The Prince and the Cloudherd

Greg Wilson

For Madeleine, who is taking me on the greatest journey of my life.

Prolog

Consider Cherne. A diamond adrift in the heavens, it measures eight thousand gallops from bow to stern and six thousand from port to starboard. Its single continent is surrounded on all sides by a great ocean whose outer shore, the Worldrim, rises up to cradle that sweet speck of life in the darkness as a child might cup a candle flame.

Cherne’s history began with the Pilots, and nearly ended with them as well. Ageless and powerful, their rule ended in a war that scarred the moon, drove the Jungle of Thind mad, and turned Lake Karaband into a sea of glass. When the war finally ended the Pilots were gone, leaving the humans and Gifted animals who had been their servants and playthings to carry on as best they could.

Now look there, toward the bow, where the Brumoso Mountains rise above the endless squabbles of the Ninety Kingdoms. It is Redsday, the 13th of Peridot, 1272 Years Since. Spring has come, and a girl—no longer a child but not quite yet a woman—is crouched on a cloud, chilled to the bone and desperately hoping that she and her companions aren’t too late…

Chapter 1