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Present Day

Year of Unity 1870

Egil sat on the roof of a crooked old building, the night cold around him. If he noticed the chill, he gave no indication— none aside from the flush of his cheeks, something that could be explained away as excitement or agitation, given how intently he stared across Gallontea at the glowing face of a clock tower in the distance. The tower’s dark silhouette stood against the gray haze of the city’s smog, like a spectre rising up out of Egil’s nightmares. 

He’d had nightmares about this place, in fact— about being back in this city, about seeing the golden face of that clock looming over him again.

While he stared, the long hand clicked onto the hour and bells rang out, cutting into the night’s quiet. It was two in the morning, and Egil suddenly realized how long he’d been sitting here, watching the minutes pass while the night deepened around him. The rest of the city slept peacefully through the sound, but Egil pressed a hand to his heart. It felt to him as if the deep, low chimes resonated up through his body and cut into his soul. Sleeping through this seemed impossible. But then, the chimes of that clock meant more to Egil than they did to anyone else. To him, each peal was a reminder of the things he’d left behind, the sins he’d committed, and the secrets festering on that island off the coast.

Egil had arrived in Gallontea at just the right time – there was something happening on the Island. The city had been abuzz all day, but no matter how hard he listened, Egil only heard whispers, slippery and indiscernible. It was too much for his curiosity to take.

He straightened out his shoulders, his eyes finally tearing away from the clock as something else nearby caught his attention. It was a dragon flying low over the sloped roofs of the city, the blue scales of its belly glistening from the lights of the gas lamps on the streets below. Twisting around buildings and weaving between the spires of a church, it eventually made its descent toward the green stretch of park along the coast and disappeared between the trees there. It remained blissfully unaware of Egil’s eyes on it the whole time.

They were cold, black eyes, eyes that grew colder when they fixed back on the clock tower. When Egil thought again of the secrets that Island held, secrets this city and all the world around it was built on, he shuddered. For a moment, his control slipped. For a moment, piercing magic flared bright around him, the air shimmering like it couldn’t control Egil’s anger. For a moment, his dark eyes seemed too dark. Entirely dark. Then, whatever that was— whatever darkness had momentarily overtaken him— faded.

He stood and stretched, a few joints popping after his hours of sitting still. Finally, he turned his back on the Island and climbed down from the roof while off in the distance, the clock tower ceased its tolling.

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