Throat of the Long Sea

The sun sat high and the shade fell short, forcing Ira into the veiny oak roots. Under the branch-shadow latticework the brilliant yellow fur turned to mud, some property of the black rose blotches patterning her coat. She studied the loud voices and exposed faces ahead.

Three boyish men stood in the road, waiting for their fourth, saddled atop his pakal, to knock an arrow. It was a massive steed, armored in thick folds of white skin, wielding a pair of staggered blade-like horns on its nose bridge. The rider had sharp, heroic cheeks and a jaw of marble. Though he wore the same black hair as the rest of his company, it fell in shallow drapes along his face the way only a practiced servant could’ve dressed it. The armor on his chest was calcic, a white, glossy metal, lighter and softer than the black-steel plates on his companions.

“Expo, we’ve got pounds of finch left,” shouted the largest man. His arms were like pillows and his brow was low and solid. He had a nose like a boar and the mouth of a fish.

“I’m not gunna eat it.” Expo struggled to keep the string between a pair of blue pheasant feathers.

“I’m gunna kill it.”

The third man shifted from an impatient sway to a forward amble. His face was perhaps the most perfectly ordinary Ira had ever seen. His nose was straight and centered, his cheeks slender and even. His hair was tussled and turbulent, strewn and scattered and flickering like a wave crashing into a fire. He was almost as tall as his trollish friend, but slender and pale as the pakal’s leg, arms trimmed and tense like cured meat. He carried a tapered sword at his hip and a circular shield at his back. Behind its scratches and dings was a professional painting: bright red feathers flared at the ends of spread wings, talons synched to a writhing white serpent. This was the kind of decoration only great warriors presumed to display, but he was too young to have earned such pride. Nevertheless, Expo’s eagle was convinced, and left a shaking branch in its stead. Ira thought the troop must’ve been from Collerchar, the nearest city. Art, after all, was an urban trade.

Expo flared his eyelids and jammed the arrow back into his saddle-side quiver. “Why don’t we stop so you can go fuck yourself, Picken?”

Picken responded without turning back. “Bet I’d shoot first.”

“Drink,” chimed the fourth man, shorter and more boyish than the rest, though still a notch above middle height. His hair was long and tangled, falling in twine knots to his shoulders. He was tanner than Picken, darker still for the dirt clouding his face, and his arms were shorter and sturdier.

They each followed Picken, even the pakal, which seemed to start forward without Expo’s command. Ira waited to see their backs before stealing to the next shadow.

~

Picken glared at the lumbering mass behind him. “Boren, if you’d kissed Jorpon’s daughter, you’d’ve stolen the nearest pakal and run it to death to come tell me. And then Jorpon would’ve beheaded you with your own axe.”

Boren glared back. “And then you’d have no friends.”

“Well then who’d—” Picken stopped.

In the road before them stood a vaultick. It was a long-legged steed, leaner and quicker than their pakal. A blue blot sat in the russet coat at its hip. A pair of antlers crested over its ears and a sickled fore-facing horn crowned its brow. A panther clung to its back, bright yellow fur and bared fangs. Picken searched for its eyes beneath its pointed ears, but found them in its mouth. They sat, the brightest hazel he’d ever seen, in the deepest ocher skin, on the most beautiful face.

“I mean no harm. I just have one question and then I’ll be on my way.” Her voice was firm and loud, confidence Picken’s instincts found dishonest.

He didn’t wait for his company to collect their wits. “How can we help?”

The vaultick shifted under her and she leaned back. A necklace swung from her collar. At its nadir glittered a spaded leaf, flowing with filigree swirls about a glistening emerald. She hunched to the steed’s back and Picken could’ve sworn the forest darkened a shade.

“Which way to the Throat of the Long Sea?”

Picken turned and collected the petrified stares behind him. “It’s a four-day’s walk South, but are you sure you wouldn’t like company? We’re headed there ourselves and there are hundreds of bandits—”

“There’s nothing here I can’t kill or outrun.” She smirked and sat a little straighter.

Again Picken was inclined to call her bluff.

“What about an arrow?” Expo’s voice paraded in.

Picken turned and glared, though he had to admit he’d conceived a similar counter.

“Last man that aimed at me took a sixth finger.” From behind the vaultick’s long neck she produced an arrow, dressed in the orange plume of the local finch. She spun the thin shaft between her fingers, but Picken was fixed on her winding white scar, stretching wrist to knuckles, like a spiraling silk glove. She tucked away the arrow and reined the vaultick around, but hesitated, offering Picken a last glance. “How will I know when I’m there?”

