In this chronicle of the early history of Valdemar, Mercedes Lackey's best-selling world, a 13 year-old orphan named Magpie escapes a life of slavery in the gem mines when he is chosen by one of the magical Companion horses of Valdemar to be trained as a Herald. Thrust into the center of a legend in the making, Magpie discovers talents he never knew he had - and witnesses the founding of the great Heralds' Collegium.
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Mags was an orphan and slave of ‘bad blood’ who toiled in a gem mine all his young life. He would have died before adulthood, had he not been Chosen and taken to Haven to be trained in the new Herald Collegium. Now, Mags was never hungry and never cold. He slept in a real bed in his own room and, most importantly, he had Dallen, who was like another part of himself. And yet, aside from Lena and Bear, both loners like he was, he couldn’t relate to most of the trainees.
Mags was a Trainee in the Heraldic Collegium in Haven, Valdemar’s capital city. Though his background of poverty and abuse at Cole Pieters’ gem mine set him apart from most other trainees, nonetheless he had found his own group of friends. Bear, Lena, and Amily were all students whose situations in life set them apart from more usual Trainees. The four of them had found mutual support in their shared misfortunes, and together struggled to help one another find solutions to their individual problems.
Mags, a young Herald trainee in Haven, the capital city of the kingdom of Valdemar, has talents not commonly found in Herald trainees.
Recognizing this, the King's Own Herald decides to train Mags as a spy in order to uncover the secrets of a mysterious new enemy who has taken an interest in Mags himself. Why is the even deeper mystery. The answers can only be found in the most unexpected corners of Mags' past...assuming he can live long enough to find them.
Mags returns to the Collegium, but there are mixed feelings--his included--about him actually remaining there. No one doubts that he is and should be a Herald, but he is afraid that his mere presence is going to incite more danger right in the heart of Valdemar. The heads of the Collegia are afraid that coming back to his known haunt is going to give him less protection than if he went into hiding. Everyone decides that going elsewhere is the solution for now.