Saturday, November 29, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Sponsored in partnership with Penguin Group (USA) and CreateSpace, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award launched in October 2007 and received more than 5,000 initial entries. Of those, excerpts from over 800 fiction entries were eligible for Amazon.com customers to read, rate, and review. Editors at Penguin Group (USA) reviewed the Top 100 semifinalists based on early customer reads and full manuscript reviews provided by Publishers' Weekly. In March 2008, the leading Top 10 finalists were selected for the customers' vote. A panel of experts--including bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert, editor and publisher Amy Einhorn, literary critic John Freeman, and literary agent Eric Simonoff--also weighed in with their reviews for each of the top 10 novels. The top three finalists--Dwight Okita (The Prospect of My Arrival), Harry Dolan (Bad Things Happen), and Bill Loehfelm (Fresh Kills) traveled to New York City for the first weekend in April, where Bill Loehfelm was revealed as the winner.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
This week I chose Costa coffee shop in the Marshes Shopping Centre, Dundalk.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
That's exactly what this man did, over eight years from 1998 to 2006. He has given no explanation as to why he did it, but hundreds of pages from some of the most valuable books in England (and possibly the world) were found in his own personal library after he removed them from volumes within the British and the Bodlein Libraries. My guess is he planned to take the whole book home with him, a few pages at a time. I think pages in your pocket are probably easier to smuggle out than a whole book under your jumper. Of course, he could have had the same books in his collection that were missing a few pages and wanted to complete them.
What do you think? Are you scandalised at the thought of cutting out pages from precious books? What would you steal if you were a millionaire?
Friday, November 21, 2008
*For all you aspiring writers out there, you should check out Duotrope's Digest. It has a huge list of markets for both short stories and novels in all genres and pay scales. It is free to use and if you join up they have a very handy submission tracker which helps you keep on top of all the pieces you have sent out and is invaluable when your laptop crashes and you lose all the submission information on your hard drive!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
1. Forget about the agent, you aren’t going to get one without an offer of publication from a publishing house.
2. Before you write, do market research into publishers to find out who is publishing what.
3. Write a book that is GOOD, brings something original and new to the market and hasn’t been seen before (I know, common sense but easier said than done).
4. Get as many short stories published as possible in professional magazines. What do I mean by professional magazines? One that pays at least 5c per word, has a circulation of over 1000 readers and has been published consistently for at least a year. The SFWA gives a list of publications it considers professional on its website, which is great for genre writers.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
* A star goes to anyone who can name the TV programme (and episode name) that this guy comes from.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
1. Write a book.
Writing a book for someone you love is a wonderful present. You can make them the protagonist, draw a comic, compile a photo book, make a recipe book, record a story that has been passed down through generations of your family or publish a personalised diary. The best thing is that your book doesn’t have to be long or well written, your loved one with LOVE it anyway because YOU wrote it and you did it for them. If you want to keep the rustic edge, you can print it out and bind it yourself but to be a little bit more professional I would recommend Lulu. It is affordable and you can print up as many, or as few, copies as you like. Set up is very easy as well and they do a wide range of styles including photo books and comics. Of course there are other POD publishers out there, but I would highly recommend Lulu to get the job done.
2. Make a calendar.
4. Place mats.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Another tiny creature darted towards Jed, then a third and fourth from the shadow of the tree root. They ran fast, in short jerky movements, clucking as their eyes danced trails of red light through the air.
Jed groaned and covered his head with his arms. ‘What are they? Get them away from me.’
‘They’re chickens,’ Ben said.
Pahana squinted. The creatures did look like chickens. They had small round heads on long necks and large oval bodies. Their beaks were curved, but not powerful like an eagle, and they scratched in the dirt around Jed with their clawed feet. However, that was where the similarity ended. Their bodies were naked, completely devoid of feathers, and a deep mat black. Tiny flaps of skin protruded from the base of their necks, which they waved constantly, producing a rustling noise. Their heads zoomed side to side, one moment gazing upwards, the next pecking at the ground. Some of the chickens wore gold chains around their necks and spindly legs. Others were completely naked. All of them clucked and squawked constantly. Pahana realised she could understand their cacophony of conversation.
‘Silly man,’ they said, pecking and scratching at Jed. ‘You shouldn’t have been climbing the trees. Look, you’re all dirty. You’ve ruined your clothes. You’ve injured yourself. Lie there, rest, we’ll look after you. Don’t try to move. Lie there, we’ll keep you from harm.’
Jed flung his arms out. He hit one of the chickens in the head and it somersaulted backwards before plopping onto the dirt looking stunned. More chickens clustered around it.
‘Silly bird, shouldn’t have approached the stranger. We told you not to. Now look where it’s got you,’ the birds chattered.
‘I could do with a little help here,’ Jed said.
Ben stepped forward. The chickens swarmed about his feet, stopping him from getting to Jed.
‘Don’t move, you might fall down. Best to stay where you are, you won’t get injured that way. Sitting down would be better. Yes, you look tired. You should lie down and have a rest.’
‘Am I mistaken or are these creatures actually addressing me?’ Ben said.
Lilo wrapped her arms around her chest and wriggled from one foot to the other. ‘They’re disgusting. Get them away from me.’
‘Ansus, do something,’ Pahana said, touching the tiger’s back.
Ansus roared and scattered the chickens with her front paws.
‘Watch out,’ the chicken’s clucked. They opened to let the tiger through, and then closed the path behind her.
‘What’s this?’ the wave of creatures surged toward Pahana, where she stood pressed against the cavern wall. ‘You shouldn’t stand there dear, the wall is wet. You might catch a cold. You don’t know where that muck has been. Oh, you’ve dirtied your pretty dress.’
They rustled as they drew near, waving their skin flaps in great agitation. Pahana imagined their dry skin scraping against her feet, their scaly legs scratching at her, their red eyes peering into her own as they over powered her and knocked her off her feet. She moved away from them, terrified of their touch.
‘Keep back,’ she said. Fire ants prickled under her skin. She raised her arms defensively. Blue flame engulfed her. She burned brightly. A fireball shot out from her hand and hit the nearest chicken. It evaporated in a puff of soot. The other chickens stopped, bobbing their heads from side to side.
‘Mmm, better get Fera, yes, Fera will want to see this,’ the chickens said, withdrawing from Pahana. ‘Be careful, don’t trip, wouldn’t want to fall over and break a leg or neck on the way back. Or worse, lose your way. No, must be careful.’
