Kelsey Cafferty has been missing for seven years. To all but her sister Regan, Kelsey is dead. On the night Regan finally accepts her sister's death a man knocks on her front door. The man's strange choice of clothing baffles her, but it is the blue flame upon his cheek that seals her breath: a blue flame that is a twin to the one she bears on her shoulder. The man, Peter Canterville, tells Regan a fantastical tale -- Kelsey is not dead. She is in his world of Daradawn, helping a queen battle a dark mage. Kelsey has sent him for Regan, whose power is needed to defeat their enemy. Regan thinks the man is crazy, but he has their grandmother's locket. Kelsey never went anywhere without it. Accompanied by her friend Ben and his basset hound Maggie, Regan goes with Peter. In Daradawn Regan has no choice but to believe, for magic surrounds her and the small blue flame she thought of as nothing but a birthmark has become much more.
On the dark overhang, Queen's-Commander Kelsey Cafferty stood, head bowed and shoulders shaking, while in the valley below flames leapt, incinerating the mounded dead. Acrid, black smoke billowed upward. She drew her shoulders back and with head held high, stepped into the choking cloud.
With stinging eyes, she watched the myriad, pinhead specks of light and waited. Drawn to her glow of life they came. She cocked her head and strained to hear their ethereal whispers. They spoke of anger, hate of Dirkk and his Ru'taha, but above all else were murmurs of fear for what lay beyond the beckoning white light. In none of the voices did she detect bitterness against her. No, none blamed Kelsey Cafferty for their deaths -- except Kelsey Cafferty. Had she been wrong to attack Dirkk's evil with an army of farmers and merchants emboldened by courage more than experience?
Coughs wracked her body and she stumbled out of the smoke. Shivering, she hugged herself and stared upward at the pale moon. Kayla, it was called here in the Daradawn. Not Luna.
She freed a hand-and-a-half bastard sword from the sheath on her back and saluted the glowing orb. "I honor you, my fallen. May you at last find peace."
Behind her a branch cracked. She whirled. Gripping the sword waist high, her eyes searched the dark.
Three pale nude figures slipped from the shadows into the moon's glow. Each clutched a chain mace. Midnight-black, almond-shaped eyes stared at her from chiseled faces of alabaster perfection. Towering above her six foot of height, they circled first left, then right, and all in total silence. They paused, cocked their heads as if listening and then paced three steps forward in unison.
Kelsey moved with them, her sword held steady. Three of them and any one a match for six warriors more seasoned than herself. Her lips stretched into a tight smile. For once maybe I should have listened to Angus and not slipped away from my royal guards. I'm going to die. Well, so be it. With a defiant scream, she sprang forward and buried her sword up to the jeweled hilt in the chest of the nearest Ru'taha. Its knees buckled. She jerked her sword free, ducked and rolled, feeling the kiss of wind from a passing mace. She leapt to her feet and backed away.
The Ru'taha advanced, trampling over the still-thrashing body of the fallen one. They swung their maces again. Kelsey blocked with her sword. The shock of iron striking steel vibrated up her arm. They swung again and two lengths of chain whipped around her blade. With numbing fingers, she tightened her two-fisted hold, but knew it was useless.
The Ru'taha jerked their maces back. Her sword flew from her nerveless fingers, and she screamed as white-hot fire shot through her right shoulder.
She rolled to the left and came up on one knee. Her chest heaving, her right arm dangling useless, she scrambled to her feet. With a feral grin, she beckoned them toward her.
What would they do if she kicked them in their jewels? One thing for sure, she'd make them cut her to pieces. There would be nothing left of her body to be formed into one of them. No soldier would look into the eyes of a Ru'taha and wonder if what looked back had once been she. "Come on, fight, you refugees from hell!"
The Ru'taha inched forward.