The first ancestor-golem hulked into the courtyard and the warrior Arkus found that he could not move. It was not fear, though his skin was both cold and sweaty and his heart had become a wild beast raging against the cage of his ribs. In truth, he had expected to be immobilized by his fear of the thing, but he found now, even though his awareness of it was subconscious, that his terror was dwarfed by the sudden and inexorable knowledge of his own insignificance.
The darkness came not from the blanket of night, but rather from a thin, greyish veil of ash that had been falling on the empty city of Cherog since the beginning of the world. As a boy, Arkus often wondered how such a thing was possible, how the city could avoid the consumption of a thousand years of sooty snow, but now, in his search of the broken arcades and colorless gardens, he had fled many times from strange, worm-like creatures that clearly fed on the choking stuff