“It’s nothing,” Brom muttered, but he could feel heat on his face. “C’mon, let’s get back. There won’t be anywhere to sleep if we wait here much longer. We’ll cut through Portside to make up lost time.”
A stricken expression crossed her face. “Portside? No way.”
Brom looked at the shadowy remains of Gaspard and Axel dwindling ahead of them. They were continuing their way through Geartown. “Do you really want to run into Gaspard on our way there? He’s likely to try something if we stay behind them.”
Jenique shot him a skeptical glare. “You just like to see that horrible darkness. You don’t have to lie to me. I know what you’re about.”
Brom sighed. “It’s quicker and no Gaspard. That should be enough to convince you, right?”
“Oh, I think that those excuses are very convenient for you,” she replied. “It’s fine, I’ll walk with you Portside.” She batted her eyelashes at him. “All the other boys will just love hearing about our nighttime stroll!”
Brom groaned. “Come on.”
The globes of water-powered light were more abundant along the docks, but the light bore a dimness, as if an unseen hand strangled its brilliance away into a dull orange hue. The echoes of night presented themselves, but their echoes were muffled. The few regular residents of Portside – mostly dockworkers in eternal bachelorhood – huddled away in their clustered hovels, but the presence of life faded in this place, muted and subdued by its own surroundings.
Brom, who normally clung to the shadows, walked in the open. The shadows drew breath here, and threatened to snatch and grab. Jenique kept pace, keeping close and peering with wide, frightened eyes.
“Nothing to worry about here,” Brom said, his voice hushed. The air seemed to snuff out his voice as it left his mouth. But she heard him, and with an imperceptible bob of her head, pulled close to him.
They looked upon the docks, and froze.
The ships were few, but those present bobbed and swayed, tethered to the docks with a tangle of fibrous rope and clattering chain. The ratcheting sound of gnarled links barely clicked. The huge, swollen crafts of aged wood and iron loomed, huge and monolithic. Rotor blades and cable hooks with wicked edges demonstrated the fright of the ships. A row of gunports dotted the side, shutters down.
All of this floated on nothing at all, facing a massive, yawning void that stretched into the depths of forever and beyond….into the awesome, horrible mystery that was the Shadowsea.
Brom and Jenique remained motionless, eyes unable to peel away from the terrifying enormity of nothingness. It was into the Shadowsea where the brightness of the light bled away, and into that endlessness where the echoes muffled. Its majesty ruled absolute.
“It’s beautiful,” Jenique murmured. “But its also awful.”
Brom looked upon her, and she seemed smaller. He felt like he shrank in size in the midst of the infinite void, as well. “It is everything,” he said. “But its also nothing. That’s what my grandfather told me long ago.”
Jenique looked up at him. Her eyes gleamed with shed tears. “I can’t bear it. Can we go?” Her voice trembled with plaintive hope.
Brom cast a final look upon it before nodding. Jenique buried her face in his chest and clung to him as they walked away. Brom held her, and offered a lingering glance back to the void as they moved toward the Whispers.