Hydros is an ocean world, dotted by small artificial islands constructed of organic materials by her creatures, the vast majority of which are hostile and deadly to humans.
Valben Lawler is a doctor, a man of science reduced to the use of primitive tools and home remedies produced from the native life around him. Lawler is isolated from the other islands of Hydros, and even from the other humans on Sorve Island. His existence is fixed, static, until Nid Delagard, owner of a shipping line, thoughtlessly causes the death of sentient creatures called divers. As a result, the huge, amphibious Gillies that the humans must leave their small portion of the island—all of the humans. Negotiation is useless; the humans must choose between exile and death.
Thirty days later, seventy-eight people board six ships and begin their exodus to an unknown future. Island after island refuses them refuge; they are forced to continue across the perilous ocean. Suddenly Lawler realizes that they are far off their projected path and in the Empty Sea, headed for the legendary Face of the Waters, a mythical place sacred to the Gillies. Food and water run short; five ships are lost in a storm. Only one ship remains to reach the terrifying shore which calls seductively to them. Among these few souls Lawler must face the epic struggle to define his humanity.
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