Prologue: The Mighty Morg

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Morg's shadow greased over the knobby elbows of hills and the green armpits of valleys. Passing over a river, it disintegrated into a school of gold-flecked fish that sliced across the rushing current. It reconstituted itself on the far bank, blacker than mud, then lurched up a cliff face to glide across the highland sage.

Morg couldn't help but marvel at its beauty, the clean proportion of form, the slithering grace of movement. Behold the broad wings with their crook-spurred pinions, the sinuous stretch of torso, the whip-like tail with its triad of spikes, but most of all the serrated head shivering in the heat mirage of its own breath. In all of nature, there was no shadow as terrible and majestic as that of a dragon in its prime.

His shadow alone was enough to set a herd of caribou stampeding. The weaker ones stumbled or became entangled in brambles, bleating pitifully. Morg paid them no mind. It was the caribou king he was after. When he finally located him among the lead group, he decided it wasn't worth the bother. What did he expect? It was late in the season, and he had already culled out the most vigorous beasts from all the nearby herds.

Disappointed, he turned back to the west, his shadow dwindling to the size of an insect as he surged up into the frost-winds. Mountains rose up before him in white-capped rows that misted away to the horizon. He had just reached the first rocky buckles when a bright glint on the ground caught his eye. He tucked his wings and dropped lower for a better look. There it was again! Much brighter this time, a white-hot lancet of reflected sunlight. His blood boiled with anticipation. Only one thing in nature gave off such a crystal-sharp gleam. Manling!

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