Dozens of shamans, their apprentices, and Cenns of the tribes of The Beast Lands meet at the appointed time in the appointed place. Night falls as they wait, dawn comes, and they still wait. They wait still longer, finally speaking to each other. Words grow heated, apprentices bloody each other's noses, cenns argue back and forth with hands ready to draw bronze weapons, shamans glare at one another with accusing stares. No one discusses the fact that for the first time since it made itself known to the people of The Beast Lands centuries ago, the Watcher In the Trees has missed the meeting of cenns and shamans. They must deal with the Niht and their black blade without its advice.
Seven captains sit at a table playing cards deep beneath the rock of Haven. They play in a lightless room of crystal that no average pirate could find, let alone enter. Their faux-skin and pirate garb has been cast off at their feet, and each captain is a broad-shouldered mass of glittering crystal. Sparks and flashes of blue-hued energy burst within their skulls as they each attempt to breach the psionic defenses of their opponents with little or no effect. One captain lays his hand down, a smile etched in the crude crystalline features of his face and the other captains bellow or laugh. Elsewhere in Haven, their first mates argue and yell about the growing threat of young Captain Vaux, but the Seven have not a care in the world.
The first cave wight is neatly bisected by huge jaws full of saw-like teeth, the second is battered against a the cave wall by a tail as thick as a tree trunk. The third drowns in a gobbet of acid that drenches it and eats at it while flailing wildly with its thick talons. The dragon lumbers around its cave, snapping up bits of cave wight before settling its bulk once more into its bed of broken stone and dirt. It sniffs the air for a moment, raising its head to do so. It begins to settle its bulk once more, but pauses, sniffing the air once more and letting its tongue flicker out of its mouth. Hissing, it raises its bulk and lumbers out of its cave with purpose, its head swinging from side to side and its tongue flickering out of its mouth constantly.
An aged and weary lawman, former lawman, dead twice and now with no cause to call his own, stands on the docks of New Haven. He smokes a cigarette, and then a second and third, and with nothing better to do he begins wandering the streets of the pirate city. His duster is as battered and worn as he is, and beneath the duster are two large revolvers, brass colored and clearly of Abraxen design. The haft of a wolf-iron breeching axe bangs against his left calf and the axe is as worn and battered as everything else about the former lawman. Pirates accost him, but the shining and well cared for Abraxen pistols, and perhaps his dead grey eyes, tell them there are better places to try and stick a knife for coin than in his side.
The Herald, his clothing charred and streaked with blood not his own, his long grey hair matted with gore not his own, leans against the black obelisk and slumps to the ground. His head hangs and his shoulders slump and he looks out at the foes before him through half-lidded eyes of red. Rage kindles in his heart and he knows there will be no respite, nor is he entitled to any. His crime was too great, even he admits this. He jabs his red blade, quiescent and well glutted on blood, into the rock beside him and braces against the obelisk. He heaves in a breath and releases it as a scream of fury, the air rippling around him and the stone cracking at his feet and the Nel trying to win past him cease to exist as his Gifts rip them apart. Above him, seven crows perch on the obelisk and give a raucous round of caws in support.