Endolye Chapter 15: Someplace like Home

“Dante? Are you in there?”

Dante pulled up her head, sniffed and tried to wipe her eyes. She looked around the cave, wondering how long she’d been gone. Were people looking for her? She recognized Becky’s voice, but didn’t really want her to come in and see her crying. She heard footsteps and looked around as Becky’s face came into view. She looked scared but determined.

“Hi there,” she said coming into the cave. Dante started to turn away, but then remembered the face in the pool. She looked up at Becky and said a small hi. She even tried to smile.

Becky came closer. “Are you o.k.?”

“Yeah,” Dante said, “I guess I just lost track of time.”

“Um, I don’t want to pry or anything, but are you sure you’re o.k.? I thought I heard you crying.”

Dante took a breath and tried to act nonchalant.

“I’m fine,” she said, in a bored voice. And then shook her head. This was going to be hard, but she needed to share her true self. She looked Becky in the eye. The other girl’s blue eyes looked kind, and concerned.

“No,” Dante said dropping her head and beginning to cry, “I’m not o.k. I really miss my friends.”

“I’m sorry,” Becky said. She came over and sat next to Dante, putting her hand on her shoulder. “I bet it’s really hard to move away and leave friends behind. I’ve never had to move, and I think I’d just die if my parents made me leave.”

Dante was surprised at how nice Becky was being, and for a moment the surprise stopped her tears. She smiled at Becky.

“Thanks,” she said. “It is kind of hard. Especially when your brother fits in so well.”

Becky laughed. “Yeah, well, I wouldn’t know about that,” she said, “I’ve got two sisters. What a pain!”

She was quiet for a moment and then looked away as though she were embarrassed.

“Dante,” she said, “I’m sorry about Carol. She just gets mean like that sometimes. I don’t know why, and I wish she didn’t.”

She looked back at Dante. “I’m sorry I haven’t been nicer, it’s just that Carol and I have grown up together, she’s lived next door to me for ages, and well, sometimes I guess I let her get away with too much.”

“That’s o.k.,” Dante said, and realized that she really meant it. “I really am bad at sports and stuff, and it must have been frustrating for her when I just let the ball hit me. The least I could have done was gotten out of the way. Or put a mitt on my head!” At that both girls laughed.

“How did you know I was here?” Dante asked. It didn’t seem like she’d been gone long, or that anyone thought she had been missing. Time on Endolye must be different than time here.

“I saw you come in here, and I couldn’t believe you were brave enough to do that. So I decided to follow you. I’d like to be braver, so maybe if we become friends, I could learn that.” She smiled shyly.

Dante felt herself smiling. “I don’t feel so brave most of the time,” she said.

They sat quietly for a moment and then Becky noticed the drawing in Dante’s hand. “What’s that?” she asked, turning her head sideways to see.

“A picture of feet?” She looked at Dante quizzically.

Dante looked at it for a moment, and then quickly opened her backpack and pushed it in. “Yeah, it’s just something I was working on,” she said. “It’s nothing, really.”

The two girls left the cave and began walking through the park.

“You know,” Becky said, “I’ve always loved your house. I mean, I know people said it was haunted and all, but I just thought it was sad and lonely. I was so happy when they started working on it, and was glad to see that a real family moved in.”

Dante felt a stab of suspicion. “You can come over and see the inside if you want,” she said, “but my brother won’t be there. And he never likes any of my friends.”

Becky looked at her, puzzled, “Who cares? I generally don’t like anyone’s brother! But I would love to see the inside of the house. Who has the room in the tower part in front?”

“My dad made that a library. It’s pretty cool.”

“That’s really cool!”

They walked to Dante’s house and went in through the kitchen. Her mother looked up and her eyes widened in surprise.

“Well, hello there,” she said.

“Hi mom,” Dante said, realizing no one had known she was gone. “This is Becky.”

And with that, the two girls moved through the kitchen and up the back stairs.

“Nice to meet you Becky!” her mother called after them.

“Nice to meet you!” came a voice down the stairs. Dante’s mother just smiled.

Once in Dante’s room, Dante tossed her backpack in the corner, and the two girls flopped on the bed.

“Do you have any other drawings?” Becky asked.

“Yeah, some,” Dante said.

“Can I see?”

Dante thought hard, but then decided to take the risk. She showed Becky her drawings, and Becky was impressed with them. They two girls agreed that Dante would try to teach Becky to draw, and Becky would try to teach Dante to play sports. Becky stayed for most of the afternoon.

After Becky left, Dante sat on the bed in her room, thinking about the last couple of hours. She might actually have a friend here! Endolye already seemed far away, and she wondered if maybe she had dreamed the whole thing. She pulled her backpack from the corner and opened it to get out her journal. She pulled the drawing of the feet from the top, and then opened the bag wider. A small gasp escaped her.

Inside the backpack was a crumpled brown paper bag, an empty baggie with a few crumbs, and a small, tightly woven basket, a grooming set, and a pipe. She pulled out the pipe and blew a few notes. She felt her eyes tearing up.

“No, definitely not a dream,” she said. She sniffed once, and then resolutely took the pipe in her hands.

“I’m going to learn to play this thing,” she said. “And then I’m going to learn to catch the ball.”

Back in the cave, the surface of the pool stirred slightly. Addis poked his head into the cave and looked around for a moment. Satisfied, he smiled before disappearing back into the water.

Endolye Chapter 14: Rubbed Out

Dante had curled up in a corner of the cave. There was enough light from the fire for her to see and write in her journal. She paused for a moment and saw movement close to the mouth of the cave. She looked up and saw Cory standing there, smiling, his hand outstretched.

“No, Lyria, I don’t think so,” Dante said. Cory morphed into Lyria, who walked into the cave to where Dante sat, her journal in her lap.

“Fine,” she said, “I’ll just appear to you like this. I wanted to let you know that the Wumpus are, at this very moment, eliminating the nuisance of your friends for me, and with any luck Addis will be joining you here quite soon.”

Dante didn’t say anything, but just looked down at the journal in her hand.

“What’s that?” Lyria asked, reaching for the journal. Dante put it behind her back so Lyria couldn’t take it.

“I said, what is that?” Lyria growled, and reached behind Dante to grab the journal out of her hand. She began flipping through the pages.

“Isn’t this odd?” she murmured, half to herself. As she was looking through the journal, a page fluttered to the floor. She reached out to pick it up. It was the picture of the monster from Dante’s dreams. She held it out to Dante.

“Is this supposed to be me?” she asked quietly. Dante shrugged, not wanting Lyria to know she was scared. Lyria leaned in so she could look directly into Dante’s face; Dante tried not to cringe.

“This is nothing like me,” Lyria said slowly. “This was just a stupid reflection in the water. A reflection – not even real! I want you to fix this, and to make it look like me!”

She thrust the drawing toward at Dante, who took it and held out her other hand.

“Could I have my journal please? I’ll need it.”

Lyria handed her the book, and Dante opened to a clean page. She looked up at Lyria and said, “You’ll need to sit down or something.”


“So I can draw you.”

“No, no, stupid girl. I don’t want you to make something new, I want you to FIX this!” and she pointed at the drawing next to Dante’s foot.

“But,” Dante began, and Lyria screamed, “Fix it!”

Dante picked up the drawing and put in on the open page of her journal. She looked at the drawing and then at Lyria and realized she would need to erase the whole thing and start over. She looked at her pencil; only a nub of the eraser was left. She sighed and start to slowly erase one of the claws.

Without warning, Lyria screamed. Dante looked up and saw Lyria holding up her arm, looking at it in horror. Her hand was missing. Dante’s mouth dropped open.

“What have you done!” Lyria screamed.

Dante looked down at her drawing. The claw that she had erased was indeed the hand that was missing. As quickly as she could Dante erased the other hand and started up the arm. Lyria screamed again and when Dante looked up she could see it was working! Lyria now had no hands.

She rushed at Dante who jumped up and began running around the fire in the cave. Although it was hard to do while she was running, she kept erasing the drawing. Soon Lyria had no arms, but she continued to run after Dante.

