Book #2
The Cradle of Ice: A MoonFall Saga Novel
Book 2
Released On: Feb 07, 2023

The second book in the New York Times bestselling Moon Fall series from thriller-master James Rollins, The Cradle of Ice is a page-turning tale of action, adventure, betrayal, ambition, and the struggle for survival in a harsh world that hangs by a thread.

To stop the coming apocalypse, a fellowship was formed.

A soldier, a thief, a lost prince, and a young girl bonded by fate and looming disaster.

Each step along this path has changed the party, forging deep alliances and greater
enmities. All the while, hostile forces have hunted them, fearing what they might
unleash. Armies wage war around them.

For each step has come with a cost—in blood, in loss, in heartbreak.

Now, they must split, traveling into a vast region of ice and to a sprawling capital of the world they’ve only known in stories. Time is running out and only the truth will save us all.

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NYX HELD HER HAND UP AGAINST THE BRILLIANT SWATH OF STARS. THE WARMTH of her hand up against the brilliant swath of stars. The warmth of her breathmisted the icy darkness, obscuring the view enough to make it look like some spellcast illusion. Alone atop the middeck of the Sparrowhawk, she gazed at the wonder above. She had never imagined such a radiant glittering existed beyond the sun’s glare.

Then again, how could I have known?

As the wyndship continued its westward flight under the arch of the night’s sky, she recognized how small her existence had been until recently. All her life had been spent within the Crown, where night was but a dimmer gloaming of the day. She pictured the bronze orrery in her old school’s astronicum, where the sun was represented by a spherical kettle of hot coals around which tiny planets spun on wires and gears. She pictured the third orb—the Urth—driven by the orrery’s complicated dance. As her world circled the sun, it never turned its face away. One side forever burned under the merciless blaze of the Father Above, while the other was forever forbidden His warmth, locked in eternal frozen darkness. The Crown lay between those extremes, the circlet of lands trapped between ice and fire, where the life-giving love of the Father Above nurtured those below.

And now we’ve left it all far behind.

She shifted her hand toward the reason for this perilous flight. With the cold numbing her bare fingers, she measured the full face of the moon, as bright as a lantern in these dark lands. She tried to judge if its countenance had swollen any larger, searching for evidence that her prophecy of Moonfall could be true. She again heard the screams from her vision, felt the thunderous quake of the land—followed by the deafening silence of a world destroyed as the moon crashed into the Urth.

She could not tell if the moon’s face had grown any bigger, but she did not doubt her poison-induced prophecy from half a year ago. Alchymist Frell had confirmed the same with his own measurements, in scopes far more precise than Nyx’s fingers. According to him, the full moon had been growing incrementally larger, more so over the past decade. The bronze woman, Shiya, had even assigned a rough date to the world’s end: No longer than five years, maybe as short as three.

Nyx felt the pressure of that narrowing timeline. It weighed like a cartload of stones sitting atop her chest. Even when resting, she often found it hard to breathe. Their group had spent the tail of summer and most of autumn in preparation for this journey into the dark Frozen Wastes. They dared not rush their efforts, especially when so little was known about these icy lands. And now with the winter solstice rapidly approaching, they still had hundreds of leagues to travel, with time ticking rapidly away.

Despairing, she lowered her arm and slipped her fingers back into her fur-lined gloves. Since crossing over the mountainous Ice Fangs—that jagged barrier of snowy peaks that marked the boundary between the Crown and the Frozen Wastes—the moon had waxed and waned three times over. Thrice, Nyx had watched the dark Huntress chase the bright Son around and around. Each time the Son showed his full face again, Nyx had snuck away, like now, and climbed to the open deck of the Sparrowhawkto judge the moon’s cold countenance.

Still, that was not the only reason she had abandoned the warmth of the ship for the frigid ice of the open middeck.

She shifted along the starboard rail, craning past the girth of the ponderous gasbag that obscured most of the sky. She searched for the telltale sickle of her brother’s silhouette against the stars. Her ears strained for his call through the darkness. She heard the ice cracking loose from the huge draft-iron cables that linked ship to balloon, but all else lay quiet. Even the flashburn forges that propelled the vessel through the air remained silent, their baffles sealed against the cold, trying to keep the warmth locked inside the wyndship.

