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A tall pyramidal tower, crowned with a green light, in a surreal dark landscape.

Embrace the Night (Part 2)


To Embrace the Night (Part 1)

Marat, age 16

It was Saltday and the whole city smelled of iodine and rotting fish, like the shore of an ancient sea. Marat was up quite early, doing his morning chores. Twenty meters above him the hearth lamp gave a cold light and all shadows were clean and crisp.

"Marat?" Dunja stepped from the portico, and she held the flower of her darling tree. The flower, he thought, just the flower and not the fruit of the vine. She wants me as a lover, not as husband.

He fingered the scar on his left cheek. He had fought Jehann for Sylphia, the year before. Not with his diskos, of course, but with the serrated dueling knife that left nicely ragged scars which the girls simply adored. Not that it clarified anything: Sylphia had laughed in his face and later offered her betrothal-apple to a much older boy.

"You want..." Suddenly his mouth felt completely dry and his tongue became a dead weight, a paralyzed slug. Impossible to speak except in a stutter. And then he blurted the most stupid thing he could imagine. "You brought only a blossom. You don't want me as your true love. Not as your husband. You just want to hang your girdle in the tree and get rid of your virginity!"

"You are so stupid!" She threw the flower on the mosaic floor, stamped on the delicate petals. "Do you think the Censors will ever allow me to breed? With this hair? With the color of my eyes?" She burst into tears. "Anything more than a flower would be a lie. A stupid lie."

Marat's body was so much more intelligent than his brain. He took her in his arms, held her and stroked her beautiful curling hair. He said the thing desperate lovers have murmured even before there were proper words. "Hush. I love you. You are my true love and we'll find a way."

Lies of course, but beautiful lies.

On the stair they met his youngest sister. She gave him a knowing smile and didn't say a single thing. For that he would be forever in her debt.

The tattoo of a feathered snake circled one of Dunja's pert breasts and dipped down until it slipped into her vagina. In her belly button an emerald gleamed, the exact color of her eyes.

She is so beautiful she could almost be a darkling.

Such a strange thought. He kissed her nipples and walked his fingers down the snake until she started to giggle.

"Stop, stop! No, go on, go on."

The first time they had to halt in the middle, they were both laughing too hard to go on. The next two times they concentrated and it went a bit more like in the moving books. There were no exploding rainbows, no melding of two souls. It was mostly great fun.

"I could learn to like this," Marat said.

She smiled at him. "Me, too."

Afterward they sat hand in hand in the window sill, their bare feet twenty meters above the ground.

The city of Gray Blossoms was laid out below them like a beautiful but slightly worn mosaic. There were fountains and blood-red alga ponds, the soaring marble towers of the Windworks. Silk banners flew from the shining cupolas of the Great.

"There are a thousand cities in the Redoubt," Marat said. "Each as different as a snowflake. Surely there must be one that accepts us? Would treasure our children?"

Dunja shook her head. "They are different, yes. But there are Censors in every city and the law is everywhere the same. Only true humans may have children."

"You are a true human! You can spiek, you can hier. You project the master-word."

"That isn't enough. When the Censors see me they see a freak. I am like a cave man, like a Neanderthal woman! True women, they have white hair, eyes with irises as black as their pupils."

"I'll find a way."

I'll have to. I may be a true human, genetically perfect, but I'm also the great enemy of the Redoubt. When I took the diskos I became Rabath reborn. All his glory and crimes I claimed as my own.

His uncle had sponsored him and he had been studying for Censor. He could recite the whole basic-genome of true man, enumerate a hundred species of darkling and how to kill them. On his twenty-first birthday, the moment he returned from his Ascent, Fredruk would personally give Marat the ambiglaukos-colored uniform of a Censor and put the tattoo of the Wheel on his forehead. During the Investiture three of the most powerful sensitives of the Censors would walk through his brain, search for the taint of darkness. They wouldn't find that, but they would find someone else. Someone even worse than a pneumavore.

"I'll find a way," he repeated.

The corridors of the Grand Library seemed endless. There were racks filled with glass books bound in titanium and rolls of vellum. Columns of pulsating light held a million different containers for digital content, many no larger than a grain of sand.

"The Lesser Redoubt?" the Librarian mused. "We lost contact so many generations ago." He rubbed his chin. "Though I seem to remember..." He reached above his head and a book materialized between his fingers. "There were dreams, night-talk, and that only fifty years ago."

