DUSKWORLD: Chapters Twelve and Thirteen - Newbright and The Mimic

Chapter Thirteen

  Amara’s warning had set Meiki on edge as she cycled into Newbright.
  She had never been to a city of course, but she understood enough from watching old movies. Those had always painted urban areas as dangerous dens of crime and poverty. Surely Newbright would be different.
  She had surmised from all of the old books and films of Earth that cities there had long histories of cultures clashing. Invaders and refugees coming in waves and waves over the centuries. Each created a new wrinkle to the fabric of social classes. The haves and the have-nots were in a constant struggle. Every story on Earth pivoted around that basic principle.
  But on Naya all people had everything they needed to survive and thrive. There was only one culture really, so no one to clash with. What type of crime and hardship could there be in a city where everyone was fed and clothed?  Why would people fight if they all came from the same place and spoke the same language?
  What nagged at her mind was the way Amara had said it. “Newbright is relatively safe city...”  Relative to what?  There were no other cities.
  The strangest thing about entering the city was that she wasn’t entirely sure when she had done so. After being dropped off she rode at a somewhat leisurely pace for about an hour. There she started to see buildings up close. They were just small structures like the ones back home. One or two stories tops.
  There were some warehouses and industrial sites. Eventually that gave way to dwellings. First just some isolated but large homes set off quite a way from the road. As she went on the houses got smaller, closer together and more frequent. She had entered a residential area. She saw schools and shops. It was starting to look like Gates, except way more densely populated. The people seemed friendly enough. They smiled and nodded as she passed.
  The road led to a long bridge that spanned an enormous river. She stopped to read a plaque before the bridge. The river was called “The Barnum”. Named after a famous showman known for his dishonesty according to the plaque. Apparently the early planners of the city had a sense of humor as it was an artificial river.
  Charlie’s history lessons had deliberately ignored Newbright. This bridge taught her more about the city than he ever had.
  On the opposite bank of the river she was in the city for certain. Here the buildings were taller. Some dwarfed any building she had ever seen. They blocked one another out. The skyscrapers she had viewed from the road were now invisible behind the nearer structures. She thought it funny that something so big could become impossible to see as you grew closer to it.
  Close up the buildings in this part of town were not so shiny as they had seemed from afar. Even so, the city was beautiful. Most were made of concrete and wood, but a few of the newer structures were formed of more advanced materials. It was still early in the day and many of the business seemed to not be open yet. She saw more shops, restaurants, art galleries, and even a theater. This is the place to be, thought Meiki. This is what I’ve wanted all my life.
  As Meiki advanced toward the center of town she saw more and more glass and ceramics and some chrome-like material. It probably wasn’t actually metal, but it looked reflective and was certainly new and bright.
  The largest and most modern buildings were clustered together in the center of the city. Meiki rode in that general direction for a while just taking in the sights. She stopped for breakfast at a park with a fountain made of pink and blue crystals. Out of her pack she pulled her water and a sandwich.
  I’m going to need to figure out how to feed myself, she mused as she ate. In Gates everyone received a credit allowance that could be used for purchases. As far as she knew her credit would still be good here, but she also knew that using her ID would alert Charlie back home.
  What would he do when he realized I’m gone? she wondered. She hadn’t planned for that aspect of running away. Not really. She assured herself that no one would really miss her, but didn’t actually consider what they would do. Technically she was under Charlie’s care and he would be obligated to at least investigate her disappearance.
  Phel knew where she went. He would tell Charlie...if he survived. The thought of Phel getting attacked by the ghosts sickened her. They didn’t mess with her or him when they first set out, though. They left her alone after Junko abandoned her too. They only attacked when the...aliens were around.
  If she could get to a maker Meiki could reconfigure her ID. She could create a blank new  persona with ease. With that she would have all the credit she could need, enough to survive at least.
  Meiki finished her lunch and decided to head to the nearest maker shop. She pulled a map of the city up in her book. The nearest place was just a few blocks away and next to the library. Might as well stop there on the way, she thought.

