Endolye Chapter 9: Over their Heads

“Where are they?” Seeya said quietly.

“I don’t know,” Dante said, looking around. “This must be the right place.”

“I don’t know if this is the right place,” Ori said, “but the view is beautiful.”

He was right. Below them, on the other side of the mountain was a valley with a large lake, the water sparkling in the sun. There was a small shoreline on the side nearest the mountain, and on the far side of the lake were more trees. On the left the lake wound out of view around the mountains, and on the right it appeared to enter the mountains through an underground cave.

“What now?” Seeya asked. “I thought there would be something here.”

“Well,” Greff said, “we might as well head down to the valley. We’re more likely to find food and water down there, and I doubt anyone is going to show up here.”

They looked at each other and came to agreement. Dante sneaked a peek at Addis who hadn’t said a word. He was looking down at the valley with a troubled expression, but didn’t argue. Dante was disappointed that they had come this far and no one had been there to meet them when they reached the summit. What if they never found the Khee? They hadn’t seen any more portals, so she wasn’t sure what they would do once they reached the lake.

Going down the mountain was much faster than going up, and by late afternoon they had reach the near edge of the lake. As they stood there, Addis reached into his bag and pulled out folding chairs. The group sat, wondering what to do next. Dante couldn’t sit still, so she got up and wandered down the shore of the lake a little.

“Don’t go too far,” Greff called after her. “We don’t know if we’re alone here. And if we’re not, the inhabitants could be dangerous.”

She had turned to smile at what she thought was Greff’s overly cautious attitude when she suddenly heard whoops of laughter, and was instantly surrounded by a pack of creatures laughing and shoving, and moving so quickly they all seemed like a blur. When they finally stopped Dante could see they were four lizard-like creatures, with long muscular limbs and big eyes full of laughter. Despite their sudden appearance they certainly didn’t seem dangerous. In fact, their laughter was so infectious, she found herself smiling.

“Who are you?” she asked, as Ori, Greff and Seeya approached, followed by Addis.

“We are the Wumpus,” the tallest one said with a deep, mocking bow, “at your service. My name is Pirrin. And who might you be?”

“I’m Dante,” she answered, and for some unexplained reason they all burst into hysterical laughter. She found herself laughing with them. Greff stepped up next to Dante and faced Pirrin.

“What’s your business here?” he asked firmly.

“Oh, do listen to him!” another one of the Wumpus said, “Isn’t he just a sourpuss!”

“Here,” Pirrin said, extending his hand to Dante, “let’s take a spin!”

He grabbed her wrist with one hand and flung his other arm in the direction of the lake; she was suddenly looking at solid ice. She gasped, but before she could ask a question she found herself being pulled across the ice at a furious pace. As she tried to keep her feet under her she could see the other Wumpus were “skating” with them, their legs gliding over the ice, their feet never leaving the surface. She could hear some shouts coming from the bank behind her and felt her hand beginning to slip – or was Pirrin letting go of her? She was suddenly scared of crashing into something at the speed they were going and shouted, “I can’t hold on much longer!”

“Can you swim?” one of the Wumpus next to them asked.


“I said, can you swim?”

“Yes,” Dante replied, and in the next instant she was over her head in water. She came up gasping and coughing, with the Wumpus swimming around her.

“You see, this way you don’t have to worry about hanging on.”

“What happened?” Dante had quickly recovered, and was trying to tread water. She was still coughing and the land was now far behind them.

“I don’t know if I can swim to shore.”

“Oh dear,” Pirrin replied, “well, that could be a problem for you, couldn’t it?” And they all swam off, leaping and diving in the water like dolphins, laughing loudly.

Dante looked around; she was now in the middle of the lake by herself. Trying to steady her breath, she began swimming back toward the shore. The water pulled at her legs, which were already tired from the walk down the mountain. She rolled to float on her back, and then began to backstroke. She knew it would be getting dark soon, and tried to keep down the panic that was starting to rise in her chest. She realized she wasn’t going to make it, and began to sink. Just before the water closed over her head she felt herself falling, and landed on the dry ground with a thump. Winded, she sat up. She was surrounded by a thick fog, just like the fog in the Brox hollow, and could hear the laughter of the Wumpus all around her.

She got up and began walking in a straight line. She bumped into one of the Wumpus, who quickly spun away from her. “Take me back to my friends,” she said.

“Oh why, they’re so dull!” It was Pirrin.

Another voice chimed in. “Yes, and you’ve been doing so well, aren’t you having fun?”

“No,” Dante said. “You’ve pulled me across the ice, nearly drowned me, and then knocked the wind out of me. I’m not having fun.”

“Well, we must change that at once.” Dante was suddenly swung up off her feet moving at a fast pace. She could feel the movement of the Wumpus as it ran, carrying her. The others were running along shouting. They reached the shore and they were instantly out of the fog, the lake sparkling behind them. Pirrin dumped Dante on the shore next to Addis.

“Dante!” Greff rushed over to her. “Are you o.k.?”

“Of course she’s o.k.,” Pirrin said, laughing. He turned to Dante.

“Now, see, I’ve brought you back to your friends. Don’t be cross.”

Dante didn’t say anything, but went to stand next to Ori, who put his arm around her. Seeya darted over to where Pirrin was standing. Dante noticed he stayed just out of the Wumpus’ reach.

“Well,” he said silkily, “that was just amazing. How did you do that?”

“Oh, it’s nothing!” one of the Wumpus replied. “Watch!”

And he flicked his hand. The lake disappeared and they were suddenly enveloped in fog.

“No, no, me!” shouted another one. The fog was immediately gone and the lake in front of them was solid ice.

Pirrin shoved himself to the front of the group.

“That’s nothing,” he shouted , and the lake was turned into a steaming mass.

Another Wumpus said, “I want to play!”

The steam disappeared and without warning rain begin pelting down on them. Seeya shrieked and Wumpus laughed uproariously.

Dante had completely forgotten about being upset. She looked slowly at the rest of her group, who stood on the bank with rain dripping off of them.

“Could it be….” Ori began, but Dante interrupted.

“Wow,” she said, “I wish I could do that at home. Swim in the morning, ice skate in the afternoon, and create a thunderstorm to get out of gym class.”

The Wumpus all smiled. “It’s nothing,” they chorused, laughing. Dante found she couldn’t stay mad at them – they all seemed to be having so much fun, and they seemed to want her to be having fun with them.

Addis had been moving closer to her, pulling an umbrella out of his bag. He now made a pretense of holding it over her as Seeya edged his way underneath.

