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Prologue

The winter had been bitter cold, but--thanks be to the Overlord and his Seven Servants--brief. At times one could hear the gobolyns crying in the woods or the dire wolves sniffing at the door. Yet winter ended before any serious losses were dealt.

With spring came the rains and the mud. The river traffic began to flow again, yet no merchant traders sought to avoid Starhaven's high port tax by disembarking at Neebo's Landing and taking the road south. The roads would have to be cleared and repaired again after they had dried. Master Harcor of the Guild Merchant had already petitioned Kiztek, Lord Gawain Whitehawk's steward, for peasants to repair the road. Kiztek did one thing that few men of Neebo's Landing ever did to Harcor. He denied him. He said he couldn't spare the soldiers that would be needed to guard the extra work crews--all on account of what the children had found.

A group of boys found it while they were playing along the banks of the Orobrech. They threw stones and limbs at it as it floated past. They told their fathers who refused to believe them until they saw it for themselves. A thorough search found it tangled among the crops of silkreeds. It was the fish-gnawed corpse of a gobolyn, the broken flint-head of a gobolyn spear still in its chest.

News spread throughout Neebo's Landing like a horde of rats fleeing a blazing grain silo. A meeting of all freemen was called to discuss the defense of the town. For everyone knew, somewhere in the forest, the gobo's were breeding and running out of food and room to forage. When gobo's start killing gobo's, nothing but trouble lies ahead.