Chapter Thirteen
The Mimic

  “Who’s there!” asked Phel, not wanting a response.
  Probably a sheep that wandered into the woods, he thought. Or some wild dogs...or worse.
  He stood rigidly upright and spun around. “Back off!” he said firmly hoping it was nothing worse than a dog.
  “Back off!” came a weak voice in the darkness.
  “I told you to back off!”
  “I told you to back off!” mimicked the voice.
  “I am not in the mood to play games, whoever you are!” he shouted.
  “I am not in the mood to play games, whoever you are!”
  Fearing what he would see, but fearing more what it would do if he didn’t, Phel spun around to see a pair of blue glowing eyes peering at him. They belonged to a dark figure in a vaguely humanoid shape. At first he assumed it was a person in a dark suit, perhaps another one like Rashmi as the blue glow matched hers. As he looked the being up and down in the dim light of its own eyes Phel realized it was made of black plastic and bits of metal. It was a machine made to look like a person.
  No, he thought, it was made to look like me.
  He screamed.

  It screamed.

The Girl with a Bird for a Heart - Chapter VI

“Fool!” he said, “Damn old fool! That’s what you are!”

Shouting at himself in the pitch blackness. This is what the wicked and mighty Enin had sunk to. A withering husk of a man, an ebony skeleton crying in the shadows.

“So certain of yourself, old man. So full of hubris. You sought to make yourself a god. Now look at you. You’re too dried and ancient to even produce a single tear.”

He held the heart in front of his face. He could not see it the way one sees in the light but still he sensed it before his eyes. It was a warm heart, a bright heart. The girl from which he’d stolen it had been those things. Warm. Bright. It was a great sin to take it from her. Not his greatest sin by far, but a great one nonetheless. Even now, far removed from its host the heart was strong and full of life’s blood.

“Idiot.” came a voice not his own. It startled the old man before he remembered he was not entirely alone in this cave.

“You’re doing it wrong you decrepit turd!”

Enin glanced down at his chest reflexively in spite of the utter darkness. “What would you have done differently, feather-brain?”

The voice came from his heart, or what passed for one. An iron cage implanted into the cavity of his chest, much like the one he had forced upon Tula Petek. Within it was a starling. Had there been even a mote of light it would have reflected iridescently off of the bird’s feathers.

“You read the scroll of Aina. You must have a pure heart to see the door.”

“I DO HAVE ONE.” boomed the old man, waving the heart around blindly.

“You can’t just hold it out like a candle, you dullard. The heart must be a part of you.”


“I may be a birdbrain but I’ve seen a thing or two in the centuries I’ve lived inside your chest, old man. The only way you can find what you want is if you tear your heart out. Again.”

“But to do so would-”

“Kill you?” finished the bird, “No, I’m sure it wouldn’t. Besides, isn’t that the whole point?”

“It may merely disable me.” said Enin, “Make me unable to move. Trapped in this cavern, frozen for eternity.”

“That it just might, but maybe not. What have you to lose at this point? You’re trapped down here either way.”

“But if I release you, what will you do?”

“Fly away.” squawked the bird, “Far away from you!”

“At least you are honest with me.” said Enin, “I suspect you are correct. I have no other option, do I?”

“None that I can see, but even I can’t see in this pit.”

Enin covered the heart in leaves once more. He set it gently down and began reciting a very ancient incantation. Strange syllables unheard for aeons poured from his mouth. The metal in his chest grew warm, then hot, very hot. The bars of the cage began to glow red, creating light in this pit for the first time in human memory.
The pain was immense as the cage went from red to white hot. Within the bird appeared gravely frightened.

“I don’t like this.” it said.

“It will be over soon.” replied Enin. It was a phrase he had spoken many times. As a doctor he’d said it to sooth patients. As a killer to silence his victims. Today he was playing both roles at once.

With a brilliant flash the door of the cage burst open. Instantly the bird popped out, singed but not hurt. It stretched its wings for a moment, glanced at Enin in the fading light of the heated metal and flew off the way they had come. It did not say goodbye to the man that had held it captive for an eternity. Even if it had wanted to Enin was certain that the power of speech left the creature the moment it exited his body.

The next step of the operation would be the difficult part. Enin’s entire body felt as if it were on fire. Without a living heart his corporeal form would soon cease to function. He fumbled for the organ of Tula Petek but between the darkness and pain could not find it. With great effort the old man managed to flip over to his knees and felt around the cavern floor for the precious object he knew could only be a few inches from him.
He tried to curse in frustration but no words escaped his mouth. His very breath was absent. Frantically Enin swept around the cave with his hands. Each movement stiffer than the last. His arms and legs began to feel like rusty hinges. If he had a tear to cry it would have poured out of him, but Enin had nothing. Even the black bird he’d exchanged for a heart had abandoned him.