The pages were sheets of flexible crystal with text and pictures streaming across them.

"Got it. Here. Better even than a dream. Two messages, authenticated by the master-word." He cleared his throat and translated the text. It was written in ornate machine-script and quite unreadable for any normal person.

"The earth current is faltering. We beat them back, but lost all nine lower levels. If only we had a general like great Rabath!" He lowered the book. "Rabath the traitor. As well pray to the master of the House of Silence. Hah!" He nodded. "It must have been some message to an outpost. Another colony. Not meant for us."

"There was a second message?"

"Well, yes. Now, that is strange. Quite recent, too. Only sixteen years ago." He touched the book and the text peeled from the page, hung pulsing in the air. "We got our current cannons on line again. Burned the vermin and cleared all lost levels. But the best news of all is this: the Sensitives discovered Rabath has been reborn! Exactly at the moment the last star winked out. If only we could locate him..." The Librarian frowned. "Why didn't anybody notice?" He closed the book. "I must warn the Censors! If he wasn't born in the Lesser Redoubt it must have been right here. We have been clutching a deadly viper to our bosoms!" His hands fluttered like panicked moths. "Wait! We know the exact moment. Could be no more than ten, twenty boys at most."

"I'll tell the Censors," Marat said. "I am practically one of them myself."

"No, no. This to important to leave to an untrained boy."

"Not untrained."

The Librarian gave a single grasp, crumpled. Marat knew nine ways to kill a darkling without leaving a trace and an old man is much more fragile than a darkling.

He took the book and put it back in the wrong section. With a bit of luck nobody would find it for centuries.

Walking all the way down the Grand Staircase, Marat searched his soul for remorse, like a tongue probing for the gap of a broken tooth. There was nothing. The Librarian had been a self-declared enemy. And the man had been old, already at the end of long and no doubt quite satisfactory life. Killing the diskos had felt much worse. No, this was just a necessary action, like the elimination of a tainted baby.

That night the Dark crept into his dreams. There was the low drone of a telepathic sending, flashes of color quite beyond both jale and ulfire. The darkling stepped from a rent in reality itself and shook out her long and shining hair. She was indeed even more beautiful than Dunja, wonderfully strange. Her skin was a wonderful gold, like one of those ancient heroines from the sun-lit sagas. Eyes the pale gray of moonstones.

"Are you crazy?" he cried in his dream. "Do you want me executed? Right this moment all sensitives of Redoubt must be sitting bolt upright in their beds and asking you for the master-word." He balled his fists and realized he was no longer asleep, but indeed, quite awake. The darkling didn't even waver and seemed completely real. "They can find out who answered your call."

"Oh, they already know," she said. "They believe we are just two lovers whispering night-thoughts."

"What do you mean? You want..."

She spoke the master-word. She spoke it loud and clear.

"This is impossible!" He immediately felt quite stupid. Always accept what is.

"True lovers have no secrets for each other. I can grow any kind of body I want, Rabath. Even one that is genetically pure human." She spread her arms and the walls turned transparent as glass.

Marat looked up at the House of Silence and all windows were lit. There was the rich glow of candles, a glow so ancient and comforting that it must have been programmed into his very genes.

"I am like a spider," the darkling said, "lying in wait and I feed on souls. Human souls. But I can be distracted. Sometimes even for a long time. Rabath lived with me for a hundred and eighty years before I made a mistake and killed him. And even then I stopped just in time. I only took his life, not his soul." She folded her arms and suddenly she seemed regal, a queen come to negotiate with an equal. "The House of Silence can be a very powerful ally, my dear Rabath. For any one Redoubt. There are worse enemies than me and many more voracious." Her smile dazzled him. "Think about it, my true love."

There was a movement, a turn in a direction that hurt his very brain, and the room was empty.

Next to him Dunja stirred and opened a sleepy eye.

"I heard you talking?" she murmured.

"Must have been in my sleep. A dream I guess."

"A dream. I hope it was a nice one." She fell instantly asleep again. Marat looked at the slight smile that lingered on her lips. She was suddenly very dear to him but not, alas, not his true love.

Still, Marat had to know for sure. One of the Bright Cities functioned as a kind of reservation for forgotten gods, cultivating the madness of religion.