Dante decided to make a break for the mouth of the cave, but as she ran toward it Lyria headed her off and bumped her, hard. The drawing and the pencil fell to the ground and Lyria dropped on top of them. Dante began pushing at Lyria, trying to reach under her, but Lyria was putting up a fight kicking and biting. Using all her weight Dante shoved Lyria aside and grabbed the drawing and her pencil.

Lyria howled in rage but Dante was up and erasing as fast as she could. She began erasing the monster’s head, thinking she could stop Lyria faster that way. When Lyria realized what she was doing she tried to shout “No!” but wasn’t quite able to get the word out before her head was gone.

Dante kept erasing frantically, and Lyria kept disappearing. Dante’s eraser was almost gone, and starting to scratch the paper. She managed to erase the legs just down to the knees before she couldn’t erase any more. All that was left on the page were the monster’s feet and ankles.

Dante looked up to where Lyria had last been standing. Two beautiful feet in beautiful shoes sat by the opening of the cave. Dante sat down heavily on the floor of the cave and stared at them in wonder.

“All this time,” she said slowly, “all I had to do was erase?”

She saw another movement at the mouth of the cave and jumped up in alarm, wondering who could possibly have found her. Addis came rushing in to where she was standing.

“I’m here!” he said looking around wildly.

“Addis!” Dante ran over and hugged him. “How did you get here?”

“Where is she?” he asked looking around. His eyes fell on Lyria’s feet and he stared at them a moment, and then looked wonderingly at Dante.

“How did you do that?” he asked.

Dante shrugged. “I erased her,” she said.

Addis’ eyes widened. “Have you erased anyone else?” he asked in alarm.

“Well, no, of course not,” she said. “I mean, normally, when you erase…. Oh well, never mind. My eraser is gone anyway,” she said, showing him the end of her pencil. Addis looked at it warily, as if it were a terrible weapon.

“Well,” he said, “I guess that’s good.”

“Look!” Dante shouted. While they were talking they hadn’t noticed the feet slowly making their way to the mouth of the cave. They now made a dash for it, and although Dante and Addis rushed after them, they could see the feet disappearing into the woods.

“Well,” Addis said, “I wouldn’t worry about it. They’re just feet.” They watched for a moment and then turned and looked at each other.

“How did you get here?” Dante asked.

Addis smiled at her and took her hand. He led her back into the woods, and she could see they were heading toward the pool.

“I’m part of the Khee,” he said simply.

“What!” Dante couldn’t believe it. “You mean all this time we’ve had the Khee with us! Why didn’t you say anything?”

“I didn’t know. It was the pendant. You see Lyria came to ProGress some time ago, and we tried to help her. She had the power you’ve seen over water, as well as other powers, and wanted to use them to take over Endolye. We tried to stop her, but she got away and used her power over the Wumpus. She was able to convince them to help her.”

“But where are the rest of your tribe?” Dante asked.

“We are here,” said a voice that sounded like many voices.

Dante turned and saw a group behind her that all looked very much like Addis. One of the group stepped forward and put his hands on his tummy.

“You see, Addis is very young, and Lyria was easily able to separate him from us. We had just sent the Council back to their tribes, but we fear that she somehow intercepted them and they never completed their real mission.”

“She put the pendant on my neck,” Addis said, “and it had power over me so I didn’t know who or where I was. Lyria must have realized that the Oralians would be the least likely to ask questions or try to figure out who I was, so she sent me back with the Oralian Council member.”

“Without Addis, our powers were lost,” the leader said. “We are the soul of Endolye, but if even one of our members is not with us, we are not whole and cannot function. By separating Addis from us, Lyria was able to start to control Endolye. The last thing we were able to do was make the portals vanish, so at least Lyria couldn’t start any wars between the tribes. It was only when you arrived Dante that the portals appeared.”

“But how did I get to Endolye?” Dante asked.

There was no answer, and before she could say anything else Addis touched her shoulder.

“Dante, you need to get back to the others. Now that Lyria is gone, the Wumpus should no longer be able to channel her powers.”

She had so many questions, but was anxious to see her friends and make sure they were o.k., so she nodded. Addis led her to a portal on the far side of the pool and she went through. When she was on the other side, she realized Addis hadn’t come with her. She panicked for a moment, and rushed back through the portal. Addis was there, smiling at her.

“Yes,” he said, “it will stay and you can get back through. But I cannot go with you.”

She nodded, and turned and went through the portal again, and found herself near the gazebo where they had first met Lyria. She hurried to where they had made the barricade against the Wumpus.

When she got there, Ori was sitting with Greff’s head in his lap, Seeya next to him. Dante cried out and ran over to her friends.

“Oh Seeya, your wing!” she cried. Seeya looked at her and gave her the smallest lopsided smile.

“It’s o.k.,” he said, “with everything else such a mess, I’m not so sure anyone would notice.”

And sure enough, as Dante looked at him she realized he did look different. His shirt was off and his chest was streaked with dirt, his hair was matted and messy, and his wing was bent at the wrong angle entirely.

“He’s a hero” Ori said softly, still looking down at Greff. “He swam down to the cave to get us, and helped us all escape.” Seeya didn’t say anything, but just laid his head back against the ground.

“What’s wrong with Greff?” Dante asked.

“He got hit on the head very hard,” Ori answered, “and he hasn’t regained consciousness yet. We were all trying so desperately to protect Addis. Lyria wanted him.”

“He’s one of the Khee,” Dante said.

Ori’s head shot up. “What? He can’t be. They never travel.”

“It’s a long story, but Lyria put that pendant around his neck, and he couldn’t remember who he was. She had convinced him never to take it off, and then sent him home with the Oralian Council member. She somehow interfered with the Council, so they didn’t know what they were supposed to do. Anyway, the Khee sent me back to help you.”

“I’m not sure what you can do,” Ori said. At that moment, Greff gave a low moan and shifted.

“Thank goodness,” Ori sighed, “at least he’s alive.”

Dante looked down at the lake. “The Khee said the Wumpus could help. Now that Lyria is gone, they shouldn’t be under her influence.”

Ori looked up, “Lyria’s gone?” he asked.

Dante just nodded and said, “It’s a long story.” She looked back toward the lake. “I need to go for help,” she said. “I’ll be back,” and she headed for the lake.

When she got there, Pirrin and the others were standing on the bank. They seemed confused and dazed, but recognized Dante. When she told them Lyria was gone and she needed help for her friends, they quickly agreed to help. She led them back into the woods where her friends were waiting.

It turned out that the Wumpus had healing skills, which Lyria made sure they didn’t use on anyone but themselves. Now that she was gone, they quickly helped the Non-Council members, treating Greff’s head, and straightening and splinting Seeya’s wing. They assured Dante that everyone would be fine, and that they would take care of her friends until they had completely recovered.

They spent a few days with the Wumpus, which were completely different from any of the previous days they had spent. The Wumpus took wonderful care of them, and in a few days they were all feeling almost completely recovered. Addis hadn’t returned, and Dante thought about what Ori had said about the Khee not traveling. She knew they needed to return to ProGress, and hoped the portal was still there.

When she felt everyone was well enough, she announced, “It’s time to return to the Khee.”

They agreed, and she led her friends back into the woods. The portal was still there. They thanked their hosts for the care they had received. Pirrin and some of the others had accompanied them, and they brushed off Dante’s thanks.

“I can’t tell you how sorry we are we caused all that trouble,” Pirrin said. “Usually our games are harmless. I’d like to come with you and see if I can somehow help the damage I’ve done.”

Dante nodded and stepped through the portal, followed by Greff, Ori and Seeya. When they were all on the other side, they waited, but Pirrin never came through. After a few moments, Mirch emerged. She said simply, “I was the only one that could go through. The others just walked through to the other side.”

Addis had been waiting for them and asked, “Are you ready?”

