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On the cover: “Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion.” Oil on canvas by John Martin, 1812.





Prologue

Tor stood in the center of a limestone cave, his right hand stained red and green with paints made from crushed rocks and plants. He held a brush of wild horsehair as he stood, deep in thought, staring at the wall. He had begun a mural depicting a hunt, with herds of bison and woolly mammoth moving like streams across the wall. In the foreground stood the images of several muscular warriors, long braided hair hanging loosely, waiting patiently behind an outcropping of rocks, viewing the gigantic beasts, spears and arrows at the ready, at the sublime and religious moment of the hunt in which the hunter pauses to consider the beauty, grace, and power of the prey; the moment when the hunter whispers a prayer to his god, for forgiveness and for fortune, before commencing the attack.

Tor was not his actual name; it is only the name modern man can give him, since he spoke a proto-European tongue that would be unrecognizable to any but the most advanced linguist. But he was named after Thunder, one of the gods he worshipped, along with river gods and animal gods. Thunder, though, was the most distant, the least understood, and therefore the most worthy of worship out of all the gods. Thunder rumbled, brought rain to nourish the earth, brought bolts of lightning to demolish trees and huts and put a proper fear of the gods into the hearts of men.

Tor was considered tall at a height of five-foot-six. His muscular, long-limbed body bore scars from the hunt: a long stripe across the thigh, the result of a boar’s angry charge, and a series of pallid stripes across the neck, the result of an encounter with the claws of a prehistoric lion. Tor knew that he survived the attacks because his god protected him. His head was covered with thick blond hair that he wove into long braids and secured with thin strips of leather. His eyes were pale blue, the color intensified by his thick blond eyebrows.

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