Again, Picken was quick to answer. “There’s a town at the port, Steadhelm. Hug the coast until you’re there, but don’t enter wearing Tirrae’s crest. They hate foreigners and there’re enough soldiers there—”

“Thank you.” She turned again and her steed broke out in a sprint. The beast was quick, even for its breed. She was gone in moments.

“Want to place bets on who will have her, if she comes back?” Expo glanced around the company.

Picken gave an annoyed sigh and started again forward.

~

The thin scraping of razor to grain fell in time with their march, a cadence they’d developed only for the peace it brought them. Even the pakal participated. Picken glanced at the progress, the gradual formation in the wooden block. Harren held the yet crude form close to his eye, applying gentle knife pressure to the beak, which was already recognizable.

A step fell out of place. It was soft, distant, and Picken knew what it meant. “Harren,” he whispered. He spotted the source, a huddled silhouette in a peripheral bush. He could’ve reacted in haste just then, and knew his companions would scramble when they spotted the ambush. But this wouldn’t grant them time to prepare, and so Picken tread patient and calm. “Go get your spear and shield, and get Boren his axe. Quietly.”

“What, why?” Harren whispered back.

Picken gave Harren a telling glare, a you’ll-know-soon-enough glare.

Harren didn’t hesitate again.

“The hell are you doing?” Expo scowled over the reins as Harren untied the weapons from their saddle bearings.

Boren gave Picken a solemn glance as he caught the shaft of his black-steel battle-axe. Picken returned a solemn nod. Harren arrived at Picken’s side, blowing even, conscious breathes. Picken scanned the tree line. The tip of a bow stuck out from behind one trunk, the edge of a sheath from another. He heard Boren’s steps draw close behind.

Picken pulled the shield from his back and drew his sword. “Hold the sides,” he said, no longer concerned with his volume.

Harren stepped to the side and raised his shield to protect Boren’s left shoulder. Picken took the right. Expo held the reins steady as he searched for an explanation, and didn’t hesitate once he’d spotted the lurking figures. He took off at a gallop down the road.

“We have no gold or coin,” Picken shouted, “and what food we had is on that pakal. Let’s not have anyone killed over nothing.” Picken eyed the bandits as they appeared, counting five swords and two bows.

“None on my side,” said Harren.

“To me then,” Picken responded. “Boren, watch the flank. Call for a shield.”

“Heard,” Boren answered.

Harren arrived at Picken’s hip and raised his shield to form a wall. Picken discarded a brief sense of pride—such thoughts could be had later and would slow his reflexes at the moment.

The silhouette exposed itself last, a black-bearded man in the same black-steel armor they wore, with the same sword Picken carried and the same dirt Harren kept on his face. He stepped over the bush and paced in front of the formation.

Picken whispered to Harren: “Mark the archers. You’ll need—”

“’at’s a nice try, boy.” The bandit’s voice was haggish and rude. He had a way of sounding illiterate, and stared the way sane men learned not to. “I like ‘ose shields d’ough, so throw ‘em down. Quick, now.”

“Oh, now, c’mmon. We’re not ‘at stupid.” Picken let a shade of the bandit’s accent slip into his own, hoping to inspire some solidarity.

The bandit strolled closer, almost within arm’s reach. He lifted a thick eyebrow at Picken, widening a mad eye. “Now, boy, you don’t want to get to fightin’ us now dew ya?”

“Fuck you.” Harren leveled his spear under a fierce eye. His incisors sat over his lip and again Picken suppressed his pride.

The bandit stepped forward and gripped the spear by its collar. “Dah’lin d’ah you know what we do wif’ people st-ew-pid enough to swing at us?”

“Bet I can think a’ somethin’ worse.” Harren sent a sharp jolt down the shaft and the bandit conceded a retreating flinch.

He pointed his sword at Harren’s shield. “I’ll pick your ribs out one—”

Picken ground his heel and propelled himself forward. He rammed his sword down the center of the bandit’s chest, punching a clean hole through the armor. The mad eye went blank and Picken yanked his weapon back, letting the body fall limp to its knees then topple into the dirt.

“Now see what he did wrong,” Picken stepped back to Harren’s side, “is he got real close and threatened my little brother. If you’re gunna do that, you wanna be real far away.”