The group looked at each and nodded their heads. They headed into the woods where Dante had first seen Cory/Lyria. Addis stopped, and then motioned for Seeya to follow him. One by the one the Non-Council members went with Addis toward the pool. When they came back they seemed to be the same, but Dante could tell something was a little different with each one.

Dante was surprised when Addis turned to her with a smile and said, “O.k., Dante, it’s your turn.”

“But I’m not a Council member,” she protested.

Addis didn’t respond, he simply motioned for her to follow him to the pool. She sat down her backpack and followed him. When they got there, he motioned for her to go out onto the walkway. She watched as he walked away from the pool. She stepped out onto the walkway and looked down into the water, expecting to see her reflection. What she saw shocked her.

There was a young, honest, beautiful face looking back at her. The girl in the water wore an expression both kind and wise, the kind of face you want desperately to be your friend.

“This can’t be me,” she whispered.

“But I am you.” The reflection spoke to her and she jumped back. She stepped forward again and looked into the pool. The reflection smiled at her. She stared into the pool, eyes wide.

“I’m really confused.”

“I know. But everyone’s confused. That’s the part you don’t get. You seem to think that everyone else is sure of themselves, and knows what they’re doing. But they aren’t. They’re just not as honest as you are.”

“So why don’t they like me?”

Her reflection changed, and the girl in the pool had an arrogant, aloof look about her. She didn’t look Dante in the eye when she spoke, and her voice was flat and disinterested.

“Most people think you aren’t interested.”

Dante leaned closer, looking at the reflection.

“Is that, I mean, is this how people see me?”

“Um hmm.” The reflection seemed to be disinterested and wanting to go somewhere else.

Dante thought about it for a minute. “Then who was I when I first got here?”

The reflection changed back to the face she had seen when she first looked in the pool.

“This is the reflection of your true self.”

“My true self?”

“Yes. This is who you are on the inside. Not many people see the reflection of their true self, and even fewer are able to show it to the rest of the world.”

“So how do I look like this all the time?”

“First, learn to be true to yourself. Don’t worry about what others are thinking, and don’t get too hung up on what you see in the mirror. That’s the least true reflection of who you are.”

“I think I understand. So what do I do now?”

“Follow your path.” The reflection started to ripple, as if a rock had been thrown into the pool.

“Wait,” Dante said, but when the ripples cleared, she was looking at the reflection she was used to seeing in her mirror at home.

“Are you still there?” The reflection mimicked her movements, and she sighed. She stood up and headed back down the path toward the others.

“Now you see?” Addis asked. Dante smiled at him.

“I think so,” she said. She looked at the others and they were all smiling at her – even Seeya.

“I guess,” she said slowly, “when it all comes right down to it, every one of us is really more alike than we are different, aren’t we?” Addis just smiled.

He then led the entire group back toward the pool, and they all stood at the water’s edge.

“Dante,” Addis said, reaching into his bag – which Dante couldn’t remember seeing since before they had been trapped in the Wumpus’s cave but was now right next to her backpack, “tell them how you conquered Lyria.” And he handed her the picture of the feet.

“Oh!” Dante said, putting her backpack over one shoulder and taking the picture. “I just erased her.”

The others looked at each other questioningly, and Dante laughed. She held up the drawing.

“See, she didn’t think it looked like her, so I started erasing it. It’s kind of hard to explain….” She paused and a gust of wind caught the paper and blew it out of her hand.

“Oh!” she exclaimed.

“I can get it for you,” said Greff.

“Oh no, I’ve got it,” Dante said. The paper had blown into the pool, and she went out on the walkway. She leaned over the water but it was just out of her reach. She tried to reach just a little farther, and at that moment her backpack shifted and dropped in front of her. She lost her balance and fell into the pool. She expected to hear a splash and feel water, but landed with a thump on her back, her backpack hung up on her elbow and the drawing in her hand.

”What the….” she said, sitting up and looking around.

“Oh no,” she whispered, feeling completely bereft. She was back in her special place in the rocks at home, with the pool of water next to her. She quickly stuck her hand in the pool, but the water went up just above her elbow and she could feel the hard, rocky bottom.

“That’s just not fair,” she whispered, trying hard not to cry. “I didn’t even get to say goodbye.”

At that point, she gave in and put her head on her knees and cried as if her heart were breaking.

Endolye Chapter 12: Making ProGress

Dante was standing on the shore of a beautiful island. The turquoise water made a soothing sound as it rolled up the soft, white sand of the shore. She stood looking around in wonder. There were large, leafy trees further up the shore and a soft, sweet smelling breeze ruffled her hair.

She thought she must have passed through a portal, but was confused by the fact she hadn’t seen an arch and that Addis wasn’t with her. She sat down facing the water and ran the soft sand through her fingers while she tried to figure things out. She was also hoping that Addis and others would suddenly appear, and was fighting off her fear at being alone. It felt good to be on the warm beach, but she was worried about what was happening to the others, and that Lyria had found Addis. She hoped they were all o.k. After a few minutes of sifting the sand, she accepted the fact that no one else was coming. She stood up, brushed the sand off her hands and decided to look around. It seemed like a better idea than sitting and doing nothing.

She looked back toward the trees and saw a path leading into the forest; she didn’t remember seeing it before. There was something about it that made her want to head into the trees. She started walking and after a few steps turned and looked back toward the water. She wanted to stay and wait for the others, but she also wanted to know where the path led. She finally decided that if the others hadn’t come by now there was no point in waiting.

The path led away from the shore and into the trees, which were very much like the trees in the forest where she had first met Seeya and Addis. The path twisted around the trunk of a very large tree and through two large rocks. On the other side of the rocks the landscape changed suddenly to a series of large boulders like those surrounding the pod where the Brox lived. She walked through the rocks until the path turned around a large boulder and she found herself surrounded by Bulu bushes. The path led through the Bulus and soon twas barely visible through the thick trees and undergrowth. The damp smell and feel of the jungle reminded her of the Bastahl, and she felt a little sad remembering everything that had happened and that she was alone without her friends.

As she walked, a gentle breeze began blowing across the path. It lifted her hair and as it blew, she could hear a sound, almost like a voice whispering. Suddenly, the path ended. She stood, not knowing what to do, staring at the thick growth in front of her.


She felt the hairs on her arms raise, and stood completely still. Again the breeze blew and she heard the faint whisper of her name. “Dante.”

She looked all around and said softly, “Who are you?”

The breeze blew and she heard, “We are the Khee.”

She drew in a sharp breath. It couldn’t be! She didn’t trust this; it was too easy. Maybe it was really Lyria trying to trap her.

“Where are you?” She kept looking into the forest, but couldn’t see anything. There was no answer. She waited and then tried again.

“How did I get here?”

“You found the way.”

“But I don’t know what I did to get here.”

“It’s not uncommon to reach ProGress without knowing how you’ve done it, and without being ready to arrive.”


“Yes, the Khee live on ProGress.”

She stood a moment, wondering what to do next. She turned, thinking she would walk back to the shore, but the path behind her had disappeared. She felt a moment of panic and said, “What do I do now?”

“You must follow your path.”

“But,” she began, and then saw off to her right a path leading through the growth. She was sure it hadn’t been there before. As she looked down the path she could see it led to a small clearing. She could hear the soft sound of water splashing, and walked slowly toward the sound.

When she reached the clearing she could see a small pool in the center, into which a gentle waterfall spilled. It was round and surrounded by smooth, round stones. The ground around the pool was clear as though it had been swept. She walked slowly toward the pool, and when she reached the edge of it she could see a small slate walkway heading out over the water. She felt drawn toward it and was walking toward the edge of the walkway when a movement from the other side caught her eye.

It was Cory. She couldn’t believe her eyes – it didn’t make any sense. How did Cory get here?


He smiled at her and walked toward her.

“How did you get here?”

He didn’t answer, but took her by the hand and started to lead her away from the clearing.

“Wait. What is this place?”

