The original draft of Phoenix Rising included several chapters which were cut, mainly because they slowed our approach to the main action of the book. The downside, in my view, was that we lost a glimpse at how Kyri became the way she was, and other characters' interactions with her before the main events. The only changes I've made to these chapters are titles and names which were changed for the published version.
Kyri smiled at her little sister Urelle as she ran, zig-zag fashion, back and forth across the path, trying to keep ahead of their older brother Rion. At 16, Rion was already nearly as tall as their father's six and a half feet, though much more slender. This gave him longer legs and more speed, but the eight-year-old Urelle was much more nimble.
Still, Rion was also in training for holy warrior, maybe even for the Justiciars if a vacancy opened, and he had all the speed of the Vantage family. His hand lashed out and caught Urelle's collar, lifted her laughing and shrieking into the air. "All right, that's enough, Urelle, you're getting far too excited, little lady. Mother and Father aren't going to want you running around like a wild elemental; it's wayyy past our bedtime."
Urelle giggled. "But—"
It was a lovely night in Evanwyl; no clouds blocked out the stars, and through one of the slight openings in the trees Kyri glimpsed the Balanced Sword, the constellation's eighteen stars bright against the glow of the lesser stars nearby, and the lower two stars of the Five.
"How was practice?" she asked Rion as he joined her, Urelle tucked, still giggling, under his left arm.
"Pretty good. Lythos said that I was almost adequate today!"
"Isn't that how he usually describes Mother and Father?"
He couldn't restrain a proud grin. "Yep. How about you?"
She would have preferred to talk more about his training; swords and duels were much more fun than religious study, and the calm, unperturbable Elven Sho-ka-taida (Master of Combat) rarely paid anyone a compliment above 'not entirely incompetent'. "Almost adequate probably describes it. They've put off the unit on Myrionar's involvement in the greatest recent sagas until next month, and I was so looking forward to that."
"Especially the Wanderer and the Seedling Heroes, I know." Rion grinned. He knew she read all the adventure stories she could find and had driven the local storytellers to distraction years ago.
"Right," she agreed. "So about the only thing that's interesting is the fact that for some reason the following of Myrionar has contracted over the last several hundred years."
Rion's brow wrinkled. "Really? I thought the Balanced Sword was always pretty much an Evanwyl thing. Our patron deity, like the Dragon King and the Sixteen for the State of Elbon and Idinus is for the Empire of the Mountain."
"Oh, no!" she said, glad to have something she knew about the Faith that Rion didn't. "There were major temples in Hell's Edge, Elbon's Watch, even in Zarathanton and all the way to Tor Port in the Empire. About five thousand years ago, the teachers say the Way of the Balanced Sword was big. Maybe not as many followed Myrionar as Terian, Chromaias, or the Great Dragon –"
"—Or the Archmage, since he rules his own country –"
"Of course, but that's kind of cheating, isn't it? I mean, even if you're the most powerful wizard ever, and maybe you're close to or even actually a god, being right there and ruling the country is kind of wrong. The gods generally stick to letting their priests and so on do the work."
Rion chuckled. "Well, Kyri, you're welcome to go to the Mountain someday and tell him that."
"Maybe I will. Father and mother –"
"—Don't want all of us out adventuring like them."
"Now there is another thing that doesn't make sense. If they spent their lives –"
Urelle, still under Rion's arm, interrupted. "Hey, what's that?"
Kyri and Rion followed the smaller girl's extended arm. A red-orange light was dimly visible ahead.
Kyri squinted, pushing her black hair (identical to her sister's, the opposite of her brother's blonde) out of her eyes. "Flickers. Looks like a fire."
"Haven't been any storms." Rion muttered. "And it looks too big to be a campfire at this distance. Besides, why would anyone build a campfire when it's right near –" he broke off and exchanged a wide-eyed glance with Kyri. The two of them took off running. "What? What's wrong?" Urelle demanded.
Rion halted to shift his little sister to his back; Kyri ran on ahead, pelting down the familiar path.
She burst out onto the lawn into terrible bright orange light and screamed.
The Vantage estate was in flames.
Rion dropped Urelle on the grass and started to sprint forward, but Kyri grabbed his arm, was dragged forward. "No, Rion, no! If the fire wards didn't stop it, there's no chance!"
He dragged to a halt unwillingly, staring. "Mother! FATHER!" he screamed. Then, remembering, he scrabbled through his belt pouch, found the small signal wand and gestured skyward. A brilliant blue ball of light streaked up into the air and burst, hanging above them like a cerulean sun.
Kyri found the Balanced Sword and prayed. Please, Myrionar. Please let Father and Mother be safe.
But she knew, as the flames rose higher, that her prayer was too little, too late.