“Dante, we’ve got to get out of here,” he whispered. “These Wumpus are dangerous.”

“Oh, Addis,” she answered, twirling our from under the umbrella into the rain, “I don’t want to go. I’m having fun!”

From under the umbrella Seeya said, “Dante, dear,” but he was interrupted by Pirrin.

“You can’t go,” he said, “in fact, you must stay for the night. All of you!”

“Yes, yes,” the others chorused.

“That would be wonderful!” Dante exclaimed with a laugh.

“But unfortunately impossible,” Addis said, eyeing her intently. Ori had moved closer and agreed with Addis, “Yes, Dante, we need to keep going.”

The Wumpus surrounded Greff, who stood resolutely, rain dripping from his back, and began dancing a circle around him.

“Look,” one shouted, “a rain dance!” The others all laughed.

“Come on,” Pirrin shouted, “join us, Dante.”

She ran to join the circle, and danced with the Wumpus around Greff. They moved on to Addis, laughing at his cross look under his umbrella, and at Seeya trying to hover next to him so his hair wouldn’t get wet. Addis had his bag firmly in one hand, and held the umbrella in the other. His wouldn’t look at any of them, and as Dante watched him studying the ground, she suddenly didn’t think it was quite so funny. She could see the shocked expression on Ori’s face, and the disapproving glare of Greff. She stopped and turned to Pirrin.

“That’s enough rain for now, don’t you think?”

“Well, all right, if you say so.” The Wumpus stopped dancing, and the rain stopped. Before them the lake sparkled in the sunlight. Dante stood with her hair dripping, looking at Addis. He very stiffly folded his umbrella, and placed it back in his bag. Seeya looked up cautiously, and Greff moved over to stand next to Ori, looking over Addis’ left shoulder. Looking at her friends, the group who had picked her to be their leader, Dante felt ashamed of herself.

“I’m sorry guys,” she said, “I was just having so much fun. They really do make me laugh. Can’t we just stay one night?”

“No,” Addis said, “we need to be going. If you’ll recall we’re trying to find someone.”

“Yes,” Greff said, “a job to do.”

“Although,” Ori said quietly, “we could use a place to stay.”

The others looked at him in surprise, but he just gazed calmly at Pirrin. “That is, if we’re all welcome.”

“Of course!” Pirrin shouted. “I’ll lead the way.”

Endolye Chapter 8: The First Step

When they got on the other side of the portal, they looked around in wonder. They were in a lush, green valley, and a stream ran close by them on their left. In the distance in front of them, they could see the beginning of a line of trees. And far above the trees were the majestic peaks of the mountains. There was one mountain, slightly to the right, raised higher than the others. The group stood for a minute, unsure what to do.

“Well,” Dante said, “what now?”

“I don’t know,” Addis answered, looking around him. He turned to face the portal; no one bothered trying to go back through and it quickly vanished.

“I think we should go this way,” he said, pointing in front of him. He turned to look at the others, “I have a very strong feeling about it.”

“I don’t know,” Dante said doubtfully. “It seems to me that every time we’ve gone through a portal, we walk straight ahead from where we came out. If we went that way, we’d be going backward.”

“But without the portal, there is no forward or backward.” Ori seemed calm and unperturbed by the situation.

“What it is we’re trying to do?” asked Greff.

“Well I suppose we need to find these Khee people,” Seeya responded. “Wasn’t that the whole point of this? Khee, Lost Council, answers to questions, etc., etc.”

“Exactly,” the Brox said. “Which means we have to head toward the mountains, like the Council would have, right?”

“That makes sense,” Ori said grudgingly.

“So you’re suggesting we head that way?” and he pointed in the opposite direction that Addis had pointed. As Dante had suggested, it was “forward” from where they had come through the portal.

“Yes,” Greff said, “I think we need to go in that direction.”

“Well,” Ori said, “that’s fine, except it looks rather far and we don’t know where we’re going to get food and water. I would say that we don’t want to wander far from this stream. We have the basket, and we can use that to gather food but we don’t have a way to carry enough water.”

“That basket was made by Turra!” Greff said, “it will hold anything – including water.”

Ori said gently, “I didn’t mean it couldn’t carry water, I meant it couldn’t carry enough water for all of us.”

“Oh, well, right then.” There was a moment of awkward silence.

“Yes, water is going to be vital,” Seeya said suddenly. They all looked at him.

“Well, really,” he said, “we’re going to have to bathe and all. You can’t just expect us to go about dirty.”

“This is silly,” Greff said, his voice rising, “if you’re not afraid of a little hard work we can find food and water and build ourselves shelters. What we can’t do is stand here arguing about everything.”

“What you should be doing is listening to me,” Addis said, fingering his pendant. “I’ve just got a feeling we need to head away from the mountains, despite everything we’ve heard.”

There was a pause, and then he continued, “We need a leader, and I propose that it be me.”

“You would,” muttered Greff under his breath.

“I’m not sure about that Addis,” said Ori. “I think being the leader takes a certain amount of intellectual acumen, you know, the ability to integrate what’s happening, take into account the strengths and weaknesses of….”

“You’re calling us stupid again!” Seeya went and hovered in front of Ori’s face. The little Oralian put his hands on his hips and looked the Bastahl in the eye.

“I may not have any mental ocu-whatever, but I’m not stupid. I at least know how to comb my hair!” and he zipped over to where Dante was standing and hovered next to her, examining his fingernails.

“Stop it,” Dante said crossly. They all looked at her. She was standing facing the mountains. She turned to look at them.

“If we’re going to do this, we have to do it together. We know that the Council members all head to the mountains, and they’re given instruction by the Khee. So, fine, we should probably head to the mountains. But let’s do it as a team, o.k.?

They looked at her blankly. “A team?” Seeya asked. “What’s that?”

“It’s a group of people that work together for a common goal,” she said. They just stared at her. She was starting to get impatient with them.

“You know,” she said, “everyone does the thing they’re best at doing, and then the whole group reaches their goal.”

They continued to look at her blankly. “Oh come on!” she said, “the other Council members must have worked together or they’d never have gotten anywhere!”

“You know Dante,” Ori said slowly, “maybe you should be our leader. You seem to understand this concept of working together, even when we can’t agree on things. I must admit, some of your ideas seem a bit strange, but one way or another we can’t just stand here arguing.”

“I agree with that,” Greff said stoutly. “I’d be willing to agree to what Dante decides. We can be one of these team things, if she thinks we can.”

