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Category Archives: Reaching the West Reaches

Dog Shouting

The Loveblind Bird lies beached on a heaving gray shore, deep in the half-flooded grotto. Strange white bats chirp and circle them as Dog Shouting prowls around the ship with a sling dangling from one hand. The Princess Leaves follows, and her lantern casts leaping shadows.

“You’re trembling,” observes Dog Shouting.

“I’m not trembling,” the princess says, but her eyes keep casting back to the cave entrance: See Me’s absence is silent and heavy between them.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” she mutters.

Dog Shouting whips a sling stone at one of the bats.

That doesn’t go well.

Dog Shouting

“Why you slimy, double-crossing, no-good swindler!” growls Rotten Gamble, stalking toward them down the pier with guards at either side.

“Me?” mouths Dog Shouting, like a bad actor.

They embrace, then, laughing, until the caped man glimpses baleen scars down the flanks of Loveblind Bird. “What have you done to my ship?”

Dog Shouting’s eyebrow quirks. “Yours? You lost her to me fair and square.”

They pause and eye each other for a moment, grins a little edgy now.

“Well, he seems friendly,” remarks Blow the Skin.

“Yes,” says the Princess Leaves, watching the two of them. “Very friendly.”

Rotten Gamble

The basket climbs its endless tether, winding upward into the mist.

“You truly belong here among the clouds,” Rotten Gamble coos to the Princess.

“Aren’t you afraid the Heavens will shut you down?” Dog Shouting says quickly.

Gamble grunts. “No, not actually. We don’t fall into their, uh, jurisdiction. Our operation is small enough not to be noticed… and our customers are anxious to avoid attracting attention to themselves.”

Dog Shouting grins. Gamble catches it, grins back.

“I’ve just made a deal,” he says, “that will keep the Heavens out of here forever.”

The basket opens.

The Speaker is waiting outside.

Reaching the West Reaches

Reaching the West Reaches pads along bamboo causeways with an ease he could never have managed before. Ahead of him flits a blue shade: The Plum Of, in her ghostly robes. He stalks her like a shark in the shallows.

The Wish Power thrums through him, carrying images. See Me is elsewhere on this cloudbound island, the Speaker elsewhere still, and at the center is the source of the mist, a fount of icy froth. It waits to ensnare a victim.

None of this matters.

Keep looking, whispers The Plum Of, somewhere ahead of him. Keep looking. Our daughters are here.

See Me

The Born Breathing are too many, too relentless. See Me swings his sword helplessly, but as he blocks one blow, another bamboo staff cracks his shoulders, his knees, his abdomen. Blood in his eyes: the wound of his missing hand is reopened. He sobs.

“You are beaten,” purrs the Speaker. “It is useless to resist. Don’t let yourself be destroyed as Ratio Tile did.”

“Don’t make me destroy you!” See Me roars.

“You do not yet realize your importance,” sniffs the Speaker. The Wish Power is like a breaking wave, and See Me a twig: he tumbles down into the freezing fountain.

Reaching the West Reaches

“Ratio Tile never told you,” pants Reaching the West Reaches, “what happened to your father.”

“He told me enough!” Her voice is like skin tearing over wounds never permitted to bleed: the old man’s clever kindness and children’s stories, the way he found her drydocked ship on that filthy desert island and prodded her into sailing again. The way he fell in that bloody mess of robes, and the way she scraped their little fellowship together around herself. The way she never got to tell him that she knew.

“You killed him!” screams Dog Shouting.

“No,” says Reaching the West Reaches.

Dog Shouting

“Ready for the jump,” says Rotten Gamble tightly.

The Heavenly dreadnought looms, bolters charging like infernal bees, but the Loveblind Bird races dead on for the reef. Belowdecks, Dragalong and Kid Rabbit scramble to swap crackling hoses.

“Princess, we’ll find him,” Dog Shouting mumbles in her wounded fever. “I promise.”

The Princess presses a cold cloth to Dog’s head, eyes huge and dark.

“Punch it!” shouts Gamble.

The ship booms; power arcs down through salt water. The Loveblind Bird leaps up to ride over the reef on rails of lightning, and lands hard on the other side.

“Ow,” Dog Shouting grunts.

See Me

See Me feels ice burn away from his fingertips, his nose, his chest, and he racks his body with choking sobs. Water gouts from his mouth and he claws at the floor, unable to stand or feel the Wish Power. Cold. Terror. There was someone here, someone he had to fight, his sword–his Princess–in danger–

“Just relax for a moment,” croaks an awful voice. “You’re free of the fleshscrub swaddling. You have hibernation sickness.”

“I can’t see,” See Me chokes.

“Your eyesight will return in time.”

“Who are you?”

“Someone who loves you,” coos the Speaker, stroking his face.

Kid Rabbit

“Of course I’m worried,” snaps Blow the Skin. “And you should be too! Rotten Gamble and Dragalong never returned from this awful place. If I told you half the things I’ve heard about this Papa Bosom–”

Grit squeals in Kid Rabbit’s exasperated gears. Once again he’s trundling through the desert with a message in his heart, but the place seems crueler now than it has before: dawn pinks the sand like blood in the water. They crest a dune and come upon a crenellated maw, blind ancient iron, too dry to rust.

“I’d better knock, I suppose,” mumbles Blow the Skin.

The Princess Leaves

“I’m taking Reaching the West Reaches and my friends,” says the emissary, cool and cocksure, silk-robed in black. “You can either profit by this or be destroyed.”

Papa Bosom laughs and laughs.

“You’re standing on–” Dog Shouting tries to hiss in warning from her lounging spot on the floor, but a yank on her leash chokes her off.

“There will be no bargain, Hopeless Warrior,” purrs Papa Bosom in his wet and backward language. “I shall enjoy watching you die.”

The guard’s bolter flies to the Princess’s hand: a flash and a crackle, a scream, and then the floor disappears.

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