Chapter One

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While ship unfurls its curling sails,

And flies from where long it has lain,

Sun dawning with crimson leaves fiery trails—

Sky burning, clouds aflame.

The sky is red—sailors, be warned!

Ye shall lie like one of the slain!

All of Ireland forever mourned,

The day it saw clouds aflame.

Finding hope without a beacon

While sailing the Scottish Main!

Yet Saint Anne's Cleft is standing firm,

Under the clouds aflame!

"Lynder, what are you lookin' at?"

Alynn McNeil didn't answer. Her heart was swept up in the beauty of the sunrise before her. The heavens of pink and purple were swirled with crimson clouds, and the sun gleamed on the horizon. If she leaned out the window far enough, ignoring the protests of the rotting windowsill, she could see the ocean. It greeted her with each glimmering toss of its waves and sent a cold sea breeze through her hair.

Voices floated on the wind, and Alynn glanced at the road to see three armed men approaching their house. Immediately, she slammed the shutters and barred them.

"What's wrong, Alynn?" the curious voice asked. Alynn turned around to see her seven-year-old brother, Tarin. He was rolling up his bedroll of furs and blankets, but stopped to stare at her with round green eyes.

"Nothin'," Alynn said. "The wind was tryin' to blow out the fireplace!"

Tarin smiled, because he'd seen it happen before.

Alynn glanced around the dingy one-room house. The decaying cupboard groaned with every draft, and the fire lay dying in the crumbling stone fireplace. All of it was a shade of the same brownish-grey color. The only spark of life was Tarin, whose spirit was as vibrant as his tousled red hair. He shoved his bedroll under the rickety bed in the corner and looked up at Alynn.

"Can you play with me, Lynder?" he asked.

Alynn smiled back at him. "I can't. I have to dry the dishes." She picked up the dishpan she'd emptied and set it in the cupboard, praying it wouldn't break the rotting shelf

"If I put the dishes away, then will you play with me?" Tarin begged.

Alynn smiled. "Sure, I will. Just don't hang on the cupboard door like you did last time. You'll break it again."

Tarin took the three bowls Alynn handed him. "Can we go fishin' today?" he begged.

"Now, it's a good idea you have, but we don't—"

Suddenly, someone pounded on the door.

Alynn jumped and grabbed Tarin by the shoulders, pulling him close to her. They both stared breathlessly at the door. "Alynn, what's happenin'?" Tarin asked.

Alynn was about to answer, but the door was beat on again. It sounded as if a battering ram was being thrown against it. Alynn held Tarin even closer to her.

The pounding sounded a third time, and the door fell off its hinges. It crashed to the ground, sending a cloud of dust up from the dirt floor. Alynn and Tarin stared, wide-eyed, at the three burly men who burst into the room.

"Take everythin' but the furniture," the tallest of the men ordered. He snatched the blankets off the rickety bed and threw them into the front yard. "Never mind how ye treat it!"

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