Prologue:

Now it is the time of night

That the graves all gaping wide,

Every one lets forth his sprite,

In the church-way paths to glide:

And we fairies, that do run

By the triple Hecate’s team,

From the presence of the sun,

Following darkness like a dream.

William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

 

 

ERINA’S IRIDESCENT wings fluttered in distress.

The time of the Great Migration was almost upon them. Overhead, the sun turned redder day by day. Soon it would unleash a torrent of heat and radiation that would destroy the ithani, the Heart, and Erro itself.

Ze had foreseen the end of the war years before and had passed zer knowledge on to Thshnel’Jirron, trusting zi to protect them all. But zis plan had gone too far, and soon the ithani would destroy themselves in a bid for immortality.

Only zi would survive, immensely more powerful than now. A virtual vengeful god.

Ze had seen that, too, but it had come to zer far too late.

Each generation of the ithani had a seer, and ze had been born from the Heart with that heavy responsibility upon zer small shoulders. Even a seer didn’t know everything about what was to pass. Only the bits and pieces that were passed on to zer from the athrà. Besides Jirron, no one else knew ze had the gift.

Something, or someone, was coming, ze didn’t know what yet, but ze could feel it in zer bones.

Ze was at a loss for what to do next. Ze let out a whoosh of breath, resigned to waiting. It would come to zer, the vision she needed. When the gods thought it was time.

Until then, ze would keep zer wings low to the ground and do nothing further to draw attention.

 

 

DANI PEERED through the hoversport visor, trying to make out the way ahead through the falling snow.

Flying the hoversport, she and Kadin had crossed over the Riamhwood and into the northern plains without incident, only to run into this abominable blizzard. Gusts of wind sideswiped the little craft, snow flurries cutting her vision down to meters at times. She fought back, holding it as steady as she could.

“Are you sure about this?” Kadin looked a bit green. Used to being out in the fresh air, she supposed.

“This isn’t over. They killed my father.” Truth be told, Danner Black had always been an arrogant bastard. He’d beaten her on three separate occasions as a child.

Blood was blood.

“With the company and the skythane standing arm in arm, we’re screwed—unless we align ourselves with someone else, and quick.”

“Who?”

She grinned. “Whatever lives up here in the north. You didn’t think this planet split itself in half, did you?”

He shook his head. “But whoever—or whatever—did it has to be long dead.”

“What if they’re not? That bitch queen of Gaelan got her wings back from somewhere. That kind of tech’s pretty advanced. What if the old masters of this planet are back?”

Kadin whistled. “Then we should probably run as far as we can away from them.” He took her hand. “Look, why don’t we run away, find a place in the mountains? Let them fight this mess out among themselves?” He touched her cheek. “I don’t care about anything else. I just want to be with you.”

She pushed him away gently. “No, you’re not thinking this through.” She sighed. Kadin had been essential to her plans in Gaelan, but she didn’t love him. Did she? “We’re trapped in a whole different universe, and we don’t know the rules. We’re wanted by almost every human on the planet. What if these… whatever they are. What if they’re stronger than OberCorp? Stronger than those two Split-damned prophesied kings?”

A smile spread across his face. “Then they might welcome allies who know almost everything about OberCorp and the skythane.”

“Exactly.” She grinned. “We have leverage, and maybe we can carve out a little bit of this world all for ourselves, if not the whole fucking thing.” She felt better than she had in weeks. Things were finally starting to go her way. To fly again.

Bright light flooded the interior of the hoversport as the storm clouds lifted. Their destination lay before them. It was a gigantic, snow-covered mountain, fifty kilometers ahead. The landscape all around was a rose-tinted white, reflecting sunlight into her eyes and almost blinding her. “Hera, dim the plas!”

“Yes, Dani,” her PA responded, and the brightness dimmed to an acceptable level.

A thunderous rumbling roared outside the shuttle, loud enough that it shook the tiny craft.

“What the hell is that?” Kadin peered out through the window.

“It sounds like a shuttle engine.”

“But a thousand times stronger. Look!”

Dani followed his gaze.

The mountain itself seemed to glow. The light increased, arriving with a great humming sound that pierced Dani’s ears.

She threw her hands up to cover them, but she couldn’t keep out the sound.

Dani screamed.

Then the light cut off, and the shuttle’s controls went dark. Dani glanced over at Kadin. He was slumped back in his seat. Frantically she tried to get the craft to respond, to level out.

Then it crashed into the snow, and her awareness of the world slammed shut.