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Prologue: Four Years Ago

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Author's Note: This is an exclusive excerpt for Wattpad readers.


As dawn began to approach, the celebration finally wound to a close. Even though I had been working for over twelve hours, I felt wide awake and even a little buzzed, like I'd gotten a contact high from the energy around me, not to mention the thrill of completing my first real assignment as a tracker. 

Since my graduation was still several months away, I hadn't been given any major detail or heady responsibility. My duties for the night involved standing at attention during the formalities, and surveying the rooms for signs of trouble the rest of the night, which mostly meant directing the increasingly inebriated party guests to the bathroom. 

But still, I had been here, working alongside other trackers and even the more elite Högdragen— the guards charged with protecting the Kanin kingdom. That's why at the end of the night, despite the growing ache in my bare feet, I was a little saddened to be relieved of my duties. 

King Evert and Queen Mina had opened the doors to all the Kanin in our capital of Doldastam, and there were over ten thousand of us living here. With that many people streaming in through the doors for an impromptu party, the royal couple needed all the hands they could get, including trackers- in-training. 

We'd just gotten word a few days before that another tribe, the Trylle, had defeated our shared enemy, the Vittra. For the past few months, our King and Queen had been quietly preparing the Kanin. If the Vittra taken out the Trylle, we would have the next logical target, since we were wealthier and more powerful than the Trylle. We were too strong and plentiful for the Vittra go after first, but once he conquered the Trylle and turned their army to Vittra, they would be strong enough to go after us. 

But when the Trylle did away with the Vittra King and his entire army, they did away with our impending war as well. So naturally our good King Evert found reason to celebrate, which was how I'd ended up working a party until the early hours of the morning. 

By now the King and Queen had retired to their chambers for the evening, and nearly all of the guests had gone home. A handful of trackers and Högdragen stayed on to oversee the party until everyone had departed, while the cleaning crew had begun the unenviable task of taking care of the mess. 

Since so few people were left, I was relieved of my duty and sent home for the night. I felt a bit like Cinderella then, her lovely coach turning back into a pumpkin, as I walked slowly into the front hall. Though I had been wearing the trackers' formal uniform— a tailored, frosty white suit, all crisp and new since this was the first time I'd worn it— instead of a gown given to me by a fairy godmother, at the end of the night my uniform would be put away, and I wouldn't perform any more duties until after I graduated. 

Once I did graduate, I'd be given a silver sash to hold my sword, but until then they didn't quite trust me with a weapon, not that I'd really needed one for a celebration like this anyway. 

As I made my way toward the front door, unbuttoning my jacket and letting it fall loose, I let out a heavy sigh. Many of the kerosene lamps had gone out, leaving the large entrance glowing dimly. The white banners that decorated the high stone walls of the palace had begun to sag, and silver confetti carpeted the cool floor. 

The creak of a heavy door closing gave me pause, because it sounded like the door to my father's office. I glanced down the narrow corridor off the main hall, and sure enough, I saw my dad emerging from his office. His black hair— which he normally kept smoothed back— had become slightly disheveled, and his tie was loosened, with the top buttons of his shirt undone. 

"What are you doing?" I asked in surprise. "I thought you went home hours ago." 

"I had some paperwork I needed to finish up." He gestured to the office behind him as he walked slowly toward me, suppressing a yawn as he did. 

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