|Chapter 3: The Path to Pain|
White cold glared around the ship. Light sprang at him from all sides; dazzles as piercing as spears volleyed about his head. His tears froze on his cheeks. When he raised his hands to rub the beads away, small patches of skin were torn from his face.
But slowly his sight cleared. He saw Giants lining the rails, their backs to him. Everyone on board stood at the forward railings somewhere, facing outward.
They were still, as quiet as the sea and the sails hanging empty in their gear. But no hush could silence their expectant suspense. They were watching the Soulbiter. Waiting for it.
Then he recovered enough vision to discern the source of all the dazzling.
Motionless in the water, Starfare's Gem lay surrounded by a flotilla of icebergs.
,br> Hundreds of them in every size and configuration. Some were mere small humps on the flat sea. Others raised jagged crests to the level of the dromond's spars. And they were all formed of the same impeccable ice: ice as translucent and complete as glass, as hard-faced as diamonds; ice on which the morning broke, shattering light in all directions.
They were moving. Singly or in squadrons, they bore slowly down on the ship as they floated southward. A few came so close that a Giant could have reached them in one leap. Yet none of them struck the dromond.
Along the deep the flotilla drifted with a wonderous majesty, as bewitching as the cold. Most of the Giants stood as if they had been carved from a muddier ice. They scarcely breathed while their hands froze to the rails and the gleaming burned into their eyes. Covenant joined Linden near the First, Pitchwife, and Mistweave. Behind the raw red of cold in her face lay a blue pallor as if her blood had become as milky as frost; but she had stopped shivering, paid no heed to the drops of ice which formed on her parted lips. Pitchwife's constant murmur did not interrupt the trance. Like everyone else, he watched the ice pass stately by as if he were waiting for someone to speak. As if the sun-sharp wonder of this passage were merely a prelude.
Covenant found that he, too, could not look away. Commanded by so much eye-piercing glister and beauty, he braced his hands on one of the crossbeams of the railing and at once lost the power of movement. He was calm now, prepared to wait forever if necessary to hear what the cold was going to utter.
Cail's voice reached him distantly. The Haruchai was saying, "Ur-Lord, this is not well. Chosen, hear me. It is not well. You must come away." But his protest slowly ran out of strength. He moved to stand beside Covenant and did not speak again.