“Fine with me,” Seeya said breezily.

Addis just stood looking at all of them. Dante walked over to him and spoke quietly.

“Listen Addis,” she said, “I know you’ve got good instincts, and I’m going to need to rely on them if we do this. But let’s just try heading for the mountains, o.k.? If we’re wrong we can come back this way, but I think the best way for all of us to work together is to head in that direction.”

“Fine,” he said, folding his hands over his tummy. “It’s wrong, it’s a disaster if you ask me, but I can’t very well let you all just go off on your own.”

“Good!” She turned to the others and smiled. “We’re heading to the mountains, to that high one on the right, and we’ll follow this stream for as long as possible.”

She stood a moment considering the group in front of her. “Seeya, you be our scout.”

At the Oralian’s puzzled expression she said, “You fly ahead of us and come back and give us a report of what you see. Bring back anything that looks like food, or reports of what you think looks dangerous. Ori, you’ll be Seeya’s main point of contact. You listen to what he tells you, and look at what he brings you. We’ll follow your advice about where we should go when we’re looking for food.”

Seeya saluted and Ori merely inclined his head.

Dante turned to Greff. “You’ll need to tell us how to build shelters when we need to rest,” she said, “and I know you’ll be really good at making them!”

Greff folded his four arms across his chest and said, “Agreed.”

“O.k.,” Dante looked at the little group and smiled. “Let’s go.”

“Wait,” Seeya said. He hovered next to Ori with his hands on his hips. “What about Addis?”

“Oh!” Dante turned, looking at Addis. He stood behind her, slightly apart from the group. She felt a sudden pang that he was the last one she had chosen for a task, the last one picked for her team. She just wasn’t sure what Addis was best at doing, and it took a moment to think about his contribution.

“Addis is going to help us with his bag,” she said. “There’s no telling what we’ll need, and he’s the only one that get things from the bag.”

“That’s not really work,” Greff said. Seeya chimed in, “Well, being helpful really isn’t his strong suit.”

Dante crossed her arms and looked at the group. “Oh really?” she said. “Ori, you’re right about water – we’re going to need a way to make sure we don’t run out, and we won’t always be right next to this stream.”

“Addis,” she turned to him, “what can you do about something to carry the water in as we head up the mountain?”

For a moment she was worried he wasn’t going to cooperate. But he opened his bag, and pulled five canteens out of it. He silently handed one each member of the group.

Ori inclined his head. “Thank you Addis,” he said. “This may be one of the most important contributions to the trip.”

Dante took a deep breath and smiled. “O.k.,” she said, “time for the Non-Council to head to the Khee.”

She started off in the direction of the mountains, Seeya zipping ahead into the distance, the others following her lead.

The arrangement worked out well. Seeya would zip back and confer with Ori about what he had seen, and the Bastahl would tell him to look for certain signs of water, food or shelter. A few times he came back with strange looking fruits or berries, and Ori would examine them carefully, smelling and tasting them. If they appeared to be good, he would put them it the basket that Turra had given Greff.

When the sun started getting low, Dante asked Seeya to try and find a good place for them to stay the night. They had walked a great distance into the valley, but the trees were at least another day’s walk. Greff told Seeya to see if he could find any rocks, the larger the better. Seeya zipped out of sight, and the group took the chance to rest.

Seeya was soon back with reports of an area to their left, not too far, that had a large boulder, and some smaller rocks. The group headed toward that. When they arrived, Greff began digging and moving rocks. He instructed everyone on how to help – even Seeya was able to move a few small rocks and Addis resolutely moved dirt out of the way; Ori was able to get a small fire going. Dante began putting together a meal out of the food Seeya and Ori had gathered.

When the shelter was finished they ate the fruits and berries Dante had prepared. Then they each took turns going to the stream to bathe and drink. When Dante got back, she asked Addis if there were any blankets in his bag. He pulled out five pallets and blankets, and handed them out. As they moved into the shallow shelter Greff created under the boulder, he began to chant. Lying on her blanket watching the fire die down, Dante closed her eyes and thought, this was a great day.

In the morning they broke camp and headed toward the line of trees. By the time the sun was high overhead they were inside the woods. They found more berries to eat, and some nuts. Dante found it odd that there were no animals here. She never heard any birds, and none of the others seemed to be familiar with squirrels, raccoon, possums or any of the other animals she asked about.

They found a clearing where they could stay for the night, and with Greff’s help were able to construct a shelter. Addis again supplied the pallets and blankets. They decided against a fire, since the trees were close together, so they put their pallets in a circle. Greff had constructed a separate, tiny shelter for Seeya with walls on three sides, and the open side facing away from the others. Seeya had been surprised and grateful.

When they woke up the next morning there was some discussion about which way to go. The stream had veered off to the left shortly before they reached the trees, and Dante had insisted they head into the woods. They were still close enough in the morning to get water, but even with the canteens she knew they would need to find another water source soon. She was also worried about finding the way up the side of the mountain, since they had to wind their way between the trees. She would have to rely on Seeya to help them.

Mid-way through the day they began climbing, and soon were out of the trees and on the rocky side of the mountain. It was hardest on Dante, and the others often stopped to help her. Addis had pulled a walking stick from his bag, Seeya flew, Ori was able to jump to high outcroppings, and with his four arms Greff was a natural at getting up the rocks. They had gone a short way when Dante needed to rest.

“I’m not sure I can make it,” she said, looking above them at all the mountain they had left to climb. “I don’t know, maybe you should just go on without me, and I’ll try to make it back down to the edge of the valley.”

“Don’t be silly,” Greff said immediately, “we’re a team remember?”

“That’s right,” Ori said, placing his arm on Dante’s shoulder, “and we can help you.”

Between them they helped pull, push and lift Dante up the side of the mountain. At first she was embarrassed and tried to resist their help, but then she realized she really did need it, and let them help her. They all talked excitedly about seeing the Khee at the top of the mountain, or perhaps finding the Lost Council. They began feeling so optimistic, at one point Seeya said, “We’ll get there and the council members will all be there, and they’ll look wonderful!” No one knew what to expect.

They were about three quarters of the way up when they had to stop for the night. There was an outcropping of rock that led into a small cave in the side of the mountain, and a waterfall close by. It was their best chance for shelter that night and water for the following day. They were settling in, eating the rest of their food, when Addis pulled three pallets and four blankets out of his bag.

“That’s odd,” he muttered, reaching in again. He pulled out Dante’s backpack and handed it to her, but nothing else came out. He opened the bag wide and looked in.

