The King's Bastard by Rowena Cory Daniells

Chapter One Rolencia, near Midwinter's Day Byren went first, hoping to spot the Affinity beast's tracks so he could judge its size and the danger to his men. Despite the clumsy snow shoes, he ploughed on. Cold air stung his nostrils and the drifts lay deep with a crust of crisp ice crystals, glinting in the rays of the setting sun. Ah, how he loved Rolencia! When he reached the rim of a small, treeless hollow, he searched for signs of the beast. No tracks in the smooth white snow. And they hadn't had a fall since dusk, last night. 'Slow down, Byren. Lence isn't with us this time,' Orrade called, short of breath despite the reserves of strength in his wiry frame. Byren grinned ruefully. For as long as he could remember, he'd pushed himself to challenge Lence, but his twin had remained at the castle to welcome the Merofynian ambassador. Byren did not envy Lence. As kingsheir, his twin had to marry to consolidate Rolencia's alliance with Merofynia. While Byren... Orrade joined him, sucking in deep breaths. To give the others time to catch up, Byren studied the bluffs and ridges of the Dividing Mountains which formed a barrier between the rich Rolencian valley kingdom a
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