In a plainsman’s tent in the middle of their festival and on the cusp of war, Sarai became the wife of Javrik, whom she had known for half of an afternoon.
In ages gone by, the gods of the mountains had split the earth in two. Now that passage must form a barrier against invaders. Javrik, clan chieftain’s son, has known his wife for only a month when he must defend her. Arman, soldier from a far-off land, finds himself fighting for people he never knew existed. The lives of nomads, raiders, warriors and lovers are changed forever in the shadow of Grandfather Mountain.
The chestnut, uncharacteristically, took a misstep and then another. He had been going on a loose rein, but now he raised his head and Javrik tensed instantly. The sun was long past its zenith, but bright enough. There would be no concealment for any rider who left the woods or the walls, so he pulled up in the shelter of some stones that were still standing and waited, short sword in hand. He carried a bow, the sword and a dagger. Araks had never made armor. He had a fast horse, but that was no defense against an arrow.
He had no defense of any meaningful kind against what he saw emerge from the woods. An Omani cavalry officer in full battle gear rode towards him at a flat-footed walk, and Javrik made a small sign of supplication to his gods because it was like looking at a ghost. They had assumed not one of those men still lived, yet here was one with armor, sword and spear, riding a horse capable of knocking his horse flat and running him over. It was what they were trained to do.
The officer‘s bay charger stopped instantly, perhaps twenty paces from him. Javrik had not even seen the rider signal the horse. The horse wore armor, too, on its most vulnerable spots, gleaming in the sunlight. A single mounted Omani cavalryman was said to be worth three of any other because you could stop them only with a crossbow or a spear, neither of which he had.
“Hola,” Javrik said, using the universal greeting, then switching to Omani, hoping it was good enough. “I have no quarrel with you.”
The officer removed his helmet; he had understood. He was older than Javrik but still young, with dark curly hair and a typical Omani profile—bold features, olive skin. And clean-shaven, which meant he was from a city somewhere.
“Nor I with you,” he said.