Chapter 1: The Connarii are lost

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In the endless darkness, seen only by the eyes of the gods, a single   form is suspended. A slim, small body, female, yet encased in supple   hide – the form-fitted second skin of a warrior. Weapons are attached at   intervals; a sword and staff slung across her back, knives concealed  at  hip and ankle, whip-like cord wound from shoulder to wrist,  embracing  the muscled arms. Long red-gold hair escapes from its bonds  to curl  around the pale, freckled face. A young sun blooming in the  darkness, as  Connar, god of the life-flame, watches. The face of the  god is  unreadable, but not still. Sadness, pride, anguish, hope, joy,  despair,  love and rage chase across his face like the tides,  continually shifting  and changing; unknowable.

All around the  still, silent form,  others slowly fade into existence. First one, than  another, until the  darkness is filled with a blaze of color; men,  women, and children  arriving to fill the void with suspended life.

Connar  sighs,  gazing across the human constellations, and gestures. The crowd  blinks  out of existence in an instant, and the darkness is complete  once more.

***"What  happened? I demand an answer! Where are we?" Camlin had the biggest  mouth in the Connarii tribe. Consequently, his cries drowned out the  three thousand five hundred and thirty-seven other alarmed voices. Their  owners milled about in sleepy confusion, and a not a few in  embarrassment, as they exchanged inadequate sleepwear for more modest or  functional garb, hunting through the piles of household goods heaped  about in the shifting mists where chests and hooks had been only moments  before.

"Shut your mouth, Camlin." That was Edana,  glaring  daggers beneath blazing hair that refused to be braided back  and tamed.  She would have enjoyed following up with a more pointed  attack –  literally, one hand on a dagger – had she not been so  distracted. The  lingering shreds of a dream unsettled her – something  about darkness,  loneliness...

Her younger sister's voice jolted Edana back to attention.

"Please, Camlin. You needn't add to the confusion."

Aislynn's remonstrance went unheeded as Camlin stormed over to the girls' father Toryn, king of the Connarii.

"Well?" He demanded. "What happened?"

The   old man sighed. Camlin had never been the most tractable member of the   tribe, and what he was about to hear would very likely incite him to  new  levels of youthful belligerence. No way around it though; waking up  to  find the whole world swept out from under you tended to stick in   people's minds, and he'd have to offer some kind of explanation, and   worse, a plan of action, sooner or later.

Better make it sooner.

Toryn   sighed again, feeling worn through and wistful for days gone by. Days   when the Connarii had been strong, their kings majestic and their  people  happy and undoubtedly much, much less difficult. Camlin was  still  trying to stare him down, jaw clenched, hands fisted, his poor  little  brother cowering behind him...

All Toryn wanted to do was  go back  to bed and wake up, oh, say 200 or 300 years ago, when the  Connarii had  presided over rich holdings across the west of the  Islands, before their  wealth and dominion had ebbed to the southernmost  spit of land along  the Cornish coast... and now, even that appeared to  have been stolen. Yes,  better to have ruled in centuries past, rather  than go down in history  as the king who lost it all. Toryn would have  happily gone back to sleep  and never opened his eyes again. Instead, he  held up a hand and tried  for imperious gravity.

"A moment,  Camlin. Aislynn. Edana. With  me." Toryn gestured to his daughters and  moved away from the crowd,  trying to hide his eagerness to get some  distance from the fearful  voices and panicked eyes. Sleepiness was  shifting into subdued alarm as  people tried to work out what, if any,  danger they might be in.

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