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Cover art Chris Taggart.
Edited by Faith Kauwe.
The old warrior turned his face to the rain. He had seen enough death to know his own was upon him.
His name was Ulrane, and his rage had not been enough to see him through one last fight - his son, the last of the line of Sturman kings, had still been taken from him. The boy fought the Thane of Naeth’s men just as hard as his father and though just a boy, he had found blood this day.
Ulrane could only hope the Thane would not use his son badly.
Had Ulrane been a lesser man, he would have despaired. But he was proud of his son and he held onto that pride as death embraced him. These last moments were too precious, these last memories too sweet, to give over to useless tears.
There should have been trumpets. There should have been a year of mourning, but there would be no rites to mark the passing of the line of kings, and none but the Thane would ever know of his son.
Would that my boy could have lived.
But no regrets. A man could not pass Madal’s Gates that way.
Regret was not for kings.
He would take the love of his wife, his father, his only son, and hold them to him like jewels as he passed the Gate. A rich man in love and life; perhaps such treasures could survive death.
But still Ulrane wondered why the Thane's men had stayed their hand.
Maybe there was hope yet, even in this dark hour.
The last gentle patter of rain fell. Hren, the larger of Rythe’s two moons, came out from behind a dark cloud.
‘Tulathia, look over him if you will, grant him swift death if you won’t.’
His final prayer, spoken with his dying breath, hung on the air. And so it was that the king died, with only a solitary moon to bear witness.