The stink of sandalwood and incense made Marat's eyes water the moment he stepped from the elevator. A holographic Kali danced above a silver stupa and juggled a stream of severed heads. Holy mountains rose in the distance: cloud-wrapped Olympus, Fuji Yama with a sparkling streamer of radioactive fog.

Olam Moraan! Many Sensitives who walked the road of madness ended up here. Some had looked beyond the end of the universe or heard the ponderous gallop of the Hounds of Tindalos just behind them. Becoming mad didn't really help, but it was still better than knowing. Marat asked a snake-charmer for directions to the Sisters of True Love and was answered in an unknown tongue. The snake, though, uncoiled, glared at him with no less than three eyes and spat on the cobblestones just in front of Marat. A rivulet of poison ran smoking across the stones and froze into a map.

"Turn left at the third intersection," the snake hissed. "Go find her! Yesss, yesss, seek your beautiful doom."

"Never trust a snake," a passerby whispered in Marat's left ear, but when he turned there was no one standing there.

Marat turned to the left at the third intersection and became quickly lost in a maze of tiny shops and dead-end alleys. Gods and demons leered from darkened shrines, and they were clad in cloaks made of eyeballs and squatted on thrones fashioned from human bones. Not a single one could tell him the right direction.

The hovering hearth lamps were already dimming when he finally located the Shrine of the Most Devout Sisters of True Love. It stood on the edge of the central lake, where a dozen fountains wove rainbows across a fleet of endlessly circling funeral barges. The sagging hovel of the Sisters was wreathed in porcelain flowers. From a rack hung a score of golden hearts and pursed lips made of red alabaster.

"Looking for love?"

The single priestess must have been in her last months. She had lost most of her hair and all of her teeth.

"Such a handsome young man," she cackled. "It shouldn't be hard to find your true love, for she must be as beautiful as you."

"Is that the way it works?" Marat said. "What happened to the Beauty and the Beast? Or those opposites that are supposed to attract?"

"Phew. That is rank superstition, young man!" She spat on the cobblestones but her saliva didn't smoke or do anything interesting. "A beautiful soul always finds a beautiful body and the rich are rich forever."

"I stand corrected," Marat said. "What…"

"A liter of your blood, some saliva. And there are certain expenses."

"Of course." He opened his money bag, for the only way to pay here was with antiquated coins minted a million years ago by forgotten emperors.

It took her only a quarter of an hour to extract the name of his counterpart, the missing half of his psychic DNA.

"She isn't here. Nowhere in the whole Redoubt or the Fields Below. So she hasn't been born this cycle, or she is somewhere else. Somewhere outside."


"Oh, I can be more exact. Seventy five miles to the North."

The direction of the House of Silence. "Thanks. I had already guessed as much."

"Nothing human lives there, young man." Her smile was beautiful, even without teeth. "And no, it won't be necessary to kill me. What Censor would listen to the ravings of a madwoman?"

"You are right, grandmother."

"And by the way, her real name, her first name, was Lurella. Lurella of the Road Makers."

Marat still had Lurella's icon on the wall of his room. It showed her astride a night-hound while she led the cities that always moved westward, under a red, swollen sun.

"You are just reading my mind," he accused her.

"If you say so."

Marat, age 17

All young men had to make the Ascent to the top of the pyramid the day after they turned seventeen. The idea was to spend twenty-four hours on every level of the Redoubt, talking with perfect strangers, working in the ornate gardens or hunting feral rats. That way they would become citizens of the whole Redoubt and discover that even their dearest held convictions were only parochial and small-minded.

For the girls the Ascent was kind of optional: most of them chose to remain in their girl-bands and let the wandering boys come to them.

"We can go together," Dunja said when Marat hung his seventeenth bell in the darling vine. "I don't want you kissing a thousand strange girls."

"Me neither." It was hard to imagine a girl half as beautiful as Dunja, even in the most exotic and brightest of cities.

Oh no? a part of his brain jeered. How about Lurella? How about the Mistress of the House of Silence?

There was a very good answer, age-old and time-tested. Two very good answers, in fact: "Love the one you are with" and "Better a cold slice of grease-bread in the hand than honey-pie tomorrow". If he ever tired of Dunja, Lurella would still be there, he concluded with the bluntness of a seventeen-year-old boy who had only recently discovered what his penis was really for.

