The sound of rain beating on the tightly drawn hides covering the small hut was like that of a drum played by a swift hand. The hut was well made, as all orcish huts were; no water
seeped inside. But nothing could close out the humid chill of the air. If the weather turned, the rain would become snow; either way, the cold damp penetrated to Drek’Thar’s old bones
and kept his body taut even during sleep.
But it was not the cold, not this time, that caused the elderly shaman to toss and turn.
It was the dreams.
Drek’Thar had always had prophetic dreams and visions. It was a gift—a spiritual sight, as he no longer had physical sight. But since the War Against the Nightmare, the gift had
grown teeth. His dreams had worsened during that dreadful time, and sleep promised not rest and refreshment, but terror. They had aged him and turned him from one who had been old
but strong into a frail, sometimes querulous elder. He had hoped that with the defeat of the Nightmare, his dreams would return to normal. But while the intensity had lessened, his
dreams still were very, very dark.
In his dreams, he could see. And in his dreams, he longed for blindness. He stood alone on a mountain. The sun seemed closer than normal and was ugly and red and swollen,
casting a bloody tinge on the ocean that lapped at the foot of the mountain. He could hear something … a distant, deep rumbling that set his teeth on edge and made his skin prickle. He
had never heard this sound before, but due to his strong connection with the elements, he knew that it indicated something terribly, terribly wrong.
A few moments later the waters began to churn, surging angrily now at the foot of the mountain. The waves grew high, hungry, as if something dark and dreadful stirred beneath their
crashing surface. Even on the mountain, Drek’Thar knew he was not safe, knew nothing was safe, not anymore, and he could feel the once-solid stone shuddering beneath his bare feet.
His fingers curled tightly, painfully, about his staff, as if somehow its gnarled length would stay stable and secure despite a roiling ocean and a crumbling mountain.
And then, with no warning, it happened.
A fissure zigzagged along the earth beneath him. Roaring, he half-leaped, half-fell out of the way as it opened like a mouth attempting to devour him. He lost his hold on his staff, and it
fell into the widening maw. As the wind whipped up, Drek’Thar clung to an upthrust shard of rock and, trembling as the earth trembled, peered with eyes that had not seen in far too long
at the blood-red, boiling ocean beneath.
Huge waves crashed against the sheer wall of the mountain cliff, and Drek’Thar could feel the blistering spray as they surged impossibly high. From all around him came the screams
of the elements, frightened, tormented, calling out for aid. The rumbling increased, and before his terrified gaze a massive chunk of earth broke the surface of the red ocean, rising,
rising seemingly without cease, becoming a mountain itself, a continent, even as the land upon which Drek’Thar stood cracked open yet again, and he fell into the fissure, crying aloud
and clutching at air, falling into fire—
Drek’Thar bolted upright in the sleeping skins, his body convulsing and drenched in sweat despite the cold, his hands clawing the air, his again-unseeing eyes wide open and gazing