||K. M. McKinley
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...Between the lands of the Hundred Kingdoms and the senescent empire of Ocerzerkiya lay the Red Expanse. A desert of convoluted stone and fine, shifting sand, it had proved insurmountable in all the long ages of men upon the world. Out on the brilliant sea. generations of sailors passed by on floatstone ships, but though they passed within bowshot of the cliffs, the interior remained a mystery to them. A place of death. The Skull Coast, the sailors called it. To their wisdom thev turned their backs, for the land's face deceived. On the clifftops plants grew in great abundance, flower fields telling lies of water, of which there was none, for the plants teased moisture from the sea mists with thorny fineers. There was not the meanest stream for a hundred leagues. The rare fruits of the bushes were poisonous. Rangy beasts hunted this maquis, and stranger things still clambered ashore with the fogs to gorge upon them. Besides, any fool could see from the landward edge—for only fools approached it—that the thickets gave out quickly. Within a mile of the cliff edge the verdant strip stopped. Beyond it sand grains whispered over each other with no root nor branch to constrain them for hundreds of miles...