Falling on his face the old man gasped dryly, unable to take a single breath. This was his end for certain. Paralyzed on the cold stone, trapped within himself until his mind snapped.

Something brushed against his neck. It was a leaf, one he’d used to wrap the heart. With intense effort Enin turned his neck toward it. His right arm was completely dead, but his left was still inching along. Using his fingers like the legs of a spider he managed to crawl his hand along the floor toward his face. Every inch of ground covered by his hand sent stabbing pains along his chest and spine, but Enin continued.

The hand soon felt the warm, life filled heart. It had rolled loose of the leaves, but did not seem damaged. Grasping it in his wicked hand gave Enin an iota of vitality. Just enough to scoop it toward his sunken chest.

As he pushed the heart into the cage it began to beat faster and faster. The pain subsided a fraction and Enin managed to push the cage door shut and roll onto his back. The fire in his muscles ebbed and his lungs began to pump stale cavern air. Nothing in his long life had ever tasted as sweet.

Glancing upward Enin saw a light. It was blue, no yellow, no...not any color he’d ever witnessed. It was ring-shaped and floating just a yard or two above his face. Enin sat up and reached out to the light above him.

It was the light of the end of the world.

The Diary of Wartha Gormley - Day in the Sun

I hit the water hard and clumsy. It felt like slamming against a stone floor except I kept falling and falling. I kicked and flailed, but my right leg was tangled in Dru’s stirrup. The icy rush of the river filled my nose and mouth. I didn’t have a chance to catch my breath. The current yanked Drucilla downstream and me with her. My ankle twisted and almost felt like it would snap. My lungs were on fire and for the first time in my life I was surrounded by penetrating darkness. This is it, I thought to myself. This is where my journey ends. Some mighty hunter, I am, huh? Drowned to death because I was too stupid to make sure my mount was fit before I rode.

I thought of all the things I’d miss like Gurk’s stew, Dad’s tales of the great goblin warriors of old taking down giant Updwellers, and the look of pride in Mom’s eyes when I was to come home with the Sun on Dru’s back.

At least the folks back home will never know how it happened, I thought. That stuck up prig, Twylla won’t have a chance to turn her nose up and mock me for being stupid enough to fall in a river and die.

The blackness around me got even blacker somehow. My fingers and toes were numb. It felt like they didn’t even exist, like they’d fallen off or simply never been there to begin with. I tried to scream but couldn’t make a sound. My mouth filled with more water and my chest burned searingly hot.

The sensation that I was being pulled down river like a piece of driftwood continued for a million lifetimes and suddenly stopped.
I was barely conscious as my body dragged along a bed of stones and mud. The night air bit at my body. I tried to roll over onto my side, tried to push myself up, but my muscles did not respond.
I decided to embrace the cold and rest. I sank into the inky world that surrounded me. The pain in my chest faded. This is good, I thought, this is right. I can just lie here and sleep. Sleep forever.

My eternal slumber didn’t last long. A brand new pain came crashing down on my belly like a hammer blow. My mouth popped open and I vomited half a river onto the ground. I don’t remember feeling anything, but my arms and legs were moving again. I panicked.

Wildly I swung a fist at whoever had struck me in the stomach. My knuckles dug deep into something big and soft and warm. I felt the coarse hairs of Drucilla’s hide envelope my hand. I tried to stand but my knees gave way and I collapsed on the bank. Little by little my body began to feel again. Everything hurt.
I shivered uncontrollably and cried. Water continued to pour out of my nostrils, my mouth, and now my eyes. Drucilla wrapped all of her legs around me. She shielded me from the cold. I eventually stopped convulsing and grew calm.

The next thing I knew the Sun was overhead. I don’t have a clue how long I’d slept. That blasted fireball stared down, mocking me. If I had my bow in hand I would have taken a shot right then and there. The darn thing was way too far for me to hit. Close to a mile away I reckon.

My chest ached. My head was full of broken glass and my ankle was sprained. I was warm, though. Dru’s hulking form heated me up nicely. I sat up and shook the old girl. She didn’t respond. I pushed harder. Nothing.

“Dru!” I yelled. “Dru, no!”

She stirred. Thank Gashwhisker, I thought. Drucilla turned most of her eyes toward me and clicked her mandibles. That was her way of saying she was pleased to see me. I wrapped my arms around her thorax and squeezed tight.