“Nothing,” he said. He looked up at the others. “There’s nothing in my bag,” he said. They all looked at each other.

“Well, that’s o.k. Addis,” Dante said, “we can figure out a way to share.” She didn’t say it, but she was extremely grateful her backpack had still been in there.

“I don’t need a pallet,” Greff said, “my back is pretty tough.”

“And I’ll share my blanket with Dante,” said Ori. Dante nodded and smiled.

“I don’t need a pallet,” Seeyan began, “I’ll, uh, just…” There was nowhere for him to have any privacy, and it was too cold for him to sleep outside.

“It’s o.k.,” Dante said, “at some point you’re just going to have to stop worrying so much about how you look. Honestly, the rest of us don’t care.”

Seeya looked around uncomfortably, and then nodded.

“Can I at least have the mirror and brush?” he asked. Dante pulled them out of her backpack and handed them to him, and then he took the remaining blanket and retreated as far into the cave as possible, rolling himself up and out of sight.

“Good night,” Seeya’s muffled voice came from under a blanket.

“Good night.”

In the morning, Seeya emerged from under the blanket and handed the brush and mirror back to Dante.

“Thank you,” he said stiffly.

“Could you see under there?” she asked, guessing at the answer by his appearance.

“No,” he replied in as dignified a voice as possible, looking away.

“Well,” she said, “it’s o.k., you look fine. And I’m proud of you for just handing back the brush and mirror without spending a lot of time worrying about how you look.”

The Oralian looked at her with what she thought was suspicion, but she gave him a warm smile. “Hmph!” he said, but seemed less stiff.

They started up the mountain again. When they realized they were going to reach the top, they all got very quiet. No one knew what to expect. Seeya was the first to fly over the summit. He didn’t come back and the others pushed on as quickly as they could. Ori jumped from a rock up to the summit and walked out of sight. Addis and Greff continued to help Dante.

When they finally reach the top, the mountain had flattened out a bit and there was a plateau that looked over all the mountains and the valleys. Dante walked to the other side of the summit, where Ori and Seeya sat facing them. She looked around at the vista of mountains surrounding them, and then at valleys below. The Non-Council team of five sat and stood silently, looking at each other. There was no sign or sound of anyone, no structures, no caves, no message, nothing. They were completely alone with no sign of the Lost Council or the Khee anywhere.

Endolye Chapter 7: An Illuminating Journey

On the other side of the portal they found themselves in a dense jungle. Greff turned and looked behind them at the portal. He took a few tentative steps toward it, but as he neared it, it vanished. He backed up and it appeared again. He sighed and turned to face the others.

“Can you get back through?” he asked Addis. Addis shook his head.

“Well,” he said considering a minute, “I couldn’t when I tried the first time.” And he walked toward the portal. But just like the others, when he neared it, it vanished. Dante saw Greff’s face fall when he realized there was no going back.

“O.k., then,” Addis said, “onward, shall we?”

“Does it seem hot here to anyone, or is it just me?” Seeya was fanning himself with a large leaf he had taken from one of the trees.

“Now that you mention it,” Dante said, “it does seem hot.”

Addid opened his bag, took out a pair of sunglasses and a Batik print shirt and put them on. He replaced his sneakers with a pair of sandals that, to Dante, looked suspiciously like Birkenstocks. He put his sneakers in the bag, snapped it shut, and then said, “Right. On we go.”

The others didn’t say anything, but just followed Addis. They began to have trouble with the thick growth, and Dante’s backpack began catching on branches and vines, making her trip and stumble. Addis took a machete out of his bag and began cutting a path for them. He stopped and wiped his forehead.

“Dante,” he said, pointing to her backpack, “why don’t you let me carry that in my bag?”

“Uh, well, o.k.,” she said, taking it off and handing it to him. She looked worried as he dropped it into his bag.

“Don’t look so worried, it’s not like it’s going to disappear.”

“I know, it’s just that your bag is, well, for me it’s kind of odd.”

“What’s that?” Greff asked. They all stopped and listened. They could hear the faint sound of music floating to them through the jungle.

Addis shrugged. “Guess we’d better head toward it.”

They followed the sound through the jungle, and the music began to sound like a multitude of pipes being played, low and soft. It was quite exotic, and between it and the dense jungle, Dante began to relax. She wasn’t sure why, but just like her special place at home this place was making her feel at peace. She was glad the portal had appeared, and hoped that Greff wasn’t feeling too sad.

Addis stopped walking suddenly, and Dante almost bumped into him.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Nothing,” he answered, “I think we’re here.”

She looked around, and noticed that the sound of the pipes had stopped. They waited a moment and suddenly a dark shape dropped from a tree behind them. Dante gasped and spun around. Then there were several more thuds, as more creatures dropped to the ground around them. Seeya’s wings shot out sideways, and he bolted off through the trees. Greff straightened up as tall as he could and looked at the creature in front of him steadily.

One of the creatures walked forward. She was somewhat tall, and walked gracefully. She went first to Dante.

“I am Orthia,” she said. “And we are the Bastahl.”

“I’m Dante. It is nice to meet you.”

The creature simply inclined her head. She then introduced herself to Addis and Greff, inclining her head in the same manner.

Addis turned to look into the trees and called out, “Seeya, come on over.” Seeya zipped back to where they were standing.

“Well!” he said, “you’re a big girl, aren’t you?” Orthia simply raised her eyebrows.

“I mean, it looks good on you of course, but, well…” he looked helplessly at the others. Orthia inclined her head and then turned and began walking back to the tree from which she had dropped. When she reached the trunk she gathered her body and leapt up into the branches. The other creatures inclined their heads toward Dante and Addis and then followed.

“Wow,” Dante said softly.

“Come on,” Addis said. “I think they want us to follow them.”

“You mean we’re going up into the trees?” Dante asked. “How? I can’t jump like that.”

Addis just smiled, and pulled a large ladder out his bag, which he maneuvered through the branches and propped against the tree. He disappeared up the ladder. Seeya, who obviously wasn’t earth-bound simply zipped up the trunk. Greff sighed and motioned to the ladder.

“After you,” he said.

Dante looked around quickly, realized she and Greff were now alone on the ground, and followed Addis up the ladder. When she reached to top she turned to see if Greff needed any help, but despite his seeming rigidity, he had made it up the ladder with ease.

They were in a canopy in the upper branches of the tree. There was a large group of Bastahl sitting around on a kind of floor that had been constructed in the treetops, with pipes in their hands, and one of them had a kind of drum. They were all looking up as Dante’s head poked through the leaves, Greff just behind her. Addis was sitting down cross-legged with the group, and Seeya had actually perched on the shoulder of the drummer.

