PROLOGUE

1

Once, there were more of us.

Once we roamed the skies unfettered, masters of the four winds. We chased the sun and devoured the moon, sprinkled across the heavens like fierce, relentless stars. That was our right and our destiny, and none could survive our bright-eyed devastation.

We were splendor and smoky death. We were dr?kon.

Our home was the raw, misted mountains, and then a castle, built with hands and claws and laboring hearts; frosted white, wreathed with sky, it rose into a snow-crystal reflection of our might. We had no need of Others. We had no need to conquer. Already we ruled every realm of true worth.

Clouds pillowed our slumber. Stones sang us ballads from deep within the earth, begged us to gather them in our fists and keep them close. We pressed diamonds into the walls of our castle. We dined on plates of jasper and drank from goblets of quartz. Copper and gold graced our hair, warmer and more lovely than sunlight after storm.

And at night, in the sparkling dark, we would fly.

But such glories cannot long go unnoticed by the lesser beings. The Others looked up and envied us our castle and our wings. They swarmed our forests and mountains, determined to steal what was ours. Base and coarse and made of mud, they possessed one single, terrible weapon that we did not: ambition.

They burned the trees. They scorched the fields. They riddled our bodies with arrows.

And we fell apart.

Our once was taken from us, and we split into two peoples: those who remained in the castle, and those who fled for safer skies.

For generations, we who remained suffered the fate of those who choose to survive at any cost.

For generations we plotted, learning to blend in with the Others, using our wealth and Gifts to devise a new method of devouring the enemy: that of slow, inexorable seduction.

We became them. We walked among them. We wrapped ourselves in their scents, their habits, their small lives. When they invoked a human word for our mountains-Carpathians-we adapted again and whispered to the wind a name for our castle-Zaharen Yce-and then ourselves.

The Zaharen.

We pretended to be of mud instead of stars. We pretended not to fly.

And the people below us pretended to believe.

In this fashion, over time, we began to prosper. We unearthed new diamonds for the walls of our castle. We discovered new ways to bend the Others to our needs. Eventually they even accepted us as the dread leaders our blood and our hearts demanded we be; we commanded their armies and reclaimed our lands.

We made towns and mines and the finest of vineyards. We became my lord, my prince, beloved grace. Once again we shone with copper and gold.

And all was lush and good, until the loss of the dreamer’s diamond. Until the loss of Draumr.

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