Far away in the cold north lies the vast caldera of Bjorgyn; a land of snow-blanketed pine woods and meandering rivers of water and ice. Eons ago, Bjorgyn was formed by a catastrophic volcanic eruption which veiled the sun with clouds of ash for many days. Such powerful forces of nature now lie dormant deep within the land, though not without stirring; every so often a distant rumble signals the rising of a black plume of smoke and ash which falls like snow across the region. After many millennia humans have become used to this occurrence, but that does not mean it is without its consequences.

The Elks of Bjorgyn, like all wild animals, stay away from humans. They disapprove of their stewardship over nature. In turn humans stay away from the Elks. They fear them. So elks go about their lives on the pastures undisturbed by the affairs of humanity; they bring up their young, they talk and they eat, but they do not grow old. You see, the ash that falls across Bjorgyn settles everywhere; in the rivers, in the snow and on the plants, so when elks graze they must chew on the hard, gravelly ash that accompanies every mouthful. Over time their teeth wear down until they can graze no longer. They starve and die. This may sound unfortunate, but it is a fact of life for the Elks of Bjorgyn and they have lived this way for thousands of years.

PROLOGUE | CHAPTER 1

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