People ask me all the time what’s the most important thing in my life. That’s an easy one for anyone from the clans. It’s kin and family. We love and respect and help each other. I was born into my mother’s Badger clan. Sons follow their mother, daughters their fathers, so officially I’m listed as Wolf clan. But I’m both. One raised me. One trained me. When I married my husband, Hengist, his standard in a golden eagle on an indigo blue background, so I consider myself Eagle clan, now too. My brother has a female mountain eagle named Ealga that’s imprinted on him, so he’s also Eagle clan, too. I had an amulet made up, a wolf’s head with an eagle’s beak and wings, to symbolize the union. Those I consider my close-kin wear them.

Hengist was king of Riverhead when we wed. We live in Safehold Keep – part castle, part fort. The people who live there, under our protection, are also my family. They all risked – and some sacrificed – their lives to get me out when our neighbor Count Jalad of Westmarche invaded and tried to take over. When the time came to return and boot him out, there were those who yelled at me for fighting myself. I was pregnant with Alvar at the time. But don’t they understand? I’m Badger, Wolf and Eagle – predators all. Devoted mothers all. And I fought AS a mother. I will not stand by wringing my hands and shrieking for help, sending others off to their death to protect me. As queen, I’m the ultimate mother, fighting for ALL her children, not just my unborn son.

Love isn’t proven just by great battles, though. It’s in the quiet, tender moments, too. It’s helping someone who’s struggling. It’s encouraging someone who’s down. It’s being the one people can depend on, it’s being the one who loves them no matter what. Love accepts. Love doesn’t judge. It’s a light in the darkness. It took me some time to accept that. When I found out Hengist had a daughter by another woman, afore he met me, it was hard to swallow. Hengist and Dara weren’t clan. Would he love her more that our son? Did he still think of Sheena even with me? But I’ve come to realize that love has no boundaries. It stretches and shares to infinity. And Dara is part of my family. the nice thing is, we’re almost of an age. We can be friends and confidantes as well as mother-daughter. There never was a “step” in it.

I hope everyone remembers the power of love and family.