“You had me worried, girl.” I told her. She clicked rapidly. I kissed her bristly head.

I got up uneasy and surveyed the damage. I limped a little, but the pain wasn’t the worst I’d ever felt. I’m Wartha the Hunter. Wartha the Wolfslayer. Wartha Who Stalks the Sun. I can handle a sprained ankle.

I nearly fell over on top of Dru but I caught myself as I reached for the saddle bags. Everything was soaked, but nothing seemed lost. I considered making a fire to dry my things out, but I realized I could just lay it all out in the heat of the Sun. It’s not dishonorable to use the power of your enemy to help yourself, is it? I hope not. I laid everything I could out on some dry rocks away from the shore.

Drucilla wasn’t looking too shiny. Once I had myself straightened out more or less I checked out her leg. It was worse than before. Bits of carapace were broken off altogether. Oh Dru, I thought, This is all my fault.
I didn’t have anything dry to make a bandage with. All of my stuff was drying out in the light of that confounded sky orb.

I could barely see for all the brightness. How do Updwellers make it in this world of light? That must be why they all have such tiny eyes. Maybe that’s why most of them are so angry all the time too.

I laid back down beside Dru. This time I decided to give her my warmth while we waited for the Sun to restore our belongings. I rested my eyes for a minute.

When I opened them it was nearly dark out again.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

photo source: http://www.zwallpix.com/dark-woods-at-night.html

 So, I missed an update last week and am a little behind right now. Starting a new day job and holiday visits have put me off schedule.

I will have a new page of The Diary of Wartha Gormley up some time Wednesday and if all goes according to plan I will have The Girl with a Bird for a Heart up to date by posting two new chapters on Friday.

 I must admit that posting my work on this blog feels a lot like shouting into a well. I get virtually no feedback and don't know if anyone is actually reading, let alone enjoying my stories. If you are interested in giving me a shout-out you can follow my twitter @EmJayPatrick or the facebook group I've made for this blog.

Duskworld Chapters Ten and Eleven

Chapter Ten
Twenty Minutes Prior

  It was dark but from here he knew the way and cycling made it much easier. Phel glided along for ten easy minutes before he saw the headlights coming toward him. It was a truck.
  That’s gotta be that Tyson fellow, he thought. I don’t think it would be a good idea for him to see me out here.
  He looked to the forest, but there was an embankment of stone and dirt on the side of the road that blocked his passage.
  Phel stood beside his bike helplessly as the truck pulled up in front of him. In the driver’s seat he saw Tyson and beside him was Charlie.
  “Phelliam,” Charlie said to him through the window, “why are you out here in the middle of the night?”
  They ushered him into the truck. It did not seat three comfortably.
  Phel was no liar. On the few occasions he had tried to do so his tongue would twist and he would stammer. No sense in even attempting it with two androids. They’d suss him out in seconds.
  He told the truth to the best of his ability. He told them about Rashmi, the fugitive from space and how Meiki had run off with her. He was shocked when they believed him. They didn’t even bat an electronic eye at the notion of earth-born humans finally contacting Naya after all of this time.
  “It was bound to happen sooner or later," said Tyson, “Odd that it would happen on the very day that we decide to bury the hatchet with Marie.”
  “I didn’t agree to that," said Charlie, “I aim merely to open up relations. She and I still disagree on nearly everything. But I am willing to meet with her and see what kind of progress Newbright has made.”
  Phel’s brow furrowed, “Who’s Marie?”
  “She is our counterpart in Newbright,” said Tyson, “Some years ago she and Charlie had a...falling out...a difference of opinion regarding how the colonies were to be handled. Both sides had fair points and both made mistakes.”
  Charlie glanced sideways at Tyson after that remark but said nothing.
  “Anyway,” continued Tyson, “it’s been a long night for all of us. We will make a stop at Sagan and leave Phelliam there for the night. Dav can bring him home in the morning.
  Phel’s curiosity was nowhere near as strong as his desire to locate a warm bed so he didn’t protest.
  “There’s someone on the road," said Charlie.
  “I see her.” Tyson concurred.
  Phel’s chest pumped furiously when he saw her. A woman in a suit like Rashmi’s, except black with red circuit inlays was standing in the middle of the road. She was holding a baton in front of her- pointing it at them like a gun.
  The truck’s engine suddenly stopped. Even the headlights dimmed.
  “I think it is safe to assume that this woman is in league with the one you told us about, Phelliam," said Tyson as he opened the door.
  “What are you doing?  She don’t look like she’s on our side!”, sputtered Phel.
  Charlie patted Phel on the arm and said, “Don’t worry, Phelliam. Allow us to handle this situation. Besides, whatever she is holding clearly has left the truck useless. There is no logical reason to remain inside it. We are unarmed. No one will be hurt.”
  The woman blasted Tyson with a bolt from her baton knocking him back ten meters.
“Phelliam! Run into the woods! I’ll stop her!” said Charlie urgently.
  Phel had already opened the door and jumped to the ground before Charlie was done speaking. He was nearly a hundred meters away before he fell to the ground, nearly exhausted.
  What is going on? He thought. Is Charlie dead? And that Tyson guy?  Gone?  And Meiki...
  He looked back but couldn’t see the road in the darkness. The all encompassing darkness of the forest made that impossible. At best he could see a few trees in front of him.
  Behind him, Phel heard something move.

