Disclaimer: None of the characters you recognize belong to me. Kristen Britain can – with justifiable pride – call them hers. I've just taken them out to play, free of charge, and only temporarily, at that. If KB wants any of the characters or plot ideas expressed here (for some strange reason), she's welcome to them, as they wouldn't exist without the world she created. Anyone else has to ask before they borrow one of the OCs.

As for why I'm posting this story when I thought I wasn't going to... blame LdyDarkStr. It's all her fault. I'm just hoping that the formatting uploads correctly.

Timeline: The main body of this story picks up a few weeks after High King's Tomb. There are spoilers for all three books, so consider yourself fairly warned. The prologue is several years prior to the books.

A Rider's Heritage

by: Sirius7

Prologue:

Stevic came into his daughter's bedroom to find his Kariny keeping silent watch. It wasn't the first time, nor did he think it would be the last, but there was something odd in her stance now. This watch of hers… was something more than a worrying mother. He'd stood similar watches, but not like this.

"They were too close this time, Stevic. Far too close." Her voice was soft to avoid waking their child, and he followed suit with his reply.

"But they didn't succeed, beloved. You saw to that. They've never been able to get past you, and Marcus and Aria are every bit as dedicated to keeping her safe. You know that." Moving closer to his wife, the former pirate – turned merchant – reached out to hold her to him. That his voice was quiet had not lessened its certainty, and he saw that she had perceived it… but that she was not so certain.

"It will not be long, dear heart, before I can no longer protect our Little One. I've called Sevraen. We'll weave a spell about her, to protect her… to hide her from everyone, including herself, until she is able to see to her own defense. It's the only way, Stevic. As much as I wish I could be here to see her grow and wed… I know that I will not. I've seen it. The spell will activate with my death."

"Kariny, don't do this. Don't make this a certainty when it isn't. I won't let it be. I am not supposed to outlive you. She has to have someone guide her who knows the ways of magic and the power that she holds; gods know, that isn't me. If you've hidden her away, who will teach her to use the strength she has to defend herself? Who will teach her if you're gone, Kariny?" His words were pleading, desperate, and he knew that the look in his eyes was no less so. He could not begin to imagine a life without her; his mind was set against even trying.

Her eyes – those eyes that were also their daughter's – met his, already grieving. "I cannot change what I see, Stevic, but do not think that I will make it easy for them, that I will take a deliberate misstep… do not think it. The future is not yet written, and these are shadows only… but they are shadows that I must plan against, for our daughter's safety. If I fall and these protections are in place, then she will be safe. If I do not fall, the spell will not activate, I will teach her myself as she grows, and she will still be safe. But if I fall, and have not taken these precautions, then our daughter, our hope, will follow soon after, and that is unacceptable to me. Beloved, I cannot leave her unprotected."

Stevic, not having the words needed to persuade her away from this course – and not being able to fault her logic – just held her tighter, tucking her head under his chin. Hoping his love would be enough to ward off the shadows that haunted her, he pressed a gentle kiss to his wife's hair and breathed in the scent, memorizing anew everything that made her Kariny.

Several months later

She felt the shadow of death come near, and looked at the one she knew would be the end of her. With a smile that would have warned off anyone else, Kariny joined the battle whole-heartedly, knowing that no matter the end, her daughter would be safe.

"I had not thought treason to be in your nature, Nephew."