Excerpt of the Prologue
The gods obviously had lost their minds! Otherwise, such a disaster would never have happened to the twins Kaja and Liana. It objected to every law of nature! Nevertheless, on this fateful spring morning fifteen summers ago, indescribable misfortune came over the two, although they were considered bearers of good fortune from birth.
Kaja would never understand why, of all people, Liana suffered such a fate. Her sister had always been the sunshine of the family. She herself, however, had a lot of nonsense in her head and preferred to stray through the streets of their hometown, Donn, with the other kids to play adult pranks. A carefree seven-summer-old she floated through her life, grounded only by Liana. In return, she always scattered the worries of her sister and protected her from the unpleasant sides of the outside world.
On this terrible day Kaja longed to shield her sister, as always. Panic threatened to overwhelm her and she almost choked with fear, but she fought relentlessly against her mother, Namea, whose arms prevented her from moving. She had to get to Liana and convince the crude footmen of the Earl to take her instead of her twin sister! Liana didn’t deserve such a lot, and Kaja knew it was her job to prevent it!
Hidden in the bedroom closet, Namea held her little girl with the iron grip of terror. Ice-cold fear for her daughters took her breath away; tears blurred her vision, and everything in her screamed to fight for her children.
But now she could only protect one of her daughters – if the rough men of the Earl discovered that she has another one, they would snatch the precious little girl that remained to her too. Even though the thought was unbearable, Namea had no choice but to give Liana up for now. Guilt throbbed inside her – she would never forgive herself!
Her little Kaja reared up in her arms again and fought her own battle. If only she could silence the girl – she couldn’t bear to think what would happen if a sound escaped her! Nemea’s heart was racing as if it would explode at any moment. Fear widened her eyes and awoke unimagined powers in her, with which she clutched her daughter desperately, as if Kaja were the only thing of value in this world.
Excerpt of the First Chapter
(15 years later)
Before the midday heat sent Donn’s residents retreating to their homes, she was almost sold out and Kaja hummed to herself as she packed up the leftover goods. Just as she stowed the last honey jars, she discovered two stalls further, in front of Salina the tailor, a tall man with pitch-black, wild hair standing on end. He was barefoot, and wore dark suede pants and a fur bag over the shoulder. A wood wanderer!
Kaja knew she’d better look away – her father had ingrained it in her thoroughly. “Never speak to a wood wanderer!” he had always warned. “Do not look to them and keep your distance! They are dangerous!”
However, she couldn’t pull her gaze away from the stranger. Dangerous? Might be. But fascinating! And besides, she couldn’t leave Salina alone with one of the dangerous forest dwellers! Now he turned his head to her and held midway in the movement. She wouldn’t be deterred! Defiantly, she lifted her chin, took a few steps toward him and held his gaze. Were those gold spots in his deep brown eyes? His mouth twisted into a grin. His teeth were not in the least black and putrid, as it was always said!
She had almost reached him, as a tumult arose.
“A wood wanderer!” someone yelled. “Arrest him!” and, “Guards!”
The savage looked around. Before him was the market stand on his left, and from the middle of the market guards came through the crowd. The only possible way led past Kaja. He gave her an appraising look and sprinted in her direction. In passing by he touched her arm and a huge energy shock flashed through her. If the sky hadn’t been clear and free of clouds, she would have sworn she’d been struck by lightning! By the gods, how was that possible?
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