The muted thunder of hooves on packed sand, the farther thunder of surf, breaking on a long line of moonlit sand. It rolled up out of the sea eons ago, first a ripple, then a sandbar, then a long barrier island full of life. Loblollys and marshmallows and wax myrtle and bayberry, deer and possum and wheeling white seabirds, herds of small wiry horses and white sails on the wind. In the shallow bays, the wide wings of rays and the silver flash of mosquitofish and the green flash, like magic, of coomb jellies and dinoflagellates.
And the Dark is devouring it.
One of its inhabitants flees, not away from danger, most likely toward it. His true name is long, and would fill many pages; it is a story in itself, the story of his (so far) short life. Those who know him call him Kai. He is not a true Islander; though generations of its blood flow in his veins. He was born elsewhere, and his father had come from a far place, so to all who live on this long line of sand, he is an Outsider. One of the Landborn.
He gallops now, across the sand he knows with his eyes closed, sand he’s grown up on, surfthunder behind him, hoofthunder below, and the faint scream of the Dark just beyond the glow of the lighttower. He carries little but his swords, his bow, and (he hopes) enough arrows to keep them at bay.
Until he can find the Gate. Until he can find the Spellbook.
If it truly exists.
If it is where legend says it is.
A name echoes through his thoughts, thoughts bent almost entirely on running, on breathing, on running, breathing, running...
It runs through his head like a chant, like his hard, labored breathing...
Hawk Circle, Hawk Circle, Hawk Circle. It lies on the other side of that Gate, in a world that is only a faerie tale to his folk.
What if that’s all it is? What if there is no Gateworld, no Spellbook?
What if he never tries to find out?
One of the Grandmothers still remembered. It had been where she said, there in the library on the mainland, the story from the past, the story which told of the Spellbook, the Gate, and the place it led to.
A terribly strange place, if you could believe all the things you read in books.