He just shook his head and tried to lead her away. But there was something about the pool, something she felt she needed to do. She pulled her hand away from his and walked into the clearing. She stepped on the walkway that went over the water. Cory quickly followed her, and before she could take a step he put his hands on her shoulders and turned her to face him. He bent forward as if to kiss her. Dante was so confused by what was happening, and so nervous at being close to Cory, she ducked her head so he couldn’t see her face.

She looked down into the pool and saw her reflection in the water. And froze in horror. Because it wasn’t Cory’s reflection she saw next to her in the pool, it was the monster from her nightmare. With a cry she pulled away from its grip and tried to run.

The monster reached out and grabbed her, and with a terrible voice it said, “No, no, you mustn’t go, I want to visit with you awhile.”

She kicked and screamed, but just like her dreams she was no match for the monster. It carried her easily into the woods, until they came to a cave. Dante kept hoping this was another nightmare and she would wake up, but when the monster set her down in the cave she knew it was all too real.

The cave was lit from the inside by a small fire, and the monster rolled a stone across the opening. Dante cowered on the far side of the fire, sure she was going to be killed. But once the monster had rolled the stone over the opening, it turned to face her and she saw that it was really Lyria.


“Dante, don’t be frightened, I don’t want to hurt you. I’m just so disappointed that you ran away. Didn’t you like my house?”

Dante just stared at her. “What are you, really? Why did you look like that outside, but now you look the way you did when we were with the Wumpus?”

“Well,” Lyria said, “it’s the Khee. They’ve put a curse on me, and whenever I’m on ProGress I appear like a horrible monster. But I’m not! This is who I really am, truly.” She took a step toward Dante, smiling, her arms open.

Dante scrambled backward, “I don’t believe you. Why would the Khee do that?”

“Dante, why would I lie?”

“You’re lying to everyone. I heard you talking to Pirrin. I know what you plan to do with Endolye.”

“Ah,” Lyria smiled as she realized that Dante knew the truth. “Well, you just don’t understand. You see, the Khee kept helping the tribes govern themselves. But they made so many mistakes! Think how much easier it will be for the them when they just have one leader guiding them, making decisions on how things needs to run.”

“Maybe they’d rather decide what to do on their own.”

“How would they know? You see what’s been happening – they can’t solve their own problems. They can’t even really exist completely without each other. I’m just going to help them become whole.”

“The Khee already do that.”

“The Khee do nothing!” her voice rose to a shout. Dante shrank back into the corner. Lyria smiled, but she was no longer beautiful.

“Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Soon the tribes will all be in my control, and they will all do my bidding. And if they don’t, they’ll suffer for it. Besides, I’m going to show up and save them all. I’ll stop the rain, the fog, the steam.”

“They’ll find out the truth. The others will tell them.”

“What others? You mean that silly Non-Council of yours? No, I’ll be making sure they’re out of the way.” She smiled at Dante, and suddenly Dante was more afraid for her friends than she was for herself.

“You can’t destroy the truth,” she whispered.

“I don’t have to, I’ll simply make up my own truth.”

Dante thought about her friends, and realized suddenly how much she cared about them. No matter what, she cared about them. Without knowing why, she said, “Well, then, you can’t destroy love.”

At that Lyria gave her a strange look. “Love? They’ll all love me. That’s who they’ll love,” and with that she vanished. Dante was alone in the dim cave, with an impossibly heavy stone blocking the only way out.

Endolye Chapter 11: House of Lies

They followed the lady through the woods, and as they walked she would point out different plants and trees, telling them which could provide food, which made good shelter, and even which flowers could be ground up and used as dyes. The group was so busy paying attention to the bark, roots, leaves and berries, no one was paying attention to the direction they were heading. After a few hours of walking through the woods, they came to a clearing. Lyria stopped and smiled.

“My humble abode,” she said.

They were standing in front of a large stone house, with an arched doorway, gabled windows, and ivy growing up the sides. Dante thought it looked like something from a fairy tale, and while part of her wondered what the inside looked like, another part of her felt a bit uneasy. She realized she had no idea where they were or how far they had walked.

“Come inside, please,” Lyria said. “I know you must all be hungry after our walk, and it will be dark quite soon.”

Once inside they looked around in wonder. Inside, the house was lit by candles, which glowed against the marble floors and gave a golden light to the art on the walls. Lyria led them to a large room where a table filled with food was waiting. There was a small, screened area for Seeya, a rock chair for Greff, and a large purple chair for Addis at the head of the table. He sat his bag down and looked around. It was the first time Dante could remember that he hadn’t pulled something out of it.

They ate quietly, Lyria passing them food and refilling their cups. She spoke softly, telling them how happy she was they were there, and that they could stay as long as they liked. Ori was interested in seeing the collection of herbs, plants, leaves and bark she’d collected, and the medicinal properties she’d discovered in many of them. Seeya had been chatting excitedly about the promise Lyria had made to show him how to use some of the plant dyes to enhance the coloring on his face and improve his skin.

Lyria tried to engage Gress in conversation about a nearby stone quarry, asking him if he’d go there with her to giver her some advice. The Brox had simply grunted and continued to eat. Lyria had smiled and turned to Dante, telling her she hoped they could be friends.

“Sometimes I just feel like there’s no one who understands me,” she said, looking into Dante’s eyes. “Like I’m alone, even when I’m surrounded by people. I’d love to have someone to just talk to about the things I’m feeling and thinking, and I hope we can spend some time getting to know each other.” Dante couldn’t believe she had met someone who felt so many of the things she did.

When the group finished eating Lyria smiled and said, “I hope you all enjoyed that. Why don’t I show you each to your room now? I’m sure you’d like to get comfortable and get some sleep.”

“We each get our own room?” Seeya couldn’t hide his delight.

Lyria laughed. “Yes, my small friend, I do understand the need for a little privacy.”

“Oh you’re just a delight!” he said, hovering near her. “You just don’t know what it’s been like with this group.”

“I’d like to stay with Addis,” Greff said.

Dante turned to Lyria, “Yes, please, Greff doesn’t like to be alone,” she said, “and I don’t think Addis has been feeling well.”

“I feel fine.” He folded his hands on his tummy and wouldn’t look at Dante.

“Oh dear,” Lyria said, “Well, I have such a special room prepared for Addis, and I just didn’t think someone so important….”

“That’s right,” Addis said, “I need my privacy too.”

“It’s o.k.,” Greff said, patting his pocket where he kept the picture of Turra, “I’ll be fine.”

“No, really,” Dante said, turning to Lyria with a smile. “You’ve been so wonderful, but couldn’t I stay with Greff? I wouldn’t mind the company at all.”

“Of course,” Lyria said, but she didn’t look entirely happy. They followed her through the house and she stopped at various doors, bidding her guests good-night as they entered. Dante and Gress were last, and Lyria paused a moment after they entered.

“Well,” she said, “good night then.” Dante bid her good-night; Greff remained silent. As soon as the door closed Dante turned, ready to ask Greff why he was being so rude, but he cut her off before she could begin.

“I don’t like this,” he said. They were in a large room, with two beds and a privacy screen they could put between them.

“What?” Dante asked, sitting on one of the chairs. “Her finding us? Bringing us here? Feeding us? She’s been so nice Greff, and really seems to understand us, and know just what each one of us needs.”

“That’s just it,” Greff said, sitting opposite her. “How can she understand us so well? It takes time to build relationships, Dante, you can’t get to know someone in a few hours.”

“I think you can know a lot about a person even in a short time.”

“Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can get to know someone too soon. That’s what happened with the Wumpus, and although they were fun they weren’t very nice. I’m afraid the same thing is true here.”

She stood and began pacing. “Then what does she want?”

“I don’t know, and that’s what’s got me worried.”

“Greff, really, can’t you believe she’s just being nice?”

“No.” But he smiled. “I’ll tell what would make me feel better.”

“What’s that?”

“If we looked around a little.”

At Dante’s shocked expression he said, “Look, we don’t know anything about Lyria, or why she’s brought us here. But I do know that she wants to keep Addis by himself, and she’s just too charming with all of her compliments. I don’t trust her.”