Orthia said, “Welcome Dante and Greff. This is our dwelling. You are all welcome here.”

Without a word Addis reached into his bag and pulled out what looked like an oboe. Dante sensed she shouldn’t say anything, and for once Seeya was silent, so she just sat and waited. Greff looked around. He wasn’t build for sitting on the ground, but there were no chairs. Silently, Addis reached into his bag and pulled out a rock chair that looked just like the one Greff used in the Hollow. He stared at in wonder, then put it on the floor and sat down.

It was starting to get dark in the dwelling. The Bastahl picked up their instruments and began playing. Addis joined them. The sound was a beautiful, haunting melody and Addis’ part rose to melancholy heights. Dante found herself thinking about home, and feeling sad. She wasn’t sure if she would ever get back, and was sure her parents were worried about her. She thought about Greff and Turra saying goodbye, and felt a lump growing in her throat. She didn’t want to start crying so she tried to think of something to distract herself.

Addis’ bag was sitting right next to her. She looked around, but the in the dusky light she didn’t think anyone could see her. Surreptitiously she reached into Addis’ bag. She could feel her backpack, but nothing else. She opened the bag a little wider and peered in. Although she couldn’t see much in the gloom she could tell that, with the exception of her backpack, the bag was empty. She pulled out her journal, but it had gotten dark and she couldn’t see well enough to write or draw.

As the music continued, Dante noticed a small glow in the leaves. She wasn’t sure what it was, but soon there was another small glow, and another. The small glowing spots began to gather together, and light started shining in on the dwelling. Dante picked up her book and pencil and began writing down everything that had happened. When she was finished she sketched the Bastahl and Addis in the margins.

Eventually the music began to wind down, but the glow stayed. When the last Bastahl had stopped playing, Addis brought the music to a close with a lilting coda. Orthia nodded her head slowly, acknowledging Addis’ contribution. They all waited a moment, sitting with their heads bowed in the soft glow. Finally Orthia spoke.

“They are Illuminates,” she said, and Dante looked at her, confused. Orthia nodded her head toward the glow all around them. “They are small bugs, and they are attracted to the music. We play, and they come and give us light.”

“They have a very short life cycle,” another Bastahl said. “They reproduce quickly, so we never have to worry about running out of light.”

“Wow.” Dante looked around at the glow surrounding them, and wasn’t sure if she liked the idea that she was surrounded by a bunch of bugs. Orthia smiled and turned to Addis.

“So, a portal has opened?” Addis nodded.

Orthia looked at Seeya. “And we have an Oralian.” She then turned to Greff. “And a Brox.”

Then she looked at Addis and Dante. “But I’m afraid I don’t know either of your tribes.”

Addis said simply, “I don’t know where I come from, or who I am. I can’t remember. I only know that this,” and he indicated the pendant around his neck, “is important, and signifies that I am important.”

Orthia looked straight into his eyes, and he held her gaze. “Sometimes,” she said, “what we hold as most important, is what keeps us bound to what is least important.”

The other Bastahl nodded in agreement. Addis folded his hands over his tummy, Greff looked solemnly at Orthia, Seeya was busy trying to see his reflection in one of the Bastahl’s pipes, and Dante wondered exactly what Orthia meant.

Was she saying that Addis’ pendant wasn’t important? That he wasn’t important? Or that because he thought the pendant was important he wasn’t paying attention to something else that was more important? She felt confused, but there seemed to be something in what the Bastahl had said that made sense.

While they sat, thinking about what she had said, Orthia reached up and put her hand into the glow around them. She pulled out one of the bugs, examined it for a moment, and then popped it into her mouth and ate it.

At Dante’s astonished expression she explained, “They provide us with light, and also with food. They are quite tasty, and as we pointed out earlier they reproduce quickly so we need not worry about depleting the supply.”

The other Bastahl began pulling bugs out of the glow, and the light began to diminish. Dante hadn’t eaten since breakfast and she was hungry. One of the Bastahl handed her an Illuminate and she took it. It was a small glow in her hand. Before she could think about it too much, she popped it into her mouth. It was sweet and slightly crunchy. She looked up and smiled. “I never thought I’d like a bug. Thank you.”

The Bastahl nodded. “I am Ori,” he said.

“Thank you, Ori,” Dante nodded to him the way the Bastahl had been nodding. He continued to hand her the bugs, and gave her some kind of drink they called tree wine. She noticed that it hadn’t taken Greff long to begin eating the Illuminates, but Seeya seemed a bit uncertain.

“Well,” he said, “I’m just not sure, really.”

“Oh don’t mind him,” Addis said, “he just doesn’t want anyone to find out he’s eaten a bug.”

“Really!” Seeya said, and flew off.

“Seeya!” Dante called.

“Don’t bother,” Addis said. “He’s just gone off so he can stuff his face without anyone seeing. His pockets were glowing when he left. Trust me, he’ll be fine.”

And when Dante looked through the trees, she could indeed see a faint glow that winked out, followed by another. It was Seeya eating his Illuminates in solitude. Satisfied that he was o.k., she ate and drank until she felt quite satisfied. After they had all eaten, Orthia turned to Addis who had been waiting patiently for her to continue.

“We will wait,” she said, “for the one you call Seeya to return.” As she spoke his name, he zipped back into the dwelling.

“I’m back,” he said, looking pointedly at Addis, who for once, just sat quietly.

“I imagine you’re interested in knowing about our lost Council member?” she asked.

“How did you know that?” Dante asked, amazed. The Oralians hadn’t even seemed to realize the implications of Dante’s presence, the Brox had merely been concerned about work, but the Bastahl seemed to already know everything. The only thing they didn’t seem to know about was her and Addis. She understood why no one knew anything about her, but she wondered why no one knew anything about Addis.

“Well,” Orthia began, “you are obviously not Bastahl, and we do recognize some of the members of other tribes,” and she nodded toward Seeya and Greff. “You must have come through a portal, which could only mean that the Lost Council had returned, a new council is forming, or there is something else happening of which we are unaware.”

“You are obviously not the Lost Council. I doubt you’re seeking a new Council member from us, or you would have followed the proper protocols and asking ceremony, which you did not. That leads me to conclude that there must be something else happening surrounding the portals, but that somehow the Lost Council must tie into it.”

Addis nodded and said, “We would like to understand everything you know.”

