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A Gift of Stars

A Gift of Stars 

Chapter 1 
A southerly wind blew the dry needles on the yellow cedars sending an eerie moan through the forest. A shiver raced down Lord Sanders Maksiner Persungen’s spine. He spun on his heel, sword ready, knees bent, ready to lunge into combat. But there was nothing behind him except a dense forest, shadows that played tricks on his mind, and more questions. 

At his feet lay three wounded men. Two days into the week and already four good men killed and six too injured to work. Sanders had failed in his responsibility towards them as he had failed his responsibility towards the woodsmen lying in the bloody snow at his feet. 

As a boy, Sanders’ father had told him and his brother stories of their grand mission to save the world from an ancient foe. Sanders had dreamed of magnificent buildings, sword fights and adventures, ancient ruins and glory—not mud, blood, groans of pain, and cold so brutal it made bones brittle.

A crash in the thick forest. Sanders and five of his best guardsmen ran toward the sound, but the snowpack slowed them, and they were too far behind to catch up. The raiders vanished along their secret trails to dugouts and caves, or wherever they went to bend heads together and plot their next attacks.