Original Prologue, Part 1 [Wallace's Chapters]

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Amity had two birth days. The first was the same as anyone's, and she didn't remember it. She didn't spend much time dwelling on the fact that she didn't remember it, because she had learned years ago that nothing good came of dwelling. The second birth—or the rebirth, depending on what mood she found herself in—she remembered with stunning clarity, and imagined she would for the rest of her life.

Her second birth was the day the Watcher took her as its host.

When asked what the rebirth had felt like, Amity could only respond with "Painful." A creature of pure energy had crawled inside her and rearranged her very genetic structure. How else could it feel? But the people of Nocturne Island were persistent, and deeply spiritual, and the Watcher was one of their great guardians, so eventually she changed her answer to "Enlightening."

No one kept track of age on Nocturne Island, so her best estimate put her in her teens during the second birth. Only a few years had passed since. Even now, the memory of that heat and light etched lines on her mind; sometimes it was strong enough to permeate her dreams, and she woke in a cold sweat to an even chillier Nocturnian morning. She sat up in bed, legs pulled close to her chest, blanket puddling around her ankles. Faren slept on beside her, always undisturbed. She would look at him until she felt calm again, then turn to the window on the opposite side of the room.

Their house—more like a palace, considering the number of rooms and their vast size—looked out from Nocturne Island's eastern cliff face. It was the only place of its kind on their side of the island. From their windows, the glittering spiderwebs of the island's small coastal towns could be seen along the southern shores, arcing up along the western cliffsides. Whole communities carved from rock and the bones of some long-dead monster, occasionally so close in color and texture it was hard to tell where earth ended and ancient sea creature began. From there, particularly staunch believers in the Watcher's guardianship made the trek through the dense Black Forest and across the Tall Fields, up the steep eastern walls to ask for Amity's blessing. At the foot of their cliff was only Fort Colaar, the small Orcian Alliance base Amity regularly visited to give updates on the Watcher's condition.

These updates consisted of her getting scanned by a large, imposing machine, followed by a series of questions by an examiner who did their best to seem expressionless, but who always shifted slightly in their seats, as if they might make just a little more space between her and them.

The questions were easy:

No, the Watcher has not communicated with me today.

Yes, I have tried to communicate with it.

Yes, I am still able to access the Watcher's power.

Then they plucked a few of her ash-white hairs, inspected her bright orange eyes, had her call the Watcher's power, its crystals, to the surface of her skin, then finally let her leave. They never asked if she wanted them to try to remove the Watcher from her. She had the creeping suspicion that was beyond even their technology.

After the second birth, she had felt the Watcher sitting in her mind, its eyes turned on her. Inside her, of course, it had no eyes but her own, yet that was how it felt. A lump of burning coal in the back of her head. Sometimes it clung to her shoulders, though she could turn to her reflection and see nothing there. She didn't know now if those had been hallucinations leftover from post-rebirth sickness, or if she'd simply grown used to the sensation. Either way, she no longer felt it. And the Watcher hadn't spoken to her since that first day, when it made the bargain with her.

Her body for its power.

She never told the Alliance researchers this information. They didn't need to know she was the one who had agreed to become its host, or why she had done it. All they needed was enough information to tell her if she was going to die sooner or live longer.

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