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There was violence, and smoke, and shadow. Darkness followed after. In the silence, Aiden dreamed.

The ship lifted with the swell of the ocean and fell as the wave subsided under it. No-one sailed this close to the sea-wall, not unless they wanted their ship dashed to pieces, funnelled in by currents that ran treacherously quick around the cliff walls. The sea-wall was a giant breakwater of basalt - black, slick, and featureless - that lay across a gap in the cliffs, closing off access to the shallow bay and the estuary beyond it. It was immense, nearly three times the height of the masthead, and behind it the northern lords had flourished, protected from Islander raids and the storms of winter.

Older than any record in the Kingdom, the sea-wall was a legend. Rumours of it floated round every dockside tavern, traded and sold and - worst of all - believed. Every spring saw a new attempt to conquer it, to find a secret berth that would open sea-trade with the north. Every summer saw salvage being pulled from the waters around it, what wood and canvas the tides saw fit to give back as warning. Nothing waited for a sailor there save death, yet many were still willing to make the attempt.

The sea-wall was broken. It was as though the land on one side of it had lifted, and the immense stress had sent a crack running up the height of the great stone edifice. With that damage done, the wind and spray were doing the rest. Huge chunks of the wall had broken off already, and lay scattered about the base to be torn apart by the waves.

The sea-wall was the gate that had kept the north shut - and it was crumbling.

News of it would spread, and the north would change forever. Good weather would bring raiders. Bad would bring storms and flooding. The long chain of settlements that lined the estuary mouth and the river beyond would suffer, and the Kingdom would suffer in turn. There would be no escaping it.

The order came to turn about, to head for home, but it had come too late. The ship strained against a new current that had caught hold of her, a swirling eddy caused by water rushing through the crack in the sea-wall. It pulled the ship sideways, every timber and spar shrieking as she fought against it. As the bow came round, surging unwillingly towards the rocks, day turned into night. A chunk of basalt as big as a man fell and went straight through the deck, hitting the powder store.

There was violence, and smoke, and shadow. Darkness followed after.     

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