Or, in other words, the Prologue.
(You’ll find it further down.)
The publishing industry seems to have something against prologues and epilogues. However, many bestselling authors, including the top names in their genres, use them. I would say that nothing is black and white, and that sometimes they are not necessary for the story, and some other times they make sense.
As a reader, I usually don’t mind them; when I did, it was often because I didn’t like the book itself. On the other hand, Julia Quinn, one of my favourite romance authors, has gone so far as to write the second epilogue for each novel of her Bridgertons series. Written in the form of short stories, they tell us what happened to the main characters a few years after their first happily-eve-after. It worked, and her readers welcomed them.
They might not be officially popular, but prologues and epilogues are more common than they appear to be, and not only in fiction. What are all these prequels and sequels of Star Wars (1977) if not an endless parade of more or less meaningful prologues and epilogues?
I believe that the prologue/epilogue feature works well in the Legacy. The narrative alternates between the two main characters. The Prologue is Astrid’s chapter; Chapter 27 is Jack’s, and it describes the same event from his perspective. I tweaked the epilogue a bit, turning it into a bonus story, “The Wedding Gift”, which also serves as a bridge between book 1 and 2.
The legacy has two parts, Asanni and Ellida, which correspond not only with Astrid’s inner metamorphose from a reluctant wizardess (asanni) to a blaidd benywaidd and the powerful leader of her clan (ellida), but also with the two settings, both fictitious — Asanni happens in a small town of Rosenthal, and Ellida in Red Cliffs.
At the very end of the Legacy is the glossary of uncommon terms, in case that the readers need additional explanation. The supernatural inhabitants of my world have adopted human languages for their everyday communication, but they also use a number of words from their native tongues: Mál (M), Hen Iaith (HI) and High Akkadian (HA).
Some of the terminology is inspired by real languages, some invented. Among them are these few used in the Prologue:
asanni, pl. asinjur (M)—wizardess, female wizard in Mál (M), the wizard tongue. Asanni and related words are derived from the Old Mál word Asair/Æsair, which means life force, life light, but it also was the name of the territory they once occupied.
blaidd benywaidd (HI)—she-wolf, female wolf, the female counterpart of blaidd. Also, the wolf form of a she-wolf, as opposed to her human form called dynes.
dynes—woman (HI). The human form of a blaidd benywaidd, or she-wolf. Also, her human spirit.
ellida (M)—“the one of the two bloods”, a firstborn daughter of a wizard and she-wolf, or a wizardess and a he-wolf. She is a symbol of the ancient alliance between the two peoples. A powerful force of good, she is the highest-ranking member of her werewolf clan and its ultimate authority.
Tel-Urughs (HA)—the oldest of all Langaer, the descendants of ancient gods, demigods and heroes originated in Mesopotamia. Humans wrongly call them vampires based on Tel-Urughs’ feeding habits.
So, without further ado, I present you the Chapter Zero:
FEAR SWEPT OVER ME LIKE a tide.
Trapped in my wolf body that didn’t know how to fight and was too weak to run, I watched my stepfather’s four mercenaries closing in on Jack and me.
May Jack be safe. I prayed. May Jack be safe.
“No time for prayers!” A different voice inside my head snapped, startling me. The voice of my dynes, my other spirit. “We have to fight them.”
A miracle I didn’t have time to dwell upon.
I growled in approval, the feeling of dread evaporating like mist in the morning sun. My muscles tightened, my mind cleared. Strength replaced weakness, hope overlaid despair. “Tell me what to do,” I said.
“Let me take over!”
I chuckled, despite the grim reality. “The stage is yours, wizardess.”
Sensing something had shifted, Jack, also in his wolf shape, turned to me and paled, taking in my blue, wizard eyes instead of the amber of my wolf’s.
“The asanni has joined the team,” I said in my wizard voice, a tad less deep and husky than that of my wolf.
“No! Astrid, no. Run toward the forest! You must run!” Jack yelled, his voice thick with dread. Not for himself. For me. Jack was a great warrior, but I was his great weakness.
“Forget it, Jack! I’m not leaving you. Where is their weak point? Where should I aim?”
“Astrid, listen! The blond one at the front is the leader; the one on his left is the strongest. I’ll go after them. You try to outrun the other two. You can do that. Run now!”
“No! Where are they weak? Tell me!”
“Oh, God! Neck! Break the neck! And watch out for weapons!”
I murmured a spell in my old wizard tongue and found Jack’s eyes. “Jack, jump and roll over me!”
“Just do it!”
Jack knocked me down. We rolled several times, moving away from our enemy.
When we separated, two identical werewolves stood in front of them.
“What? What’s that? I told you to grab him first!” the leader screeched. “She’s a witch! Look what she did! They both look like him! Which one is she? Take them both! Take them both!”
“The hell you will!” I closed my eyes and cast a spell.
“Moðir Eldær vara hlíf … Moðir Eldær vara hlíf.”
Mother Fire, be my shield.
“Astrid, no! No!” Jack was shouting at the top of his lungs.
My big, powerful body burst into flames, charging toward the enemy with a speed I hadn’t dreamt I possessed.
My first prey dropped on the ground even before I reached him. I jumped over him and followed the other one, who pulled out a knife and bolted toward the woods, faster than a shadow.
Still not fast enough. A few long strides and I was in front of him. Our eyes met. His were filled with fear. Mine, I supposed, with anger.
“Drop the knife. I don’t want to kill you,” I said, but then remembered we couldn’t communicate telepathically. He was a Tel-Urugh, an ancient blood-drinker.
With a flick of his wrist, the knife flew low from his hand, catching a sunbeam on its curved edge, before its tip pierced my leg.
The world compressed into a single particle and I drowned in darkness.