In the morning, at the first sputtering of the hearth lamp, they walked away from their clan-home. At the corner of the Street of the Diligent Weavers, Marat looked back. The double gate with its brass butterflies seemed suddenly very small and dingy and the leaves of the darling-vine drooped.

Perhaps I'll never return here. We'll stay in some upper city, so far from the bottom lands that the air is ice-cold and tastes of ozone. It was nonsense of course. He was a Censor and had given his pledge, even if he wasn't confirmed yet. They would find him anywhere.

The city of Prynn excelled in moss-sculpting: all her streets were green and you left a gurgling trail behind of slowly filling footprints.

They found an inn next to the central garden, with free food and lodging for boys and girls in their wander-years. That would be true for every Bright City.

That night they made love on a bed of warm reindeer moss and woke in the morning to the shrill warbling of striped marmosets.

The next week brought them to Umbre Almira where the great lamp was a tinkling swarm of glowing crystals. Then Samedi, which turned out to be mostly deep blue water, with every clan-home a floating papyrus island.

Coyluin they hated at first sight, so dark and damp, her narrow streets filled with mist and the only sound the rattle of loose shutters.

On Kill-yiri Marat felt a sudden overwhelming itch to do something, anything. Training for Censor had left him with little aptitude for loitering. So for one glorious day Marat trapped darting swallows with a net of programmed polywater, while Dunja cut their heads off and threw them in a vat of boiling tar. The swallows were not exactly swallows, nor really alive. Their brain-stones would later form the nodes of new message-webs.

In glorious Grouninga they had their first row.

"You are looking at every girl but me!" Dunja accused him. She burst into tears. "I bore you. You think I am plain and horrible!"

When you are seventeen your arguments don't have to do anything with logic. Only the volume counts.

"I look at them because I'm curious," Marat patiently explained. "I compare them to you and always find them lacking. Have I slept with anybody but you? Also, I'm supposed to look around, to learn."

"I hate you!" She slapped his face, slammed the door. It was a scene that had been invariant for at least twelve million years.

He went to the hotel window and saw her stride across the plaza. Marat sighed. The stupid thing was that her accusation had been true: he had been a bit bored with her. Which he now assuredly wasn't anymore, as his raging hard-on proved.

Three cities later they met in the dining room of the inn and were able to ignore each other for all of three quarters of an hour.

Here the mattress was a plank of pressed seaweed, the pillow a slab of jade. The arias of a dozen melon vendors woke them, but there was no reason to get up. He kissed the nape of Dunja's neck, cupped a warm breast. "Stay with me," he whispered. "Stay with me forever."

Once a month Lurella of the House of Silence walked into his dreams. She never touched him and just stood there, an infinitely patient goddess. "Whenever you go outside I'll be waiting for you. I'll make you a king, Rabath." But when he awoke he always found Dunja lying next to him. Love the one you are with. It would be three whole years before he would be forced to make a choice.

Marat, age 20

Only four months to his twenty-first birthday and Marat had been feverishly planning for the last dozen cities. Capsules of powdered water were hard to get, just like tubes of wayfarers' food. Such items were reserved for official explorers and the trained Censors who patrolled the Air Clog. The maps, while quite expensive, proved nearly useless. No two details were the same and whole sections between the two Redoubts had been left blank. Dunja was the greater problem, though. His lover didn't show the slightest interest in the outside, in the wonders of the Night Land. He didn't dare ask her outright if she would travel with him to the Lesser Redoubt. Stepping beyond the Air Clog was considered tantamount to suicide. Most people didn't have a monster as protector, of course. But Dunja wouldn't be exactly by charmed by a rival who was a pneumavore.

The next Bright City would be Novaya Roma, whose inhabitants were obsessed with history. Her city archives were second only to the Library and no one would think his questions strange or inappropriate. This was the only place in the whole Redoubt where he could freely discuss the Great Traitor.

He had rolled three fossil knuckle-bones, a system as old as mankind, and they had had told him the solution would be found in this city.

The city-block devoted to Usurpers, Speculators and Other Supremely Evil Men was twice the size of the block specializing in Sages, Paragons and Benevolent Leaders. At the gate he searched in vain for an information kiosk or doorman.

"Hello there? I am looking for anything about Rabath."

There was an urchin leafing through a book with brightly colored pictures. The book must be truly ancient because the pictures were voiceless and didn't even move.

"Rabath? Rabath the Great Traitor?"

"That Rabath. Yes."