Orthia nodded and said, “We are happy to share our knowledge with you, but it will keep until morning. Now it is the time to rest.”

She stood. “Do not worry, Addis, we will reveal everything we know to your group. Now, let us get you all taken care of for the night.”

They were led off to leafy chambers containing simple pallets made out of some kind of material Dante had never seen. Addis pulled four blankets out of his bag, and silently handed one to her, Greff and Seeya.

“I doubt we’ll need these,” he said, as it was still warm and steamy, “but you might want it underneath you.”

Seeya shook his head at the blanket. “Thanks Addis, but I’m going to just zip off and see if I can find a place to sleep on my own.”

Greff just stood there, blanket in hand, looking completely bereft. Dante walked over to him.

“Are you o.k.?” she asked.

“I don’t think I can sleep alone,” he answered, looking at her. “I’ve never slept alone before.”

Dante just smiled at him. “I have something that might help,” she said.

She went to her backpack and pulled out the basket that Turra had given to him. She handed it to Greff but he just looked at it sadly. “I’m not sure how this will help,” he said.

Dante reached into her backpack and pulled out a piece of paper. Greff took and she heard a sharp intake of breath. “Turra!”

It was a drawing Dante had made of Turra during one of the long days they had been at the Hollow. She was busy tying – Dante could never have gotten her to just sit still – and the basket she was working on in the drawing was the very one Greff now held in his hand.

He looked at her and smiled. “Thank you Dante,” he said, “this will help me a great deal.”

He went over to his pallet and lay down, putting the basket next to him, and placing one of his hands tenderly on the picture of Turra.

“You’re welcome,” Dante said. She lay down on her pallet, pushing the blanket over so it was next to her. She had so many thoughts racing through her head she didn’t feel sleepy, but before she knew it, she was dreaming of steaming showers and mugs of hot chocolate.

In the morning, Dante awoke to find Greff gone, but Addis still sleeping. She didn’t want to disturb anyone, so she went back out to the place they had been the night before, and sat down next to Orthia who was there alone. She smiled at Dante.

“I saw you doing something last night with a paper and a stick. What was it?”

“A paper and stick?” Dante was confused. “Oh, you must mean my journal. I was just writing down what happened and making some sketches.”

“May I see?”

Dante showed her journal to Orthia who appeared delighted. She pointed to the writing and asked, “What are these marks?”

Dante explained that they were words. Since Orthia didn’t seem to understand, she explained that it was her language written down.

“So these represent the words you speak?” Orthia seemed incredulous.

“Well, not exactly,” Dante said. “They’re just words that are things I feel, or that happen to me.”

She read to Orthia from the journal; it happened to be about the afternoon at the softball field. As she read, her voice got shaky and she fought back tears.

“Why does this upset you?” Orthia asked, reaching out and taking Dante’s journal for a closer look. She seemed unmoved by Dante’s apparent distress.

“Well,” Dante said, “it’s just that they don’t seem to understand that I’m trying, but that I’m just not good at those things. It’s just so hard that they’re so mean.” She wiped her eyes and looked at Orthia, who didn’t seem to understand.

“But why does it matter what they think? Why don’t you just show them your words and your sketches? That would help them to understand who you are.”

“No, no it wouldn’t. They’d probably just laugh. Besides, I can’t show anyone my journal, it’s private.”

“But if you won’t share yourself with anyone, how are they supposed to know you?”

Dante began to feel frustrated. How could Orthia understand? It was obvious that the Bastahl valued everyone.

“Never mind,” she said, holding out her hand. “It doesn’t matter.”

Orthia didn’t hand back the journal. Instead, she called Ori over to where they were sitting. She showed him the journal and spoke some words Dante couldn’t understand. The two of them exchanged a knowing glance.

Ori spoke, “I am sure everyone where you come from must admire your work.”

“No, they don’t. I was just trying to tell Orthia, I don’t show it to anyone.”

She realized she sounded petulant and tried to explain again. “You know,” she said, studying her feet, “it’s private, and the drawings aren’t really that good, and, well, I don’t really fit in that well, and I just don’t think anyone. . . .” She looked up and shrugged.

“This is a special part of you Dante,” Orthia said, handing back the journal. “You need to be sure and share it. If you keep the special parts of yourself hidden from others, you are doing your world and everyone in it a disservice. Sometimes the things that we think are least important keep us from knowing the things that are most important.”

“That’s kind of like what you said to Addis last night,” Dante replied. Then she looked down and said, “I’ve never thought of anything about me as special.”

“Of course, there is something special about everyone. They just do not always know it. That is why when you see something special in someone, you should be sure to tell him or her. Come now,” she said, “it’s time for breakfast.”

When they got back to the large area of the dwelling, Addis, Greff and Seeya were already waiting.

Seeya zipped over to Dante. “Can I get that mirror from you?” he asked.

She looked him up and down and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t have it with me. You’ll have to wait until after we eat.”

He sighed and sat next to her. “I’m not sure why I even bother anyway,” he said dejectedly. “No one notices, no one cares how I look or how hard I try to be pleasant. I’m only trying to spare all of you the sight of ugliness. It’s not like anyone else does the same for me.” He looked at her pointedly. She just smiled at him.

“Sorry Seeya, what you see is what you get. At least there are never any surprises.”

“Why yes, that’s true,” the small creature replied thoughtfully. But then he said brightly, “But surprises can be fun!”

“Well,” Dante said, “only the good ones. You were pretty surprised when Addis pushed you through that first portal.”

“Well, that’s true,” he replied. “That was rather nasty.”

The rest of the Bastahl joined them, along with Addis and Greff, and they ate breakfast. After the meal was over Orthia began to speak.

“In all the times of our people, there was always a Council and we were always a part,” she said. “We held the choosing ceremony, and whoever was picked would go.”

She paused and looked around. “But the last time we sent a member to the Council, something went wrong.”

Dante was pretty sure that by now she could guess what went wrong. She was pretty sure that the others knew as well, but no one interrupted Orthia.

“Our brother came back to us, but he was changed. Instead of peace and inner wisdom, he was excitable, emotional. He was given to spontaneous physical contact, and fits of laughter. It was very disruptive. When we asked about our interactions with the other tribes, he simply told us that we didn’t need to worry about them. We knew something had gone wrong, but we didn’t know what.”

“The portals had vanished at that point, so we didn’t know how to help him. We also didn’t know how to reach out to the other tribes to see if they had suffered the same fate, or if it had just been the Bastahl.” She looked around. “Since you’re seeking the members of that Council I have to assume that they were all lost.” The visitors all nodded.