“Well,” Dante began. The idea of snooping around made her nervous. What if they got caught? “I guess if someone sees us we can just say that we were looking for food or something.”

“We won’t get caught,” Greff said. “I’ll feel anyone coming before they know we’re there.”

Dante had forgotten about the Brox’s sensitivity to vibration. “Well,” she said slowly, “I guess it wouldn’t hurt, but maybe we can just wait until tomorrow?”

“Dante, how long do you think we can just stay here? What are we going to do with our time? Don’t you want to find the Khee? The Lost Council? You heard her – she’s doing everything she can to discourage us from leaving and make us want to stay.”

“You’re right,” Dante said unhappily. “O.k., it couldn’t hurt to look around.”

They quietly opened the door and peered into the hall. It was empty, and fairly dark, with the little light there was coming from some torches on the wall.

“Take my hand,” Greff said, “I’m used to working in dim light.”

They went slowly down the hallway, Greff stopping now and then to get a sense for where there was movement. A few times they had to scurry down alternate hallways, and after one particularly close call they ended up outside a door with a light coming from underneath. Greff pointed to the bottom of the door, and Dante held her finger to her lips.

She leaned as close to the door as she dared. Inside, she could hear Lyria talking to someone. Her voice had lost its musical quality, and she sounded angry.

“You’ve got to get him back in the cave! I can’t believe you had him there and you let him go!”

“We didn’t know it was him! You didn’t tell us!” Dante looked at Greff, shocked. There was no mistaking the voice. It was Pirrin.

Lyria’s voice took on its honeyed tone. “You’re doing a wonderful job with the games,” she said. “The Oralians are almost at the breaking point. Your sudden downpours of rain were the perfect way to wear down their resistance. And the Bastahl won’t be able to take much more of the heat. The Brox are a little tougher than I thought, but not being able to work is driving them crazy. You’ve done just beautifully. And if it weren’t for Addis, we’d be almost ready to make our move.”

“What can we do now? If he just disappears, the others will be suspicious.”

“Maybe, maybe not. He’s getting addled, they might think he’s just wandered off. At any rate, we’ve got to move quickly. You all need to concentrate on what you’re doing with the games. It’s almost time for me to appear and save those poor tribes from the mess they’re in. Once I’m there, they won’t need any more Councils. They can all just depend on me to do everything for them. Then I’ll have power over all of Endolye.”

Pirrin laughed. “And you can teach us more games!”

“Oh yes, my pet. Once we have control of Endolye there’s plenty of games I can teach you.”

Dante backed slowly away from the door and turned to Greff, her eyes wide. He shook his head, took her hand and led them back through the maze of hallways to their room. She was grateful for his ability to find his way around.

Once they were back inside their room, Dante told him everything she had heard. When she finished, she said in desperation, “What are we going to do?”

“Well, we’ve got to get Addis out of here,” Greff responded.

“We’ve got to get all of us out of here,” Dante said. “She’s behind all the problems in the tribes! She wants to take over Endolye.”

They quickly gathered their things and Greff led them through the hallways, remembering which doors had opened. Ori came easily. Seeya was reluctant at first, until Dante told him Lyria was behind the rain, and then he was more than ready to leave. The only one they couldn’t convince was Addis. They had all gathered in his room, arguing with him behind the closed door.

“But this is where we wanted to be,” he said.

“No Addis,” Dante replied, “we wanted to find the Khee.”

“Well, she can probably tell us where they are. Anyway, we should just ask her about all of this. I’m sure she can straighten it out.”

Dante was beginning to feel desperate. “O.k., Addis,” she said, “now I know something is wrong if you’re thinking you can just ask someone else what to do. We’ve got to get you out of here.”

She looked to Ori and Greff. They nodded, and picked up Addis, one under the arms and one by his feet.

“Hey! What are you doing!” he began to struggle. Seeya popped open the door and looked down the hall.

“Now!” he said, and they all rushed out. As they were heading for the front door, Greff froze. “Someone’s coming. From the left!”

Dante looked around frantically. She hissed, “Just get him out of here and I’ll take care of whoever is coming.”

Greff stared at her for a moment until Dante pushed him. “Go!”

Addis was still struggling and started to call for help. Seeya flew up and grabbed hold of his pendant. Addis froze and stared at him, silent.

“Now,” Seeya whispered, “although this is far too large for someone as petite as me, if you don’t quiet down I’m going to pull it right off your neck.”

Dante was shocked at the Oralian’s tone, but was glad to see Addis quieted down. With Seeya hovering over him, fist tightly closed around the pendant, the other two quickly carried him out of the hallway.

Dante was standing alone, admiring a tapestry when Lyria came around the corner. She stopped short.

“Why Dante,” she said, “what a pleasant surprise to see you. But it’s so late. Couldn’t you sleep?”

“Not a wink, I’m afraid. It’s all the excitement at being in such a beautiful place. I didn’t want to wake the others, and Greff is so sensitive to movement, so I just popped out here to have a look around. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Of course not. Can I offer you something to drink?”

“No, I don’t think so,” she yawned. “I’m actually just now feeling a bit tired. I think I’ll head back to my room.”

“Are you sure you can find it? Shall I walk you back?”

“Oh no, that’s fine – I believe I just go down this hall and turn left.”

“Yes, well, alright, have a lovely sleep.” And she smiled and put her hand on Dante’s head. Dante forced herself to look straight into her eyes and smile. She waved and went down the hall and back to her room. She thought for a moment, and then went to Greff’s bed and put the pillows under the covers to make it look like the Brox was there sleeping. She got into the other bed, turned away from the door, forced herself to slow her breathing, and waited.

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before she could hear the doorknob turn. She kept her eyes closed and her breathing even. She felt relief when she heard the door quietly shut, but quickly panicked when she heard a key turning. She was locked in!

She got up and tried the door to be sure, and then went to the window. She didn’t see anything or anyone, so she opened it just a crack. She was on the third floor and knew she couldn’t jump. She took the bed sheets and knotted them together, then tied them to the bedpost. They didn’t quite reach to the ground, but she was able to climb down and drop the rest of the way. She landed softly, and was off and running to the trees. She got there and saw Seeya waiting.

“Oh thank goodness! We just didn’t know what to do!” and before she could answer he zipped off. She sat and waited for him, catching her breath. In a few moments, he was back.

“O.k., I let the others know we’re on our way. Come on,” and he began leading her through the trees.

She found the others hiding not far from the gazebo. Addis had stopped struggling, and was sitting next to his bag looking a little confused. She went to him.

“Are you alright?”

He nodded slowly. “I’m fine. I don’t know what came over me. It’s the oddest thing; I just didn’t want to leave. But I’m o.k. now. Thank you for getting me out of there.”

He fingered the pendant around his neck. “It’s a good thing Seeya really knows how important this is.”

The others came over and Dante whispered, “We’ve got to go back to the Wumpus. We’ve got to figure out how they’re playing these water games, and stop them.”

“I don’t know,” Ori said, “shouldn’t we try to find the Khee? That’s what we came here to do.”

“There’s no time!” Greff’s voice was urgent. “She’s going to be making her move, and once she finds out we’re gone, she’ll waste no time! Our families are in danger.”

“Maybe we should get some sleep,” Dante suggested, “and first thing in the morning we can head back to the cave.”

Ori shook his head. “I don’t think we should wait. She’ll be looking for us. We should go now while we have the element of surprise.”

After a moment they all nodded, and headed back to the side of the lake where the Wumpus had their cave. Greff built a small barricade that was closed in on three sides so they could keep watch. Seeya was trying not to fall asleep and hoping he wouldn’t look too tired when Pirrin suddenly appeared in front of him with a smile.

“Hello again.”

“Why…what…how did you get here?” Seeya stammered.

“It’s a game we play.” He craned his neck to look past Seeya into the barricade.

“Hey! Wake up! Trouble’s here!” and he laughed.

Inside the barrier, the others were instantly awake. Greff, Ori and Dante shielded Addis from the opening where Seeya hovered.

“What do you want?” Dante called out.

“We’re having another party. Come on down to the cave.”

