGONS is a continuing story, each picking up where the last left off. Volume One starts at the end of BOOK OF THIEVES when elf Rhyden Fabhcun leaves Tiralainn because of his consuming love for Queen Qynhelein. While considered a hero in Tiralainn, Rhyden wants to avoid temptation and the possibility of dishonoring his good friend, King Kierken. To escape the situation, Rhyden sails across the Muir Fuar Sea for Cneas to resume his duties as the Crown Ambassador to the Empire of Torachan, representing Tiralainn and Tirurnua, the independent Abhacan state. However, some of the crew of the sailing vessel a’Maorga under the command of Rhyden’s friend, Captain Aedhir Fainne, hate elves, any elf, including the hero Rhyden. Their superstition turns dangerous after a sea storm breaks the main mast of the a’Maorga and the company barely makes it to the dangerous city of Capua, where men are often kidnapped and sold as slaves. There, Rhyden will once more clash with legend and destiny.

Legend tells that thousands of years ago the Kagan Borjigidal was Lord of the Dragons and the Ulus Empire. He rode the most beautiful and fabled gold dragon, Ag'iamon. Borjigidal grew old and feeble, giving evil a chance to flourish. Borjigidal had two sons, the half brothers Dobun and Duua. To insure her son Duua inherited the throne, Qatun Mongoljin poisoned Ag’iamon. She knew Ag’iamon would leave the royal city of Kharhorin to die. She sent Dobun to follow the dragon into the Khar Mountains. While he was gone, Borjigidal died and, by the deceit of dressing Duua as Dobun, the blind and sick Borjigidal misidentified Duua as Dobun, took his favorite son’s hand and declared this one inherits everything. But the dragon Ag’iamon lived long enough to tell Dobun that his father had died and his brother Duua had robbed him of the throne. However, Mongoljin had destroyed the trust and love between men and dragons, so Ag’iamon called all the dragons to him. He promised Dobun that Duua would lose his empire and that, one day, a true heir to be called the Negh would find the hidden lair where the dragons slept through time would and restore the empire. The Negh would be known by a birthmark of the seven stars upon his chest. Legend further told that a golden falcon from the west would come to help the Negh find the dragon lair. What no one suspected was the arrival of an elf with golden hair named Rhyden Fabhcun (falcon) who could read the old runes left by the Abhacan, the vanished ancient race believed to have sealed the doors to the dragon’s lair.

Temuchin and his mother, Aigiarn, were Oirat, descendents of Dobun, a people hated by the Khahl. Kagan Targutai who is a descendent of Duua and his mother, Yisun Goyaljin, rule Ulus and the Khahl. The once great dragon empire is now a part of the Torachan Empire. The Khahl believe a slightly different Negh legend, one that says Dobun killed the dragon Ag’iamon and that Duua’s heir would bring the dragons back to Ulus and restore the empire. Both Temuchin and Targutai bear the sacred seven stars on their chests, and both boys believe themselves to be the promised Negh. One, however, lives a lie. His supporters will use any means, fair or foul, to ensure he enters the dragon’s lair first -- even to conjuring Mongoljin back to life. Both boys will reach the ancient Abhacan city of Heese, but the dragons will belong to only one.

BOOK OF DAYS, the two short stories included in BOOK OF SHADOWS and BOOK OF THIEVES all take place in Tiralainn. However, all of the volumes in BOOK OF DRAGONS take place in the realm of Ulus in the Torachan Empire. I’ve given short enticements for the first four stories because the endings are conclusive; whereas each volume of BOOK OF DRAGONS ends with a cliffhanger leading to the next volume. These are not easy books to read. There are multitudinous characters and locations, which are sometimes hard to follow. A map would have been helpful. Also, foreign languages are used in all. I believe one language, that of the elves, might be Gaelic, but couldn't identify that of the Ulusians. It didn’t matter. Each instance was quickly translated.

Don’t give up. The chronicles is a fantastic, rich fantasy world in an enthralling series, and I hope author Sara Reinke has more planned. I really desire to find out more about the Second Shadow War, which is only alluded to, and I want to know more about the story of Kierken and Qynhelein, King and Queen of Tiralainn. Part of the pleasure of this series is watching Ms. Reinke develop as a superb storyteller.

You cannot start this series with just any volume; there is too much history, too many names, and too many references to preceding volumes. While you might start with the Volume One of BOOK OF DRAGONS and understand the story’s action, I highly recommend you start with BOOK OF DAYS for fullest enjoyment of the Chronicles of Tiralainn. BOOK OF DAYS and BOOK OF THIEVES both revolve around different main characters, but both are ensemble stories involving important secondary characters' stories and how they mesh in with the main character's story. The secondary character to pay special attention to is Rhyden Fabhcun, who takes part in each book. Indeed, he turns out to be the chronicles' most important single character, and a marvelous character he is. Captain Aedhir Fainne plays a large part in BOOK OF DRAGONS, along with his son and daughter. Of course, the two Ulusian Neghs and their mothers’ stories are also extremely important.