Seeing the chickens move away from her, Pahana stepped from the wall and forged into their midst. They scuttled away, chirping and squawking. She waved her hands at them, scattering them, the animals crawling over each other in their haste to get away, but she did not evaporate them. She cleared a path to the others. By the time she reached Ansus and Jed, the chickens had fallen back into the shadows, only the noise of their retreat evidence of their existence.
‘Are you all right?’ Pahana offered her hand to Jed. He looked at the blue flames roaring around it and turned it down, leaning on Ansus to get to his feet.
‘We should leave before they come back,’ Pahana said.
Jed was shivering. He slapped at his torso, his eyes darting around the cavern. ‘What are those things? Where did they come from? What do they want?’
Pahana frowned. ‘It doesn’t matter. They’re gone – for the moment. Let’s take our chance. Climb back up to the ceiling and help us get out of here.’
Jed shook his head. ‘I’m not going back up there. It hurt when I fell. I could really injure myself if I went up there again. Oh no, I’m staying down here where I know where I am.’
Pahana turned to Ben. ‘Will you climb up?’
He stared at Pahana and she was afraid his eyeballs would pop out of his head. ‘I would love to oblige you, but I am older than Jed and therefore less nimble. If I fell I’d be guaranteed to break something. An arm or a leg. My hip perhaps. My back, most definitely.’
Pahana didn’t even ask Lilo. She was sitting on the ground, her arms wrapped around her knees rocking backwards and forwards.
‘Ansus, you’ll help me, won’t you?’ Pahana asked.
A growl rumbled constantly in the tiger’s throat. She walked gingerly towards the tree root. She looked unsure of every step. At the base of the root she turned to Pahana, her brow folded into one black line against her orange fur. ‘Perhaps you shouldn’t do it, it looks dangerous. I can’t put you in a position of harm.’
Pahana sighed. She grabbed the tree root and pulled herself onto its base. The flame from her body transferred onto the wood, running along the length of the root. The wood started to burn. She tried to pull the fire back into her, but she could not stop it. She climbed upwards as fast as she could, but the root was crumbling under her touch. She looked longingly up at the patch of light in the ceiling Jed had cleared. She hoped to see sky, to feel the outside air against her face, but instead she saw a large grey fungus growing in the dark earth of the ceiling.
‘It doesn’t lead out of the maze at all, it’s just a big mushroom,’ Pahana exclaimed.
‘What is?’ Jed looked around.
‘The light around the roots. They aren’t spots of sunlight; it’s coming from fungus growing with the tree. We aren’t going to be able to climb out this way. Sorry,’ Pahana said, quickly sliding down the root before it burned through.
The burning root provided brighter light than the fungus, illuminating a wider portion of the cavern. In its light Pahana could see the chickens in the distance, their red eyes bobbing up and down as they watched her. They grew out of the darkness like a black fungus clustered around the roots.
‘They’re coming back,’ she said.
Lilo screamed. ‘We’re never going to get out.’ She started to cry, her words sobs. ‘We’ll die here and the chickens will peck our meat from our bones.’
‘Don’t say that. They aren’t even very frightening. There has to be another way out of this cavern. I’ll led the way, keeping them back with my fire, and the rest of you’ll stay close to me. They don’t like the flame, so they’ll keep away from us,’ Pahana said.
‘What’s the point, Lilo’s right. We’re never going to get out of here,’ Jed said. He slumped down on the ground beside Lilo.
Pahana turned to Ansus. ‘Help me with this,’ she said.
The tiger yawned. ‘I think we should rest here first,’ she said. ‘We haven’t slept in a while. Do you know how damaging to your health that can be?’ She lay down and started to clean the muck from her face. ‘I must freshen up before I catch a cold.’
‘Ansus.’ Pahana pulled at the tiger in desperation.
‘Perhaps I can help you?’
Pahana smiled. ‘Oh thank you, Ben. At least you aren’t like the others.’
‘Excuse me.’ He carefully moved Pahana to one side and knelt down in front of Ansus. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and started to clean the mud from the tiger’s forehead.
‘Don’t spit on that old man, I don’t want to catch your germs,’ the tiger said.
‘Have no fear, I don’t intend to incur your wrath and end up in your stomach,’ Ben said.
Pahana pulled at her hair. She wanted to scream, but she was afraid that loud noise would bring dirt down from the ceiling and if the ceiling was compromised the wood planks might fall down too and then all the soil held back by them would come crushing down upon her, burying her.
She shook her head. What was she doing? She moved away from the others. It was their fault. They were doing something to her. If she stayed around them much longer she would be like Lilo and Jed, curled up in balls on the ground. If they stayed still long enough spores from the light mushrooms would start to grow on them. She didn’t want to turn into a mushroom.
‘All right, if you won’t come with me I’ll go on my own. I’m not going to stay here, I’m looking for a way out,’ she said as loudly as she dared.
‘Don’t leave, Pahana,’ Lilo stretched out her hand towards Pahana. ‘We’re safe enough here – for the moment. Things could get much worse if we left.’
‘She’s right,’ Jed said. ‘Think of those monsters that took your brain. What if we met one of those again? No, we’re better off staying here.’
The mention of the Mubby brought back memories of the dark dungeon in which it had fed upon Pahana. She whirled around; sure she could feel its cruel claws on her head. She shot out fireballs randomly into the darkness.
‘Hey, be careful. I don’t want to be crisped,’ Jed said.
‘You know, those flames really are quite dangerous. I think for the safety of the group you should refrain from using them,’ Ben said.
Ansus grumbled in agreement.
Pahana did not want to let the flames die out. It was her only protection against the dangers that surrounded her. She clutched the fire to her. Red veins snaked through the sapphire flames.
‘If you don’t want me around I’m going to look for a way out of this place,’ Pahana said, backing away but still looking over her shoulder in case something was sneaking up on her. ‘I’ll come back for you when I find one. Or I might call for you.’
‘Don’t go, you’re not up to going out there on your own,’ Lilo said.
Pahana wondered if she was right. The tree root had stopped burning, a pile of grey ash the only remains of its presence. Without the added light, the cavern did seem very dark. Their voices echoed into the vast distance. She shivered at the thought of exploring on her own.
‘Lilo’s right, you shouldn’t go on your own,’ Jed struggled to his feet. ‘I’ll come with you. We’ll be safer in pairs.’
Pahana nodded. She did feel safer with someone with her. ‘Thank you.’