Chapter Eleven

  The sky resembled mossy stone. Here and there were thin areas where the sunlight almost broke the clouds, but mostly the slate color Meiki had always known loomed above.
  She looked to her savior, a pale skinned woman of about thirty years. Her hair was a rich yellow color. Few folks from gates looked like that. Perhaps she was from Newbright.
  “Did we drive all night?” her dry voice spoke weakly.
  The woman smiled. “I drove all night. You slept. But yes. We’re nearly there.”
  “Aren’t you tired?”
  “Oh, I drive this route all the time. I sleep in the day and drive mostly at night.”
  Meiki took a long pull from her water bottle and offered it to the driver.
  “I’m fine, thanks.”
  “Thank you for picking me up. I probably wouldn’t have made it out there if you hadn’t.”
  The driver eyed her up and down before speaking, “I’m Amara, by the way. So, Meiki...are you going to tell me what a kid your age is doing in the woods at night?”
  Meiki explained as much of her story as she figured would be believable. She was travelling to Newbright with her friend when they were separated during the storm. When she tried to find him she got lost and wandered until she found the road. She decided not to mention the ghosts because it would probably bring more questions that might lead to her slipping about Rashmi and Junko. No, she thought. That’s too much for anyone to swallow.
  Amara didn’t question her any further. She didn’t ask why Meiki wanted to leave Gates or what she expected to find in Newbright. Meiki found the acceptance of her life choices refreshing. They drove quietly for over an hour before it came into view.
  As someone who had never seen a city before, cresting a hill to catch even a glimpse of skyline made Meiki dizzy. Man made towers seem impossibly large when the biggest thing you have ever seen is a forest. That first shot of skyscrapers for a second before they popped back beneath the treeline left her feeling as if she had imagined it. Nothing could be that huge. It was several kilometers away and yet it dominated the land. Soon the truck pulled to the top of another hill and there it was again. Majestic, awesome, monumental...Meiki’s mental thesaurus held no words to describe Newbright. Her chest was nearly bursting but she wanted to remain cool. She didn’t want Amara to know what a seed she was.
  “How far is it?” her voice cracked.
  Amara shot her a sideward glance and smiled. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?  The city?”
  “I...yeah. It’s so...shiny.”
  “The buildings are designed to maximize the light that breaks the cloud cover. That’s important if you want your solar cells to be effective.”
  “We use min-fusion packs in most of our tech back in Gates. Why would Newbright be so keen on solar?”
  “An hour or so.”
  “You asked me how far it was. About an hour until we get to Newbright. But I have to drop you off before then. Sorry kid. Don’t want to get fired.”
  “Oh right. You said that last night.”
  “I’ll pull over in about a half an hour. You can take your bike straight down the main road and right into town. From there you’ll be able to find a rail station. Do you have family in the city?”
  “No, just a friend," said Meiki, thinking of Rashmi. Not to say that she was much of a friend at all. Even if she also made it to Newbright how would Meiki know where to find her?  Would she even want to?  Rashmi did abandon her when the ghosts were attacking.
  The remainder of the ride was silent. Amara pulled over and waited while Meiki retrieved her bike from behind the seat.
  “Well...thanks for the ride, lady.”
  “Wait," said Amara. She held up her linker. Meiki understood the gesture and reached into a pocket to grab her own. They held the two devices near one another and each pressed a button. With that they had each other’s contact information.
  “Call me if you get into trouble, kid. Newbright is a relatively safe city, but it’s still a city.”