“Very well. The answer will lie with the Khee.”

“Who?” Addis asked.

“The Khee. They are a very old, very mysterious tribe, and no one knows much about them. We believe they live in a mountainous region, and teach the Council members the wisdom they need to keep the tribes functioning. The Khee would know why the portals have vanished, and they would know why we are suffering this steam.”

“Well, at least you’re not having sudden downpours of rain!” Seeya exclaimed.

“Or fog so thick you can’t see or work.”

Orthia looked thoughtful. “No,” she said, “we simply have this suffocating steam, which it makes it hard to keep your patience, your temper, your peace of mind. It makes it difficult for us to think clearly.”

“Well, there are some positive effects,” said Seeya, fluffing his curls. Unlike his reaction to the friz he encountered in the fog, he had allowed the steam to curl his hair, and was working it around his fingers into ringlets.

Orthia smiled. “Yes, we know that the Oralians are very concerned with how things appear, as are the Brox with hard work. There are other tribes as well, the Wumpus, the Roazicans, perhaps more.”

She turned to Dante and Addis, “I know nothing of your tribes.”

“Well, I’ve never even heard of those other tribes,” Seeya said, “although I guess I knew there were other tribes, but we never knew the names.”

“Nor did we,” said Greff. “And this unknown tribe called Khee, what more do you know of them?”

“Nothing,” said Orthia. “Just that they are the teachers. Without them, the portals would be useless. Of course now there are no portals. Perhaps the Khee believe that we no longer merit their teachings.”

“No, I don’t think that’s it,” Addis said, fingering his pendant. “Maybe they’ve just died out. If there’s no more portals, maybe they’re just not around?”

“But the portals are here now,” Dante said. “And somehow I got here. I don’t think there’s ever been portals in my world before.”

She thought about the stories of the Bermuda Triangle, alien abductions, even the rumor about the boy who had disappeared from her special place in the park.

“Gosh,” she said slowly, “then again, maybe there have been. Have you ever seen anyone like me before?”

“No, I’m afraid not,” said Orthia. Everyone shook their heads, including Addis.

“But that doesn’t mean anything. We have no idea, really, how many tribes may exist in Endolye. We only interact with those our Council member introduces us to. Like the Oralians.”

“Us?” Seeya asked. “I’m sorry, but I do think we’d remember if we’d met you before. You’re so, well, uh, not to be rude or anything….”
“Large,” Addis finished.

“Well, yes,” Seeya agreed.

Orthia just smiled. She left the dwelling for a moment, and then came back. In her had she had a small ivory brush, a hair comb, and a hand mirror similar to the one Seeya had given Dante.

“Do these look familiar?” she asked. She carefully brushed her hair, put the comb in it, and looked at herself in the mirror. She smiled at Seeya.

“Well, that just makes a world of difference!” he cried. “That must have come from us!”

“Indeed. It did. And the pallets you slept on last night are replicas of the originals which were made for us by the Brox.”

“Hmmm.” Greff didn’t seem convinced. “Well, they’d have to be replicas, because that wasn’t our work.”

“No, it wasn’t. It’s been too long.”

“And what did you provide to these tribes?” Addis asked her.

“Logic, order, mediation with difficulties, meditation and music.” She spoke quietly but with pride.

“We believe that while the other tribes possess talents with the physical world, our contribution to the mental realm was critical.”

Seeya hovered next to Dante’s ear. “Is she saying we’re stupid?” he whispered.

“Oh no, I’m sure not,” Dante whispered back, but she wasn’t so sure. Suddenly she remember Greff’ pipe.

“The pipe,” she said, turning to Greff, “it must have come from the Bastahl.”

Then another thought occurred to her and she turned to Seeya. “The tapestries! You said you couldn’t remember where they came from, but it was probably the Brox.”

“But they’re pretty,” Seeya said, confused.

“A long time ago,” Dante said in exasperation,

“Yes,” Addis said, nodding, “when the tribes were in communication with each other.”

He looked up at them. “We must find the Lost Council. I believe it holds all our answers.”

“Well, not really,” Orthia said. “The Khee hold the answers. But I believe if you find the Lost Council, you’ll also find the Khee.”

Orthia stood, stretching her body. “It’s time,” she said.

“Time for what?” Seeya asked.

“Time to go. Another portal has appeared.”

“What?” Addis jumped up. “Why did you wait to tell us?”

“Didn’t you want to hear our story?”

“Oh. Well, yes.”

The Bastahl all jumped lightly to the ground, Seeya flew, and the other three clambered down Addis’ ladder. They followed Orthia through the thick steam until they reached a small clearing. There, in the middle, was the arch. Orthia turned to them and said, “We wish you luck on your journey.”

“Aren’t you going with us?” Dante asked.

“No, I don’t see any reason for any of the Bastahl to make the journey. There is nothing out there that we can’t find here for ourselves.”

“What about the steam?”

“It will stay or it will go. We can manage either way.”

“Come on,” Addis said, and headed toward the portal. He positioned Seeya in front of it, hovering, took Dante’s hand, and had Dante hold Greff’ hand. He pushed Seeya through, jumped in, and pulled the other two behind him.

They came out on the other side of the arch in the steamy jungle.

“It didn’t work!” Greff sounded slightly panicked.

“Calm down,” Addis said. “Let me try something.” nd he headed for the portal.

“Addis, no!” Dante called, but he walked through it. And came around the other side.

“It’s not working,” Dante said.

Addis walked over to where Orthia stood. “One of you has to come with us,” he said. “There’s no point trying to keep us here, that doesn’t make sense. We need one of you to come.”

The Bastahl spoke in low tones for a moment, and then Ori stepped forward.

“I will go,” he said. Dante was glad, because Ori had been so kind to her.

He turned to Orthia. “I wish you well. I hope I don’t lose my way, and that I make it back to you.”

“Farewell,” Orthia said, “remember, you are never lost if you are following your own path.”

They returned to the portal. Seeya hovering in front, Addis holding Dante’s hand, Dante holding Greff’ hand, and Greff now took Ori’s hand. With a push Seeya went through the portal, followed by Dante, Greff and Ori. As Ori went through he took a quick look back. The Bastahl were already leaving, and didn’t even see it when the portal vanished.

Endolye Chapter 6: Foggy Hollow

In the morning, Kell coming into the burrow to tell her breakfast was ready awakened Dante; Addis and Seeya had already left. Dante sat up, yawned, stretched, and ran her fingers through her hair. She smiled at the young Brox.

