Prologue

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The warrior stood on the shore, looking out across the silent sea. He stood beside a pillar that bore a single glowing lantern. The lanterns light shone bright enough to see for two to three hundred metres in all directions. The light was clear enough to see that the sea didn't move. It was still. It was like staring out across a giant pane of glass. Across the sea there was a pinprick of light, another pillar that bore another lantern.

There was no wind. Above, many miles in the sky there was no sky. The pillars that held the lanterns sailed high and connected to a giant roof. To look above in any direction revealed one simple, unmistakable truth: there was no end to the ceiling.

This was the legacy the warrior had been handed. It was not his choice, it was merely his destiny. He stood and stared. He wished for wind and he wished for a moon. He knew it was night, knew it was very late. Some veteran instincts never left, no matter the lack of sun or moon.

His giant sword hung limply at his back. It had never lost its sharpness, he had ensured that despite its lack of use in the last several months. His red trench coat was in tatters now, ripped and torn and yet it was somehow still wearable. His dark glasses were still perched on his nose, there to hide the pain and anguish of months spent on the run, hated and despised.

The lack of hope hung in the air like a stench, palpable and acrid. Like fear. And the warrior hated fear.

Footsteps grated on the ash that passed for sand behind him. He didn't turn; his instincts knew that the person was a friend. If it wasn't then chances are he would be dead by now anyway. Perhaps death would be a mercy.

"You-" the person - a woman - began but the warrior raised an arm to signal for her to silence. She obeyed with an irritated gurgle in her throat. He continued to watch across the still water, concentrating.

At first there was only the slightest hint of a ripple on the water, the glass-like surface very dimly interrupted.

That was the warning as the surface broke with a fantastic explosion, water spraying everywhere. The woman took a step back but the warrior stood calmly on the shore, droplets peppering him, dampening his clothes.

Fifty metres out to sea rose an enormous beast, an eel-like body, scaly and glistening in the lantern-light. It arched upwards, rose in colour and huge in size. Its snout was like an alligators, possessing row after row of teeth capable of shearing flesh from bone. The eyes fixed balefully on the warrior, yellow in the light, slits like a reptiles.

It opened its mouth and unleashed an enormous screech directed at the two people out of the water. The eyes never left them as its eel-form, lead by its head, began to gather momentum and strike through the water towards its prey.

The warrior didn't move. Almost as soon as the beast began to move, it stopped. It had hit the shallow water and was unable to reach what it desired. Frustrated, it bellowed with anger directed wholly at those stood on the shore, barely out of reach. It snapped its jaws, the great teeth smashing together with threatening claps.

The warrior considered the sea-monster. It was a beast created by the affects of the Ever-Night, the great ceiling that covered the sky. It was a mutant of some former sea-dwelling beast, though it was impossible to see what it had once been. It was perhaps the only one of its kind, swimming the silent ocean that was barely full of anything resembling life. Perhaps once hunger had driven it fully insane it might come to the shore and learn to live out of the ocean. Perhaps it would simply die, as all living organisms must.

With a final snap of its huge jaws it turned and arched into the sea, its tail leaving behind another splash of water. And then the ripples ceased, the water still once again.

The warrior was silent, regarding what he had just seen. That beast was another reason this had to end.

The woman who stood several paces behind him took one single step forwards.

"Vorlat," she said in a quiet voice.

He finished his staring, his voice rousing him from his considering.

"Vorlat," she repeated. "It is time."

He nodded. His gloved hands clenched into fists. And then he turned and walked in a fluid motion. He stepped past the woman and he continued walking.

"Let's end this," she told his back. "Let's do what we must."

"Xebell," he told her in a hardened voice. "Let's just try not to die."

The ceiling high above watched them leave the sea-shore, their way lit by eerie lantern-light. It was as unemotional as a ceiling can be. It was just there, it couldn't move and it couldn't leave. It watched the two figures depart, to try to change their destiny.