A Prologue Preview

He was fading.
And it was almost a relief.
After so many years of war and unrelenting struggle against the darkness, at long last, he would have no choice but to surrender. But this, at least, would be a peaceful darkness. Or so he hoped.
The murmur of voices surrounding him remained fraught with worry and tension, but he could scarcely feel those any longer. The breach in his spirit bled more than strength—more than the magic that gave him life. Memory and feeling were also fading swiftly.
And that, too, was a relief. The jagged edges of his pain and guilt over Aureann’s death were blunted now. His worry over what would become of the Northwatch was no more than a quiet ache at the back of his mind. And soon, it would be someone else’s problem entirely.
A face bent over him—worried and dark. It was, of course, Miach. King of all Sion Dairach. The king should not be here, lingering over the bed of a dying man.
“What more can we do?”
That was Miach. Always, always, he must fix things, even when they could no longer be fixed.
“His life’s energy is bleeding out, my king,” said the quiet voice of the healer. “The wound is to his spirit, and it weakens him—much as the loss of a soul-bound mate.”
“Those wretched wraiths,” the king murmured bitterly. “What more can they take from us? From me!”
Too much. Always too much. Even a dying man could admit that. The elves of Sion Dairach had been sacrificing their fiercest warriors to this war for a hundred years. And yet, it was never enough to win—only to stem the tide.
At least it was not Miach lying in that bed. That was a grief he could not have borne, not after Aureann.
“Can we not mend the wound somehow?” The king asked desperately.
He should not have bothered with the question. All Dairen elves knew what the loss of a soul-bond did to those who chose it. The bond granted great strength and a depth of connection unimaginable to those who had never experienced it, but it came with a price. The death of one bondmate was nearly always followed by the death of the other.
In his case, the wraiths had torn open that unseen part of him that housed his spirit—a place that only a soul bond could touch.
“What of a soul bond?”
It was as if Miach had heard him, and if he’d had the strength, he would have risen up to cry out against the idea. No soul bond for him. Had Aureann lived, they would have bonded, but now? He could not imagine feeling that for anyone else.
Not to mention that should they bond him to someone and he was unable to recover… Two lives would be spent instead of one.
“There is no guarantee of success,” the healer was arguing. “It has never been tried before, and the risk would be staggering.”
He breathed a sigh of relief. No more lives would be sacrificed for his.
And soon, this war would be over, at least for him.
He wished there were some comfort he could give Miach—his brother in all but name—but what comfort could be had when the wraith-spun night seemed ever closer, ever more overwhelming?
No comfort.
Only the darkness.
Eventually, it would come for them all.