The archers had their bows raised, searching for an exposed target around the shields, and the swordsmen were cautiously closing in.

“Need help?” asked Boren.

“Stay down and watch our backs,” answered Picken.

The arrow seemed slow, flying head-on, but the impact proved otherwise, shattering the tip against Picken’s shield.

“I think we need help.” Harren ducked and a second arrow whistled overhead.

Picken kept his head down. “Be patient. Don’t lunge early. We’ll be fine.”

Together they peeked over and found the enemy line creeping close, now huddled just out of Harren’s reach. One bandit stepped forward and lurched back, goading a thrust. Harren stayed patiently still and again Picken was proud. The line collapsed in on them.

Harren skewered one through the chest but a second stepped behind his spearhead. Picken shuffled forward and ran his sword through the bandit’s ribs. He twisted back to replace his guard but found none standing. Of the three remaining swordsmen two lay flat, orange feathers planted in their chests. The last was hobbling toward the tree line, arrow jammed through the back of his knee. As far as Picken could see, the archers had fled.

The jaguar girl pulled around them on her vaultick. “Hold still.” She hopped down and shoved the bandit to his chest. “Steady, now.” She snapped the arrow and began to examine the wound.

Picken approached. “You know we’re a lot better company if you’ll just walk with us instead of hiding in the trees.”

She stood and untied a leather scroll from her steed. “I saw them when I passed earlier. Couldn’t let them kill you.”

“Could’ve just told us they were here. Could’ve avoided them.” Picken leaned to try to catch her glance, but she was focused on the injured man.

“Would’ve flanked them and now they’d all be dead.” She unrolled her instruments, selected a knife and began to clear the wound.

The bandit gasped and winced, bore his teeth. “You’ve got Tirrae’s leaf. Don’t you know any magic?”

“Shut up.” She glared and for a moment pressed the knife harder.

The bandit pounded his fist to the dirt and Picken made a note never to broach the subject.

She slid the arrow carefully from his knee and began to wrap the joint. “Keep this clean or you’ll die an unpleasant death.” She finished and poured out a vile on the wrappings. “Sit still while this dries.”

The bandit hauled himself onto his good knee and rested some weight on his knuckles.

Picken collected himself over his feet, searching for a casual posture. “You should come with us. We know where we’re going. We know how to find people when we get there. You’re going to follow us anyway.”

She rolled up her tools, stood, and looked at Picken. He pulled on his collar for fear she might hear his heart pounding against the armor.

She turned and began to fasten the scroll to her saddle. “Alright.”

Picken didn’t smile. He made sure of that. A heavy-hooved “clip-clop” pattered down the road and he was relieved to see that the pakal had returned. Less that Expo was with it. On approach Expo slowed, reining the pakal to a trot, but changed pace again, picking up speed. Picken pulled the girl out of the way just as the pakal lowered its horns. With an upward thrust it dashed the bandit’s skull, sending his body fully upright before it slopped back to the ground, like rope in a spool.

The girl rushed back to the bandit’s side, but Picken thought she must’ve known better; he’d never heard of magic that could mend a crushed skull. He stepped back, fearful of the fit that might overcome a Tirraec witness to such needless life taking.

She stood and watched Expo make a victory lap, then turned a calm stare at Picken. “Is this troop your command?”

“Not in any traditional sense of the word, but strictly, yes.” Picken rubbed the back of his head.

“Did you ask Tirrae’s permission before you entered the forest?” She folded her arms.

“And Domnae’s.”

Again she glared at Expo. “I don’t expect you’ve got it any longer.”

~

Ira could see her shadow over the vaultick’s antlers. A heavy clomp worked its way to her hip, and she ignored the murderer, riding high in his saddle beside her.

“You wear the Tirraec leaf,” he noticed.

She kept forward.

“But the jaguar is Tirrae’s beast. Isn’t it blasphemy to wear its pelt?”

Ira’s nose curdled. “It attacked me on a hunt. It was a trial and Her gift to me.”

“It sounds like your god doesn’t like you very much.”

She slowed her steed and let Expo pass ahead, glaring into his back, but in turn allowed Picken to pace beside her saddle.

“Haven’t had your name yet,” he noticed.

“Ira.” She kept glaring at Expo.

“I’m Picken,” he said.

She looked at him and tried to smile.

“And this is my little brother, Harren.” He pointed at the longhaired dirt-faced boy behind him, and then to the large target. “And this is my schoolmate, Boren.”