Behind on Update!

The Girl with a Bird for a Heart did not update yesterday. Sorry. I started a new day job this week and have a ton of freelance work to boot. I'll get caught up soon, I swear.

I'll have an update of Duskworld on Monday for certain.

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The Diary of Wartha Gormley - Days and Days

Diary. I’m still in the abandoned Updweller cave. This one is made mostly of little red rectangular stones stuck together somehow. It’s pretty old, and doesn’t look like it’s been inhabited in a long time. I reckon it ain’t a dwelling, though. It looks like some sort of old meeting place. The hue-men like to build lots of caves to live in near one another and sometimes they make ones like this that ain’t for living in. I think it might have been a school or something like that. The inside was mostly bare, but most of the rooms contained a black wall with faint writing on it just like the slates goblins use in school to take notes and do sums.
The rest of the settlement must have been taken into the forest a long time ago because I couldn’t find any other Updweller caves about. I guess they made this one of red stones to make it last longer than the others. As it is the stones are dry and crumbling. The cave has holes in it that the hue-men tried to cover up with big pieces of that clear stone Red wore on her face. Most of the clear stone is broken though. It’s a might chilly in here, but Dru and I can keep one another warm.
I wonder how old this place is even.
Anyway. Like I said before. I’m lost. It’s been days and days since I met those girl hue-men. After I said my goodbyes to Red and Miri I scuttled on down to a river on Dru’s back. We trekked along it until morning time and found a nice shady spot to hide out until it got dark again. We did this every day for a dang long time (sorry for cussing if you ever read this, Ma). One night we came to a great wide path. It was smooth and black with lines the color of the Sun painted right down the middle of it. The lines and the path looked like they went on forever. It crossed right over the river on a massive bridge made of stone and metal.

Off a ways to my left I saw a glowing light sort of like a pair of those “flashlights” the girls had except bigger and brighter. They sped toward Dru and me like a nightraptor chasing a korbi. We ducked behind the brush so as not to be seen. Those lights were attached to something big, bigger than a pregnant mondohusk. It zoomed at us and passed by along the black path with a rush of wind. The sound of it made Drucilla act skittish and I had to drag her down into the trees with me so she’d calm down a bit.

We waited there a long time before venturing out again. Dru acted a might fretful but she’s a loyal girl and skittered out at my command. We were only halfway across when I saw a pair of lights again. Coming from the other direction. I urged Dru to get to the other side before it reached us and she sped up, but dang (sorry) if the thing was faster than I could imagine. It nearly knocked flat into us as we dashed to the side of the path and ducked under some trees.

I rode ol’ Dru along the river a ways before I noticed something was up.

She walked a smidgen uneasy. It’s hard to notice with arachnids on account of all the legs they got to spare, but she was limping a tad. I dismounted and took a gander at her. Sure enough the left rear tarsus had been hit. I had trouble telling through all the bristles but it looked like she got nailed pretty bad by that fast moving wahtcha-whosit.

I patched her up as best I could with the remainder of my bandages and decided to rest for a night and a day. Game had grown scarcer, but I managed to catch enough long-ears  to get us through it. Occasionally those lights would come by again and I got a better look at them. They were some sort of contraption, not a beastie. They looked like carts but instead of pushing or pulling the things the Updwellers sit on the inside and pick their noses. Maybe nose picking is what makes them go.

The next evening I checked Dru’s wound. It wasn’t infected at least. The carapace was cracked but not broken. Dru’s a tough girl.

We travelled along for a couple of hours along that river. After a ways we came along another path running alongside it. It looked exactly like the one we’d crossed. A patch of trees stood between the path and the water which made for the perfect place to stay hidden from those hue-men carts. I started to feel like we’d be getting close soon. We’d been journeying toward the Sun for so long. I lost track of time a while back. I figured we must be close to the edge of the world.

I thought about Ma back home and Pa and Gurk too. I hoped they weren’t too worried for me. Ma taught me well, though. She should know how good I am at staying alive out in the world. Of course she never trained me for this world. I wondered what she’d say when I came home with the Sun trussed up like a cavern boar.

I was so caught up in my thoughts I didn’t even notice Dru’s labored walking until it was too late.

She stumbled and next thing I knew we were falling over into the river.