‘You guys wait here. We’ll be back – if we can. If not…’ Jed shrugged.
‘I thought we could hug the walls looking for tunnels like the one that led us here,’ Pahana said, leading the way. She didn’t want to admit to Jed that she was afraid of striking out into the middle of the cavern where the darkness was thickest and she was sure she could smell a Mubby lurking in the shadows.
Jed shrugged. ‘You never told us about your memory, Pahana.’
She shivered. ‘Now’s not a good time,’ she said. The Mubby was bad enough; she didn’t want to look out for the faceless man and the shadow woman as well.
‘Was it that bad?’
‘I’m sorry. Maybe you’ll remember something nicer.’
‘I hope so,’ Pahana said, but she hoped that she wouldn’t remember anything more. She knew that she wouldn’t have nice memories like the others, that it would be more horror to plague her. It was hard enough dealing with the problems of the present without being haunted by the terrors of the past.
‘I really thought we would be able to dig our way out,’ Jed said, patting a thick tree root as they passed.
‘We’ll get out of here Jed, don’t worry.’
He shrugged. ‘Maybe. Perhaps it isn’t so bad here after all. There’s light, and I like the wood. I could make things out of it, and I’m sure those chickens wouldn’t taste too bad. You could light a fire and we could cook them over it.’
‘I bet they taste slimy.’
Jed laughed. ‘They probably do.’
It was darker near the wall, with less roots breaking through the planks to provide spotlights, but Pahana’s flame was bright enough for them to navigate by. Pahana ran her hand along the planks for a while, until she remembered that things might live behind the planks and burst out to bite her fingers. She stumbled away from the wall, knocking into Jed. He caught her shoulder, steadying her.
‘Hey, your fire doesn’t burn.’
‘Not unless I want it to,’ Pahana said, looking at her hands. ‘Jed?’
‘What do you plan to do when you get out of the maze?’
He scratched his head. ‘I guess I haven’t thought about that much. Try and find out who I was before, I suppose, and where I came from. Maybe I have a pretty young wife waiting for me like Ben.’
‘He never said she was young.’
‘What if you don’t manage to find her? What if you can’t go back and you never find out who you were?’
‘Well, in that case I guess I’d find somewhere that wasn’t too objectionable, preferably near a forest, and I’d start making things again.’
Pahana glanced at him. There was a smile on his lips. ‘I thought you’d lost the ideas of what to make.’
‘I’ll get new ones. I don’t mind waiting until they come.’
They walked in silence for a while. She could hear the chickens rustling around them but they didn’t come close enough for her to hit them with a fireball. At least, she hoped the noise and the red lights bobbing around them at a distance belonged to the chickens.
‘What are you going to do when you get out?’ Jed asked.
‘I don’t know. I don’t know if I really want to get out.’ She stopped. The wall stretched ahead, dark soil held back by strip after strip of uninterrupted wood. ‘This is hopeless; there is no exit here. Let’s go back to the others.’
They turned around. The chattering of the chickens grew louder. They were becoming bolder again, drawing in towards them. Pahana could see their scaly feet and curled beaks glinting at the edges of the fungus spotlights.
‘They sound excited,’ Jed said.
‘They are. Someone is coming.’
Sunday, November 09, 2008
When she opened her eyes she felt the pain. It rushed in upon her, tearing her chest apart. She screamed, ripping at her clothes to expose the wound on her chest. Hands held her, keeping her from hurting herself. She fought against them.
Heavy paws pinned her shoulders. Musky breath blew in her face.
The pain ebbed out of her. She saw Ansus’ face above her. Her head rested in Lilo’s lap, whose cool hands brushed Pahana’s hair back from her forehead. Jed and Ben knelt on either side, looking worried, holding down Pahana’s ankles and wrists.
‘Are you back with us?’ Ansus asked.
Pahana licked her dry lips. She mentally checked her body. The feel of the hands and paws holding her down grounded her. She still ached inside, but she could control it. She nodded. Ansus slowly removed her paws from Pahana’s shoulders, but continued to stand over her.
‘Where did you go?’
Pahana turned her head. The gritty brick felt good against her cheek. ‘A memory, from before I came here.’
‘Not a happy memory,’ Ansus said.
‘Are you all right? What happened?’ Jed sounded nervous.
‘I don’t want to talk about it.’
‘Let her up.’ The tiger nodded to Ben and Jed. ‘She’s not going away again for a while.’
Cautiously the two men released their grip on Pahana. Lilo helped her to sit up and held her against her chest. Pahana started to shiver.
‘You said it wouldn’t hurt,’ Pahana said, looking at Ansus.
The tiger shook her head. ‘The Mubby took from you indiscriminately – the good and the bad. You must take both parts back.’
Jed wiped his hands against the back of his trousers. ‘We were worried about you. One minute you were smiling and the next you were writhing on the ground roaring your head off. If we hadn’t held you down you would’ve hurt yourself.’
‘I know. Thank you.’
‘I remember my wife.’ Ben spoke softly, drawing their attention away from Pahana. His eyes were misty, far away, and a smile brightened his face. ‘I don’t know how I got here and I don’t know where I came from, but I can remember her. It makes my heart glad when I think of her. I see her face, walking hand and hand through the bluebell wood at the back of my house.’ He wiped a tear from his eye. ‘Don’t mind me, I’m just a foolish old man.’
‘I wanted to open a restaurant.’ Lilo laughed. Jed rubbed her shoulder. ‘I can see it when I close my eyes; a renovated warehouse, with exposed brick and glass walls forming compartments inside. I wanted a floating staircase leading to an upper level looking out over the bay with recessed lights to make it atmospheric, you know? The tables would be wood – really good quality solid blocks of teak – the kind of wood that looks so good you want to run your hands over it to feel the grain. The floors would be slate. I’d have banquets around the tables, something soft and tempting that makes you want to sit and talk for hours. There would be a bar downstairs, all glass and hidden lights to shine through the bottles, and an outside balcony over the water for smokers.
I can’t remember my name from before, but I can see my restaurant in every detail. Crazy, huh?’ she looked at Jed. ‘How about you, can you remember anything?’
‘Working with my hands. I think I was an artist of some sort, or a craftsman. I can still feel the tingle in my palms to create something, mould something to the image in my head, even though the pictures aren’t there anymore. Other than that, no.’
Pahana listened, her eyes shut. She could hear the hope in the voices of the others, the joy that filled them when they shared the memories they held onto so tightly. She couldn’t tell them her memory now. She wouldn’t ruin their visions with her nightmare.