She looked back and smiled a little less.

“Don’t let his size or intelligence fool you; he’s an idiot.”

“Drink,” chimed Harren, eyeing his wooden block.

Ira laughed. “Why do you keep saying that?”

“We drink every time Picken thinks he’s clever,” answered Boren.

“But you haven’t taken a sip.” She turned and sat backward on her saddle.

Harren looked up from his whittling. “If we actually drank every time Picken thought he was clever, we’d’ve run out a’ whiskey in a day and all died in the first ditch we found.”

“And that’s Kechar,” Picken continued, pointing forward.

Again, Ira was lost. “I thought he was Expo.”

“He’s talking about the pakal.” Boren fought a smile.

“I wouldn’t wish Expo’s acquaintance on my worst enemy,” explained Picken. “That is, if I ever met a worse enemy than Expo. We’re paying him in hum-pedal for Kechar to carry our gear.”

The next three hours passed in welcome boredom. That night the boys made a fire, and Expo raised his separate tent. Ira gathered tinder and set up a dozen yards away.

~

“The fuck are you following for,” Expo whispered.

“When she shows you up I don’t want you to be able to lie about it.” Picken kept low behind the bush, between Expo and Ira.

They could hear the boar trawling the clearing with its long tusks, groaning and snorting and shaking its snout. Picken peaked over to admire its bold bristles and deep crimson coat. He was lost in thought and the great frightening mass caught him off guard.

At first he suspected the hills of casting a boulder on the unfortunate hog, but collected his thoughts and identified the huge brunette form, a short-faced bear. It snatched the pig from the canvas like a purse, massive jaws clamping its neck so that it hung, already dead, more than a grown man off the ground.

“You mutt!” Expo stood and began awkwardly to string his arrow.

The bear dropped its prize and snarled, pacing lazily forward.

Picken snatched Expo by the collar and pinned him to the near trunk, eyeing the beast. “You can’t shoot an arrow through its pelt. It has its meal, and if we’re lucky it’ll let us leave, because the gods know we can’t outrun it.”

Expo wriggled free and took a stumbling start to his quick retreat. Picken knew that if he did the same, the beast might have an instinct to charge. He took Ira by the arm and led her cautiously backward, eyes fixed to the white chevron over the bear’s chest.

“Nothing you can’t kill or outrun, huh,” he joked, trying to steady the violent pulse he felt in her wrist.

The beast calmed a bit, and backed a step toward the pig.

“I’ve never seen anything that large,” she whispered.

Picken heard the faint whistle. He’d already cursed his luck and forgiven it when the long blue feathers streaked over his head, but cursed it again when the arrow found the first true mark he’d ever seen Expo strike—the bear’s snout.

“Run.” He let Ira’s feet pass before his, out of some polite convention he couldn’t at the moment place.

The bear wasted no time on such thoughts. It was over the bush and after them the moment they turned, and gaining on every step. Picken was struck with the notion that he’d never died before, and that this was the first moment he’d ever been sure of his own mortality. As he heard the paws landing closer and closer to his heels, he searched for his clever intuition, the gamesmanship that’d had him so arrogant in yesterday’s skirmish. There were times for cunning and creativity, but he was sure he possessed more applicable qualities. He picked a step.

There, in the Marooned Forest, he planted his toes, as if to stake a flag, and spun his heel. He drew

his sword, as quick and short a motion as he could make it, and faced the great monster. With every bit of his focus and courage he sent the tip forward, driving it with his practiced balance of strength and speed and solidity through the thick white chevron. His weight was of little consequence to the bear’s chosen path, and the beast died to an inch where it decided. There Picken lay, pressed to the dirt beneath the near couple tons of useless bone, fat, muscle and hair, sparing his breath, all too aware the next way he might die.

Just as the life began to slip from between his ribs, the carcass receded. The shift freed his face, and he found Ira hauling the bear’s shoulder round by its paw. He squirmed and tugged, and freed gradually more of himself. With a last heave he took back his boot, and began to steady his breath.

“Guess you’ve earned the coin you spent on that shield,” Ira mused, arms folded against the near trunk.

Picken chuckled. “I hope more than that. My brother painted it.”

As they walked, Picken felt his torso reforming, a pouch filling with water. All the while he pretended not to notice Ira’s stare. They came across a figure in the distance, and soon he recognized the white mountain dragon on its shield.

