Following the defeat of skekLi in the Grottan Sanctuary, the cave-dwelling Amri joins with fellow Gelfling Naia and Kylan on their quest to warn the All-Maudra of the Skeksis' plot. However, alarming news from Ha'rar sends the Gelfling rebels to the Silver Sea to seek aid from the Sifa maudra, Ethri. Their hope is for her clan to light a fire of resistance against the Skeksis. Along the way, Amri struggles to find his place in the daylighter world--and discovers that the corruption has spread much further than he thought. Time is running out for Thra--can the Gelfling clans unite in time to save it?
About the Author
Cory Godbey creates fanciful illustrations for picture books, covers, comics, editorial, advertising, animated shorts, and films.
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The daylighter world was unbearably bright.
Even at night, the smiles of the Sisters seemed excessive, especially surrounded by all those stars. And then, during the day, the Three Brothers drowned the sky with light. Amri could only hope that his eyes would adjust over time.
Until that time, the Grottan Gelfling wore his hood, trying to keep his face in shadow even as he followed his companions through the sun-dappled mountain wood. His eyes moved across the moss- and grass-covered earth, like a pelt over the mountain’s stone skeleton, whose soggy soil bled into Amri’s sandals.
Through the brightness, Amri caught something stirring in the wood. Whatever lurked ahead was distant enough to be seen but not heard. Were they being watched?
He reached out and tugged on Kylan’s sleeve. The Spriton boy walked just ahead of him, using a stick to clear brush away from their path. Under his free arm he held a scroll with a map he’d drawn, and hanging at his breast was his firca, a Y-shaped musical instrument made out of bone.
“Kylan,” Amri whispered. Maybe his new friend’s green daylighter eyes could make something out. “Do you see something? To our right. Under those trees!”
“Where?” Kylan lowered his voice instinctively, ears swiveling back and forth, straining for any sign of danger.
“What are you two whispering about?”
Naia appeared behind them. She had been farther up the hill, breaking the trail, when she’d realized that the others had stopped. Amri wasn’t surprised she had returned so stealthily. Dagger in hand, camouflaged in tan and brown leathers, locs pulled back in a loose knot, she was every inch a Drenchen warrior.
Somewhere nearby, a twig snapped. Amri drew the sword that hung at his hip, though he had no idea how to use it. Naia ducked to a crouch as six tall white-and-gray animals emerged from the trees, only a stone’s throw away. The big-eared creatures’ long, slender legs carried their furry bodies high among the branches. The beasts grumbled softly to one another, flicking their proboscises to taste the sweet sap that dripped from the wintry trees.
Kylan fell back in relief, wiping his brow. “Wild Landstriders. And here I thought the Skeksis had found us.”
Amri stared at the Landstriders as they passed, trying to absorb every detail of the wondrous creatures. Naia watched him with an amused smile.
“Landstrider rear ends can’t be that interesting,” she teased.
“Maybe not to you. I’ve never seen a Landstrider front end, so . . .”
“Fair,” she chuckled. “Well, come on. We’ve got to keep moving.”
Naia and Kylan left, forging ahead on their trail without a second glance as the troop of Landstriders disappeared into the wood. Amri wasn’t surprised. The others were from this world, after all. Kylan’s clan, the Spriton, had named the Landstriders as their sigil creature. Even Naia’s clan, the Drenchen of Sog, lived under the sky and had contact with the outside world—when they wanted it. Amri, on the other hand, had been born in a cave deep in the Grottan Mountains, only exploring the daylighter world in tiny, forbidden excursions that had to be taken at night.
Naia moved with an unbreakable pace, eyes always fixed ahead with focus and determination. As they reached the top of a small wooded hill, the green gave way to a brilliant white. A cold wind came down, smelling of salt and crystal; snow and frost felted bark and every leaf. The cold, white stuff reflected the day even more than before, but even so, Amri couldn’t deny it was beautiful. He stooped to touch the wet crystals, squeezing the snow into a melting lump in his hand.
A tiny voice sounding of chimes and whispers came from Kylan’s shoulder. “The frost line means we’re near.”
Perched in the folds of his collar sat a shining blue creature with eight needle legs. Tavra had lost her Gelfling body—that of a Vapra soldier, with iridescent wings and trained hands that had wielded the sword that now waved uselessly in Amri’s clumsy grip. She now inhabited the form of a crystal spider.