‘It’s time to go,’ Ansus said. She raised her head, mouth partly open, sniffing the air. ‘We’ve been here too long.’
Jed and Ben helped Pahana to her feet. She had to lean on them for a few moments as the alcove spun around her. Jed’s arms held her firmly; his calloused hands rough and his arms strong.
‘I can carry you if you need,’ Ansus said.
Pahana shook her head. ‘I can manage.’ She stepped out of the alcove and looked up and down the corridor. The air felt different against her face. She could detect a currant, rather than the stagnant breath that had lain upon her skin before. When she looked in the direction they had come, the air was stale. Looking ahead, she could feel a breeze of fresh air.
‘This way,’ she said.
The others hung back. Pahana turned and beckoned to them.
‘Are you coming?’ she asked.
Jed exchanged glances with Ben and Lilo. ‘Follow that woman,’ he said.
Ansus padded beside her while the others walked a few steps behind. The maze seemed more alive to her than ever before. She could feel it throbbing through the brick of the corridor. She followed the breeze, walking fast to get to the fresh air. She was sure that she would see the exit after each turn in the corridor.
Halfway down a new length of corridor the fresh air vanished. Pahana stopped. Jed bumped into her. She spun around.
‘Hey, I’m sorry,’ Jed said, stepping away from her.
She frowned, shaking her head. ‘No, it’s not that. There’s a doorway here. We have to find it.’ She looked at the brick. The walls were solid; she couldn’t even see a hole in the mortar.
‘There’s nothing here, Pahana,’ Ansus said. ‘There is no new path here, we have to go on.’
Pahana shook her head. She was sure. ‘We need more light, that’s all.’ She raised her hands. The blue flame came easily. She controlled it, keeping it rippling across her hands. The light was strong, much stronger than the lichen on the walls, and it brightened the corridor.
‘Whoa, where did you learn to do that?’ Jed stepped further away from Pahana.
‘It’s like the light in the bottle,’ Ben said. ‘Maybe that was fire that was put back into her head.’
‘I don’t like the sound of fire,’ Jed said. ‘I don’t want to be blasted inadvertently by a fireball.’
Lilo touched his arm. ‘She won’t hurt us, Jed.’
Ansus brushed her head against Pahana. ‘Your powers are returning,’ she said softly.
Pahana glanced at the flames. She had tried so hard to produce it after leaving Angel, and had failed; yet it seemed so natural now. She had wanted more light and –whoosh – she had it. She hadn’t even thought about it, the way she didn’t have to think about breathing or seeing. Ansus calling it a power made her nervous of it. The flames flickered, dimming.
‘She can’t keep it up,’ Lilo said. ‘Is it tiring, Pahana?’
‘Help me find the opening,’ Pahana said, doubt creeping in and causing the light to dip even more. ‘Help me before it goes out.’
‘There is no opening,’ Ansus persisted.
Jed ran sideways along the corridor, slapping the wall in the search for an opening. After a heartbeat, Ben did the same on the opposite side.
‘Nothing,’ Jed called when he reached the next junction.
‘I don’t seem to be turning anything up on this side either,’ Ben echoed.
‘You aren’t looking right.’ Pahana gazed at the walls around her. The breeze had stopped there, not in front of her, not behind. Stale air lay on either side. Around her the atmosphere crackled. She stared at the walls.
‘It’s not here, Pahana. Move on,’ Ansus pushed against her.
She lowered her hands, the flames dying out. Maybe the tiger was right. The corridor seemed very dark after the blue light. Before her eyes readjusted to the glow from the lichen and the tiger, she saw a single brick in front of her throbbing a deep ruby red. It stood out from the other bricks. It looked hot, heated by something on the other side of the wall. Without thinking, she reached out and pressed the brick.
It crumbled under her touch. A large panel in the wall fell away into dust, revealing a dark doorway. The smell of leaf litter and loam wafted out of the entrance.
‘Found it,’ Pahana said.
Ansus stepped into the doorway, sniffing the air and staring into the gloom. ‘I didn’t even sense it,’ she said. ‘You are right, this is the true path.’
‘All right!’ Jed ran back to the group. He clapped Pahana on the shoulder. ‘Way to go. You’ll have us out of here quicker than the little kitty cat.’
Ansus growled. ‘I have already warned you.’
‘Where does it lead to?’ Lilo peered into the doorway.
‘There’s only one way to find out,’ Ben said. He gestured for Pahana to lead the way. ‘After you m’dear.’
Pahana flexed her fingers before stepping through the doorway. A tiny piece of flame licked her nails. The darkness pressed against her, probing her. Feeling confident again, she coaxed the flame brighter and lit up her surroundings. Crumbling walls of earth bordered her on either side, pale white roots sticking out of the rich soil above her head. Across the surface of the walls insects and worms scuttled deeper into the layers, some falling to the ground where they dodged around her feet.
‘Yes, we’re getting near the end of this place,’ Jed said.
‘Why do you say that?’ Lilo asked.
‘Well, earth beats brick, right? I can see tree roots, we must be getting nearer the surface.’
‘That’s if we’re already underground; we could be going deeper,’ Lilo said.
Jed shrugged. ‘You’re right, I hadn’t thought of that.’
‘Either way it’s a change of scenery,’ Ben said. ‘I’m with you Pahana.’
‘Let’s go then,’ Pahana said. Holding one arm up as a torch, she walked forward into the earth. It stank, but she felt comforted by the earthy stench.
‘It’s like a grave,’ Lilo said. ‘I don’t like it.’
The path ascended gradually. As they climbed, the walls grew closer together. Soon Pahana’s shoulders brushed against the earth as she walked. Beetles, black as the soil, fell onto her shoulders. The ceiling lowered, brushing against her head and the tree roots tangling in her hair. Before long the path had become a tunnel and she had to crawl on her hands and knees to progress.
‘I really don’t like this,’ Lilo panted. ‘I can’t see where I’m going.’
‘Calm down.’ Jed’s voice was soothing. ‘We’re almost at the end of this. Pahana will guide us out. Relax, you don’t have to worry.’
Pahana could hear Ansus struggling to crawl down the tunnel behind the others, the earth caving in behind her. There was no way back.
‘If you could go a bit fast I would greatly appreciate it.’ Ben’s breath brushed the balls of Pahana’s feet.