The boy closed his book. "Liam's family has been collecting Rabathicana for the last three centuries. I can show you the way." He canted his head, brought his hand to his ear. He clearly was expecting a tip, but how do you pay a historian? Stories of course, songs.

"I know a rope-skipping rhyme that is at least half a million years old."

"That will do. Sing it."

Marat felt a complete fool, but he started to sing, touching his nose and ears and clapping his hands.

The gate of the clan-house had been carved with a seven-meter-high portrait of Rabath. In Marat's own city, the villa would have been fired inside the hour and the inhabitants hung from the walls. Novaya Roma clearly considered no subject taboo. "There he is. Liam," the boy pointed and instantly sat down, opening his book.

"What aspects exactly are you interested in?" Liam asked. He wasn't the doddering ancient Marat had expected. Twenty-five at most, he might just have returned from his own Ascent.

"Everything, I guess. People who study him in my city are considered eccentric at best and are often found in the morning with a slit throat."

"I see why you came to our city. Monsters, they are ever so fascinating."

It isn't easy to find something if you don't know what you are searching for. Marat read about Rabath's youth, studied pictures of his lovers, his wife. Rabath's wife didn't look in the slightest like Lurella of the House. Not so strange: all that came later, much later, when Rabath already ruled the Lesser Redoubt. At least if the darkling hadn't lied about it all, and it hadn't just been a trick to make him step beyond the Air Clog.

"Perhaps you'll find this interesting? It was taken from the Tower of Observation." Liam put the fragile wafer in the viewer and the picture expanded until it filled the whole room. Marat looked down on Rabath's exodus from six miles up. Millions of people were streaming out into the Night Land. It was so long ago that the sun still hung low above the hills, a fist-sized ember against a background of much brighter stars.

It was like a flood of living flesh, with the edges outlined by the flicker of diskoi. A veritable army of manshonyaggers marched in front. So many that the arsenals of the Redoubt must have been almost emptied. Three airships drifted overhead. As far as Marat knew, the Last Redoubt owned not a single airship.

All those accusations were true after all. Rabath left the Redoubt almost defenseless. He zoomed in on the people. The movie was incredibly information-dense, almost sixteen petabytes, and Marat could see the faces of the people, count the hairs on their heads. The hair of one particular lady glowed red as the tail of a fox. He saw skin that seemed almost black. Brown and golden faces. Some noses looked like the hooked bills of raptor-birds or were tiny and upturned.

Everybody who was different went with Rabath. All the variants. It left us depleted, white-haired and pale-faced as albinos, and the Censors made that the mark of true humanity.

Marat called his lover from the kitchen where she had been peeling lychees, and put the wafer in the viewer. He swooped down on the crowd.

"Think of it! A whole pyramid waits out there, filled with people like you! Like us." She stared at the moving masses, the army of strangers who could make her normal for the first time in her life.

"But how can we ever get there?"

Perfect, he thought. When I flee I won't have to travel alone. And it won't be with a helpless female. Not if I can help it.

He took her hand. "Come. I'll show you how to use a diskos."

Dunja was a natural. After a week she could slice a simulated night-hound in mid-jump. Now if only she could conquer the tendency to scream with every swing of the diskos...The Night Land was filled with stealthy whispers and growls, ululating wails, but no matter how well-armed you were, quiet as a mouse was the still your best option.

That morning the hostler stopped at their breakfast table.

"You are Marat, from the city of Gray Blossom? Yes, your face matches. This message came for you."

Marat stared at the gleaming sheet that bore the crowned owl and crossed diskoi of the Censors. His own face hovered above it in hologram.

Dear nephew,
Such good news! I managed to get you assigned to my very own patrol.

I hope to see you soon.

Ever Vigilant,
your Fredruk.

How had his uncle ever found him? Marat never used his own name at the inns and they had been hopping from city to city in a random way, going from number 13 to 783 or stepping in every third lift shaft. And whole telegram rang false. Uncle Fredruk would never call him "Dear nephew," not even in a official communication from the Censors.

We have to leave. As soon as possible.

He turned to Dunja. "Get your diskos. Our luggage."

"How do you mean? Where are we going?

"Down. The Censors, they have noticed us. They are watching us."

"Oh." She didn't ask any further questions. The Redoubt wasn't exactly a police-state, but getting noticed by the authorities had always been the single unforgivable crime, no matter if you lived in Ur of the Chaldees or twenty-first century America.

