Through Stone and Sea - By Barb Hendee & J. C. Hendee

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PROLOGUE

Dusk settled over the harbor below Chemarré—Sea-Side—the western settlement of Dhredze Seatt, home of the dwarven people across the bay from Calm Seatt. A two-masted Numanese ship drifted up to its docks. As the crew cast lines to dwarven dockworkers, the vessel settled, with five cloaked figures waiting near its rail.

Three of the quintet wore polished steel helms gleaming pale yellow under the deck’s lanterns. A glimpse of glittering chain vestments beneath crimson tabards showed through the splits of their cloaks. Each wore a long sword sheathed upon a wide belt of engraved silver plates. These three were Weardas—the Sentinels—personal guard to the reskynna, the royal family of Malourné in Calm Seatt.

Behind them stood one of the other two, easily as tall as they were, but slighter of build. This one’s earthy -colored cloak with full hood hid his face but not the hem of a white robe around his tan felt boots.

The last of the five, standing before all the others, was much shorter.

Hidden beneath a hooded cloak of deep sea green, small gloved hands and a slight frame marked this one as female. She gripped the rail and peered over the ship’s side and up the dock, as if looking for someone.

The crew gave these five a wide berth and hurried to unload a paltry cargo, as if their vessel had left its last port not fully loaded. By the time they finished, night had settled in.

The ship’s captain strolled past the quintet and stopped a ways off. The broadest and tallest of the Weardas nodded curtly. That brief movement exposed the tuft of a dark beard on his squared chin. The ship’s captain shook his head and turned aftward toward his quarters below.

And still the five waited—until heavy footfalls barely carried from shore.

The woman in sea green rushed down the boarding ramp.

She reached the dock before her panicked guards caught up and encompassed her once more. The tall one in the earthy cloak pushed close behind her as she searched the night for those footfalls. But all she saw were warehouses, other smaller buildings, and a trio of dwarves settled down to pipes and low talk.

Yet those footfalls never broke rhythm.

At first, the dockworkers gave no notice. Perhaps they thought it was one of their own coming on for evening duty. Then something passed through the edge of their lanterns’ dim light.

It stomped onward like a broad piece of night on the move, and then vanished from the light’s reach.

The closest dockworker jerked to his feet, overturning his heavy cask stool. His companions rose, but he turned the other way, peering shoreward and all around the port. Only then did he stare after those footfalls, as if the shadow heralded something worse he hadn’t spotted.

Slowly, the steady steps breached the edge of the light from the ship’s lanterns. Illumination exposed the silhouette of a broad dwarf.

At first, the light only caught on wild, steel-streaked black hair around a grim, wrinkled face. The rest of him remained lost, as if night clung to his massive form. An indignant hiss rose from the tall Weardas with the chin beard.

“You’re late!” he growled. “I don’t like my charge being forced to wait in the dark!”

“You are early, Captain,” replied the new arrival, his voice like gravel crushed under a boulder. “And I do not care to be seen by my people . . . any more than necessary.”

He drew closer, stepping into full view.

Standing as tall as the small woman, he was easily twice as wide and three times her bulk. Wild locks hung to his shoulders, framing the hard line of his mouth within a beard of short, steely bristles. Over char-gray breeches and a wool shirt, he wore a short-sleeved hauberk of oiled black leather scales. Each scale’s tip was sheathed in ornately engraved

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