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Two: Flint delicately balanced a dagger between each index finger and thumb. As all weapons forged by his ancestors were, their weighting was perfect, gently rocking back and forth but never tipping. The double-edged charcoal blades joined seamlessly with the small black cross guard that had an M at the top, a vein of ruby running through the hilt, and a W on the pommel. He stared at the daggers, marvelling at their beauty, before catching his procrastinatory thoughts and returning one of them to its gauntlet sheath. He flipped the other intricately between his fingers, bent at the elbow, drew back his arm, and closed his eyes, envisaging the dagger spinning through the air. With one motion, he reopened his eyes and let loose. The blade thundered into the small red circle he had drawn on the skinny birch tree with rubia tinctorum root.
Seven: Erramore attempted to stay calm as the large council descended into chaos. Gregor Kuumgad lounged quietly in his chair with a grin as his attack dogs, Ravil Minkstev, Ferra Tellisivi, and Nadellia Lamistan, berated John Bennett about some ridiculous land disputes. Erramore felt sorry for the old man but knew she would be of no help. Saräh Möore had already received a tongue lashing when she jumped to his defence and, since then, stayed relatively quiet.
Six: Yanik silently worked the deer sinew around both ends of her yew bow, attaching the new horsehair string she had taken from the Wildman. It wasn’t a challenging job, but it was time-consuming to get right, and doing it wrong had fatal consequences. She sighed as she held the bow in front of her, struggling to accept the mismatched sinew that stuck out on her otherwise perfect bow like a rat on the Mountain Throne. She aimed at a large knot in a nearby aspen and pulled the string back, allowing it to thwack the air as she released it. The tension wasn’t perfect, far from it, but it would do until she got home.
Prologue: This was the end. A vertical mountain spewing pristine water into a ferocious pool hundreds of paces below. From there, the water gains momentum before twisting its way along the perilous path into the High Mountains, violently lapping at its crumbling banks, reaching out to clasp any foolish enough to make the treacherous journey and drag them into its icy embrace. Trees and vines extended from the confining rock face, pushing travellers to the brink as roots waited to snare feet and send innocents tumbling into the greeting rapids. Jutting rocks, forked rivers, lakes, farms, and cities then turn the once pristine water into brown sludge that trickles into Maga Veteemä. Perhaps more aptly: This was the start.