Darkness into Light
Day 37 ∙ Qirïdun ∙ 8308 L.M
IT WAS ONLY on a rare occasion that the Eastern steppes could look some degree of beautiful, but as Will watched the horizon from the coach window, he knew it was one of those times. Qirïdun prospered with as little as four hours of sunlight a day, rising and falling in the short span of mid-afternoon. But with the little there was, hazed light caressed nearby marshes and turned the surfaces to gold, whilst the greygrass caught fire by the sky, dusted red and pink. Empty plains stretched around the stagecoach as it stumbled along the road, filled with mud-splattered aurochs and shaking reeds as wildcats made their move to pounce on unsuspecting rattle-rats. Submerged between the morning clouds, a planet from the second sky, with a surface like melting bronze, led on the horizon as if about to roll off the edge of the world.
Inside the vehicle, there was only silence and stillness. Pressed into the corner with his knees pulled to his chest, Will watched the outside. His kidnappers sat opposite him, fidgeting with their clothes and murmuring intimately to each other. Happily, Anala had unbound the strings of her bodice, breathing deeply as if she had not tasted air for many hours. Meanwhile, Percival held the obol, turning it across his knuckles, showing that it was slowly smoking away from the edges, half-left when Will had last glanced up to see. Between the three, there was much to say, but nothing was said.
In the half-hour they had elapsed travelling, Will had deduced some answers on his own. They were amongst the plains in the west, moving towards Hovhesa, the nearest of the fellow colonies, one specialising in convicts others called the Cravers: it was a colony where children were not permitted. Inter-borders were always crowded with wardens, and Will couldn’t understand how they expected to pass through. Then again, he didn’t understand how they had made it into the East in the first place. Did they plan to rely on magick? Would they use it on him? As he recalled Percival Psyching him and the inescapable powerlessness he had felt, Will wondered if he could escape from the moving stagecoach and live past it.