“No, thank you, we’re fine here.”

“Oh but you’ll have so much fun if you join us,” Pirrin gave a whoop and the woods came alive with Wumpus. They rushed the barricade and Dante felt herself being picked up and pushed aside. There was so much noise and she couldn’t see. Suddenly they all ran off and Dante looked around wildly. Ori and Gress were doing the same. Addis was gone.

“I’ve got to go and get him,” Dante said. “I know they’ll let me in, and I can probably get them to trust me. They think I like them, or they at least think they can get me to like them.”

Greff started to argue but Dante said, “What else can we do? Who else can go? It has to be me!”

She looked from Greff to Ori to Seeya. She could tell that none of them liked it, but they knew she was right. After a moment, Ori bowed and she knew she needed to go.

She walked to the edge of the lake, and it became fog. She walked slowly and carefully toward where she knew the cave was, putting one foot directly in front of the other. She kept waiting for the fog to change into water, but it didn’t. She made it to the cave and paused, sure it was a trap. After a moment she went inside. In the big room she found Addis sitting by himself.

“Addis! Are you o.k.?”

“I’m fine,” he said, “I’m glad they’ve finally stopped the ice; it was getting cold.”

“Well, I’m sure they were waiting for us to come for you, and I’m sure it will be back soon.” she said.

As she was talking she could feel the room getting colder and she sighed. They were trapped in the cave, but at least they were together. She looked around.

“O.k., Addis, I’ve got to think of a way to get us out of here.”

“I think you’ve done enough at this point, don’t you?”

Dante couldn’t hide her surprise.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“It was you who brought us here. It was you who insisted we come this way. I didn’t even want to head to the mountains. I told you it was dangerous. And I was right, wasn’t I?”

He fingered his pendant. “Whatever happens, it’s going to be your fault. This is probably what happened to the Lost Council. They probably disappeared under the ice.”

Dante felt as though she had been slapped.

“Addis,” she said, “I don’t know why you’re saying these things to me. I did my best to help all of us.”

“You did your best to take charge,” he said, “and look where it’s gotten us. No wonder you don’t have any friends where you come from.”

She just stared at Addis. The impact of what he said, and the stress of the last several days were too much. She felt tears welling in her eyes.

“Addis,” she whispered, “I’m sorry, I was just trying to help.”

When he didn’t respond she turned to go back to the opening of the cave. With her head down she said, “I’ll stay out of your way.”

She took two steps forward.

Addis said softly, “Dante, wait.”

She turned her head, took one step back, and vanished.

Endolye Chapter 10: Cold as Ice

They followed the Wumpus around the lakeshore to a spot where large rocks jutted out of the water. Pirrin and the others jumped into the water and Dante followed. Addis quickly pulled some swim fins, a mask and snorkel out of his bag and followed, trailed by Greff and Ori. Seeya was able to fly just above the surface of the water, watching the swimmers below. They swam toward a cave in the water and went in; Seeya was just able to clear the top.

The water in the cave was only a few feet deep, and the travelers followed the Wumpus up a small incline, and then down a sloping floor. Unlike the Brox burrows, the walls seemed to be made of mud, with bit of straw and sticks coming through. Dante could see Greff studying them intently. As they walked she could hear the sound of music and laughter getting louder and louder. They reached a large room with walls sealed in mud, full of Wumpus, playing instruments and dancing.

“Look who’s back,” Pirrin shouted as he entered the room. The other Wumpus looked up and shouted, waved their hands, and went back to what they were doing.

“Well,” Pirrin said, “here we are. Join the party.”

And he danced off toward the other Wumpus. One of the Wumpus jumped up off the floor, quickly grabbed Dante by the hand, and began swinging her in a wild dance. She was laughing and trying to catch her breath. Addis, Greff, Seeya and Ori worked their way into a corner of the room, where they tried to remain inconspicuous.

Before Dante could catch her breath another of the Wumpus pressed a drink into her hand. She was so thirsty she gulped it all down.

“Why, that’s delicious,” she gasped. “What is it?”

The Wumpus looked at each other and burst out laughing. “It’s water!”

She laughed along with them. She was very giddy and having a very good time. Everything she said was funny, and everyone seemed to like her. The only thing wrong was her friends in the corner. They didn’t seem to be enjoying themselves at all, and Dante wasn’t sure why. Everyone else basically ignored them.

The party went on and on. Dante was given food to eat and water to drink, and she kept dancing. She felt that she was making so many friends, she wasn’t sure she ever wanted to leave. Finally, she found herself curled up on a couch with two of the Wumpus, Dula and Mirch. The three girls had all promised to be lifelong friends, and then Dante fell asleep.

The cold woke her. She was shivering, and sat up to look around. She didn’t see Seeya, but Greff and Ori were on the floor on a pallet under a blanket, and Addis was asleep in a rocking chair next to her, wrapped in a warm quilt. Still shivering, she moved closer to him, trying to get some of the quilt over her. Addis woke up.

“Sorry,” he said, “I tried to cover you up last night, but your friends kept taking the covers.”

“Where is everyone?” she asked.

Addis yawned. “I don’t know,” he answered. “They pretty much come and go as they please and they don’t generally tell me what’s going on.”

“But I don’t understand,” Dante said. “Mirch said Dula were going to show me how to fish on the ice today.”

Addis just looked at her. “Well, that was last night. Now it’s this morning. They aren’t here, and they’re not going to be showing you how to fish.”

Dante stood up and stretched. “I’m starving,” she said. “And why is it so cold in here?”

Addis was folding up his quilt and put it on the chair. Dante gave him a curious look. “My bag doesn’t seem to want to cooperate with me right now.” he said. “And you’re so cold because you’re basically buried beneath the ice. They’ve frozen the lake.”

Dante looked around. “Well, let’s get out of here and go find something to eat.”

Addis just shook his head. “The lake is ice. We’re sealed in here until they turn it back into liquid or fog.”

“How do you know?” Dante asked, starting up the path toward the opening. It was dark, and she had to feel the way along with her hands as she walked. Sure enough, it got colder and colder, and the entrance was blocked with ice before she reached the top.

“Hey,” she yelled, seeing shadows above her, “let us out!”

The shadows stopped moving and there was laughter from the other side. Then the shadows kept moving. Dante felt her way back down into the chamber. Her movements had awoken Greff, and his stirring had interrupted Ori’s sleep. They were both looking around sleepily when Dante got back.

“You’re right,” she said sitting down.

She began to hear noises from above. “What are they doing up there?” she asked.

“Oh I don’t know what they call it. One of their dumb games. They take this little thing and scoot it along the ice. They try to keep it away from each other, and occasionally break into fights for no reason.”

“Oh.” Dante sat down and looked around. “I really am hungry. Do you think there’s any food left?”

“Good question,” asked Ori, and he began to look around the large room.

Greff remained silent, and wouldn’t even look at Dante. She tried to remember the previous evening, wondering if she had said something to him, or if maybe he was just in a bad mood.

Ori found some cold leftovers from the night before, and although they weren’t very appetizing everyone had a bit to eat.

“Thanks, Ori.” Dante said when they were finished.

She looked toward the entrance of the room. “I wonder why they won’t just take a second and let us out?”

“Because they do what pleases them.” Greff finally spoke and he sounded cross. “Don’t you understand? They’re not going to help us, they’re not your friends, and they’re not very nice.” Dante was shocked, and remained silent for a moment.

“Have I done something to make you angry?” she asked.

Greff looked at her and then began pacing. “It’s just that we came here to do a job, and you seem to have forgotten that. We’ve spent all this time together getting here, and now you’re just taking up with them because you’re having a good time – without even considering how this might be for the rest of us.” He turned to her. “Have you even noticed that Seeya isn’t here? Aren’t you the least bit worried about him?”

Dante quickly looked around and realized Greff was right. She felt terrible that she hadn’t noticed. In a quiet voice she asked, “Does anyone know where he is?”

