Chapter 1: Premonition
Vatar stared into the heart of his forge, gauging both the heat of the fire—just right—and the temperature of the piece of steel heating there—not quite ready to be worked on his anvil. He twitched his shoulders against a sudden prickling sensation, the one that always presaged danger.
His heartbeat sped up in reaction. Something bad was about to happen and he had no idea what it might be. Vatar tried to look away from the forge, to look around the yard beyond his workshop and locate the source of danger. It hadn’t been that long ago that his children had been attacked in that very yard. But something about the flames held his eyes. Shapes, moving.
At one time, before he’d known about his inborn magic, he’d seen visions in the fire. Most often of Thekila, the woman who was now his life mate. He knew now that had been Far Sight—that he was actually seeing her across an impossible distance with his magic. At the time he’d thought she was only a daydream.
Now that he had better control of his magic, his Far Sight shouldn’t operate without his intention. Anyway, that itch between his shoulder blades was a weak form of Fore Sight—the least reliable and most useless aspect of his magic. The one Talent he had no control over. Well, not entirely useless. That warning prickle had never been wrong. If it was Fore Sight and if it foretold some danger, as his warning signal indicated, he’d better pay attention.
Vatar leaned a little closer, trying to make some sense of the faint images. Ships. Many ships all heading toward the mouth of a bay. Vatar sucked in a deep breath. He knew that landscape, though he hadn’t seen it from that angle. Those promontories guarded the bay on which Caere rested, unless there was another place almost identical. What did that mean? The itch between his shoulder blades only intensified, portending danger. A naval attack on Caere? From where? And why? Caere was the center of a loose and mutually-beneficial alliance of all the coastal cities—well, except for Kausalya, which had recently broken away from that coalition. But, so far, that had only resulted in trade disruptions, not warfare. Not even a minor clash at sea that he’d heard of.
Then the images shifted and Vatar’s breath caught, edging toward panic. The ships became horses. Hundreds of horses charging across the plains. The riders carried bows and spears at the ready. The Dardani going to war? Against what enemy? The obvious answer to that was the thing he’d most feared. Would the Exiles and their Themyri minions finally slip past the southern defenses? How many battles lay ahead? And how far in the future? How long did they have to prepare? Years? Days? His danger sense usually indicated imminent threat, but it was nearly winter. The last merchant ship of the season had returned to harbor more than a seven-day ago. Even the fishermen wouldn’t brave the waters beyond the bay again until the weather calmed once more late next spring. And snow would soon cover the plains, if it didn’t already. Hardly conditions for a mass battle on horseback. That thought wasn’t as much comfort as it should have been.
He shook his head to clear it as the flames returned to being merely flames and cursed his Fore Sight. Once again, his ‘gift’ had given him insufficient information to be of any use. Other than to give him nightmares. No idea when this might happen. Some of the things his ancestress, Abella, had prophesied had taken six hundred years to come to pass. Somehow, he didn’t think he’d be anywhere near that lucky with this Fore Telling.
Vatar breathed in and out slowly, using the calming exercises he’d learned to gain control of his magic. It was more difficult to bring his emotions under control than it had been for some time. Maybe, partly, because he didn’t understand. A naval attack on Caere could only come from Kausalya, the only unfriendly city on the coast. But he didn’t see any relation between that and the Dardani, who lived three days journey from the sea and had no dealings at all with Kausalya. And, if he couldn’t make sense of his own premonition, how was he supposed to warn anyone?
His fists clenched in frustration and he had to start the breathing exercise over. It wasn’t as if he could force his Fore Sight to supply the missing information. Maybe more would be revealed before whatever these images foretold happened. Maybe not.
He blinked and wiped his sweaty palms on the sides of his trousers. Vatar glanced at the red-hot steel, now ready to be worked. But, maybe, instead of a knife, as he’d intended, he’d make a spearhead. And try to harness that wild Talent that sometimes allowed him to sing power into the blades he forged. Protection for the user. Just in case.