She tried to move faster. The base of the tunnel was wet. Her hands sank into the mud. She stopped, but Ben pushed against her. Before she could call out a warning she slipped forward. Her smooth robe provided no traction against the slick surface. The tunnel descended and she fell forward, sliding down it with increasing speed. Behind her she heard first Ben and then Lilo and Jed slip on the mud and rush after her. She dug her fingers into the damp sides of the tunnel in an effect to slow down but only succeed in gouging grooves in the wet soil. Clods of mud slopped onto her face.
The tunnel ended and Pahana fell forward into a hard floor. She quickly rolled to one side to avoid Ben falling on top of her. She looked about. She was in a large cavern. Wooden boards covered the walls, floor and ceiling but gaps in the planks let the dark earth bulge through. Thick twisted tree roots speared through the ceiling, breaking wide gaps in the boards. They hung down in wooden stalactites, an underground forest of trees. Grey light shone down with the tree roots, providing spotlights that lit up portions of the cavern. Pahana could hear scuttling in the dark corners.
Ben fell out of the tunnel, winding himself. Pahana went over to him and helped him up. Lilo and Jed followed, landing in a tangled heap. Jed wrapped his arms around Lilo and rolled her out of the way before Ansus flopped out into the cavern. The tiger looked a mess, her ears flattened down, her fur covered in wet muck from the slippery tunnel.
‘Well done Pahana.’ Jed jumped to his feet. He helped Lilo up, brushing the muck from her clothes. ‘Look, sunlight. We can climb up these tree thingies and break our way out.’
Pahana clung to the wall near the tunnel. The noises were growing louder. She could hear rustling and scratching as something approached from the far side of the cavern. ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea, Jed.’
‘Ben, give me a leg up.’ Jed ran towards the nearest tree root. ‘I think I should be able to climb to the top all right. There are plenty of handholds. Once I’m up there I can help the others up after me.’
The two men stood at the bottom of the root, hands on their hips, gazing upwards. Ben laced his fingers together to make a stirrup. Jed put his foot into Ben’s hands and, with a push from the older man he leapt onto the root, clinging to its cracked surface with his hands. Pahana watched from a distance as Jed nimbly climbed to the top of the root. Hanging precariously, he hit at the dirt above his head. It showered down about his head and shoulders, raining on to the wooden planks below with the pitter-patter of showers.
‘Nearly there,’ he called.
Pahana clasped her hands together. She could see shadows skirting the pools of light around the tree roots. The movement drew her attention, but when she tried to focus in on what made it, she saw nothing. The darkness chuckled, mocking her.
‘Ansus, do you hear that?’ Pahana whispered.
Ansus’ ears twitched. She turned away from watching Jed and surveyed the cavern. Her lips drew back in a hiss, showing her long yellow teeth.
‘Get back, we’re not alone, there’s something here,’ Pahana shouted.
Lilo and Ben stood at the base of the tree root looking up at Jed. They turned puzzled faces to Pahana.
‘Almost…there,’ Jed said. His face was black from the falling dirt. More light poured into the cavern from the patch he had cleared around the root. He punched only last time and a large clump of dried mud fell away from the ceiling. It hit against the back of his neck, unbalancing him. He grabbed for the tree root but fell, landing on his back with a groan. Something small darted out of the shadows towards him. In the increased light from above it could be seen clearly. It was small and black, with cruel claws and beak and flashing red eyes. Lilo raised her hands to her face and screamed.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Almost exactly at this time last year (10am 9th November New Zealand time) Pinky and I landed in Christchurch, our first time on New Zealand soil. We were told it was a balmy 12 degrees, but when we stepped out of the airport we found it to be very hot and sunny.
‘Oh Ansus, don’t be so hard on him. He can’t be that bad,’ Pahana said, rubbing the tiger’s back. ‘Besides, it’s good that his friends were able to join us.’ She waved to Jed. ‘Hurry up, we must move on. We can’t linger here.’
‘You sound as bad as the tiger,’ Jed said. He maintained his pace, perhaps slowed a little, and sauntered up to Pahana and Ansus at the same time as his two companions. ‘Lilo, Ben, this is – what is your name again? Let me see, I think it’s Pahana – as in, ‘We must save Pahana’ and ‘We can’t stop because we have to look for Pahana.’
The man and woman with Jed mumbled greetings. They both looked pale and tired, especially Ben, who appeared to be coming down with an illness.
Inwardly, Pahana grumbled. Perhaps Ansus was right about her assessment of Jed, but it would not help anyone to be rude to the man and even objectionable people deserved her help and respect. ‘Pleased to meet you Ben and Lilo.’
Ben smiled. It was beautiful and lit up his face. ‘It’s great we’re united at last. The good tigress was very worried about you. Now that we’re together, I ask that we rest for a short while to gather our energy and to eat a small repast.’
Pahana regretted having to disappoint him. ‘I’m afraid we have to keep going. The true path that will lead us out of the maze will not remain open for much longer and we will lose precious time if we rest. I know you’re tired and it’s hard going, but perhaps Ansus could carry you on her back for a while to help you recover?’
Ben looked at the tiger’s narrow back. Ansus growled.
‘Come on, there is an alcove up ahead. We can stop in there for five minutes. If this true path is so easy to lose we’ll never make it out of here, so we may as well not kill ourselves trying,’ Jed said. He tapped the casket in Pahana’s arms. ‘That better have food or some sort of goodies in it.’
Pahana pulled away. ‘I don’t know what’s in it, but it’s important.’ She hoped it wasn’t food, thinking of the corrupted feast Lipedo had laid out for her.
Jed shrugged. ‘I think we have some provisions left, but we need to go on a scouting party soon. Food and water is hard to find in this place.’
Ansus thumped her tail against Pahana’s leg. ‘We could do with looking in that box and if Jed is right, an alcove is a better place to open it up than exposed in the corridor. I think we can afford to stop for a little while.’
‘Lead the way, Jed,’ Pahana said.
He saluted her mockingly and then carefully squeezed past Ansus to lead the way down the corridor. ‘It should be along here on the right,’ he said, slapping the brick wall with his hand. ‘I found it on one of my hunts. Ah, yes, here it is.’
He seemed to disappear into the wall of the corridor. Pahana could detect no opening, but then his head appeared grinning out of the brickwork and his arm beckoned them towards him. Up close, Pahana saw that a doorway was concealed in the wall. It was so cleverly hidden that even standing right in front of it she found it hard to see. Stepping into the doorway brought her to a small square chamber that was just large enough for the four people to sit against the walls and for the tiger to stretch out at their feet.
