In Book I of the trilogy, Tamras, our hero, arrives in Merin's house to begin her apprenticeship as a warrior, but her small stature causes many, including Tamras herself, to doubt that she will ever become a competent swordswoman. To make matters worse, the Lady Merin assigns her the position of companion, little more than a personal servant, to a woman who came to Merin's house, seemingly out of nowhere, the previous winter, and this stranger wants nothing to do with Tamras.
Tamras's journey begins with the smallest of steps. She sets aside her disappointment and performs as well as she can the humble tasks given her, and eventually she succeeds in winning the trust and then the friendship of the cantankerous warrior to whom she has been assigned ...
All the women of my family had gone to war. My mother’s sisters, older than she, fought in the service of the Lady Abicel in the last war against the northern tribes. Their mother served the Lady’s mother in wars told of in grandmothers’ tales. As far back as our line was remembered, our family and hers stood side by side.
My mother too had served the Lady. Too young to bear arms in the last war, from within the palisade where she trained to take her place among the warriors, she heard the clash of arms and the screams of the dying outside the walls. She witnessed her three sisters carried lifeless from the battleﬁeld, leaving her, the youngest, to be her mother’s heir. By the time she became a warrior, the tribes had made an uneasy peace, a peace that so far remained unbroken.
Now my turn had come. In early springtime, when I was just sixteen, my mother took me to the house where she had won her shield so many years before. The Lady Abicel, long dead, had left her house and lands, along with her authority, to her only daughter, Merin. More than ties of custom, the closest ties of friendship bound my mother and the Lady Merin. Together they trained in the use of arms. Together they were made warriors. They remained shield friends, though my mother took a husband and returned to her mother’s house. As my mother had been bound to the service of the Lady Abicel, so would I be bound to the Lady Merin’s service.
On the day I left home, before I set foot across the threshold, my mother made me a present of new shoes. She put on her oldest pair, her journey shoes that had been from home and back again so many times they knew the way. I had meant to be mindful of my ﬁrst step out the door, but when I turned to leave my little sister with some words of wise advice, I tripped over the stone doorstop and stumbled out into the bright day.
“Dazzle the eye of trouble,” said my mother, to turn bad luck aside. From the place where our footpath joined the road we took a last look back. My mother waved and blew a farewell kiss to my sister standing in the doorway. I waved too, though my thoughts were ﬂying far ahead of me down the road to Merin’s house.
The ﬁrst day of our journey took us through country I knew well. My feet had worn smooth every footpath through the pastures where we grazed our sheep. By midmorning of the second day we had left the world I knew behind. We walked through gentler hills than ours, through meadows bright with new grass where red cattle grazed. We never went hungry or lacked a place to spend the night. As we had cared for travelers who came to our door, so our neighbors cared for us. Every evening we sat by the hearth ﬁre of a stranger. Even after so many years, their faces sometimes come to me in dreams.