For most of the journey, the crew had relied on the current of the westward-flowing sky-river to carry them ever onward. The ship’s forges certainly could have hastened their flight, but their supplies of flashburn had to be conserved, even with the extra tanks welded along the Sparrowhawk’s hull. They needed enough fuel not only for the trip out across the Wastes, but also for their return if they were successful in their quest.

She leaned farther over the rail, scanning the sky, her heart pounding slightly harder.

“Where are you?” she whispered through her scarf.

As she searched, the wind brushed the loose strands of her dark hair about her cheeks. The breeze no longer carried any hint of its former warmth. She pictured the twin rivers that flowed across the skies. The higher of the two—through which the ship traveled—carried the scathing heat of the sunblasted side of the Urth in a continual westward flow before returning in a colder stream that hugged land and sea. It was those two streams—forever flowing in two different directions—that blessed the lands of the Crown with a livable clime. Hieromonks believed it was due to the twin gods, the fiery Hadyss and the icy giant Madyss, who blew those rivers across the skies, while alchymists insisted it was due to some natural bellows created between the two extremes of the Urth.

She didn’t know which to believe. All she knew for sure was that this far out into the Wastes, that hot river carried little of its life-giving warmth. And from here, their way would only grow colder. It was said that, if one traveled far enough out into the Wastes, the very air turned to ice.

Knowing this, she searched the stars for her bonded brother. He needed these brief flights to stretch his wings and escape the tight confines of the Sparrowhawk’s lower hold. But he had been gone far longer than usual. Concern constricted her throat. Her limbs shivered from more than just the cold.

Come back to me.



As Nyx kept her vigil, the chime of the second bell of Eventoll echoedup to her from the ship’s interior. She shivered in her coat, drawing its hood tighter to her cheeks. Her teeth had begun to chatter.

He’s been gone a full bell.

Both frustrated and worried, she stared down at the spread of broken ice far below, reflecting the silvery sheen of the full moon. Finding no answers in the unending landscape of the Ice Shield, she stared upward again. She hummed under her breath, casting out a few strands of bridle-song.

“Where are you?” she sang to the stars.

Then she felt him: a tingle at the top of her spine that spread a warmth across the inside of her skull.

Relief escaped her in a misty exhalation.


A massive shadow swept low over the balloon and out in the sky before her. As the Mýr bat’s wings cleaved across the starscape, he angled over on a tip and spun back around. With that turn, the tingling warmth grew into a soft keening, less heard than felt, a slight vibration of the bones in her ears.

She danced back from his approach. As he dove, his wings spread and cupped the air, slowing him. She retreated farther to make room. Luckily, she did. When he ducked under the gasbag, his claws released a massive haunch of some large beast. The chunk of carcass—easily a hundred stone in weight—bounced and slid across the deck, leaving behind a steaming trail of blood.

Bashaliia then landed himself. His claws skittered across the planks, digging for purchase, before finally coming to a stop.

Nyx sidestepped the gore and rushed up to her friend.

His wings folded around her, enveloping her. Velvety nostrils found her cheek. His warm breath panted over her. His body was a flaming hearth in the cold. She nestled into that warmth. Her fingers rubbed the dense fur behind one of his tall ears. Her other palm rested on his chest, feeling the thump of his heart. The beat was already slowing from the exertion of his hunt.

“Bashaliia, you mustn’t be gone so long,” she scolded softly. “You had me worried.”

He hummed back his reassurance.

As he did, her fingers dug into his pelt. She appreciated how thick it had grown. His body had quickly adjusted to the cold—amazingly so. She was not the only one to notice. Krysh—the alchymist assigned by Frell to accompany them—had noted the changes: the extra layer of fat, his shaggier fur, even the thickening of Bashaliia’s nasal flaps. It was as if the bat were mimicking the baffles of the ship’s forges, narrowing all openings to keep heat inside. The young alchymist had also leeched blood from her friend and reported changes there: an increasing volume of red cyllilar matter, accompanied by an ever-protracted time for his blood to freeze. Krysh attributed the latter to the appearance of ice-resistant chymicals, agents that still stymied identification. His conclusion: It’s as if the creature’s entire form is rapidly changing to fit his new circumstance.

Nyx wished the same were true for her.