Lilo helped Ben sit down on some rubble. He coughed a little, but shook away Lilo’s concerns. She sat down beside him. Jed took a cloth bag out of his pocket. It contained a spongy brown loaf – whether bread or fungus, Pahana could not tell – which he proceeded to divide into equal shares and distribute. Pahana shook her head when he offered her a portion.
‘Not hungry?’ Jed looked surprised.
Pahana smiled. ‘I don’t need it, thank you.’
He looked at her intently for a moment, then shrugged and broke the piece in two, giving a share each to Ben and Lilo. He took a bottle from his other pocket and repeated the process. Once again Pahana refused her share.
‘I don’t get you and the tiger,’ Jed said. ‘You don’t eat or drink anything, but you aren’t sick and tired like we are – or were you dining in style the same place you got your glad rags?’
‘I’m not hungry, that’s all, and I think you need it more than I do at the moment,’ Pahana said.
‘We don’t need you to make sacrifices for us.’ Jed sounded angry.
Pahana flushed. ‘I’m not. If I need it, I’ll ask you for it.’
‘Please Jed, don’t fight,’ Lilo said softly.
Jed sniffed and sat down to eat his food. He stared at Pahana while he ate.
Ansus, stretched between the people, did not have much room to manoeuvre. She nodded at the casket in Pahana’s arms. ‘Open it.’
Pahana caressed the box lid. ‘Are you sure? Is it safe?’ She was afraid. She didn’t want to find out what it contained. She wasn’t worried that it was something evil, although there was certainly the possibility, but what if it was something good? What if it was a key to escape the maze, or a torch to light their way? Even worse, what if it was empty? As long as she carried it unopened it could contain any or all of these possibilities. She didn’t want to ruin it but finding out what lay inside and sealing its fate.
‘It smells of the other worlds,’ Ansus said, sniffing loudly. ‘You were drawn to it for a reason. The sage would not let you keep it if it was going to harm you.’
‘Where did you get it anyway?’ Jed asked.
‘From the room of the creature that the night train brought me to,’ Pahana replied.
Jed smiled. ‘So you’re a thief. I guess we’ve more in common than I thought.’
Pahana was tempted to reply but thought better of it. She wasn’t going to allow him to draw her. She turned the box around on her knee so that the clasp was facing her. She grasped it, then paused, looking to Ansus once more for assurance.
‘Open it,’ Jed said. ‘We can handle whatever’s inside.’
‘Seize the day,’ Ben said. Lilo murmured her agreement.
Ansus nodded. ‘Open it, Pahana.’
Pahana drew in a deep breath. Holding it, she flicked open the clasp and tilted the lid back. It fell open easily, on well-oiled hinges. A bright blue light spilled out of the box and illuminated the alcove. The box was lined with black velvet. Resting in a depression in the centre was a crystal vial filled with sapphire light. Pahana picked up the vial and held it up. It was cold to the touch.
‘It’s beautiful,’ Lilo said.
‘What is it?’ Jed asked, leaning forward to look closer.
Ansus banged her tail against the wall. ‘It’s yours, Pahana. It’s your missing brain.’
Jed laughed. ‘Her what?’
‘The part the Mubby harvested from her, or parts I should say, as it took a piece from her head night after night and placed it in this bottle for the private collection of a lord for this part of the maze,’ Ansus said.
‘That don’t make a whole lot of sense to me,’ Jed said, scratching his head.
Ansus wrinkled her brow, her stripes coming together to form a long black line. ‘What I don’t understand is why the Mubby was giving it to Lipedo, when you were held prisoner in another lord’s area. They must be working together.’ She scratched behind her ear. ‘That is not good.’
Pahana cradled the vial in her palm. Could the blue light really be part of her? It was so beautiful.
‘What’s a Mubby?’ Ben asked.
‘A creature of the maze,’ Ansus said. ‘One of the many. Some – like the butterballs – work in groups. Mubbys' work alone. They form alliances with the various lords of the maze and usually keep to their area.’
‘I hope we don’t meet one,’ Ben said.
‘We’ve handled worse,’ Jed said.
Ansus sat up. Lilo and Ben drew their legs to their chests to avoid them being crushed by the tiger. ‘We must replace the contents of the vial,’ she said. She sniffed Pahana’s hands. ‘We have to put it back before we continue.’
‘What can we do to help?’ Ben asked.
‘I don’t see how we can get that bottle into her head,’ Jed said.
Pahana touched the top of her head. She could still feel the painful edges of her wound. How had Jed not noticed it? She thought of pouring the contents of the vial into the soft spot within the crater of her skull. She imagined blinding pain, similar to the progress by which the light had been extracted. ‘I’m afraid, Ansus.’
The tiger touched her face to Pahana’s. Her nose was cold against the girl’s skin. ‘Don’t be, it won’t hurt. It belongs to you. Returning that which is yours is never painful, it is the extraction that hurts.’
Pahana buried her fingers in the tiger’s fluffy mane. ‘I trust you.’
Ansus stood up. ‘Kneel down,’ she said. ‘Face the wall.’
Pahana knelt on the dusty brick, her face pressed against the wall and the back of her head facing the tiger. She heard the others stand up. She could feel them watching her.
‘Give me the vial,’ Ansus said.
Pahana raised her hand. The tiger’s jaws closed gently around the bottle and took it out of her grasp. She clutched the wall, her fingers digging into the crumbling mortar between the bricks. She squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the deed to be done. She heard the thick sound of the stopper being removed from the bottle. Even with her eyes shut she could see the increase of light bouncing off the walls in the alcove. Ansus pressed against her back and she could feel the tiger’s breath on her hair. The light diminished and a cool tingling sensation made Pahana’s head itch. It grew until she could bear it no longer. She wriggled, first her feet and legs and then her body. Her hands flew away from the walls, her fingers tearing into the soft flesh of her scalp.
‘My head. There isn’t a hole there anymore,’ Pahana said. She twisted around and threw her arms around Ansus’ neck. ‘It’s gone.’
‘That was freaky,’ Jed said. ‘The light – I don’t know – it was absorbed into your head. I can’t describe it.’
‘Do you feel any different?’ Lilo asked.
Ben slowly clapped his hands together. ‘That was quite a show.’
Pahana stood up. She did feel different. Lighter, clearer, more complete. She couldn’t stop hugging the tiger and then running her hand through her hair and hugging Ansus again. She smiled and it was like the light beamed out of her face onto the others. Blue flame flickered across her skin.
