1 Prologue

„Sigrian! Sigrian wait!"

„If you're gonna dawdle like this, we're never going to make it back before sunset, and you know far too well what my dad is going to do to us then!" I stopped urging my younger friend for a moment to hop over a tree root poking out of the ground on the path in front of me. My unmanageable hair got in my eyes once again, obscuring the view of the fallen leaves and needles, shining golden in the last sun rays that had no trouble getting to the bottom of the forest through the almost bald trees.

But despite the omen of getting put over the knee, she seemed to be having quite a bit of fun. „But it was your idea to go and find the herd, so you should get the most of it!" she yelled after me, mimicking my little jump as she followed. Even without looking back, I knew she had a wide smile on her face.

„And who was it that didn't give me a moments peace because of 'the beautiful deer she saw in the morning'?!" I wanted to turn around for a second to stick my tongue out at her, but stopped in my tracks.

There was a noise, a rustle too unnatural and too contrasting against the sounds of the forest to be simply caused by the wind playing with the branches. I immediately stopped in the middle of the path, causing a little cloud of dust to raise from it. I looked around. In the shadows of the trees I could barely make out the silhouettes of men. Armed men.

„Sigrian!" judging by the panic in her voice, it was obvious that my friend spotted them as well.

One glance around was enough to realize that I was surrounded. Even so, the first and only thought on my mind was her safety.

„Elithia run!"

„But...!"

„Please listen to me at least this once and run!"

I wasn't able to say anything more. I heard some strange noise behind my back and suddenly, I couldn't breathe. The last thing I heard was Elithia's voice, so heartbreakingly desperate that it pierced my heart with a sharp pain.

„Sigrian!!!"

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