by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Sun and Moon are both avatars of Heaven, their armies carrying on the eternal war between light and darkness. Night struggles with day, day battles with night, and so it will be until the stars are ashes and the world rusts to silent cold. Their banners are borne into battle by the Rose Knights, but even among the shadow wars and battles in the brilliant light, some Roses transcend what lies around them.
The White Knights were long the most feared of all the martial orders in the Fire Mountains, but few still remember the name or the fate of the Rose Knight who led them so mercilessly for many years. It was during the time when skirmishes between the Armies of the Sun and the Armies of the Moon grew to be more than a battle for people's hearts or the dominion of the sky--when troops pursued each other across forests and wastelands, when kings and princes put their fortunes in legions instead of art, weapons instead of silk.
Marie-Luise Marjan was a child of four points of the compass, sun and snow, mystery and logic, and although she fought, she had no reason to take sides. Her mother's tongue was German, her father spoke a nearly extinct Semitic language. When she was a young girl on a sunny island, tight in the embrace of the ocean and far from the wars of the Rose Knights, she wanted to be a musician, wanted to sing and play the tambour and charm people with rhythm and song, contribute to the joy in the world of light she knew.
But then the Rose Knights brought their war to her peaceful island and took away everything she loved.
They landed at Eastrock Beach, just north of the little harbor where wise-eyed fishing boats spent their nights keeled over on the sand. The knights came in half a dozen longboats, crewed by Northmen held in generation-bond to pay for wars long forgotten. No less cruel than the Rose knights, those crews, but as devoid of honor as a mast tree or a rowing bench.
So while the fine men and women in their surcoats knelt and prayed and made sacrifice to one or the other of the lights of the sky, their grease-bearded crewman sped through the town with torch and sword and spear.
Marie-Luise's mother pushed her into the loft of their harborside cottage. "You will be safe here," she said in her language, but Marie-Luise knew the lie in her mother's voice.