“I suppose I seem pretty lazy to be sleeping so late, and not helping with breakfast.”

Kell said, “It’s o.k., you’ve had a long journey and we all know you’re tired. But I don’t know how you can sleep through everyone walking around. The vibrations would wake me right up!”

Dante stood up and said, “Well, I have to admit I’m hungry, and I’m glad you’re here because I’m not sure I could find the way back up by myself.” She grabbed her backpack and followed Kell through the tunnels. When they reached the top they sat together at a large rock table filled with Brox, and began eating as soon as the food was put in front of them.

“I’m sorry you couldn’t sleep with us last night,” Kell said, “but at least you didn’t have to sleep alone.”

“Oh, that’s o.k.,” Dante said, “at home I have my own room and sleep alone every night.” The table went silent and all the Brox looked at her in amazement.

“Alone?” Turra said in disbelief. “You sleep alone?”

When Dante nodded she was surprised to see the stricken look on Turra’s face. “Oh, it’s o.k.,” Dante assured her, turning to assure all the Brox around her. “I spend lots of time alone.”

Greff gasped and put his hand on Dante’s shoulder. “What kind of place do you come from?” he asked.

Seeya leaned over and whispered to Addis, “I guess I’d better not even start to tell them about the Bulu. They might die of shock.”

Dante looked at the confused, concerned, and upset faces of the Brox around her and began to stammer. “Well, it’s o.k., really, I mean, when I’m drawing or writing there’s really no point in having company.”

“What’s drawing?” Kell asked.

Dante took her journal out of her backpack and looked at it for a moment. She hesitated, because she usually didn’t show her drawings to anyone. She looked at Kell who was looking at her with an open, friendly interest. She handed her the journal and Kell took it, looking fascinated. She opened it and gasped, and began slowly turning the pages. Kell showed the journal to Turra, whose face softened at the sight of Dante’s sketches. She smiled when she the one of Addis sleeping in his chair.

“Well then, you have these images you create to keep you company.” The other Brox nodded thoughtfully.

Dante said, “Yes, and I have these words to go with them.” She gently took the journal back from Kell, and showed them some of the entries she’d written, including what she’d added the night before. She could tell they weren’t able to read the words, but they seemed to understand that the journal was a record of what she had been thinking.

“So you’re not really alone,” mused Greff, “as long as you have that creation stick.” And he pointed to her pencil.

“Well, yes,” Dante said, “I suppose you’re right.”

They all nodded thoughtfully until Greff stood suddenly. “Time to work.”

The Brox all began to move, clearing away food and dishes, and getting out the materials to start their weaving. The diggers began to head off, chanting. As they faded into the distance, Dante was sure she heard the melody of ‘Sing a Song of Blackbird.’

Just as the strains of the song were dying out, the fog rolled in. Like the day before, it was so thick you couldn’t see anything. Since none of them had left the clearing yet, there was no need to call out the central point. Dante sat down on the ground and put her head in her hands.

“This is kind of tiring, isn’t it?” she asked no one in particular.

Turra answered, her voice worried, “They’re not going to be able to do any digging today. But they probably won’t come back just yet. Hopefully this will pass soon.” No sooner had she finished the sentence than the sun came out and the fog lifted.

The Brox looked at the sky suspiciously, and then went about their morning routine. There were no further incidents with the fog, and in a short time the children were keeping themselves busy with their games, and everyone else was in the groove of their work. Everyone except Dante, Addis and Seeya. They had wandered over to the far side of the clearing and stood together talking.

“Now what?” Seeya asked. “I’m not sure how much longer I can stand staying here.”

“Did you see anything when you flew around yesterday?” Addis’ voice was calm.

“No, not a thing. Just more of the same. Dirt, rocks, those odd twisted trees. Really, this place could use some spiffing up, don’t you think?”

Dante sighed. She hated to admit it, but she was getting bored. There wasn’t much to do, she didn’t feel like playing with the Brox children all day, and there was nothing she could do to help the adults.

“I’m going to explore,” she said. Addis and Seeya both looked at her. They knew what she was thinking, what they were all thinking – maybe there was a portal waiting somewhere.

But there wasn’t. Not that day and not the next. The days passed in a similar fashion, with the Brox working, then eating, and then some chanting and going to bed. Dante, Seeya and Addis spent the days walking around the Brox countryside, or talking with the children who enjoyed hearing the stories of where they were from. Dante occasionally found herself thinking about home, and hoping her parents wouldn’t be too worried.

On the fourth morning, she began to feel a little frantic when she was heading up for breakfast. She hadn’t quite reached the mouth of the burrow – which she had learned to navigate on her own – when she heard a shout.

“A portal!”

She ran the rest of the way, and when she reached the surface she followed the crowd of Brox heading toward the North end of the Circle.

Behind some boulders sat the arch. Dante was happy to see it, although she had grown fond of the Brox and she would be a bit sad to leave, knowing there was a good chance she would never be back. Seeya was zipping back and forth excitedly, and even Addis seemed to have some extra energy. Greff moved slowly out from the crowd. He hugged Turra, who was crying, and then his children. Dante felt a lump in her throat as they all moved toward the arch.

“Ready?” Addis asked. He moved toward the arch, and it didn’t disappear.

“Yes!” Seeya called, and flew through. And reappeared on the other side. He looked around, and realized he hadn’t gone anywhere.

“What happened?” he asked.

Addis narrowed his eyes. “Take my hand,” he said to Dante. She took hold of his hand.

“Now,” Addis said to Greff, “take hold of Dante’s hand.” The Brox hesitated a moment, and then took her hand.

“O.k., Seeya,” Addis said, “get in front of me and let me put my hand on your back.”

“Oh, right, like you’re going to push me in again,” said Seeya excitedly. He hovered in front of Addis.

“Wait!” Turra called. They all stopped and looked back at her. She ran to Greff and handed him a small basket she had woven.

“Take this,” she said. “Something from home.”

He looked into her eyes and smiled. “Thank you,” he said, “but it might be better if I’m not trying to carry something.”

“Oh, that’s o.k.,” Dante said. “We’ll just put it in my backpack.”

She unzipped her pack and let Greff put the basket inside. He hugged Turra again, and then resolutely grabbed Dante’s hand. Addis turned back toward the portal.

“O.k., here we go,” Addis said, and pushed Seeya through. He followed, pulling Dante who pulled Greff. Greff took one last look at his family as he passed through the portal. He was afraid he would never see them again.