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Chapter 3 - Part 1: Shadows

This was my first NANOWRIMO - an attempt to write novel draft in  a month. It is rough in many ways, and I'm not sure I knew where I was going, but I still remember it fondly and would like to overhaul it someday. The idea began in my mind with images of a smoke-colored cat in rust-red autumn leaves, a snow white cat curled around a heart of shining cut glass in a palace tower, and the empty-eyed queen to whom the heart belonged...

Chapter 3 - Part 1: Shadows

Chapter 3 - Part 1: Shadows
            The danger on the Edge was no superstition, as some would have you think nowadays. People had disappeared, not once, but many times, before it was forbidden for us to walk there and the Wardens were established to guard the way. At first it was no more than a barrier against the curious, that no one would wander out and lose himself in whatever lands lay beyond, as our citizens seemed to be developing such a habit of doing. In those days it was almost a laughable thing that we would have to post a guard on our threshold like a nanny guarding children. As time moved on it became so much more.

                        They said that things wandered there. Things grasped and clawed, mouthed and whispered, were insubstantial as shadows or a mist but solid enough to reach out to you and slay. Things were, perhaps, sent by the very lord of the deep himself. But as long as we stayed in our place, they would stay in theirs. Walk in the light, shut the doors at night, let not your feet stray over the Edge—and all would be safe. You will have nothing to fear. So they said.

Master Rol did not know if he believed in things, walking to the field one fine afternoon, swinging a cudgel which would do no good if the rumors were true. He did not know, although he lived closer to them than most anyone else in the land. Soon he would find out, though. He would go into the forbidden territory, and meet whatever was inside. Why? Because a child was delusional? Perhaps it wasn’t the child. Perhaps he himself was deep inside of a dream, sleeping on his watch at the Edge of the fields and the safe lands, going to wake up in a moment when he met something terrible and just before he would have dream-died. But no—the child’s tears had been real, and the stalks of grain waving like slender bones in front of him were as real as ever they had been.

At the Edge—the true Edge, with his feet almost touching the field—he was shaking. He was a Warden, he was young and strong! But this, this was the unknown, and enough to frighten any man. Before he’d left Mistress Maurenn’s cottage, having delivered Elise back to her, he’d asked her if she could simply scry for him what was on the other side. She shook her head.

“Many a time that I’ve tried, Master Rol,” she said, “And always the mirror is dead when I do. I don’t believe there is anything on the other side, personally—maybe a sea of shadows that don’t much like being spied upon.”

“Thank you anyway, Mistress.” His face had set into grim lines as he’d headed towards her door.

“Warden”—she’d stopped him with her voice. “Why are you leaving?”

Now, at the Edge—on the Edge—over the Edge, he didn’t know what he should have answered. She knew where he was going before he’d asked for her scry. It wasn’t that she wanted. She didn’t understand why the Warden of the Borderlands, of all people, would want to walk out on our world.


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