Even encased in Bashaliia’s warmth, she shivered. They needed to retreat below. She lifted her chin and softly sang, letting threads of bridle-song slip from her to him, sharing her desire to return to the warmth of the ship.

He briefly drew her tighter, using his long tail to reach around and scoop her closer. His heavy musk enveloped her. Despite his bodily changes, his scent remained a constant. She drew that musk into her lungs, letting it become part of her. It smelled of briny salt and damp fur, underlaid by a sulfurous hint of brimstan. Despite the passage of time, he still carried the scent of the swamplands with him. It reminded Nyx of her own home in those drowned lands, and all she had lost.

Her dah, her brothers, Basten and Ablen…

All dead.

She drew in a deep draught of Bashaliia’s musk, using that scent to stoke her memory. And not just that past shared with her family, but to one that lay farther back, nearly forgotten. She could picture little of it. It was a time made up of smells, tastes, touches. As a babe, she had been abandoned in the swamps after the death of her mother. She would not have survived that harsh landscape, but a she-bat discovered her and took her in. Nyx was nursed and sustained by the massive creature.

And not just me.

Nestled under those same wings, a small furry brother had shared those milky teats.

Her finger dug deeper.


His scent, the warmth of his body, served as a reminder that she had not lost allof her family during that horrible summer. She wanted to keep him close, to stay here longer, but she knew they both needed to retreat below.

She placed her palms against his chest and pushed out of the blanket of his wings. The cold struck her immediately. Frost already crusted the outer edges of Bashaliia’s tall ears.

“Let’s find us a warm stove and hope its coals have been freshly stoked.”

She turned toward the raised aft deck and the doors that led down into the lower hold. Before she could step in that direction, the doors to the forecastle banged open behind her. She spun around, startled. The flare of lamplight momentarily blinded her.

Bashaliia’s wings snapped wider, defensively, as he responded to her distress.

She lifted a calming hand to him, recognizing the intruder through the glare.

“Jace?” She struggled to understand his arrival. “What are you doing here?”

She knew her friend and former tutor despised the cold. Still, he headed toward her, huddled under a thick blanket, his breath huffing streams of white. He kept a wary eye on his footing as he crossed the frosty planks of the deck.

“There’s something I wanted to talk to you about in private,” he said. “Something curious, maybe important. Then Graylin caught me as I headed up here. He’s ordering everyone to the wheelhouse. Darant spotted something ahead. Something worrisome from Graylin’s grim tones.”

“He always sounds grim,” she reminded him.

“Mayhap, but we’d better hurry. Especially since he doesn’t know you’re up here alone.”

“I’m hardly alone.” She patted Bashaliia, who had tucked his wings in again.

“I don’t think Graylin would take any solace in that detail.”

Nyx knew Jace was correct. Despite their confinement in the swyftship, she and Graylin had grown no closer. The man might be her father, but then again, he might not be. Still, he continually sought to assert some manner of control over her. She rankled at his ever-present shadow and searched for any moments to escape it.

Like now…

She recognized that it was not only Bashaliia who needed a respite from the ship’s close quarters.

Jace frowned at her, his lips set in a familiar firm line whenever he was confronted by her obstinance. “If Graylin ever learns that I knew about your little sojourns onto the open deck, he’d yank the beard right off my cheeks.”

She reached over and tugged at the drape of red curls under his jawline. “It seems secure enough to me.”

He pushed her hand down, a blush rising to his cheeks despite the cold. “Let’s keep it that way.”

She smiled. “The heavier beard does look good on you. It seems both you and Bashaliia are growing furrier with each passing league.”

His cheeks flushed a deeper crimson. “Like him, it’s not for looks, but to keep me warm.”

She shrugged, casting him a doubtful glance. “Help me get Bashaliia below, and we’ll head over to the wheelhouse.”

He gruffed under his breath, but she saw him comb his curls back into place after her ruffling. As the wind caught and parted his sheltering blanket, she also noted how else her friend had changed. Where Bashaliia had added a layer of warming fat, Jace had trimmed down. During the voyage, he had been sparring regularly with Darant and Graylin, honing his skills with both fist and ax. Additionally, as the ship’s larder was tightly rationed, he had shed a fair amount of his bulk.