Amri sheathed the sword back at his belt before he cut someone with it by accident.
“To Ha’rar?” he asked. He was curious to see the Gelfling capital and its legendary citadel.
“To our destination,” Tavra replied.
“I thought Ha’rar was our destination,” Kylan said, raising a brow.
Amri couldn’t make out Tavra’s little spider face, but the impatience was evident enough in her voice: “Eventually, yes. But we cannot simply charge into the citadel.”
“Why not?” Amri asked. “Do we need to make an appointment or something?”
Naia looked over her shoulder, nodding in agreement as she marched up the mountain slope. “I’ll barge into All-Maudra Mayrin’s personal chamber uninvited if I have to,” she said. “She needs to know about the Skeksis, and fast. Rian should be here, too. If we find him and get that vial of essence in front of the All-Maudra, there will be no way she can deny the truth.”
“It’s not about invitation, Naia,” Tavra said. “We’ve been alone in the wilderness since Kylan sent our message from the Grottan Sanctuary Tree. We have no idea if anyone has received it, much less whether they believe.”
Amri shivered. What they’d done was monumental, especially if the pink petals dream-stitched with their message had reached each of the seven Gelfling clans. That had been the whole point, after all: to send the warning as far and as fast as possible, so what had happened in the Grottan caves would never happen again.
Naia’s pace slowed until she stopped, sighing and putting her hands on her hips. The three of them were quiet so they could hear Tavra’s voice over the wind that whistled through the snowy pines.
“Naia, Kylan. Amri. I know you want to reach Ha’rar. What the Skeksis have done—are doing—is a horrible crime and must be stopped. But the Gelfling have lived in the hand of the Skeksis for generations. It is not easy to change the way things are. People are learning our names and faces. But like Rian, we will be known as traitors. Not heroes. For this reason, we must be cautious, even with my mother. We must understand the weather before we inadvertently walk into a blizzard.”
“You think your mother might still side with the Skeksis, even if she saw that vial of essence?” Amri asked. The idea was a disheartening one. “Even if she saw what happened in Domrak—saw what happened to you?”
“Belief is only half of the task we face,” Tavra replied.
Naia’s eagerness deflated, her green ears flattening.
“Fine,” she said. “Then what should we do?”
“We could disguise ourselves as Podlings and sneak into the citadel,” Amri suggested, trying to lighten the mood. Being so serious all the time was exhausting. “Spy on the All-Maudra from the rafters. Oh, I guess Podlings wouldn’t be very good climbers.”
Naia laughed, and even Kylan cracked a grin. Tavra, as usual, had no sense of humor about any of it.
“Chase the scent of the sea,” she said. “When you see the seafarer’s lanterns, follow them down the cliff to the shore.”
As they heeded Tavra’s directions, the earthy trail gave way to more snow and stone. The cliffs and mountain forms shimmered and glittered, like smoothed crystal reflecting the bright blue of the sky. Amri had never experienced the scent of the sea. He wasn’t sure what to expect. But when a draft of salty air gusted across their path, there was no mistaking it.
“Smells like it’s coming from that mountainside,” he said.
Naia nodded, looking the wall of rock up and down.
“Pretty steep,” she remarked. Amri didn’t think so, but then again, rocks were his specialty. Maybe his only specialty. It didn’t matter, anyway. If his friends couldn’t follow, then there was no point to making the climb. That much could have been said of their entire journey.
“There’s a passage through,” Tavra said. “That way.”
They waded through the snow, into the shadow cast by the cliff. For a grand moment, Amri’s eyes had a rest from squinting, though it wasn’t for long. A spot of light shone through the trees. They followed it, in moments finding a low tunnel through the rock. Amri traced his fingers along the tunnel wall as they walked through it.
“You’re so smooth, like you were polished,” he said to the stone, falling behind a step or three. Naia and Kylan were more interested in reaching the other side. He pressed his hand against the glossy surface, soaking in the cold of it and closing his eyes. “What made you? Hm?”
“Are you talking to the wall?” Naia called back to him, over her shoulder. She and Kylan stood at the end of the tunnel, their silhouettes the only relief from the blasting of the daylight. “Come on, crawly-foot!”
