At one point during the writing of The Healer’s Choice I was wrestling with some character issues and as a result wrote a short prologue. I ended up not using it (because I’m generally inclined to just jump right in and get the story rolling), although at one point in the book one of the characters does describe his memory of this event. The setting is Forstene City, about ten years before the beginning of the story proper.
Dursten glared at the column of armed men passing in review below—so far below that the sounds of hooves and harness and arms and orders blended in a single muddy music. Beside him on the balcony, his friend Torval shifted from foot to foot.
“Stop fidgeting, will you?”
“I can’t help it; it’s exciting! Don’t you think it’s exciting?”
“I would if we were going with them. I wish we were old enough. I ought to be leading that army, not watching it march out.”
“Don’t you think my uncle will do well in command?”
Dursten shrugged. “He’ll win glory, certainly. But it’s not his place; it’s mine.”
“It is his place; your father made him Lord Marshal.”
“The Celestials made me crown prince.”
A new voice brought the quarrel up short. “That is so, Your Highness.” The boys’ tutor joined them on the balcony and bowed to Dursten. “But they also made you too young to wage this particular war; there is no profit to you in denying or fighting that fact. However . . .”
“What?” That trailing word had pricked Dursten to a sense of expectation.
The tutor pursed his lips, as though a secret were trying to force its way out through them.
Torval, like the wolf on his family crest, was quick to sniff out the possibility of a savory tidbit. “You went up to the tower last night, didn’t you, Master? You saw something in the stars, something for Prince Dursten, didn’t you?”
“I wouldn’t like to say. . . .” He addressed Dursten. “It should really be for your royal father’s own Star Reader to interpret, and His Majesty’s decision—”
Dursten interrupted with a gesture that took in the army in the great courtyard below. “My royal father has other matters—great matters—on his mind. Besides, you’re my Star Reader, aren’t you? And my teacher. And my friend. Aren’t you?”
Indecision played over the tutor’s face. Then his gaze dropped. He was looking at the mourning sash Dursten wore in honor of his mother; Dursten could tell. And he could tell that the man was pitying him, even after all these months.
“Your Highness speaks true,” the tutor said. “And Torval has spoken truly as well—I did see something in the stars for you last night.”
“Your royal house, the Blood of Stennar, is dwindling, its numbers and its strength alike. But you, my prince, are marked for a great destiny: when you come to manhood, you will have the opportunity not only to restore but to surpass the glories of your great ancestors.”
Torval let out a whoop. “You can’t ask better than that, Dursten!”
The tutor nodded vigorously. “Indeed, Highness. So you see, you must stop yearning to ride to this war, and focus on preparing yourself for the deeds that lie ahead. For I have read it in the stars: The greatness of the king’s heir shall be known in every land this side of the sea.”