“No,” Addis said standing. “He went off so he wouldn’t be sleeping in front of the Wumpus. They kept laughing at him for no reason – I think they realized it bothered him.”

Dante began to feel worse. The Wumpus had been bullying and mean to her friends. How could she think they were so much fun? Maybe it was just that they had made her feel like she was one of them. But, she thought, who would want to be like that? Why would I want to be one of them? She looked around at her friends, Addis standing next to his bag, Greff glowering, and Ori looking at her with sympathetic eyes. These were her real friends, and she needed to remember that.

“Guys, really, I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s just that where I come from, no one invites me to parties, and I guess I just, well, I was just stupid.” She felt tears starting to well in her eyes, and turned so they wouldn’t see her cry. Ori walked over and put his arm around her.

“Dante, you understand their nature now, don’t worry. We’re still your friends. If we would abandon our friendship because of an incident like this, we wouldn’t be much in the way of friends, would we?” Dante looked up and smiled gratefully at the Bastahl.

“Well, as long as you don’t forget why we’re here,” Greff said gruffly, and Dante knew she had been forgiven.

Addis interrupted them. “Come on,” he said, “I think they might be coming back.” They started walking up the tunnel as a crowd of Wumpus came thundering down on them.

“Oh, you’re not going are you?” Dula asked. Pirrin was right behind her.

“Yes,” Dante said, “we are.”

“But why? We’re having such fun!”

“No, you’re having fun, we were stuck down here in the cold. And we need to get going.”

Dante began heading up the tunnel with her friends close behind. Pirrin was right behind them.

“You can’t go, we’re not done having fun with you yet,” he said.

“Yes,” Dante said firmly, “ it’s time for us to go.”

They had reached the surface and the lake was a swirling fog. Although they couldn’t see, Dante knew the shore had to be in front of them, so began walking in a straight line. The fog cleared as they reached the shore, but Pirrin was waiting for them. As soon as they were all on the shoreline, the lake turned to ice. There was a far-off howling from the Wumpus in the tunnel, and the lake turned to steam. The others raced to the surface, and it began raining.

“Now what?” Pirrin asked smiling wickedly. “As I’m sure you can see, leaving us might prove difficult.”

Dante simply sat on the ground in the rain. “Well then,” she said, “we’re just not going to play. We’ll just sit here and wait. We’ve got all the time in the world.”

The others followed her lead and sat. The Wumpus ran around them, yelling, jeering, and taunting, but they didn’t move. Dante assumed her most bored expression. The rain stopped, the sun came out and the lake reappeared. Pirrin stood in front of the group.

“Fine,” he said, “you’re boring and stupid anyway. Just for that, we’re not going to tell you about the Water Maiden or the water games she taught us.” And with that he ran off, followed by the others.

“Wait!” Dante called, but it was too late. They were gone. She stood up.

“Who’s the Water Maiden?” she asked no on in particular.

“Well, she’s quite beautiful, I can tell you that much,” said a familiar voice.

“Seeya!” Addis jumped up as the Oralian came zipping into their midst.

“Addis, you actually look happy to see me,” he said, with his deadpan expression. Addis smiled – a rare thing – and said, “Well, I just didn’t want to have to waste a lot of time sending out a search party for you.”

“So who is this Water Maiden, and what do they mean about water games?” Ori asked.

“Well, she’s just divine,” Seeya said. “Long flowing hair, impeccable taste in clothes, and a voice just like honey. She seemed so happy to meet me, and was so interested in hearing all about our journey.”

“Seeya,” Dante said slowly, “what did you tell her?”

“Oh not much,” Seeya said hurriedly. “Just that we represented certain tribes and were looking for the Lost Council, and kind of hoped to meet the Khee. You know, no biggie.”

“Seeya,” Greff groaned, “you told her everything about us.”

Seeya put his hands on his hips. “Well, I’ve just told you, she was delightful. I don’t see what all the fuss is about!”

“Yes, and Dante found the Wumpus delightful,” Addis said. Dante felt her face getting hot, and Ori put his hand on her shoulder.

“Well, last night,” Addis amended, “not anymore.”

“I think we can forget about that now,” Greff said, and Dante smiled gratefully at him.

“Oh whatever,” Seeya said, “you don’t get it, she was nothing like the Wumpus. She was refined and we had the loveliest conversation. She gave me some amazing tips on how to keep my skin supple.”

“Oh for the love of…” began Addis, but Ori interrupted him.

“Seeya,” he said, “where did she come from? Where did she go? What are the water games?”

“Well, I don’t know. We never actually discussed that. She was mostly interested in where we’d all come from, the tribes we represented. Of course,” he said turning to Addis and Dante, “she was most interested in the two of you, since we don’t know what tribe you’re from! She kept asking me to describe you, but well….” he trailed off.

Addis looked thoughtful for a moment, and then said, “I think we’re in danger. Well, maybe not. I don’t know I’m just not sure.”

Ori looked at him and began, “Well, all we really know….” but stopped.

“Let’s get out of here,” Dante said. “Let’s just keep moving because we’ve got to find a portal, or the Khee, or something. I just don’t want to be here anymore.”

“I would agree with that,” Greff said.

“Why don’t we start by going to where you met this Water Maiden,” Dante said.

“O.k., just follow me,” Seeya replied. “We’ll be there in a jiff.”

He zipped off and Greff scrambled up as they all tried to follow. No one wanted to shout out his name for fear of attracting the Wumpus, and he was soon lost from view.

“Stop.” Addis stood a moment. “He does this when he’s excited. He’ll figure it out in a minute. That we’re not behind him.” Sure enough, Seeya soon darted back to where they stood. He was breathless.

“Sorry, I just got so excited. I’ll try to be sure you’re keeping up.” And he darted a few feet, hovered to make sure they were with him, and then darted off again. They followed him along the shore of the lake that was across the pass down from the mountains, and away from the Wumpus cave. They reached a large rock formation and he turned inland.

The shore had been littered with sticks and twigs but when they turned inland they began entering the trees. There was something oddly familiar about the forest, and Dante looked around.

“Have we been here before?” she asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” Ori said, looking around. “But it may just look familiar since we’ve passed through a lot of woods like this one.”

“Maybe,” Dante said, but somehow she didn’t think that was it. She was starting to feel apprehensive and wanted to turn back. She reached out for Ori’s hand. He looked at her in surprise, but didn’t say anything and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.

Seeya flew further in to the woods, and then stopped. There, in the middle of the trees, was a gazebo. It had been made to look like part of the woods, with natural branches and leafy coverings.

“After I flew out to eat last night, I couldn’t get back in,” Seeya explained. “They turned the lake to ice, and I didn’t see the need to wait around until they turned it back to water. So I decided to try and find a place to sleep. I don’t know why I came in this direction, but I did. And I found this,” he said, pointing to the gazebo. “It seemed like a good place to spend the night, so I went in to make sure it wasn’t, you know, dirty or anything. I was checking it out when the Water Maiden arrived.”

He flew closer to the gazebo. The others walked up to it and went in. When they were all inside the gazebo, Seeya continued.

“I was just looking into my mirror, making sure that I didn’t have any hair out of place or anything, when she appeared to tell me that I looked wonderful.”

Addis was turning in a circle looking around. “This doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Why would this be here? I don’t understand what’s going on.” He seemed distressed, so Dante dropped Ori’s hand and went to stand beside him.

“I’ve been so wanting to meet you all,” came a soft, lovely voice behind them. They spun around. There, standing before them, was a beautiful woman. She was dressed in a flowing robe that shimmered when she moved and looked like light on the lake. Her long dark hair curled in waves over her shoulders. She had pale skin and green eyes like crystals. Dante thought she was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen.

“Hello Seeya,” she smiled and waved at the Oralian who looked nearly faint with pleasure. She made her way to Greff.

“And you must be Greff,” she said. “Your arms look strong and capable of much work.”

Greff frowned at her and folded his four arms across his chest. She laughed and the sound was soothing like a waterfall.

“You think I’m just flattering you, but I can see that you’re the most industrious one of this bunch.”

