Author Topic: Part 52: Into the Unknown  (Read 14276 times)

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Offline Daen

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Part 52: Into the Unknown
« on: September 22, 2023, 12:39:33 AM »
Days passed, on the open water. Rane had calculated how much fuel they had, and how quickly they could burn through it. Shortly after cutting the cable, he’d asked Moss to slow down a little. That way their fuel would run out at about the same time their water did. According to that odd one, Kolser, the sandkin had been working at a way to filter out the salt, so that they could consume seawater, but it wasn’t perfected yet. Certainly not enough to put on a sea-cart like this one.

Rane was terrified. He’d expected adventure when he’d asked Moss to take him along, but if this was an adventure, where was the wonder? Where were the riches? He doubted being a soldier in the war would be any better, but they were risking their lives out here, and perhaps for no good reason!

He never got any sense of fear or doubt from Moss, though. His friend was steadfast from the start, even during his dormancy. What little emotions leaked out from his dreams were of home. The comfort of Grove Praska, or of the Arbormass. And a little of Char as well. Rane tried very hard not to pay attention to those dreams. He didn’t want to intrude on a married couple’s problems. He doubted his own dreams were as comforting, but he could hardly be blamed for that. Unlike Moss, this was his first time away from home!

During the trip, Moss told him a little more about his own journey south into the Desert. He’d been badly injured at the time, with most of his bark burned away. “If I could survive that,” he’d said reassuringly, “we can survive this.”

“What do you think is out there, though? Other than the trejuns, I mean. Will we just keep on floating forever into the distance, even after we’re both dead?”

“I’m not sure. There were times in the desert that I thought the sands would continue on forever. Part of that was dehydration, and part was despair. But I don’t think this world goes on forever. The Core gave us Tarn, first so we could live on this world, and now so that we can go places! Aren’t you curious about what we might find?”

“Of course I am,” Rane clarified. “It’s just… we ran into the trejuns only a few hundred years ago, and they’ve already tried to wipe us out! What if the other stuff we might find is even worse?”

Moss let out some amusement. “I didn’t know the sandkin existed a year ago, and they’ve been much better than Trejuna. Better than us even, I might argue. Just because there might be danger out there isn’t a reason not to find out for sure.”

“What about the ocean itself? The water beats against the sand, and then rushes back out again, but where does it go? Do you think it just falls off the edge of the world somewhere?” The idea of their little Splitter suddenly careening off an endless waterfall was terrifying to Rane, but somehow exciting at the same time.

“I don’t know,” Moss admitted. “I asked Kolser about what might be out here, and the sandkin have a theory. Apparently they compared the Core’s heat in Clearbough- that’s on the far east end of the desert- to the heat in Sprayhaven at the same time of day. They did this again and again, and measured shadows as well, of the tallest sandkin in both oases. I didn’t really understand most of what he was saying, but Kolser seems to think that Tarn isn’t flat like the Union scientists thought. He said it’s round, like a drop of dew.”

Holding back some of his skepticism, Rane thought about it. “But if the world was round, wouldn’t all the seawater just fall off and leave behind the sand on the shores?”

Moss’ gave an impression of uncertainty. “Like I said, I didn’t get what he was talking about. He seemed pretty sure, though. Unlike the Union, they’ve been around for long enough to run these tests. The first thing we learned in the Arbormass was, if you make a design that’s reliable, you build another one just like it, and see if that one’s reliable too. Replication studies, Aysa called it. The sandkin have tested this again and again, and I’ve learned to trust them.”

“Huh,” Rane replied slowly. “So if we just keep on splitting the waves, we might end up on the east end of the Union? Beyond the mountain chain?”

“Theoretically, yes. Kolser thinks the world is very big, though. We’d need full seasons to make that long of a journey. I’m sure someone will make it eventually though, even if it’s not us. The carts changed everything. Now we can move around, and find out what this world is like for ourselves. In a way, we owe it to the trejuns. If they hadn’t attacked us and killed our qars, we never would have figured out how to move on our own.”

Rane felt a burst of disgust that he didn’t bother to keep hidden. “I don’t like the idea of thanking a trejun for anything. Part of me is still hoping the Union wipes them all out.”

“I know the feeling,” Moss responded with sympathy. “But I wouldn’t blame every treqar for the actions of Chancellor Esta. I can’t blame every trejun for the actions of the warmasters. Most of them are probably just slaves who can’t get any juns for themselves. If the war reaches Trejuna’s shores, wherever they are, those slaves will suffer worse than anyone. I’m doing this for them.”

“And I’m doing this for you,” Rane put in certainly. “I may not trust the trejuns, or the sandkin, or even the Union, but you were always smart and kind to me. Ever since you got back, you’ve been wise too. I guess I can thank your bonded companion and her people for that.”

A trace of pain leaked its way past Moss’ careful control. “Maybe so. Despite my best efforts.”

Sensing that his friend didn’t want to go on about this, Rane left him alone. He’d given Rane a lot to think about, as he always did. Distraction was a marvelous bark to protect people from anxiety. If he was busy thinking about a world in the shape of a raindrop, or whatever wonders might be out there on the wide ocean, he wasn’t thinking about their dwindling supplies or slim hope of ever going home. It might be manipulative, but he still appreciated it.