The Carrion Queen glided quietly across the rooftops of the so-called free city of Grauhafen, silently cursing herself as she went. She'd broken the first law of the Great Gatherer: to own nothing save that which one seizes for themself. The child had just reminded her too much of herself. She'd grown up on grimy streets just like the stinking hole that was Grauhafen. So when the girl had stumbled up to her, wasted arms raised in supplication, she'd tossed the girl a heavy gold coin from the stash she'd just stolen. The girl had stared at it wide eyed for a long moment before tucking it into a ragged pouch and carefully drawing out a small flower. It was beautiful, delicate petals glowing like faint moonlight in the ulguan gloom. The girl had handed it to her, and she'd taken it.
Lissea had given up on meaningless charity long ago, long before she'd sworn herself to the Great Gatherer. She'd tried, in those early days, when she had first taken to thievery. She stole only from those who hoarded their ill-gotten wealth and dispensed it among the poor of the city. She'd been treated as a folk hero at first, a champion for the poverty-stricken masses. Until the lords that Lissea had pilfered from brought their private armies down upon the populace, seizing every penny at torch and sword point. It was a massacre that left the poor quarter a charred wasteland, and Lissea was no longer a hero. She was hated, driven out by the very people she'd tried to help, a harbinger of doom.
And so Lissea had become that harbinger in truth. Over years she laboured on ships until she could take her own command. She vowed that she would never again give away what she took for herself. She became the scourge of the darksome seas of Ulgu. Even that life was behind her now. She had become a champion of the Great Gatherer, and had never looked back.
This was the first time she'd really lost herself in memories of the past in years. She was getting old. Her dark skin was beginning to wrinkle around the eyes, her carefully honed muscles starting to ache as she darted across shadowy rooftops. Even with the boons granted her by her patron, the Carrion Queen was starting to feel her unnaturally long life catch up with her.
As if in response to her pessimistic reverie, Lissea's mind suddenly flared with pain, words searing themselves into her psyche like red hot branding irons.
RIVER OF ORIGIN.
ISLE OF FROST.
SEIZE THE FROZEN BLADE IN MY NAME.
Lissea, the Carrion Queen, came to, spread eagled across a shingled rooftop, every nerve in her body screaming in pain. But through the fog of her mind came a single image: a lonely island surrounded by languid waters and wreathed in ice. And somehow she knew that at the very centre of that dark isle lay her salvation.