Still, there was no removing the scholar from this novice warrior.

Despite his plain desire to escape the cold, Jace crossed toward the bloody haunch left on the deck. “Where did this come from?”

“Bashaliia’s been hunting,” she explained.

He squinted at the hoofed end of the carcass. “Three-toed and white furred. He must’ve taken down one of the martoks. Though from the leg’s small size, one of their yearling calves.” He reached to the pelt and pinched up a bit of moss, which glowed faintly in the dark. “Fascinating. We should bring this leg to Krysh and see what else we can learn about those giants that roam the Ice Shield.”

Nyx disagreed. “It’s Bashaliia’s kill. He clearly needs more sustenance than can be found in our thinning stores. In fact, he should probably hunt more often before it gets any colder.”

“True.” Jace straightened and rubbed his belly. “The more he can sustain himself, the slower our larder will wane. I’ll have a couple of the crew drag the leg below and salt it down.”

“Thank you.”

As they headed to the aft deck, he stared longingly at the haunch, but with a hunger born of curiosity. “Who imagined such massive creatures foraged these frozen lands?”

Nyx understood his interest. Through the ship’s farscopes, she had spied the massive herds of martoks ranging the broken ice fields. The shaggy, curl-horned bulls looked to stand as high as the third tier of her old school. The cows were only slightly smaller. The herds appeared to feed on tussocks of phosphorescent moss that grew across the ice, ripping up sections with their tusks. Krysh—whose decades of alchymical interest focused on the Wastes—had studied dried samples of the same plant, collected during rare excursions by foolhardy explorers. He said it was called is’veppirand claimed the cold foliage was more related to mushrooms than mosses.

“Who knew such life could exist out here?” Nyx said and stared to the west. “We’ll soon be beyond where anyone has ever set foot.”

“Not necessarily.” Jace’s voice lowered with a studious distraction that was as familiar as Bashaliia’s musk. “I’ve been reading accounts of those who dared venture beyond the Fangs. The Kronicles of Rega sy Noor. The Illumination of the Sunless Clime.Even a book that Krysh claimed was stolen from the Gjoan Arkives, a tome that dates back seven centuries. It’s what I found in those pages that I wanted to discuss with you, to talk it over before I brought it up with the others.”

By now they’d reached the double doors that led off the deck and down into the ship’s hold. She tugged the way open and turned to him. “What did you find?”

“If what’s written is true, we may not be alone in the Wastes. There could be other people.”

She scowled in disbelief.

That’s impossible. Who could live out here?

Jace held up a palm. “Hear me out, and I’ll—”

The entire ship jolted under them. Thunder boomed across the clear skies. On the starboard side, a flume of flame shot from the lower hull and across the sky. Chunks of draft-iron and shattered wood exploded high above the rail. A few pieces came close to ripping through the balloon. The blast shoved the Sparrowhawkinto a hard spin. Strained cables screamed and twanged under the sudden assault. The deck canted steeply.

Nyx lost her footing, but she kept a grip on the door.

Untethered, Jace slammed hard to the planks, hitting his chest. He slid across the icy deck away from her. Half tangled in his blanket, he gasped and clawed and scrabbled to halt his plunge.

“Jace!” she hollered and dropped to her backside. Maintaining her hold on the door, she shoved out a leg for him to grab, but he was already out of reach.

Bashaliia lunged past her, flying low. He dove at Jace, falling upon him like a hawk on a rabbit. Claws stabbed through the blanket. Jace cried out in pain as those sharp nails found flesh, too. Then with a single beat of wings, Bashaliia wrenched back to Nyx with his captured prize.

“Get inside!” Nyx yelled and led the way.

With alarm bells echoing throughout the ship, she fell through the door and crawled down into the short passageway. Bashaliia tossed Jace after her, then clambered in behind them, ducking low and squeezing through.

Jace groaned, sat up, and leaned his back against the wall. “What happened?”

Nyx stared past the open door. By now, the Sparrowhawk’s spin had already slowed, the deck leveling again. The flames had sputtered out, but a smoldering glow persisted on the ship’s starboard side.

She faced Jace, swallowing hard before speaking, fearful of even voicing the possibility, knowing the disaster it portended. “One of the ship’s forges must’ve exploded.