Amri sighed and gave the wall a goodbye pat. He hurried down the tunnel, grunting when he slipped on the icy path. Normally the tunnel would be no problem for a Grottan like him, used to caves and rock, but the sandals strapped on his feet made him clumsy. Crawly-foot indeed.
When he reached the other side of the tunnel and stopped beside Naia and Kylan, all he could see was blue. An endless ocean stretched below, the texture of living granite. The tunnel opened like a mouth, its tongue a steep, rocky trail that wound down to the coast. There was no snow here. Instead, thick silver mist glittered and swirled, broken only by the tops of a few tall trees that grew along the shore. The mist must have frozen into snow as it passed over the top of the ridge, Amri guessed. The mist that had given the Silver Sea its name.
Kylan tilted his head when he caught sight of a peculiar rock sitting just outside the tunnel’s opening, nearly touching his left hand. On the rock, a carving in the likeness of a scaled, finned sea creature peered at them. Jewels were set in its head as eyes, reflecting the golden flame in the lantern hanging out of its mouth.
“Seafarer’s lantern,” Tavra said, as if it explained everything.
“Who keeps the lantern fires lit?” Amri asked. He knelt by it, looking into its old, shining eyes.
“No one knows. Old mauddies tell the song of a water spirit that lights the lanterns to lure childlings into the sea. More likely they’re kept lit by travelers. However it happens, their lights have led sailors and travelers for hundreds of trine. Showing the way up the coast to Ha’rar . . . Come, then. Down we go, along the stone’s way for the sake of you two boys.”
Amri exchanged a glance with Kylan. The Spriton shrugged and, as the spider on his shoulder said, began the long descent. Amri could see Naia’s black-and-indigo wings twitch as she looked over the cliff into the open air above the mist.
“You could glide down and we’ll meet you,” he suggested.
She smiled. “And I’m sure you could easily climb down the cliff if you kicked off those shoes. That would just leave poor Kylan alone with Tavra . . .” Here she winked and added, “I’m used to the stone’s way. We’ll go together.”
It would have been nice to have wings, though the idea of drifting through the open sky sounded a bit terrifying, too. Amri preferred the ground, even if the path was gravelly and loose under his sandals. When his foot slipped out from under him, Naia grabbed his hand to keep him from tumbling down the side of the ledge. She righted him and he sighed.
“Sorry,” he said, ears twisting back in embarrassment. None of the others seemed to be having the same problems, but they were all used to the sandals. It was a daylighter thing. Naia only smiled, the corners of her eyes soft with sympathy.
“Walk heel-first,” she said. “And keep your back straight. It’ll help with balance.”
He tried it, and they followed Kylan together. Heel-first felt unnatural. Dangerous, like he was going to step on something sharp at any moment. Walking toe-first made more sense, barefoot in the caves where any step could turn sharp and painful. But that was what the sandals were for.
“I had the same problem when I first left Sog,” Naia added. “You’ll get the hang of it. You’re already better than when you first started.”
Amri tried to imagine Naia getting used to shoes for the first time. “Even so, it’ll only take one slip to go tumbling into the sea. And I’ll bet this far north that water’s cold as a Vapra’s kiss,” he said with a grin.
Naia chuckled, then realized she was still holding his hand. She let go, leaving a cold spot in his palm. “And you’ve kissed how many Vapra?”
Amri had never kissed anyone, let alone the one Vapra he’d ever met. Who also happened to be a spider.
“Oh, so many,” he said. “So many.”
When they finally reached sea level, Amri’s knees ached. The forest thinned as the land ended in a rocky shore where the ocean’s waves rolled up the land. The stones that washed up from the sea were round and smooth, in shades of black and silver and blue. Amri wanted to stoop down and bury his hands in them, close his eyes and listen to their tales. But his friends were already on the move, Kylan pointing to another lantern monument ahead, a spot of gold in all the silver mist.
Something small and pink flitted by. Amri caught the petal in his hand, and memories sprouted in his mind. A forest full of shadows and whispers and a terrible monster. A huge tree in the Dark Wood called Olyeka-Staba—the Cradle Tree—calling out in agony as its roots touched poison in the ground. The wild red eyes of the Skeksis Hunter as he chased Kylan and Naia—his confession on that terrible night that echoed the screams of the Skeksis back in the castle: that they had found a way to make a life-giving elixir by draining essence from the Gelfling. The Gelfling, who had served the Skeksis with unquestioning loyalty for hundreds of trine.