All the stories in this series are full of suspense, danger, love, and the gathering of friends and allies, some loyal, some treacherous. Every story contains plenty of action and magic, both good and evil. All lead to the ending, a volume that holds intense emotional satisfaction that is not necessarily a happy ever after. It is a rich epic where a location or custom evokes familiarity to our world, but this world is a unique creation. Well done!

Robin Lee

Romance Reviews Today

 

 



Book of Days (Excerpt)


Prologue

The year 1712 of the Third Age

"I have failed you," Dagarron Atreile whispered. He pressed the rim of a pewter cup to his lips and tossed his head back, feeling brimague run down his throat with dim heat.

It had taken three days for the news to reach the small haven of Mehnine. When it had, it had spread like wildfire in dried witchgrass, as grim tidings so often do in quiet hamlets and close-knit communities. Dagarron had heard tell of it by lunchtime; murmurs that King Herdranges had been butchered, his royal counsels and guard massacred, his throne stolen by the brother of his Elfin Queen. Herdranges’s infant children, the twin heirs to his crown, had been slain and his wife, Queen Lythaniele, had thrown herself from one of the castle towers.

"I have failed you all," Dagarron said. He sat along the crowded bar of Mehnine’s solitary, cramped pub, the Fortune’s Folly. He had spent the grand majority of his day there with a cup in his hands and a grief so profound that it weighed like iron upon his heart. At the sound of a small voice crying out in startled fear behind him, he glanced over his shoulder, drawn from his sorrow.

"What are you doing here, Elf?" he heard a man say loudly, followed by a sharp, distinctive slapping sound and another frightened, tremulous cry.

Dagarron had observed a young Gaeilge boy stealing into the pub several moments earlier. No more than eleven or twelve to judge by his diminutive stature, the wide-eyed lad had exhibited a level of curiosity uncharacteristic of Elves, and boldness at entering a tavern filled with drunken menfolk that demonstrated a higher degree of innocent naivet? than good sense. Dagarron had recognized him as a Donnag?crann, a sect of Gaeilge Elves who called the dense and sprawling forests of Tirnag?crann to the south of Mehnine their home. He could have warned the boy that the tavern on that night in particular was no place for Elves. The air within the Fortune’s Folly was thick with heated and venomous conversations directed against the usurper king, at Lahnduren’s new regime, and against Elves in general.

A burly man standing nearly twice as tall as the little Elf had spied him creeping among the crowd and had seized him roughly by the hair. A large group of men, all too filled with portar and brimague to reason with coherence or clarity, had gathered about, their lips twisted into menacing and wicked sneers. Dagarron pivoted in his seat, letting his hips slide toward the edge of the stool, his boot soles drop to the floor.

"Le... le do thoil... ni dteannan sibh!" the boy whimpered, his eyes enormous with fright, shining in the glow of lanterns with sudden tears. Please do not!

"Speak the popular speech, cub," the man snapped, and again, he slapped the boy’s face. "This is Mehnine you trespass in -- a village of menfolk!"

"We do not speak your bastard Elf tongue here!" cried another, stepping forward, his fingers closing into purposeful fists. "Hold him still. Let me teach him how to speak in the company of men."

"Leave him alone," Dagarron said, walking slowly toward them, fixing his gaze on the man holding the boy’s hair. "Let the boy go."

There was not a man in Mehnine who did not know Dagarron by face and name, if not by reputation. As he passed, he heard the crowd of men whisper sharply together, scuttling away from him uncertainly.

"He is an Elf!" the man holding the boy shouted to Dagarron. "Elves murdered our king -- your blood kin, Dagarron!"

"He is a child," Dagarron said, his brows drawing together, his voice measured but stern. "Lahnduren killed Herdranges. This boy did not. Let him go."

"Le do thoil!" the boy whimpered again. Please!

"Shut your mouth, whelp!" the man yelled, raising his hand again. The boy cowered, his hands dancing helplessly toward his face in frightened anticipation of the blow.

Dagarron moved swiftly, closing his fingers against the man’s thick wrist. He rotated the man’s thumb away from his shoulder, forcing his arm to hyperextend at an abrupt and agonizing angle. The man yowled in startled pain, his fingertips slipping free of the boy’s hair as he struggled against Dagarron’s immobilizing grip. The boy scuttled against the wall, crumpling to his knees, shrinking into the corner.

The man balled his hand to punch Dagarron, and Dagarron wrenched his wrist all the further. The man cried out sharply, stumbling, falling to his knees. "Let... let go of me!" he bellowed. "Sweet Mother! Turn me loose!"

