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Hern is the third child, and the most ardent, of Closti the Clam. When the king's army comes through his village on their way to war with the Heathens, he desperately wants to be chosen to go along, but he is judged not big enough, and is left behind. In fact his father makes him swear on the statue of The One, their senior hearth god, that he will not try to join the army and will stay behind with his siblings, which Hern does very reluctantly. His sister Tanaqui has overheard him praying to The One, asking that he be made fit to join the army, and to see to it that he would grow up to free the land from Heathens. She finds this odd, because Hern doesn't seem to believe in the Undying.

When his older brother Gull comes back from the army after the death of their father there, Hern becomes the man of the family, and does his best to keep them all safe. Things quickly become almost more than any of them can manage, however. They even meet a small band of the Heathen, including the young heir to the Earldom, Kars Adon. Despite the fact that this is the enemy, and the family is essentially in their power, something about Kars Adon affects Hern tremendously, and vice versa. They speak to one another honestly and without guile, and each goes away from the encounter strongly moved.

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