Amri opened his hand and let the petal free before the dream could take root and fully blossom. He didn’t need to see all the awful memories again.
“They made it to the coast after all,” Naia said, watching it fly away. “I wonder if they’ve gone all the way to Ha’rar.”
Amri tried to let the memories fly away, too. Tried to replace them with what was in front of him: Naia, whose smile was undaunted. Who had healed Olyeka-Staba and eased its pain in the Dark Wood. Who had faced the Skeksis without fear, and had seen the darkened Heart of Thra and survived.
“I hope so,” Amri said. “Hey, Kylan! Wait up!”
Kylan slowed, staring out into the fog that rolled in off the sea. As Amri and Naia caught up to him, a shadow shivered into view. It was a ship, tied to a big tree that leaned out over the water. Its long, narrow hull and three sails spread along its yards and battens like the fins of a spiny fish, dyed crimson, rich blue, and a deep purple.
“Someone you know?” Naia whispered. “Is that why you brought us here?”
Tavra’s response was breathy with uncharacteristic relief.
“Yes. Go, please.”
Amri paused, looking out into the water. He thought of the water spirit Tavra had mentioned, that lit the lanterns. It was just a song told to keep childlings away from the dangerous waters, no doubt. But real creatures did lurk in the water, as they lurked in every part of the world. Amri tried not to think about it and followed his friends.
They climbed out along the branch to which the ship was tied, using the bough like a dock and hopping, one at a time, down onto the rocking deck. Amri nearly lost his balance again. He hated wearing shoes, but he decided quickly that he hated wearing shoes on a boat even more.
“Do you think they’ll recognize you?” Naia asked. She didn’t seem to have any trouble keeping her balance on the water, probably because she’d grown up in a swamp. “I still have your pearl circlet, and Amri has your sword, if we need it to prove your identity—”
The door to the cabin opened just as Naia raised her hand to knock. A Sifa with thick, windswept red hair stood in the doorway. She was young, about Tavra’s age, dressed in a heavy sailing coat embroidered with knotted ropes and sashes, strings of shining jewelry hanging from her belt and woven through her crimson braids.
Her gaze went straight to Kylan’s shoulder.
“Onica,” Tavra said, voice stumbling. “It’s—”
Without hesitation, Onica reached out and gently scooped up the tiny spider in her hands. She held Tavra close, and her ocean-colored eyes filled with tears.
“Tavra,” she said. “Thank the suns. You’re alive.”
The inside of Onica’s cabin was barely big enough for the five of them. It was a single room above deck, though Amri could see a hatch that went below. Red and dark blue cushions embroidered with shining thread and beads littered the floor, and bouquets of fragrant herbs dangled from the ceiling, swaying gently in time with the rocking of the boat. Over-melted candles lit the dim chamber, and any chill in the air was warmed away by the round clay stove against the far wall. Rose-colored glass in the porthole windows made the unending mist seem distant, nothing more than a veil of fog.
Onica wove through the hanging herbs and flowers like a fish through kelp. She still held Tavra in one hand. With the other she set a water vessel on the hearth plate.
“Please, sit,” she said. “Anywhere will do.”
Amri found a cushion that fit his bottom and sat heavily, hoping the uneasy feeling of water below his feet would subside. He didn’t like it at all, not feeling the earth sturdy below him. But this was where Tavra had brought them, and if she thought it was safe here, then Amri wouldn’t complain. No one else was, after all.
Onica cleared the floor in the center of the small room. Beneath the cushions and blankets was a leather strap-handle, which she grabbed, twisted, and pulled until a square of planks rose. Amri hunkered down, looking under the panel as it came up, assisted by wood gears below. At last the panel clanked into place, transforming the floor into a table. The daylighter world was full of surprises.
While her friend went back to the water vessel, Tavra hopped from Onica’s hand onto the table. She looked like glass, with a silver-and-blue body and black legs. On her abdomen was a symbol, etched there by Kylan when he had stitched her soul into the spider’s body to save her life.
“Onica has been my friend for a long time,” she explained.