"If you touch the boy again, you will answer to me," Dagarron said. He swept the gathering of angry men with his gaze. "If any of you move to harm the Elf, you will need to pass me to do it."

He thrust the man’s wrist away from him and stepped toward the boy, his gaze sharp and wary. "Go back to your portars," Dagarron told the men. "All of you now. Go back to your portars and let this boy pass."

He turned toward the boy, and genuflected before him. The boy shied further into the corner, his green eyes enormous, his tears spilling unabated.

"Le... le do thoil," he whimpered. "Le do thoil... ni... ni gorteann tu agam!" Please do not hurt me.

"Ta se maith," Dagarron said to him gently. It is alright. "Ni eagliann tu, a?leaid. Ni gortoidh me agat. Ta tu slan anois." Do not be frightened. I will not hurt you. You are safe now.

The boy blinked at him, startled by his address in Gaeilgen, a language most menfolk in the realm did not speak with any fluency. Dagarron reached for the young Elf and he flinched, drawing his shoulder toward his cheek; his breath caught in his throat in a frightened gasp. Dagarron could see the dim shadow of bruises forming along the line of his cheek where the man had struck him, and his heart ached for the boy. The child had only been curious, meaning no harm when he had entered the pub. Dagarron wondered if menfolk would ever seem less than malicious and cruel again in his frightened and impressionable regard.

"Ta se maith," he said again. It is alright. "Ta ainm mo Dagarron. Cen t?ainm ata ort?" My name is Dagarron. What is yours?

"Kierken," the boy whispered. "Ta... ta ainm mo Kierken."

"Ta tu diot a Donnag?crann, Kierken?" Dagarron asked him gently, drawing an uncertain nod from the boy. You are of the Donnag?crann? "Carb as daoine eile? Do teaghlach? Do cairde?" Where are the others? Your family? Your friends?

"Ni... ni ta a fhios," Kierken whispered, stricken. I do not know.

"Ni eagliann tu," Dagarron said. Do not be frightened. "Ta me a?cara. Cuideoidh me feann iad." I am a friend. I will help find them.

He slipped his hand against the back of Kierken’s head and when he drew the young Elf against his shoulder, Kierken did not resist. He trembled against Dagarron, his breath ragged and fluttering as he struggled to control his tears.

"Dtagann tu anois, a?leaid," Dagarron murmured, turning his face toward the top of the boy’s head. Come now, lad. Dagarron rose to his feet, and the boy stood with him, shied closely against Dagarron’s side, his fingers clutching at his doublet.

"Kierken?" Dagarron heard someone call out over the din of the tavern. At the voice, the beckon, the boy raised his head, his eyes flown wide. Dagarron followed the sound and saw four adult Donnag?crann Elves wading through the crowd, their expressions alarmed.

"Kierken!" one exclaimed, catching sight of the boy. Kierken ducked from beneath the protective shelter of Dagarron’s arm and ran toward the older Elf.

"Athair!" he cried, rushing against the Donnag?crann, letting him enfold him in his arms. Father!

The group of Donnag?crann moved to leave, drawing the boy protectively among them. The men within the tavern still felt antagonistic and angry, and closed their ranks around the Elves, surrounding them slowly and blocking their avenue of exit from the pub.

"Stand aside and let us pass," one of the Elves said to the men. He was tall, with long, flaxen hair, nearly white in hue. His eyes were a translucent and icy shade of blue. His expression was less than amused, and the slight furrow between his brows deepened when none of the men made effort to step out of the way. "Stand aside and let us pass," he said again, coolly.

"Or what, Gaeilge?" one of the men said, smirking at him.

The Elf arched his eyebrow sharply. "Or I will move you," he replied.

"Hoah, now--" the man exclaimed, curling his fingers against his palms and stepping toward the Donnag?crann.

"Let them pass," Dagarron said, catching him by the shoulder with his hand, staying his advance. "The Donnag?crann are not our enemies. They have done their part to observe the peace. Let them take their leave."

"Alright, what in the bloody wide Bith is going on here?" yelled Ambrose, the barkeep and owner of the Fortune’s Folly. He was an enormous man, built like a plow-ox: small head, broad shoulders, barrel-chested. He waded into the throng bearing a stout wooden club and the gathering of men immediately broadened in circumference around the Elves.

"I run a respectable establishment!" Ambrose bellowed. "If you seek a fracas, then seek it outside, the rotted lot of you!"

One by one, the men turned away from Dagarron and the Elves, muttering to one another and sparing scathing glowers as they slinked off to reclaim mugs of ale and cups of brimague. Within moments, conversation resumed, rising once more in volume and from somewhere, someone began to blare out a fresh tune on a fiddle.

