Prologue

Hood, the sister city of the capital, was once said to be the most wonderful place in all of Borderland. It stood on the Northeastern peninsula of the continent. Far from the Faery Land on the western border, the people of Hood were safe from the magical creatures and otherwise that lurk in the west. Hood was also a profitable trade city because its proximity to the ports that lined the shore of the Edge Sea. The traders paid a great deal for fey merchandise for there was none in their far, far away land. Most importantly, the male heir of the founding Hood family was legendarily handsome.
The young Duchess of the West Wood province knew all of this but still couldn't bring herself to be content with her arranged engagement to Lord Hood. The carriages that would carry her to her future would arrive the next morn. Therefore that evening was her last at her childhood home. So, she spent it in the little grove as she did often in her younger years. Not that she was to miss the West Wood terribly; she might not miss it at all. She knew her whole life that it was her "duty" to wed to whichever baron, duke, or lord her father chose. She frequently held court in the palace city. Her elder brother was groomed to be the next Grand Duke, but she did mind that so much. According to her nurse, West Wood was much too dangerous a place for a courtly lady, being the closest territory to the Fey Lands and all. That's Duchess' problem with the City of Hood, it was "so very safe" and consequently, it must be so very boring. She assumed here in her little grove, feet dangling off the tiny dock in the pond, was the last time she would ever be in an interesting place. Her mind wondered and whined so that she scarcely noticed the sun was low in the sky and the twilight hour had come.
A trilling noise interrupted her sulking. The sound certainly seemed like the song of a bird but she had never heard a bird sound so….interesting. She turned and looked up into the tree the sound seemed to be coming from. It was speckled with the first buds of spring and on the lowest branch sat a whistling robin that had the most vivid ruby chest the Duchess had ever seen. Without warning, the robin flew down from the tree and exploded into a burst of feathers. The feathers settled and a young man had appeared where the robin should have landed. His spiky hair was the color of the robin's breast and his clothes seemed to be made out of leaves tightly woven together.
The Duchess gaped at her unusual company and the stranger just cocked his head down and smiled arrogantly at her. She blushed and took a moment to register the ears of the stranger which were long and pointed. This handsome stranger was faery. He walked into the trees and beckoned for her to follow. Though she knew how dangerous it was to go into the woods at twilight, she felt powerless whether by magic or curiosity, but to do so. An older her spent years trying to forget that one night, but it was made out to be truly memorable for reasons then one. Wish all she did that night, but the sleepy sun and the Hood regal carriages still came.

In town slightly east of West Wood manor, townspeople gathered to watch the grand parade of carriages that escorted the duchess. One little girl saw the opportunity and snuck an extra serving of her mother's cottage cheese. She scurried out of the town to an outlying copse of peach trees where she kept a wooden tuffet and sat on it while she daydreamed and ate peaches with her mother's curd and whey.
She spotted a ripe peach and stood on her tuffet to reach it. It was plump and golden with sweet flesh. It was perfect and she did not wait to sit back down before she went to take a bite of it. What she saw upon the fuzzy fruit would change her life forever. An itsy-bitsy spider was all. An itsy-bitsy, hairy, many-eyed, sharp-pincher-ed, creepy, crawly, spindling-leg-ed spider magnified to monstrous proportions since it was a finger's width away from the child's face. The girl did as any girl would do, she fled. She fell.

The Duchess had been wrong. Her life in the city of Hood never dulled. Her new husband turned out to be everything she could have ever wanted and the city was filled with surprises. Within a year she bore a son the Duke doted on every second he could. Life was sweet til about five year after the child was born. The city received troubling news, and the small Hood court was sent into a shamble of gossip.
The barer of the news was sturdy woodcutter from the villages on the northern edge of the city. He announced himself as the son of the infamous, blind Oracle of Hood who lived on a withered peak in the Northern Mountains. His mother's prophecy was of a war that would bring Hood to its knees; he told of the opposing leader, who would be of a fearsome race currently treated as slaves or outcasts. The oracle also foresaw that the crime underground of the city would grow to be more powerful then the Duke, but that was already underway and she rarely spoke of things that could no longer be prevented. Besides she knew that the Prince family would have a representative in the Hood court, and it isn't smart to shine light on guilty culprits when there is nothing to be done about their deeds.
"The Oracle of Hood pleads with you to get rid of the laws enslaving and segregating the people and creatures of magic. She says that alone could stop this war before the first Hood is slain," the bronzed woodcutter concluded. The oracle had seen another way, but decided she was too tired to explain and sent her son on his way without this key information.
The Duke had not taken the warning well, "Preposterous, the laws controlling those grotesque creatures are the only things keeping the citizens of Hood and its outlying villages safe." It was clear to all present that would be the last word on the matter of the beasts and the crowded court went up in a roar of applause.

Faraway a quaint group of gypsies that set up camp four days south of Hood, a solemn faire-haired mother and father searched high and low for a curly haired head that would have barely bobbed an arms length off the ground. But, their golden haired daughter, almost five years old, was deep in the surrounding forest. Bright blue eyes found a homely cave that held stout cabin inside which unbeknownst to the child was home of trio of bears. The tiny child took the den as castle made just for her, as many naïve daydreamers would. She caught the scent of piping hot porridge drift for the cabin, and the sensation caused her tummy to grumble about her pang of hunger. She felt perfectly natural stepping into a stranger's house and stealing the food. The fair-haired couple never found her.

Since the day of the woodcutter's arrival, Lord Hood was incessantly bustling. The time he had to spend with his lovely bride and red-headed son was dwindling on none. So the young mother raised the boy, whom she named Robin, with more help from the city and the surrounding forest then her husband. When Robin reached the age of fifteen, the duchess become of ill health and passed within the week, but not before she revealed a secret she refused to take to the grave. The uttered last words still etched on her cold lips left her son too shocked too grieve. The story of the Duchess had ended, but alas this tale was never hers.