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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of theauthor's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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To my family and friends and especially my lovely wife,
who help me hold back the tide.
For David Honigsberg (1958–2007)
Musician, writer, gamer, rabbi, and friend extraordinaire.
Teach Heaven to rock, amigo.
D awn, and fog still shrouded the world. In the sleepy village of Southshore, peoplestirred, unable to see the dawn light but knowing night had ended nonetheless. The fog covered the world, draping itself over their simple wooden homes and concealing the sea they knew lay just beyond the town’s edge. Though they could not see it, they could hear the water lapping at the shore, rippling up around the single dock.
Then they began to hear something else.
Slow and steady it came,floating through the fog, the sound reverberating until they could identify neither source nor direction. Did it come from the land behind them or the sea before them? Was it merely the waves striking harder than usual, or rain beating down upon the fog itself, or some trader’s wagon rolling along the hard dirt path? Listening intently, the villagers finally realized the strange new sound came from thewater. Rushing to the shore, they peered out into the fog, trying to pierce its gloom. What was this noise, and what did it bring with it?
Slowly the fog began to shift, as if pushed forward by the noise itself. The fog swelled and darkened, and then the darkness took on form, a wave rushing toward them. The villagers backed away, several of them crying out. They were masters of the water, thesemen, fishermen born and bred, but this wave was not water. It moved wrong for that. It was something else.
The darkness continued its approach, carrying the fog with it, the sound intensifying. Then finally it breached the fog, piercing its veil, and the shape divided into many and took on form. Boats. Many, many boats. The villagers relaxed slightly, for boats they understood, yet still theywere wary. Southshore was a quiet fishing village. They had a dozen small boats themselves, no more, and had seen perhaps a dozen others through the years. Suddenly there were hundreds approaching them all at once. What did this mean? The men grasped short wooden clubs, knives, hooked poles, even weighted nets, whatever came to hand. And they waited tensely, watching as the boats drew closer. Moreboats were emerging from the mists, an unending procession, and with each new row of ships the villagers’ shock grew. There were not hundreds but thousands approaching them, a veritable nation, more boats than they had ever seen before! Where had so many vessels come from? What could make them put to the water at once like this? And what could send them to Lordaeron? The villagers gripped their...