Her elation disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. Pain seared through her temples, bringing her to her knees once more. Her fingers dug into Ansus’ shoulder and back. The tiger growled but didn’t remove her support. Pahana buried her face in the tiger’s fur, her teeth gritted against the agony.
She was no longer in the maze. She was somewhere else, some other place that was familiar but she couldn’t name. It was dark – nighttime. She was alone. No, someone was with her. A woman. She stood in shadow against the wall in front of her. She was tall, imposing, with red eyes and long dark hair that curled like a beast upon her shoulders. She was beautiful, powerful, and deadly. Her lips curled in a smile. Pahana knew the meaning of the smile.
‘You belong to me now.’
The door of the room opened. Cold wind blew in. Pahana gripped – what? A chair. Yes, she was sitting in a battered armchair. Her hands ate into the fabric, her body pressed into the back of the chair. A man stood in the doorway. He was very tall and thin, emaciated, dressed in a black suit that clung to his skeletal frame highlighting its awkwardness. In places the suit was worn and scuffed, green with mould. His shirt, once white, was covered in grime. A wilted black rose garnished his buttonhole. Dark hair covered his head and atop his pate rested a tall top hat, similarly decrepit as his suit. His face, however, was the most awful thing about him. It existed, framed by his hair, bound between the hat and the high collar of his shirt, but it was blank. Completely featureless. A smooth void of flesh stood where eyes, nose and mouth should have been. Pahana could not tear her eyes from the expanse of nothingness. In its facelessness she read expressions too horrible to contemplate.
The faceless man strode into the room. Despite having no eyes, he moved with the grace of a man who knew exactly what he was doing and where he was going. In one fluid motion he removed a knife from his pocket. The blade was serrated, curled and cruel. He held it close to his body. His hands were long, his fingers bone thin capped with sharp nails. Pahana could not move as he approached her chair. She willed herself invisible, but she knew there was no hiding from this figure. He reached out, pinning Pahana to the chair with his free hand. He was so strong. Pahana felt a bulldozer was holding her to the chair. He brought the knife forward. Pahana wriggled, but she could not escape. The knife flashed, searing through her clothes and flesh, cutting bone. Two cuts, one horizontal across her chest, the other vertical down her torso. A red tee oozed in blood. The knife, its work done, disappeared into the faceless man’s pocket and now his hands came into play. He reached into the wounds he had made, parting the bone and flesh and making the hole larger. Pahana looked down and saw her organs exposed beneath the fat and blood. Her heart, beating, looked slower than it felt. Her intestines coiled puzzle fashion over her abdomen.
There was no expression of glee on his face, but Pahana imagined one as the faceless man reached into her chest cavity and removed her organs, one after the other, stuffing them into his pockets. His hands flew, more efficient than surgical instruments, plucking heart and lungs with the ease of picking apples. Soon there was nothing left but blood and strands of tissue. The long hands grabbed the open ends of the rib cage and pressed them together again, hiding the emptiness inside. His work done, the faceless man stepped back. He stood motionless, ready, his suit stuffed with Pahana’s insides.
Now it was the turn of the shadow woman to step forward. Pahana watched her climb out of the wall, grow into a three dimensional shape. She no longer feared the woman. She was numb, her mind reeling how she was still alive after what had just happened.
Friday, November 07, 2008
‘Welcome,’ the women said in unison.
Their voices were sweet. The sound calmed Pahana. She relaxed into their grip, allowed them to touch her face, tracing her scars with their fingers.
‘Where am I?’ Pahana asked.
‘A rest spot,’ the women said. They lifted Pahana to her feet.
‘Who are you?’
‘Moriah,’ the rainbow haired woman said. ‘Ophelia,’ the white haired woman said. ‘Friends,’ they said together. Their voices in isolation were beautiful but when they spoke together the sound harmonised, growing richer and deeper.
‘Come with us,’ they said.
Pahana looked for the casket she had taken from Lipedo’s lair. It lay on the floor near her feet. She bent to retrieve it, but Moriah and Ophelia stopped her.
‘Leave it,’ they said. ‘You will return later.’
Pahana allowed them to lead her away. She was in a strange place. She could see things clearly, she felt she was in the light, but when she looked around darkness swam at the edge of her perception. The ground under her feet was warm solid stone. The women gripping her arm felt solid yet ethereal.
A circular depression appeared in the floor ahead of her. It was filled with warm fragrant water that billowed floral scented steam into the air. Shallow steps led down into the bath. Under the water the stone shone emerald green. Moriah and Ophelia guided Pahana into the water until it reached her shoulders. It felt warm and soothing against her skin. There was something in the texture of the water that was slightly gritty, polishing her body with each wave. The women removed her dirty clothing. They produced balms and oils and proceeded to wash her hair. They took great pains to keep her head above the water. When her hair was clean and sweet smelling they gave her soap to wash her body and left her to her abolitions.
Pahana rested in the water for a while, relishing in its soothing caress that gently scrubbed the filth from her body and re-energised her aching muscles. The mould on her fingers from Lipedo’s food was washed away. As the water scoured away her pain and tiredness, she lathered the soap in her hands and began to wash. The scent of the soap reminded her of better days, of sunlight and hope, although the memories slipped out of her reach when she tried to grasp them.
When she was cleansed, Moriah and Ophelia returned. They carried a large towel between them. It was white and appeared to be made from swan feathers. They stood on the steps and held the towel up, averting their gaze as Pahana exited the pool. They wrapped her in the towel and it was warm and soft. It covered her completely, flowing from her neck to the floor. The women left Pahana once more so that she could dry herself in private. Alone, Pahana carefully polished her skin with the towel until her body shone. She sat down on the edge of the pool and gathered the ends of the towel in her hands to dry her hair. She worked the strands carefully, avoiding the ragged edges of the hole in the centre of her head. She looked at the water as she worked. Ripples in the pool spread out from the centre, washing the green stone sides in miniature waves. As Pahana watched the waves subsided and the surface of the pool became smooth. The water was clear and Pahana gazed down at the gold-flecked rock of the bottom, but as she looked upon it the water filled with silver light and grew opaque. The change did not startle Pahana; it was if she had expected it, drawing it forth from the water.
