Chapter One The last caravan had departed ten days before, and the next was not expected for at least a fortnight. Skelleth's market lay still and almost empty in the watery sunlight of early spring. No merchants or farmers disturbed its silence, though a few loafers and strolling pedestrians were in sight. On the east side of the square, the door of the new Baron's house was closed, indicating that its occupants were not to be disturbed. Garth, one of only two overmen still in Skelleth, sat in the King's Inn, staring out the window at the lifeless market, with nothing to distract him from his own sour mood and gloomy thoughts.
Chapter Two Garth was unsure just where, amid the hills and mountains, he had crossed the border between the Eramman Barony of Sland and the independent region of Orgul; if there were any signposts or markers, he had missed them in the dark. Shortly after dawn arrived, however, he topped the crest of the final encircling ridge to see the valley of Orgul spread out before him, its fields and forests a thousand shades of green, its rivers gleaming blue and silver in the morning sun. He saw no traces of the draconic ravages he had been led to expect.
Chapter Three The road he took from the plaza appeared to run through the village's commercial area; the houses on either side held small shops, displaying fine rugs and fabrics in their many-paned windows, or delicate carvings, or gleaming pots and kettles, or other goods. A blacksmith's forge trailed smoke into the blue of the sky, but the smith was not at work as the overman passed.
breathing, without my ever thinking about it. When I realized what was happening, I studied sorcery briefly; even though my teacher said I had a real talent, I didn't care for it. It seemed too dangerous, too uncertain. I went back to clockwork, but now I know a bit more about what I'm doing. I even use spells intentionally now, though I still make them up, rather than follow the old formulae. As I said, I have the knack for it. A fellow who came through here last year, fleeing from Sland, a wizard by the name of Karag, told me that it wasn't anything to be concerned about. He said that there are a lot of minor magical talents like mine scattered about; probably one of my ancestors back in the Twelfth Age, when magic was widespread, was a wizard of some sort, and I inherited a bit of his lingering power without knowing it." "I had no idea it could work that way," Garth said.
that kind. He thought, rather, that it would be a threat or a boast, or perhaps both; the Aghadites had seemed to him the sort of vicious creatures who would not be satisfied with the mere fact of murder, or with the crude attribution carved on the corpse's brow.
Chapter Nine Allowing for the slow passage of time when one was bored, Garth estimated that he waited half an hour in the antechamber before the officer returned, Garth's letter of introduction in his hand and the red-robed man at his heel.
Chapter Ten After a moment of silence in which Garth absorbed the basic concept that he might be aiding in the utter destruction of the world, he began to consider the possible ramifications and permutations of his situation.