The Preveza hummed as refugees from the the outer wealds swarmed around it. For once, the rustling of men drowned out the voices of the forest. A single screech echoed above the treetops, and a shadow soared against the sun, but there were only reminders of the life that had fled from the Wildwood.

“Vision is necessary blindness,” Ziksana said, turning toward the Circle. The elders had gathered in the glow of Harrow, her Earthfall. The buds on the golem’s arms and legs had blossomed into wreaths of light. Shimmering petals drifted, catching in mossy hair and vine-woven shawls.

The glint of burnished copper scales ahead stopped Vanya in his tracks, but it wasn’t his only reason for pausing. Crouched low in the wild grasses, he was glad for the chance to regain his balance as a wave of nausea and pain passed through him—and something else too. Maybe it was the wind blowing through tall grasses, or maybe simply a trick of memory, but he could almost taste the Wildwood

In the heart of the Wildwood, not far from the Mahatavi, where the trees cluster so thickly that only a child can fit between them, there is a door that is not a door. The limbs of two towering ironoaks clasp one another, and from their boughs hangs a tapestry of glittering leaves more beautiful than any Durani emeralds.

Vanya strolled through Nandanna’s bustling war camp whistling “Dip in the Moaning Well.” Heads turned to regard him, but their interest quickly returned to their dinner. The day’s light dwindled and cook fires burned bright. He passed warriors draped in furs, covered in scars and tattoos: little appeared to unite them beyond violent intentions. Anywhere else, Vanya imagined, these barbarians would have been fighting over supper. Thick-armed and thick-witted, he mused, but they weren’t to be trifled withwell, not by any but a master trifler.