“Since we were young and naive,” Onica added, bringing two cups of ta. “Daughter of the All-Maudra, sneaking out to meet a Sifa by the seafarer’s lantern . . . It was quite a scandal.”
Onica returned with two more cups and sat with them at the table. Amri sipped the ta eagerly. It was spicy and balanced by sweet flowers. Wrapped in the warmth of Onica’s cabin, he almost forgot about the sea of perpetually shifting waves.
“So good,” he said. “What’s the spice?”
“Fire dust, shaved from coral along the Sifan Coast . . . Here, take some. It’s bountiful in Cera-Na.” Onica found a small sachet in her cache and gave it to Amri, who stuffed it in his belt pouch along with the other packets and bundles he’d picked up along their way. “But be careful not to use too much. It’s quite potent.”
“How did you know about Tavra?” Naia asked. She got a look from Kylan and backtracked. “I’m Naia. Tavra came to find me when my brother—”
“Gurjin, yes,” Onica said. “Heroic friend of Rian of Stone-in-the-Wood. And you must be Kylan the Song Teller, who dream-stitched your message onto the pink petals of the Grottan Sanctuary Tree . . . and you’re Amri.”
Just Amri, like usual. He was going to have to figure out how to make a name for himself soon.
“How do you know all . . .” Amri stopped and tried to answer his own question. The herbs hanging over their heads bore scents as broad and diverse as their colors and the shapes of their leaves, some spindly and piney from the north and others wide and flat from the swamps of the south. Lovingly arranged bundles of dried incense rested near the clay stove, and hanging against the walls were wood mandalas carved with the shapes of the Three Brother suns, the Three Sister moons, and other figures of the sky.
“You’re a Far-Dreamer,” Amri said. “A soothsayer.”
Onica smiled. “Far-Dreaming and soothsaying are two different things, but I suppose I’ve done both.”
“Onica has always dreamed of things,” Tavra said. “Things far from here, both in space and time.”
Onica sipped her ta, and the smile went away. “Only glimpses. Rarely more than that. But I saw you all at the Sanctuary Tree. In dreams, Kylan, I saw you playing the firca that dream-stitched your memories onto the petals. Naia, I saw you heal the Cradle Tree and leap from the top of the Castle of the Crystal, when your wings came. And Amri, the Grottan . . .”
Her face was so sympathetic, Amri wriggled, a blush creeping up his neck.
“. . . are strong and resilient!” he finished. “Not to mention good-natured, as a rule.”
Onica nodded slowly. She didn’t try to finish her thought, or her sympathies. None of them needed to be reminded of what had happened to the Grottan, defeated horribly by the spider race deep in the Caves of Grot. Sympathies would not rebuild Domrak, the Grottan village, nor restore the lives that had been lost.
Tavra, whose spider body was only more evidence of the hardships they’d suffered on their journey north, picked up on Amri’s uneasiness and cleared her throat.
“Onica,” Tavra said, her tiny voice filling the small room. She rotated to face the Sifa girl, touching one of her fingertips with a gentle tap of a crystalline leg. “We need to know what has happened in Ha’rar. Before we go there and are taken captive as traitors, or worse. Can you look? Into the fires and the smoke, and tell us if there is anything to be told?”
Of course! If Onica was truly a Far-Dreamer, perhaps she could hear the secret whispers of Thra. Perhaps the shadow songs might warn them if there was danger waiting for them in Ha’rar and the court of the All-Maudra. Amri waited for Onica’s response, hoping she would say yes. He’d never seen such things and wanted to learn what incense she used. What herbs and incantations.
“Yes, of course,” Onica said. “Let us see what we can see.”
Onica rose and selected a bundle of herbs from among the hundreds hanging from the rafters, pressed the end of it into one of the coals that glowed white in the little hearth. When the bundle smoldered, she blew it out, letting the smoke weave through the room in a thin silver line. She set the bundle in a stone bowl and put it in the center of the table. She sat across from Naia and rested her hands, palm up, on the table, wiggling her fingers to invite Amri and Kylan to join her. Naia took their hands in turn, so the four of them were linked.
“Close your eyes,” Onica said. “Open your mind. As if in dreamfast, but not that of the past. Connected. You and I. By the heart that beats in the breast of the world. By the blue fire that flows through our Gelfling bodies. By the earth. By the wind. By the water. By the fire.”
