Prologue

Thunder cracked with a sound like the world splitting as sea and sky locked in a churning wall of water that hid the horizon. Rain and sleet whipped across the sky like giant windblown banners while the surging bow split wagon-sized floes of ice like a giant axe head, sending chunks caroming down the length of the ship.

Finally, when it seemed the rising ship would flip onto its back and die, it crested the wave and hung briefly weightless, before tilting forward sending the ice and water piled aft to race forward; a crushing, grinding, icy avalanche scouring the deck and pummeling everything in its path. The ship lurched downwards into the trough with the jaws of the figurehead seeming to howl at the madness of the dive.

In the midst of this maelstrom a shape began to move.

The ice coating the oilskin cloth cracked and was whipped away by the storm as the old man nestled within shifted. He had tied himself to the shielded chair, and wore layers of warm protective clothing, but still felt battered. He gazed at the rush of the approaching sea as the ship plunged downwards. He evinced no fear and tilted his head to the sky to observe the furious effects of the Felwind. He could sense the Wanderer’s passage above the storm, intensifying it and the cold. Not for the first time he worried at the failing of the ancient safeguards. His thoughts churned like the sea, ran wild, full of the passage of years and the uncertain path that lay before him.

I was called and set apart against these very days, yet the years passed and I hoped they would not come. He considered the twin cargoes of despair and hope riding in the bowels of the ship, and reluctantly turned his head to gaze at the huge malformed tentacle pinned to the deck by Natan’s spear and layers of ice.

So much suffering and death… he sighed, the heart-weary sigh of one with an impossible burden, and pulled the coverings tighter. At least I can prepare them. And with that, he settled into the dark, assaulted by wind and ice and savage seas, just another flickering shadow on the racing ship.

 

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