“Harren,” he called.

Harren bounded toward them, and Picken began to make out the look of shock on his brother’s face.

“He…he said a bear got you.”

Picken explained and Harren led them off after Boren, whom they found nearby. They returned to camp before dark, finding Expo with a finch bone in his teeth. He reacted as ever he did, making his break for Kechar, but Boren caught him by the scruff and threw him down, then landed three jarring shots before Picken pushed him off.

“What? What else are we gunna do with him,” Boren asked, gripping Kechar by the hilt of his axe.

Picken hadn’t had time to be angry while he’d fled from the bear, and so the rage overtook him then. But he was their leader, and anger rarely dictates intelligent decision. Mercy, he thought, is more inspiring. “Nothing. We let him go.”

Expo tried to stand but Picken set a heel to his chest. “Harren, unload our supplies. Take the hum-pedal and the whiskey.”

Boren began to protest but Picken cut him short. “We act here as we’ll govern there. Revenge and thievery defy our mandate. He’ll have Kechar and we’ll never see him again.”

~

That night Picken drank to his own courage, and courage he received. Harren and Boren ceased arguing for a moment over their cards to watch him venture toward Ira’s fire pit.

There he laid a soft whisper: “Ira.” He recoiled at the shifting inside, further still as she emerged with bow and long cleaver.

“What?” She looked concerned, and suddenly Picken wished he were sober.

“Do—” he was careful not to slur. “Do you want to play cards?”

She gave a knowing smile, and set herself by the fire. “No, Picken.”

“Oh.” He almost turned away, but she was still smiling gently. “Ira?” He rested by the warm crackling. “Why—” he summoned what nerve he had left, “why are you going to the Throat?”

Her smile faded. She pursed her lips and stared into the yellow blaze. After a long moment she tried to speak. A moment more and the words escaped. “My mother…killed herself when I was very little.” She glanced upward, and found Picken’s comforting eyes. “I’ve never known anything about my father. I grew up in an Auzarian monastery, where the priests were strict with me and their sons…aggressive.”

Picken inferred a fair deal; there were two gods widely held in the southern kingdom of Azgan: the sun god Auzar and his wife, Tirrae. If life at the monastery was unpleasant, it only made sense that she take Tirrae as her chosen god.

“A few weeks ago the high priest’s son…got impatient, and drunk, and then angry. He was a powerful fire-caster, but careless in his stupor. The spell blackened his arm to the elbow and gave me this.” She presented the scar, though he’d already noticed the pale spiral. “Now I’m just looking for a quiet forest.” Her eyes fell to the dancing shadows.

Picken felt the pain in her sullen stare. “Our father ran a trade store in Collerchar. He was seventy when I was born, our mother sixty-five. They were pious Easterlanders, thought they’d live into their hundreds.”

Ira propped her wrists and came to sit at his side. She brandished her necklace ornament between finger and thumb. “An Easterlander. You must think this a great extravagance.” She produced a feint chuckle under her breath.

“I think you look—” He’d faced men more than twice his number and a beast more than quadruple his size, but all the courage in his heart and whiskey in his blood was not enough to finish that sentence. “I think it looks nice.”

She smiled up at him and together they watched the fire.

~

“I suppose you’d know better than I.” Picken beamed and Ira giggled at him from her saddle.

“Drink,” Harren shouted, scowling at his wooden block.

He and Boren trotted a fair distance behind, a balance of their disgust for the exclusive jokes the pair had developed and their fear of being ambushed out of formation.

“Ya know I think I will this time.” Boren unslung the whiskey pouch from his shoulder.

Just then an arched shape darted overhead, between Harren and the sun. He looked to his sculpture, then back at the bird, the very speckled he eagle he was carving, and was momentarily unnerved at how long it’d been following them. It passed in front of the company and began to glide in a low circle. Even Picken stopped to gander at the brave display.

“Are we near its nest?” asked Boren.

“It’s a monarch eagle. They live in the southern plains—I can’t say what it’s doing this far north.”

Harren wasted no time committing the bird’s finer details to memory, the hook of its beak, whisk of its head-feathers and heft of its talons.

Beneath its path the ground began to shift. Leaves toppled outward as if spurned by some central gust. When they were clear the pebbles began to spark, spewing ember torrents like grindstones on steel. Now Ira was retreating on her steed, and Picken back treading at her side. A flame burst from the cleared ground, rising to branch height with a heavy tidal groan.

