The hills are black, the sky a dim line along the horizon. Snow falls. It collects beside the stones and then blows on. The wind rises, tugging at his beard.
He has devoted his life to unfolding the mysteries of the dark mother. He knows her hidden name, has walked through her nine maws into the most secret precinct of her digestion. Each maw took something from him: the colour of his hair, his youth, the ones he once loved, parts of his mind. He no longer remembers his childhood. He has no friends, only the whey-faced acolytes who paint the siglum on his chest. But he has traveled through the nine doors of her immense stomachs to the innermost place where she hides the secret. He opens his eyes, holding the blinding shape in his mind. He looks out at the stark landscape, ring of stones, bare heath, distant forest.
He lifts his sword, Thrāwan, marked with the sigil of the night wyrm— the sun eater. He bellows her name into the wind, into the snowstorm.
An immense black shape lifts behind him.