Reflected on the smooth surface of the pool, Pahana saw a familiar clearing surrounded by forest. It was nighttime in the clearing, but the starlight was bright and Pahana could see everything clearly. The door of the house in the middle of the clearing opened and the wood woman stepped out onto the grass. Pale petaled night flowers turned their faces to her as she walked across the grass. A large white-bellied owl swooped silently out of the trees and landed on the woman’s shoulder. Out of the forest came creatures of the night – the badger, the leopard, the wolf. They followed the woman as she moved into the cover of the trees and away from the clearing. It was dark beneath the trees, but Pahana had no difficulty in following the wood woman and her animals.
They walked in the woods for a while and then, through the trees, Pahana saw a light. The woman moved towards it. Among the tall, straight trunks of the trees with the high branches stood a smaller tree made out of white gold. The tree shone with moonlight in the midnight forest. On its frosted branches grew fruit in abundance. The fruit was gilded with gold. At the base of the tree, between its roots, lay a bear. As the wood woman approached, the bear stood up and Pahana realised she was mistaken. It was not a bear but a woman dressed as one. She greeted the wood woman warmly. The animals hung back as the wood woman approached the tree. The woman in the bearskin helped the wood woman as they moved around the tree, testing the fruit and checking the branches. Parts of the tree looked stunted, the leaves withered. When the women came to these parts they clipped the withered leaves from the branches and shook their heads.
After carefully examining the entire tree, the wood woman plucked one of the fruits and bit into it. Out of the forest stepped a man. He was tall and handsome. He was smiling, his face looked kind, prone to generosity and humour. He spoke to the wood woman and although no sound travelled through the pool, Pahana once more understood the words.
Bella. Pahana liked that.
The image faded. Moriah and Ophelia stepped silently up to Pahana. They carried a sapphire robe in their hands, similar in style to their own clothes. Pahana was warm and dry, her hair a fluffy halo about her face. She stood up. The two women held the garment above her head. She let the towel drop from her shoulders and held up her arms. The sapphire robe slipped over her arms and shimmered down her body. It looked shapeless when the women held it, but it fit Pahana as if it had been made for her. It glistened in a coruscation of blue tones as she moved.
Ophelia and Moriah took Pahana’s hands and led her away from the pool. Her casket still waited for her. They led her over to the casket and guided her gently to sit down beside it. They patted her head in unison.
‘He comes,’ the women said. ‘Do not be afraid.’
‘Who comes?’ Pahana asked.
‘The sage.’ The two women glittered. Their bodies shrank and changed. On Pahana’s left Ophelia morphed into a white dove, on her right Moriah transformed into a hummingbird of rainbow colours. Pahana could see the women’s smiles shining through the faces of the birds. They bowed to her and flew away. Pahana watched them until their shapes blurred and were swallowed into the shadows.
Pahana jumped. She was not alone. In front of her sat a hooded figure. She had not heard it approach, not seen it appear, it was just there.
‘Welcome.’ The figure raised its head. The hood fell back, revealing its face. It was a handsome young man.
Pahana blushed and looked down.
‘It is nice to meet you,’ the man said.
‘Who are you?’ Pahana asked.
‘I am the sage. This is the resting place. I brought you here because I have a message for you, and it is very important that you hear it.’
Pahana looked up. ‘Is it about Angel? Is she ok?’
‘She is not of consequence.’
Pahana frowned. ‘She did escape Lipedo, didn’t she?’
The sage nodded. ‘The resting place is a safe space, but it requires much energy to maintain. Every moment is precious.’
‘You come from the outside then, from the same place as Angel?’
‘Perhaps,’ the sage said. He leaned towards Pahana. ‘Your path is dark but you will succeed. You can get out of the maze, but you must hurry. The true path will not be open for much longer and when it closes, it will close for centuries.’
‘That’s very comforting,’ Pahana said. ‘If I’m going to be successful, why do I have to hurry? I’ve lost Ansus, I don’t know how to find the true path.’
The sage smiled. ‘I do not mean to alarm you, only warn you that you must work hard to escape. If you dally, you will be trapped here for a long time and there is nothing that I, or Angel, or any of us can do to open up a new path.’
‘Well, you may not have meant it but you have certainly alarmed me,’ Pahana said.
‘You were wise to take the casket. What it contains will help you with the journey ahead. I must deliver you back to the maze now. Good luck, I look forward to meeting you on the other side.’
The sage waved his hand. The darkness grew around Pahana, hemming her in. She grabbed the casket, holding on to it firmly as everything around her changed into something new. Finally all that was left was the face of the sage in front of her. He winked and the darkness absorbed him into it. Pahana felt she was falling once more. This time cold brick broke her fall, rather than gentle hands. She fell on her back with the casket clasped to her stomach.
‘Ouch,’ she said. She sat up, setting the casket on the floor in front of her and rubbing her sore spots. She was in another brick corridor with lichen growing on the walls casting an eerie glow over everything. It was dank and cold after the resting place.
She looked up. The tiger was running down the corridor towards her. ‘Ansus,’ Pahana said, holding out her arms. The tiger ran into them, rubbing her face against Pahana’s.
‘Where did you go and how did you get back here?’ the tiger asked.
‘I’m not really sure,’ Pahana said.
Ansus lay down; her large heavy paws resting on Pahana’s knees. She sniffed the silky sapphire garment that clothed Pahana, rubbed her face in Pahana’s fluffy hair and tapped the wooden casket with a claw. ‘Where did you get these things? Your dress smells of the other worlds.’
Pahana caressed the smooth material. ‘Two women gave it to me. They said they were called Ophelia and Moriah.’
The tiger grumbled in her throat. ‘Did they mention me? Were they cross that I had lost you?’
‘No, but the sage told me that I must hurry to get out of the maze as the true path will close soon and lock me inside. I met Angel too; she helped me escape from Lipedo. That’s where the night train took me. He was horrible, but I found this in his room.’ Pahana touched the casket. ‘I felt bad stealing it, but the sage said it would help me.’
Ansus stood up. ‘The sage? It is not good that he has turned up. We must move, Pahana.’
Pahana picked up the casket and stood up beside the tiger. ‘What happened to the man, Jed? I was afraid Lipedo had captured you. Did they take him on the night train too?’
‘Unfortunately, no,’ Ansus growled. She looked over her shoulder, her eye light casting an orange glow over the pale floor and walls of the corridor. ‘He has been following me like a tick and has brought his friends with him.’
Pahana looked down the corridor. Jed was walking towards them, a man and a woman a few steps behind him. He waved when he saw Pahana watching him.
‘So you came back,’ he called. ‘Perhaps the cat will stop complaining all the time now.’