It flickered and dissipated, and in its wake stood a gleaming set of armor, gold gauntlets, gold boots, a golden crown wreathed in rippling sunrays. A white cloth draped gold plate armor, decorated with the gold southern lion. In the armor stood a man, the darkest Picken had ever seen, eyes glowing from his head, wearing a short, twisted beard.

“Ira,” despite his booming voice the sun god wore a shameful sadness. “There’s a battalion at the Throat. If you go there, they’ll kill you. They can’t let word slip of their arrival.”

Harren stared at the girl, who appeared understandably catatonic.

The eagle landed on the god’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry we’ve never met before. Ira…” he hesitated,

“…you’re my daughter.” The shame turned to wide-eyed anticipation.

For near a minute the forest was quiet. Even from his distance Harren could see the tears streaming from Ira’s cold face, and couldn’t fight the sense that he shouldn’t be there. At great length she budged to take an arrow from her quiver.

“Ira.”

With a quick strum she knocked and fired the arrow, striking the god in his chest plate. The arrow shattered but Harren detected in the god’s eyes a feint trace of human pain. And then, in a churning conflagration, Auzar was gone.

~

It was a quiet march to sundown, both out of fear for roving scouts and deference to Ira’s steady stream of tears, which she boldly ignored. Camp and fire brought little cheer. After a long stay at Ira’s side Picken returned to Harren and Boren.

“What’re we going to do,” asked Harren. “We’re too close already.”

A wave swelled and hissed in the distance, as though to prove his point.

“Why is it called the Throat of the Long Sea?” Picken gave Harren another look, an I-know-the-answer-but-do-you look.

“It’s the nearest point to the Anarchs for a thousand miles.”

“Then mustn’t there be a second-nearest? Whoever the invaders are, if they don’t move inland the navy will have them cold. We’ll head straight across to the coastline, and may just be the four safest souls in the country. There we’ll find an outbound clipper, like we planned, and won’t lose more than a day at sea.”

First Harren spotted the bird. Its speckles hid well in the wavering shadows, but its looming yellow eyes gave it away. Next he happened a glance upward, catching with his weary stare the dense pack of lights, too large to be stars, hovering in the sky. The glittering mass hung for a moment, it seemed, before Harren could make out its gentle drift. The lights fell faster, then faster still, and began to grow. Harren became concerned, then worried, then frightened. “Picken,” he warned.

Picken looked up just as the lights turned to streaks, comets slicing across the stars, and disappeared behind the treetops. “Pack the tent,” He said. “Ira, we’ve gotta move,” he shouted.

As Ira stood there was a distant rumble, titanic footsteps falling steadily, “g-ew-sh, g-ew-sh, g-ew-sh.”

“There’s going to be a fire. We need to make the coast,” Picken said, shouldering a strap. “Everyone ready,” He shouted, glancing around.

Ira made a last notch in her saddle and mounted. “I’ll find a landing clear of soldiers.” She waited for a nod from Picken, then darted into the trees.

“Steady now, don’t tire.” Picken led Harren and Boren forward, setting a brisk pace.

Harren smelled it before he saw, the salty arsenic from burning oak. It made every breath unwelcome, and he took careful inventory of his nerves. Then there was a glow beneath the branches, and the trunks became silhouettes. The crashing waves grew louder, and Harren spotted the first raging red gusts only minutes before they arrived on the sand.

The vast black ocean lay before them, shaped only by soupy white reflections of the moon and yellow glints form the mainland pyre. It occurred to Harren how close they’d really been to the battalion; a savory roasting smell pulled his attention down the shore, dotted with hundreds of burning corpses. Against this glow Harren made out a rider and steed, crested antlers, sickled horn. It drew closer and Ira’s face appeared, baring the weight of her father’s massacre. She dropped from her saddle and wrapped herself around Picken, burying her eyes in his chest.

“Where we’re going,” he began, “there are no gods or kings or priests or fathers. Just us, and the home we make, the people we choose. We’ll find a quiet forest, with a steady river, and there we’ll start a town.”

Mark Doval

Mark Doval

Mark Doval is studying Math at Emory University and will study Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech. Mark has been writing fiction since twelve and developing the universe where Throat of the Long Sea takes place since sixteen, though this particular story is self contained. Mark is aided by his dogs Rosie and Higgs, who might’ve been dire wolves in this same universe had another, more famous, author not beaten him to the idea.
Mark Doval

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