They flew by day, for they had learned that the hunters saw better by night. Tathar led his people through the rugged hill lands, skulking through the misty skies and lairing in hidden rifts and vales by night. Under the red sun they haunted the edges of the crags and cliffsides, seeking the wake of the sea beast as it swam along the great estuary. They hunted it, following always from a distance as it moved west. Tathar sensed a purpose in its motion. It had a destination, and he thought he had some thought of what that might be.
Sometimes the water was too shallow, and it moved overland, lumbering on great, clawed feet, leaving a trail across the earth that could be seen for miles. When it moved from the water it grew wary, and they had to follow from a distance, watchful of the spiral of hunting beasts that rose above it. Tathar wondered if those were its own young, and whether each winged beast might someday grow so immense. It seemed impossible – surely the world could not encompass so many behemoths.
Now Tathar flew ahead beneath a lowering sky and the dim glow of the copper sun. The beast was moving to the north, making way for the deeper waters of the sea, but Tathar wanted to know what its purpose might be. Everywhere through the civilized parts of the empire they had seen pillars of smoke and marks of pillage and death. Kurux had loosed all his war power to bring chaos upon the world, tormenting even his own empire for no purpose save terror and slaughter.
Zakai’s wings left trails of mist threaded through the cold air as he and Suara flew ahead to scout the way. They saw a last barrier of sharp-edged cliffs and then the land turned green and gentle, sloping downward to the north. Tathar knew that long slope led to the waters of the Numarean Passage – the long thread of the sea that led past the Black City and in the west opened out into the Sea of Azar.
They flew onward, the birds glad of the open sky, and Tathar was pleased to look on the green, tree-covered hills rolling below. It was pleasant country, if stony and all but useless for farmland. They swept down over the hills and through layers of fog until they saw the sea, dark and rolling slow beneath the sky. And there, filling the waters, was an armada of ships with crimson sails billowing, and Tathar knew what the thing from the sea was coming to do.