Ambrose turned to regard the Donnag?crann, his brows narrowed. "This is neither the night nor the place to be for Elves," he told them. He nodded his chin toward the tavern entrance. "Get hence, all of you. I do not do business with Donnag?crann."

"That is fair, as we neither seek it nor want it," the flaxen-haired Elf replied.

Ambrose clapped a heavy hand against Dagarron’s shoulder and steered him toward the bar as the Donnag?crann took their leave. "I am surprised to have found you in the middle of that ruckus, Dagarron," he remarked.

"I do not abide by those who would frighten and hurt children in the name of my cousin’s honor," Dagarron said. He sighed wearily, his expression mournful. "I doubt that boy will ever trust menfolk again, Ambrose."

Ambrose shook his head. "Poor little lamb," he remarked of the boy, Kierken. "That was right decent of you, Dagarron." He kept his arm against Dagarron’s shoulder, guiding him aside, past the bar and toward the rear exit of the pub.

"What are you doing?" Dagarron asked.

"I thought you should know there is a woman out back near the stables asking for you."

"I am in no need of a woman tonight," Dagarron said. "Only more brimague, Ambrose."

"She says it is an urgent matter," the barkeep said.

Dagarron frowned. "I do not keep urgent matters with women."

"I think you will keep this, my friend," Ambrose said in a low voice. "She says she has business with you. Says it has to do with the Queen."

Dagarron found her sitting on some hay piled just inside the doorway of the stables, a young woman in an olive-colored riding cloak that was at least two sizes too large for her diminutive frame. She held the reins of a stout pony laden with a large wicker creel strapped to its saddle.

The woman started at the rustle of Dagarron’s bootheels in gravel and hay outside the stable and hopped quickly to her feet. She jerked a small ballock knife from beneath the folds of her cloak and thrust it toward him.

Dagarron chuckled at her fierceness, which apparently did not endear him to her in the slightest. "What do you want?" she snapped, shoving the tip of the dagger at him.
"I am Dagarron Atreile. You told the barkeep you wished to speak with me."
She lowered the hood of her cloak and narrowed her brows, peering closely at him. Her frown deepened as she took into account his scruffy appearance: his unkempt beard, the dark circles beneath his eyes, the gauntness in his cheeks born of too much grief and liquor and not enough food or sleep.

"You are Dagarron?" she exclaimed at length, in disbelief.

"I am," he replied with a nod. "You must pardon my appearance, my lady. I was not expecting any callers this evening."

She stared at him and he knew she doubted his word. But then her pony gave a snuffling noise, and he heard the soft mewling of kittens from somewhere, perhaps a new litter born in the straw of the barn loft, and the tip of her dagger lowered.
"I am Wyndetta Graegan," she said as she tucked the blade back into her belt sheath. "Queen Lythaniele sent me to find you."

"Then she’s alive?" he whispered, his eyes wide, his heart seized with sudden, tremulous hope. "Tell me she lives. Tell me she escaped the palace somehow."

Wyndetta’s stern expression grew soft and saddened. "Lahnduren locked us in her tower chamber together," she whispered. "After he had murdered the King. She helped me escape, but she did not follow. I do not think she could. She begged me to find you."

Dagarron lowered his face to the ground. He had been told Lythaniele had thrown herself from the window of one of the palace towers. "If Lythaniele is dead, I do not understand," he said. "Why she send you to find me?"

The soft whimpering of kittens came again and Wyndetta moved around to the side of her pony. She unfastened the buckles of the creel and lifted the lid. He watched her reach inside and pull out a small, wrapped bundle. As she cradled it in her arms, the bundle began to wiggle and the mewing Dagarron had mistaken for the cries of newborn kittens came once more.

Wyndetta turned to him. With gentle fingers, she moved aside the folds of swaddling and he saw a baby, a small and delicate creature, with eyes as blue as a calm lake on a windless morning peeking out from the wrappings. He gasped audibly, and Wyndetta smiled. "Here," she said and before he could protest, she deposited the infant in his arms. She turned and produced a second swaddling-bound baby from inside the creel.

Dagarron stared down at the child he held stiffly against the crook of his elbow. The baby stared up at him in return, its little arms and legs wiggling beneath the swaddling clothes. A thin line of silvery drool slipped out of its mouth and trailed down its chin as the baby squealed suddenly, happily.

"That is Isgaan, Herdranges and Lythaniele’s firstborn, their son," said Wyndetta, smiling as she nodded toward the infant in his arms. "And this one is Isgaara, their daughter."
"The twins," Dagarron whispered. He looked in breathless amazement at the squirming prince in his arms.

"The rightful heirs to the throne of Tiralainn," she said. "This is why my Lady sent me to find you, Dagarron."