What can you do…
When your home becomes a prison
And the world beneath your feet can’t be trusted?
Where can you run…
In a universe where everyone’s a stranger
And nothing you knew before can help you survive?
Excerpt from Rift in the Sky (So many spoilers!)
Tikitik listened for the sound, harkened to it, drew pleasure from it. None other could be mistaken for the wondrous moment of birth.
When the screams died, echoes fleeing through the dark mists of the Lay Swamp, Tikitik would press their necks against the trunk of the great, fertile rastis and strain to be first to hear the soft sizzle and pop of its tissues bursting within, proof of life unleashed.
That the rastis die too was only fitting.
When the newborn Tikitik exhausted their food supply, they would drum the empty husk of the rastis with feet and hands, begging for release. Others listened too. Outside, creepers tapped their antennae, searching for weakness in the wood, a way into the bounty. Inside, somgelt erupted, lacy white tendrils racing down the ruined vessels of the rastis to seek the defenseless flesh. Only the strongest–and loudest–young would be freed in time.
All Tikitik understood the Balance. That which lived must be consumed by that which would live.
And that which would live must be strong.
Old, these mountains. Their grey eroded fingers stretched out and down, as if greedy for the lush land far below. Between plunged valleys, graveled and scarred and barren. Winter storms scoured what life was left after the M’hir Wind roared through and cracked stone.
Spring meltwater gifted the valleys with gentler sounds. The burble of streams. The rustle of breezes through thin stems and leaves. For hardy plants emerged from the ground with the return of warmth and moisture.
Quickly followed by the rattle as rock-that-wasn’t found any plant that dared grow too far from a stream and crushed it into tasty goo.
Old, these mountains.
And life here dared many things.
“Of course they made a game of it.”
“It’s not safe!” Aryl Sarc’s hands flattened possessively over the faint swell at her waist. “What if–” She stopped, chagrined. “I sound like Husni.”
Enris sud Sarc chuckled. “Never.” The two shared a smile as much inside as out. Chosen, Aryl thought happily, could do that. “Trust the young ones,” he suggested. “They’re already better at it than we are.”
“It” being the Om’ray’s newest Talent, the ability to use Power to move from place to place through the black tumultuous storm that was the inner M’hir, to travel within one heartbeat and the next anywhere the mind remembered. The Human, Marcus Bowman, had given them his word: teleportation, something no other beings could, according to his cautious search through databanks, do.
Though why Humans had a name for what they believed impossible, Aryl couldn’t imagine.
She rocked back on her heels, comfortable on the slope. Enris gave her a look and kept his grip on a protruding beam. He tried, but the former Tuana would never be at ease perched on a roof. Especially one that creaked under his bulk.
To one born in the canopy, this roof was as boringly safe as the flat motionless ground, but it did provide a better view. “There’s Yao.” Aryl pointed at the small shadow beside the meeting hall. “Gone again.” This as the shadow vanished.
“Ziba’s catching up.” The second, larger child appeared out of nothing in the same spot, then scampered to the meeting hall roof in a blur of yellow and blue. Once there, she waved a cheerful greeting to Aryl and Enris… “There she goes.” Enris chuckled. “Taen said they call it ’port and seek. Each tries to arrive first to surprise the other.” A shriek and crash of pots erupted from the small building the Sona used for preparing food. “Like that.”
Aryl winced. Husni Teerac was not fond of surprises; their eldest Om’ray wasn’t fond of this new Talent either, calling it frivolous. “They’ll be doing dishes for the next fist.”
“If they don’t hide.”
She didn’t worry on that score. Not yet. Aryl could, if she lowered her shields the slightest amount, feel where any of her people were at the moment. Taen and her daughter, Ziba, would soon lose their tight bond, but not yet. Yao…
“Yao will be fine.”
She pretended to frown at him. “Don’t pry.” Chosen were Joined, mind-to-mind, Power-to-Power. They weren’t, thankfully, one and the same mind or Power.
Where would be the fun in that?