“This is the last refuge,” Farciya said. “North of here, there are not, nor have there ever been, aught but the occasional hunter or lost soul, and they wander at their peril.”

Tiris looked at the rude hut, with sod stacked upon its sides as insulation against the northerly winds. “How long before we stop seeing trees we can burn?” he asked, casting a glance at the firewood that had been cut and stacked at the hunter’s hut.

“Not far, now. You can already see how short and stunted they are. First we will leave them behind, then we will lose use of the rivers as they turn to ice, and finally we will break upon the rocky shores of Farthest North. I only hope that what you seek is there.”

“What is north of that?” said Tiris.

“Frozen water. Snow and ice, with polynyas. A tortured nightmare landscape from which there is no return.”

“Surely there is land beyond it,” Tiris said. “Somewhere, somehow.”

“Some have sought it,” Farciya replied. “None who set foot on that ice have ever returned.”

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