It was possible to get down to the Night Land gate in three hours, using high-priority elevators meant for the Great and the guild-masters, but Marat didn't want to stand out in any way. They passed Gray Blossoms, the garden city of Linn, swirled like falling leafs past Croi-of-the-Dancing-Moths and High Desseret.

When the door of the final elevator opened, it was six hours later.

"And now?" Dunja whispered.

"The Lesser Redoubt. Where I'll be king."

She looked at him, with such a steady gaze that he suddenly felt very small, like a schoolboy who had been caught boasting by his teacher.

"So it is true. You are Rabath reborn. Good."

She stepped past him, marched down the corridor to the Outer Gate.

He felt a sudden lift of his spirit. Beautiful and smart. What more could a man ask for? And she loves me.

An antique current cannon pointed down the corridor. They walked past quivering electric spears, metal war-beetles that clashed their mandibles.

Nobody challenged them: going out they were almost invisible. When the gate opened, the manshonyagger unfolded his legs. It regarded Marat with his ferret face, then lifted his angelic head.

"You are back and you have found the girl of your heart's desire," the manshonyagger stated. "How I love those ancient stories!" His angel-head turned to Dunja. "Your swain is a rogue and most fickle to boot, as the Bard said."

"I know."

The monster gestured to the shimmering wall of fire.

"You won't be back, I guess."

Marat saw Lurella standing just beyond, leaning on a bone walking staff she must have taken from a Silent One. If this was a human body she could have stepped right through the barrier. It probably wasn't, but something much tougher and armored even if it looked human. Yes, just below her skin pulsed lines of energy. In this shape the Air Clog could kill even the mistress of the House of Silence.

"He won't be going anywhere." The voice ran out across the black sand. There was some regret in it but mostly determination. Uncle Fredruk stood next to the manshonyagger, his diskos leaking jale sparks.

"A sensitive told me you were talking to the dark. I didn't believe her, of course. But I'm a Censor. I had to investigate." He gestured with his diskos. "Throw down your weapon, nephew. Right now, or I'll have to sever your wrist."

Marat put his diskos on the ground. It would take a full three seconds to activate.

"Maybe the Council will only exile you." The tone of his voice told Marat that his uncle didn't believe any such thing.

From the corner of his eye Marat saw a movement. Dunja's mantle swirled and her humming diskos sailed through the air and cut Fredruk's head right off. For two heartbeats the body remained standing, fountaining blood from the stump and then it toppled into the sand.

"Ah," the manshonyagger said, "variant seventeen point nine of the standard saga. The princess kills the captain of the guard. So nice to see that those ancient patterns still hold." He bowed to Marat and Dunja. "No matter what they'll say you are both gloriously human." He stepped back in his guardhouse of land-coral and folded his legs, powered down his eyes until only a tiny LED still blinked.

Crossing the Air Clog Marat only felt a slight tingling of his finger tips, a pressure in his ears. Stepping back, though, he would probably turn into a pillar of ash. He was now part of the Dark.

"So there you are," Lurella said. "You took your time, Rabath."

"So you are the ally my Marat was talking about," Dunja said. "A soul-eater."

To have two beautiful women fighting over you is probably one of the most common of all boyish dreams. The reality only made Marat feel distinctly uneasy.

Lurella and Dunja were exactly the same height, he saw. Lurella was gold and silver, Dunja fire. They stood stock still, fierce as fighting fish.

Lurella laughed, then offered her hand. "Peace. There will be enemies enough." She turned to Marat. "She has spunk. You are to be congratulated. She will do very well as your queen."

"Don't call him Rabath," Dunja said. "It is Marat."

"Agreed. The one who first tames a wild animal gets to name him." The women shook hands and Marat relaxed.

Lurella reached in the air and a map materialized. She unrolled the painted silk. Marat saw the fires of the kilns flickering, the Ones-That-Peer looking down from the ridge then jumping back in the shadows. The House of Silence shone forth across the waste, all windows blazing.

"Throw your own maps away," Lurella ordered. "They are mostly fantasy and wishful thinking." She pointed to her own map. "The old road reaches all the way to the House of Silence. The biggest problem is that we aren't the only ones traveling the roads."

To Embrace the Night (Part 3)

Image and story © 2011 by Tais Teng.