Amri closed his eyes. That part was straightforward. Dreamfasting with a stranger, however, was not so easy. He tried to settle, relax. Remember that although he’d just met Onica, Tavra trusted her. So much, in fact, that she had brought them to Onica instead of her own mother. Amri took in a deep breath and let it out. He didn’t realize his palm was sweating against Naia’s until she gave him a firm, reassuring squeeze.
When Onica spoke next, her voice was lower, like the eerie still before a storm.
“You may each ask one question,” she said, though now he wasn’t sure if her voice was through the air or inside his mind. “Thra will answer, as it may.”
Then the dreamfast began.
It was like a song without sound. Exchanging a meaningful glance with eyes closed. The feeling of understanding another Gelfling just by knowing, that connection when two minds met as one without a single word spoken. This time it was not just two minds, though. It was Amri’s and Naia’s. Kylan’s and Onica’s. Even Tavra, in her spider body, had joined. He could feel her—see her, almost—in his mind’s eye. With long silky hair, beautiful and regal and Silverling.
The world lurched, as if the boat had capsized, and Amri grabbed tight on Naia’s hand. It wasn’t the sea under the ship but the swooping thrill he’d felt jumping off ledges in the Caves of Grot. That fleeting uncertainty of danger, wrapped in confidence.
Ask, said Onica. Or perhaps it was not Onica at all.
They were all hesitant. Onica had said they each had one question. To ask Thra, their world that gave them life. Amri had no idea what kind of question to ask, and neither, it seemed, did the others.
Kylan spoke first. Did our message reach Ha’rar? Did the Gelfling this far from the tree see the dream I stitched upon its petals?
Suddenly they were flying.
High above the mist on the coast, so it looked like an undulating cloak of silver fur or feathers, ebbing against the shore. Mountains ran the length of it, green on the sea side and snow white on the other. Amri still felt Naia’s hand in his, now clinging as tightly to him as he clung to her. He couldn’t see her, or Kylan, Onica, or Tavra. He couldn’t even see himself, as the wind gusted against them, blowing them northward toward a shining white light that glowed on the horizon like a star. They raced toward the light, carried in the wind’s rough embrace. As if they were riding atop one of the thousands of pink petals from the Sanctuary Tree—
No, that’s what they were. They were the petals, racing through the sky in clusters and flurries of pink. This was the dream memory of the pink blossoms that had blown from the Sanctuary Tree of Grot. The blossoms upon which Kylan had stitched their message, using his magic firca, so that their words of the Skeksis betrayal might be spread far and wide.
The mountains split to the left and right—the west and east, as they entered from the south—swooping like wings of faceted ice and crystal, protecting a snow-laden village of thatch-roofed buildings connected by winding stone paths.
The petals really made it all the way to Ha’rar, Kylan said, disembodied voice just audible over the wind and light. Our message . . .
The petals were everywhere. Bright and pink against the pure white snow, frothing on the silver sea waves that crashed against the wharf. Decorating the domed roofs of the Silverling houses, dancing along the stone streets and atop the frigid rivers that wound under bridges and walkways on their way to the northern shore. As the Vapra of Ha'rar touched the enchanted petals, they saw Kylan’s dream. Heard the message stitched within.
Kylan had told his song to the petals and sent them on their way. But Amri and his friends had not yet had a chance to find out how the message was being received. Dreamfasts were always truth, but normal dreamfasts were hand to hand. Not carried by petals. Would the Gelfling believe?
Whispers came to Amri’s ears:
This can’t be. The Skeksis wouldn’t do this to us . . .
But isn’t this proof? It is a dreamfast, if a strange one . . .
As they flew through Ha’rar, they touched the cheeks and the backs of the Vapra’s hands, landing in palms and nestling in locks of silver hair. Some were moved by the dream. Others threw the petals aside or burned them in fear. Some shared the dream with their families, while others brought the rumors to the very steps of the citadel, waiting for the All-Maudra to tell them what to make of it. But through the muddled doubt, the quiet rumors, one powerful thought came over and over. From suspicious hearts, hardening like stone.
It is a trick by the traitor Rian. He’s trying to turn us against the Skeksis Lords.
