The warrior rode cautiously. Black oaks and silvergreen, dark with
summer leaves, swathed the trail in shifting shadow. Shafts of sunlight
speared the forest floor, altered only by the sway of graceful branches
in the heated wind. She directed the mare with her knees, an arrow
nocked in the short recurve bow, a full quiver hanging from her pommel.
A short sword, with a breath of a curve, rested in its scabbard at her
belt, the ornate guard and curling quillon studded with moonstones.
Even this far from the battlefield, the lands of Aldykar lay riddled
with brigands, deserters, and the soldiers hunting them. Yet she wore no
armor, only the leathers of her homeland, tawny jerkin and breeches,
soft-soled boots laced to the knee. Her hair, the red of old blood,
flared in the filtered light, brushing her cheeks. Slanted gray eyes,
pale as winter clouds, scanned the dark recesses of rock and fern in the
hollows beneath the trees. The meeting place lay in a foreign
wilderness, a place not unknown to her for she’d traveled the roadways
and trails between Edriis and Mastrelle before, as maiden and warrior.
Why the old woman chose the woods of Casbonny caused her wonder and
filled her with wariness.
An owl’s solemn voice hooted in the moving shadows. The clearing lay
ahead through columns of black bark, the round glade sunbathed and thick
with fine grass. A young silvergreen grew in its center, branches
filigreed steel in the pool of light. Her grandmother stood before the
tree, arms at her side, gray hair plaited at her back. An odd expression
imprinted her smooth face, a blend of relief, hope, and terrible
resignation. “I am alone, Estriilde,” she said.
Songbirds quipped and called in the trees, offering no warning of
predators. Estriilde relaxed her bowstring and slipped the arrow into
her quiver. A long leg swung over the saddle and she landed lightly at
the edge of sunlight. “We live today, Grandmother,” she offered in
“We live today.” Again the sorrow.
“Why all the trouble to meet at this place?” She left Morning Dove
tethered at the edge of the glade. “I ride to Angefell in eight
The fact she’d received her grandmother’s missive at all seemed a
toss left to chance, though she knew better. The old one glimpsed the
endless arrays of time, how each moment unfolded like a fan with
infinite future possibilities. She traveled them, followed their paths,
tracked the splintering of lives, chose and chose through the moments to
see where they wended and died.
“You know I bear a vision, my little one.”
Little one? Estriilde smiled. They were Edriisan, statuesque compared to
the women of Aldykar, and she stood a hand taller than her grandmother.
“This place is part of a path?”
Clasping her hand, the woman drew her into the light of the glade.
“Every moment is a path. Yet this is the only one that will save you.
The only one I could find. You have died a thousand times.”
Estriilde sighed. “Only today exists.”
“Only now exists, Estriilde. Only now, but I cannot help seeing what I
“What will happen here?” She withdrew from her grandmother’s grasp
and walked the edge of the grass in a slow circle, her right hand
fingering the hilt of her sword.
The old one’s reply laced the air with ice, “The stranger will come
when he hears you scream.”
“Am I to die today?” Estriilde slid the blade free, sunlight
glinting on watery steel.
“It is the only way,” the gray woman whispered.
“You invite me to my own death, Grandmother.” Estriilde gazed at the
forlorn eyes, so like her own. “I will not die easily.”
“You will scream.”
Eyes closed, Estriilde raised her face to the cloudless sky. “Will you
stay to see me fall?”
“I cannot, my child. But I will sing for you when you’re dead.”
The birds stilled, their calls frozen in the thick air. The debris of
the forest floor rustled and snapped beneath the soft thud of
“It comes now?” She cast a sideways glance through a wisp of blood
red hair to find her grandmother gone.
Bearing weapons of war, the riders reined their mounts at the rim of the
glade and slid from their saddles.
Then the screaming began.
Excerpted from "Sunwielder" by D. Wallace Peach. Copyright © 2014 by D. Wallace Peach. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.