Summary

Suzanna does tricky work for terrible pay, but she’s got the score of a lifetime set up for tonight and will be sailing away by sunrise in a ship of her own if all goes well. Unfortunately, nothing has gone well all her life. Fortunately, this hasn’t stopped her from kicking the teeth out of whoever gets in her way…

Prologue

A man floated in a turtle shell boat.

A turtle shell is not much of a boat, but it served him, just as the sea and wind served him in his endless searching.

The sea drew his floating boat to an island not known to many, but lived on by a few. The people there saw the man and his turtle shell boat and asked how he’d come so far in such a little craft.

“I speak with the spirits” he told them, and they were well pleased to hear it.

He did such tasks as they asked of him. Waking fires for the children’s delight, and ridding flooded storerooms of their overeager water spirits. For this they thanked him with cooked fish and fruit wine, which he took with many thanks and wrapped in a tight carrying bundle.

At dawn the man put the turtle shell boat upon his back, took up the pack of provisions, and climbed the mountain at the islands center point. It took him half a day, but it was nothing compared to the journey ahead. He sat in the late afternoon sun and gorged himself on fish and fruit, until his belly was taut and he could stomach no more. Then he slept, and woke, and finally began his work.

For five rising suns and five setting moons he sat at the island’s highest point. Never sleeping, never moving, simply sitting and speaking in a voice so deep and vast no living thing could hear him. He spoke in the time and tongue of a great earth spirit, and though his body withered as the days past away it was only a fleeting phrase he spoke to that thing of molten power.

Then all was silent, five days to ask one question. The man stood to look down the mountain, and watch the bright birds of the forest dart about in the oncoming night.

With a cracking roar he had his answer.

The single word he received filled him with such profound joy that he barely noticed the first aftershocks. The mountain crumbled down around the man, sinking into the sea in a boiling, hissing fury that troubled him not at all. He rode its collapsing energy like a great but gentle wave, and stepped from the last sinking stone into his turtle shell boat.

The sea rushed out in all directions from where the island and its village had stood, and he allowed it to pull him westerly, towards the setting sun. A cup of fruit wine to his lips, the man considered his course. He had much work to do yet, but he’d also gotten his answer.

Another name of the world learned, and one more step taken towards waking it...


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