Do not believe his lies.
Amri felt the heavy hand of disappointment when Kylan sighed.
As I feared, the song teller said.
Don’t give up just yet, Amri said. Your effort wasn’t lost. Many must believe. There wouldn’t be rumors otherwise.
The vision faded, and Amri became aware of Onica’s boat rocking below him again, smelled the smoke of the herb bundle under his nose. They still held hands, and Onica said again,
This time Tavra spoke: “What of my mother and sisters?”
Her mother. All-Maudra Mayrin, chosen by the Skeksis to be the ambassador of the seven Gelfling clans to the Castle of the Crystal. And her daughters, of which Tavra was one of three. The question might have been selfish coming from anyone else, but from Princess Katavra, it was crucial.
The winds of the dreamfast stilled until they were floating in space, the world turning without them. Time passing, though whether backward or forward, Amri couldn’t tell. Then the currents of the dream shuddered, once again moving, but this time in a different direction. Up and up they went, swirling through Ha’rar and ascending the face of the citadel itself. Through a window and into a chamber made of ice and white stone. It was night, some evening in the past. The petals of their consciousness drifted in and settled on the soft fabric draped across a small table. Other petals clung to the gossamer curtains, lay across the vanity where the All-Maudra kept her jewels and pretties.
Three Gelfling spoke nearby. Two were clearly sisters, Vapra, dressed in white and silver, with long pale hair and silver circlets on their brows. One was Amri’s age, ink smudged on her cheek. The second was older, wearing a mantle of flowing gossamers. Amri saw Tavra’s likeness in their smooth brows and silver hair. Her sisters, one younger, one older.
The third Silverling was their mother: All-Maudra Mayrin. There was no one else she could be, with that silver crown on her brow. Voice like snow, face wizened and stern.
None of them took note of the petals that had been brought in by the wind. The petals whose memories Amri and his friends were experiencing in this strange dreamfast.
“Seladon. Brea. This endless bickering will not do!” she scolded her daughters. The two of them that had been there, anyway. She couldn’t have known her third daughter, who had been missing since she was sent to find Rian and Gurjin, the traitors, would be seeing this moment later.
The younger of the sisters bunched her hands into fists.
“I told you! I saw a sign, in the—”
“I don’t have time for this, Brea!” In that moment, she sounded like any other mother frustrated with her wayward daughter. She finally took note of the petals, waving at them in distress. “The Ritual Master and the General will be here soon. I already have to explain the rumors of these pink petals somehow. I can’t have you running off to the Sifa and distracting me with their Far-Dreaming witchcraft!”
“Brea, give up! No one is going to believe you,” Seladon snapped. The cruel words echoed in the chamber, and even Amri winced, though the moment was long eaten by history. Brea looked down, her hands still in fists.
“Tavra would have,” she whispered, and the dream faded. As they left the memory, Amri became aware of Tavra’s presence, stronger than before.
Brea went to the Sifa for answers instead of to your mother? Kylan asked.
Brea is young, but she is not stupid. If she had reasons to doubt my mother, then so do we. The All-Maudra may not be as ready to leap into war with the Skeksis as we hoped, Tavra finished in her dour, unreadable voice.
Even if All-Maudra Mayrin weren’t Brea’s mother, she was still her maudra. The head of her clan. It seemed strange that Brea wouldn’t trust her own mother with her problems . . . but then again, after seeing the All-Maudra’s response, Amri wondered if maybe Brea had been right to visit the Sifa instead.
He wasn’t completely surprised, but kept his disdain to himself. The Vapra and their All-Maudra had left the Grottan clan to toil away in the caves for trine upon trine. Of course she’d be afraid to get her silver cloaks dirty tangling with the Skeksis.
Amri couldn’t be sure who Onica was speaking to until she squeezed his hand. His real hand, though her touch wasn’t strong enough to break him from the dreamfast. He gulped and tried to calm his heart. It was his turn.
How do we win?
His voice echoed in the dreamfast of their joined minds, his question bold and bare. No answer came, so he tried again, struggling to make his words heard amid all the darkness of the dream:
Please, Thra. How do we defeat the Skeksis?
The wind of the dream shook like a storm rising. Like a monster waking, or a song erupting from the dawn. Amri had asked, and they braced themselves for the answer.