PROLOGUE

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First page of epic fantasy, A Question of Power

PROLOGUE

The plaintive hoot of a forest owlet broke the still darkness of the woodland glade, the only sound in an otherwise eerie silence. It was as if the surrounding forest and all its nocturnal inhabitants had suspended their activities, had been hiding quietly, holding tense and motionless, listening for something, perhaps a rustle of a leaf or the snap of a twig, a breath. . .but hearing nothing. It was ominously quiet, unnaturally so, and it should have served as a warning, if anyone had been awake to notice. . .

The remnant curl of smoke from the stone chimney, snaking lazily up into the night sky was the only movement through the heavy mist that hovered like a protective blanket over the thatch and down to the ground. Nestled in the foggy clearing, the small log cabin was in darkness. This deep into the night, the hearth inside contained only embers now. This deep asleep beside it, the small family of three were oblivious, and completely vulnerable to the present danger that stalked them in this remote forest.

With lethal stealth, born of years of practice, movement silent as a cat, the hooded figure slipped from behind one tree to another, circling the cabin, advancing slowly, stopping only briefly at the hoot of the owl. Then again, the dark shape moved like a wraith across the clearing towards it's goal. Followed by another. . .and another, just as ghost-like, just as deadly, two more cloaked figures, daggers glinting in the muted moonlight, converged from the circle of trees, surrounding the cabin. The owl hooted a second time. Still nothing else moved.

Silent fingers lifted the wood-hatch, the dark figure slipping lithely inside, not even the sound of breathing giving the intruder away, though the man fast asleep on his pallet next to the hearth was snoring peacefully. In seconds the door-bar was lifted just as quietly, allowing entry to the others. Once inside, two of them quickly dispatched the man and his wife, in deadly silence, slitting their throats before they even stirred. It seemed as if the couple continued sleeping, mercifully unaware, cradled in pools of their own blood. They still lay on the pallets where they had slept safely every night for the last fifteen years, in the isolated cabin they had built to find a peaceful life, away from the horrors of war, or anyone who might cause them harm. It had been safe... . .up until this night. They had been happy together for the last decade, but longed for a family. All those years they had tried unsuccessfully to have a child, until this year, six months ago, when they had finally been blessed with a babe. Unfortunately, deep in slumber, the Ancient arts long forgotten and secure in their remote cabin, they had not sensed the danger, no glimpse of evil intent. It was just as well. They would not want to know what was about to happen to their child.

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