Prologue Edit

Her mind races, thoughts zipping past her at unimaginable speeds. Maybe it's the heart-stopping din of the alarm preventing her, but she can barely maintain a grip on them. She files through the dustiest corners in her mind, trying her hardest to string her thoughts into something intelligible but can only fabricate a single, choppy phrase.

"This... may be... my last chance..."

She feels a single bead of sweat dripping down her face while a phantom spasm runs throughout her left arm. She pays them no mind. The phrase is all she knows so she repeats it:

"...My last chance."

"What do we do?" A tall, thin man asks from her right, breaking her from her thoughts.

She searches the forest floor, her one good arm rummaging frantically through the underbrush in search of something familiar, the infant strapped against her bosom whimpering and whining. She finds it. A long, manicured stick made of cedar, and stumbles hurried back to her feet.

"They want him, then me, then you," she says immediately. "I'll stay here and give them their silver prize. Maybe they'll give up-"

"They won't, you know-"

"You go and take him. There's no time to argue."

She lifts the infant boy from his strap and cradles him one last time, her listless blues gazing deeply into his youthful azures. "Vvasta levvepseo," she says, coddling him as her hand strokes through a tuft of his light green hair. 'I will always love you,' it translates in Lingua Franca, the common tongue, though to her it means more. She shakes her head with tearful eyes. "Ensure he gets a good life."

The mangled woman turns to the tall man, her eyes fluid and vision obscured, and hands the child off.

"Time, doubt, pity, hesitation, tears. These are just a few of the luxuries we can no longer afford. Such things are marketed highly these days and life is a currency invaluable. But there is hope far off and distant. And when you reach it you'll be safe. Follow the clouds. You're his father, you're his mother now. So take him, Anaxras, and run."

She doesn't offer another word of advice, another article of wisdom. She neglects even to pass a final glimpse though Anaxras understands. She is contemplating the ultimate sacrifice for her son. Her life to assure his. A gift this mother will be able, now, to give twice.

Anaxras swaddles the infant in fine fabrics made of delicate dragon's silk and rarest velvet and hurries away from the rock-clad shore, away from the waves crashing, asking desperately for the beach to return home, away from the mother who will never have the opportunity.

>> Chapter 1

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