She walked alone through the shadows of the forest, listening carefully to the speech of the birds and the trees. She was armed with a bow and arrow and the wisdom she had learned from her mother, from her first love now long dead, and from the animals whose language she learned by drinking the heart’s blood of a dragon. She had come to seek the Silent Ones.
A few days ago they had come in the night and stolen the chief’s newborn son. No one knew what they did to those they took to their strange city, for no one had been there and returned. If she were wise and clever and lucky, she would be the first.
The journey had been almost a week now, and no one she knew had ever been this far from the village. Even she, who had seen spirits and lived, felt a small twinge of fear. Not far off there was a place where there was no noise of the forest, a place the birds whispered of in fear. It was the city of the Silent Ones, with its metal houses that rose far above the trees.