My name is Hob. I am waist-deep in the Pendel river, trying to conquer my fear.
On shore, Hon plays with his bow and his katar under the watchful eye of my wife. I can't help but smile at his fierceness. He will taste the blood of many demons. I wave to them. Oana casts a fearful glance my way, but waves back after a moment.
The Nakana tribe is camping at the southern ends of the great plains, on the chalky land pinched between the Solden mountains, the waters of the Pendel river, and the great Void. No tribe of the Balshan has ever remained in the ruins of Averren for more than a couple of days. The ghosts of the ancients are said to haunt this place.
The coming winter promises to be harsh, and we have many who are pregnant. The valley at Averren is sheltered from the worst of the winter's rage. I do not agree with Ulak's decision, but I am hon'shal--indentured servant.
Years ago--so far back that it was legend in my grandparents' time--Averren was the one unchanging place for the People--where the people came to die and give birth, seek counsel and settle disputes. All tribes were welcome here and no violence was tolerated.
One winter, the ice over the river cracked with such force that the People thought it was thunder. Then creatures that were as water moving among the tides of air came among the people. The People stood in wonder; they were unprepared. All but two were slaughtered.
The Nakana tribe--my tribe--found the remains. My wife's blood is the blood of one of those survivors, filtered through the generations. My blood is the blood of the other. One day, our son will one day face the nightmares and we will have our vengeance.
I do not think my son knows yet that the stories I tell him, the strange toys I bring from distant traders... they are all for him, to learn the ways of destruction so that we may bring down an enemy we do not know. I am damned, I know, to condemn my own son to such a life. But it is for our family, for our tribe, for our people.
It is for him that I am wading out into the water. I do not know at which point it drops off to become the Void. The water is so cold that I am shivering and it is so clear that I can see my feet--stark white among the coal-colored stones.
Something brushes my leg underwater and I stiffen. I look about frantically, but I see nothing, not even the faintest glittery trail of a Sillan.
At once, my courage disappears. I have gone further out into the water than I have ever gone--perhaps nearly a thousand hands.
It is not enough.