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I never intended to publish the following pages, but finally decided to take the plunge after the handful of positive comments I’ve received.

I truly hope you, the reader, enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

I would like to add a special thank-you to my wife, who not only endured my consistent struggle over whether to publish it or not, but who may also be responsible for its very conception.





Prologue

The fog lay heavy through the cobbled streets of Palthia. Not a single soul stirred beneath the dripping eaves of cattail thatch that drooped wearily from the shops. A faint flicker of light was offered up by every odd street lamp as another broken dawn was still to show.

Two figures, emerging silently from the fog, found haven in the shadows as they made their hurried way toward the wharf. One, a giant—even of sea-faring standards in those parts—looked immeasurably strong beneath his damp cloak. His companion, though, was much smaller than he, almost feminine in stature.

They moved with a purpose unusual for that time of early morning. Their footsteps too well placed to be that of drunks; their movements too swift to be dock workers beginning their day. They had a destination, it was clear. Yet there were none about to notice.

As the wharf drew nearer, the bumping and slapping of fishing boats began to echo faintly through the narrow streets around them. The travellers stiffened at the sound, and their pace suddenly quickened as their goal came into earshot.

As they emerged on to the deserted wharf, they looked cautiously in either direction. All they could see were a flock of bothersome gulls waiting patiently for their morning scraps beneath the scant light of a nearby lamp.

The two silent figures, thieves if you will, turned quickly toward the southern end of the wharf. Their destination was a small derelict boat moored bashfully between the prouder fishing boats that ever lined the dock.

Within moments, they slipped earnestly onboard as though their very lives depended on their escape.

Suddenly a distant shout cut the fog.

The larger thief looked up as his expert hands tended the gear of the boat. A passerby might have noticed the fear in his eyes but to the approaching guard—who was more than a hundred yards off—the thief was nothing more than a petty drunk attempting to snatch a morning ride to next port.

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