Bertrice Small

A Distant Tomorrow

The second book in the World of Hetar series, 2006

For Tom and Megan with love from Ma


VARTAN, LORD OF THE FIACRE and head of the Outlands High Council was dead. Treacherously slain in his own hall by his jealous younger brother, Adon, who coveted the lordship.

“Now I am the ruler over the Fiacre!” Adon boldly declared, his gaze sweeping the hall. “My brother was a weak fool, but I am not.”

Adon’s wife, Elin, smiled by his side, proud to have encouraged her mate to murder.

The lady Bera, mother of the brothers, fell to her knees cradling her firstborn, glassy-eyed with shock as she stared at the blood staining Vartan’s tunic. She began to wail her mourning. But Vartan’s wife, the half-faerie woman, Lara, called silently to her sword. Andraste flew from its place above the great hearth and into her waiting hand. Her fingers closed about the sword’s hilt, and the weapon began to sing in its deep voice a song of death.

“I am Andraste, and I drink the blood of the betrayer and his ilk!”

Adon’s handsome head was immediately severed from his body. Elin’s quickly followed. Each face wore the same stunned look of astonishment as it tumbled to the floor. Greedy and stupid, they had believed a swift surprise attack on Vartan would quell any opposition. For years afterwards the Fiacre would wonder why neither Adon nor Elin had not considered what Lara would do to avenge her mate. To protect their two children.

But on that terrible day, as Bera’s bitter keening filled the air with its deep sorrow, Lara walked from the hall, her blade, dripping blood, still in her hand. Andraste was now singing low of vengeance satisfied. Suddenly all was darkness about her. Lara stopped, able to see nothing but shadows surrounding her. And then she heard Adon’s voice speaking to her from the gloom.

“Do you really believe that by killing me you have stopped it? Hetar will come, no matter. Your children will be enslaved, and the legend of the Outlands, of Vartan and Lara, will be expunged, and cast into the very darkness in which you now stand frozen.”

“I have a destiny,” Lara told the invisible voice.

Adon laughed. “To fulfill it you must leave your children. You must give them up to others, and go. I do not believe you have the courage to do that, Lara, daughter of Swiftsword, widow of Vartan. You have become soft living among the Fiacre. You are no more now than an ordinary mortal.”

She felt a new anger racing through her veins. “I will do whatever I must to protect Vartan’s son and daughter!” she cried.

He laughed again. “We will see,” he said mockingly.

“How typical of you, Adon, to hide yourself from me in this darkness,” Lara said scornfully. But silence greeted her words as the darkness that surrounded her began to fade away. As it did she was filled with deep sadness. Lara realized that her time with the Fiacre was almost over.

Chapter 1

A MAN HAD RUN from the hall crying the terrible news. Lara walked on. The children! She had to get to her children. Dillon, at four, was old enough to know what had happened to his father. The Fiacre would keep his memories of his sire alive. But her year-old daughter, Anoush, would not even remember Vartan. What in the name of the Celestial Actuary had possessed Adon to commit this terrible act? She struggled to remember everything that had happened just a short while ago.

Liam, Vartan’s cousin and best friend, ran up to her. “What has happened?” he asked her, his gaze going to Andraste’s bloody blade.

“Adon killed Vartan,” Lara managed to answer him. “He walked up to him, smiling, his wretched wife at his side. And then without warning or provocation he plunged a dagger into Vartan’s heart. I suspect the tip was poisoned, for Vartan died instantly. When Adon declared himself Lord of the Fiacre, I slew them both where they stood. I must get to the children, Liam! Dillon must not learn of his father’s murder from anyone but me. And you – you must now take the lordship of the Fiacre.”

“That is the Fiacre elders’ decision,” Liam answered her. His father had been given the lordship when Vartan’s father had died many years back. When his father had gone to the Celestial Actuary to settle his debts the elders had offered the lordship to him, but he had refused it in favor of his cousin, Vartan. Liam had not wanted the responsibility of the clan, but he knew now there was no choice.

“You are the logical choice,” Lara said, and then she hurried on. Her children would be with Liam’s wife, Noss. Dillon was best friends with their son, Tearlach. Entering her friend’s house she called to her. “Noss! Where are you?”

Noss, heavy with her second child, appeared. She smiled. “Have you come for Dillon? Sit with me a while, and have some frine. The boys are having such a good time.” Then her eyes grew wide at the sight of Andraste. “What has happened?” She had not seen the sword bloodied since the great Winter War, when she and Lara had fought with their men to take back the lands of the Piaras and the Tormod clans that had been illegally confiscated by the Hetarians. Noss saw how pale Lara was, and she now led her to a seat. “Tell me.”

“Adon murdered Vartan,” Lara said, and then explained to Noss exactly what had happened.

Noss’s hand flew to her mouth to still her cry of horror. How could this have happened? And to Lara? Lara had always been so fortunate, and so filled with magic. Murder did not happen to people like that. “You do not weep,” Noss finally said.

“Ethne weeps for me,” Lara said, raising the crystal up to show Noss. The crystal was dripping tears. “I have no time to weep. I had only a brief time in which to slay Adon and his foolish wife before he would have attacked me and my children. And soon I must leave the Fiacre,” Lara said softly.

“It is time?” Noss whispered.

Lara nodded. “It is time. I am glad I followed my mother’s advice and gave Vartan children. But now I must tell Dillon that his father is dead, and his mother is leaving. Will you and Liam raise my little ones, Noss? This new journey I am about to undertake is not yours. You have found a home, a husband and a good life among the Fiacre. This is your destiny. Mine still awaits me, though I know not what it will be.”

“Of course we will take Dillon and Anoush, but do you not want Bera to have them?” Noss ventured. “She is their grandmother.”

“And they must never forget that,” Lara replied. “But Bera will have to take her other grandson as Elin’s family is dead, and I will not have Vartan’s children raised with his murderer’s son. Cam may be only two and a half, but he is already a sly and spoiled little boy. Bera will have her hands full with him. Dillon caught him pinching Anoush at the Gathering last autumn. My daughter was black-and-blue all over her tiny arms from that little monster.”

“Anoush was just a little baby last autumn,” Noss said indignantly.

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