“And you’re Ori,” she said, bowing in the Bastahl tradition. Ori did not bow back. “Ah,” she smiled. “A skeptic. You mind is keen and you wish to understand before you accept. That is a commendable trait, and I can see that you are the only one of this group who possesses it.”

Ori still didn’t respond, but his body relaxed slightly and he inclined his head.

“And you,” she said, turning to Dante with a smile. “I’m guessing you’re Dante. I don’t know where you come from, but I sense such a warmth from you.”

She held out her hand and Dante took it, “I hope we can be great friends,” she said, and put her other hand on Dante’s head. Dante felt a flood of warmth, and could understand why Seeya had trusted her. Surely she must be able to help them.

“And you,” she said finally, turning to Addis, “You must be Addis, the mystery.”

“I guess so,” he said, his hands folded on his tummy.

“But what’s this?” she asked, coming closer and reaching out to touch the pendant around his neck. He instinctively put up his hand to guard it.

“It’s very important,” he said, “and I must never take it off.”

“I can see that it marks you as a powerful and wise being,” she said, inclining her head to him. “Now, you must all come with me and be my guests at my home.”

“I don’t think so,” Greff said immediately. The others looked at him in surprise. The lady raised her eyebrows slightly. “But why not?”

“Well,” Greff began, but he couldn’t seem to think of a reason.

“Well nothing,” Seeya said. “We’re going.” He turned to the Water Maiden.

“I cannot wait to see what your place looks like! And we all need some rest and some decent food, and my goodness a bath!”

He stopped and his eyes got large. He flew close to her and in his silkiest voice he asked, “We can get a bath can’t we my lady?”

“Oh my yes!” she laughed. “And please call me Lyria.”

“So,” Seeya said, turning to Greff, “you can stay here by yourself if you like, but I’m going to get comfortable. For this first time in days!” and he motioned for Lyria to lead the way. The others began to follow.

Dante turned with a pleading look on her face. “Greff, come on, please?”

“Fine, but this is not the right thing to do,” he said. So with Lyria in the lead and Greff bringing up the rear, the group walked further into the forest.

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.

Endolye Chapter 5: Lending a Hand

Chapter 5 – Lending a Hand

“ADDIS!” Seeya screeched. “What have you done? The indignity! The treachery! I can’t believe you would do that! Pushing me, unwilling, into goodness knows where! What if I never see my Bulu again? What if there’s danger here? What if,” he paused for a moment and closed his eyes, “it’s ugly.”

He flew at Addis and hovered in front of his face, “I demand you get me back to the Bulu! This is outrageous! I simply will not stand for this!”

As he hovered in front of Addis with his arms crossed, Dante thought he actually looked a little panicked. A hair had fallen across his forehead and there were a few beads of sweat on his brow.

“Seeya, you’re being ridiculous,” Addis said. “Not to mention that you’re nearly hysterical. Look, you have a hair out of place.”

Seeya instantly regained his blank expression and smoothed back his hair. “Well,” he sniffed, you don’t have to get personal.”

Addis reached into his bag and pulled out a pair of hiking boots and a camouflage vest. He pulled an ottoman from his bag and sat down to put on his shoes. When he was done he put the ottoman back into his bag and stood up. He looked at the other two, and then looked around.

“Right,” he said, “any of this look familiar to anyone?”

Dante and Seeya both shook their heads. Seeya approached the arch, but as with the portal in the field, it disappeared when he got close to it. He turned and Dante smiled at him kindly.

“Well,” he said, “it was worth a try.”

Although his face was still blank, Dante thought she recognized something about it. Then she realized it was the look of someone about to cry. She quickly tried to think of something that might make the small Oralian feel better.

“Well, Seeya,” she said smiling, “at least you’re the best looking thing around here.”

Seeya brightened a bit and looked around.“Well,” he said, “yes, I am, aren’t I?”

Addis just shook his head and picked up his bag. He looked around, decided on a direction, and began walking. Dante and Seeya followed him around the boulders and down a small hill. When they reached the base of the hill they had to walk around more boulders in front of them. As they rounded the corner Dante stopped and stared in surprise. Addis had stopped a few steps ahead of her, and stood watching the scene.

“What?” Seeya said, bringing up the rear. “Why did we stop?” Then he too saw what they were watching.

“Oh,” he said, “they’re not at all attractive, are they?”

A community of creatures was in front of them, digging industriously. They had rounded backs that looked like they were made of armor, and they had four arms and two legs. At least Dante thought it was four arms and two legs.

Although the way they’re using them, she thought, it could be four legs and two arms, or three arms and three legs, or six legs or six arms. The creatures were chanting as they dug, and huge amounts of earth were being moved. Dante took two steps forward to stand next to Addis.

“What are they?” she whispered.

“How should I know?” Addis answered, turning to look at her. “It’s my first time here too, remember?”

“Well,” Seeya said, swooping past the two of them, “there’s nothing like a good first impression, and that’s my job.” He flew down to the nearest creature and hovered in front of it.

“Hello there,” he said, pleasantly, his face expressionless. “Could you please tell us where we are, and who you charming folk might be?”

Without ceasing its work or looking up, the creature said, “You’re in the Hollow, and we’re the Brox.”

“I see, uh, Mr. Brox,” Seeya said, “well, I’m Seeya, and that’s Addis and Dante.” He gestured to the two figures standing slightly apart from them. The Brox didn’t look up from his work.

Seeya flew back to Addis and Dante, “Well, obviously there’s some problem with these people.”

Dante went slowly toward the working figure, and stopped a short distance away. “I’m sorry to bother to you,” she said, “but we could use some help.”

The creature stopped working and looked up. Dante smiled tentatively, while Addis and Seeya slowly approached.

“We don’t know where we are,” she said, “but we’re looking for portals, and for any news about the Lost Council.”

“I see,” it said, wiping its forehead with one of its arms, and placing two others where its hips would be, if it had any, which it didn’t, “and why are you doing that?”

He looked the three of them up and down. “We’re not interested in any Council or in any of those folks coming back. They went away to do a job, and when the Brox returned he was talking all about the journey of the inner self and aesthetic values. Kept getting distracted when he had a job to do. Just as well without him. And without you.” He turned back to his work.

Addis stepped forward. “Now look,” he began, but Dante cut him off.

“I’m sorry we’ve bothered you. We’ll just pass through and keep going.” And she began walking past the Brox, motioning for the other two to follow.

“Stop, stop,” the creature said. “I didn’t say you had to go, it’s just that I’m busy here. Look, we’ve got to finish our work before … well I don’t have time to explain now, but if you follow this path you’ll come to the Pod, and you can wait there until we’re finished. Then we can talk and see what help we might be.”

“That’s great,” Dante said, “thanks so much, and it’s been a pleasure meeting you.” She extended her hand.

The Brox looked at it a moment and then said, “You’ve only got two, I wouldn’t be giving them away. Or is that how you lost the others?”

Dante dropped her hand and stammered, “Well, no, it’s just that where I come from…”

“Is of no concern to me.” The Brox turned back to his work. “I’m Greff,” he said, “and you’re welcome to stay. Just keep following the path between the rocks.”

“Well,” Seeya said as they left, “wasn’t he charming. Addis, this might be a good place for you. These people might actually make you look good.”

The three continued along the path Greff had pointed out. They made a turn around another large boulder and then stopped, realizing they must have reached the Pod.

There were Brox everywhere. They were standing in groups, and the younger Brox were playing games with each other. Everyone seemed to be involved in something.

Dante said, “Wow, they just seem to be doing something all the time, don’t they? It’s like they just can’t sit still.”

Seeya said flatly, “Work is just obscene. You don’t see anyone looking very good when they’re working.”

“Let’s just see what we can find out,” Addis said. He moved forward into the group with Seeya hovering around his head and Dante following.

“Look, strangers are in the Pod,” one of the Brox spoke, but without stopping what it was doing.

Another walked by without stopping, adding, “Yes, it looks like they’ve come from far away.” The adults kept working, but the children stopped what they were doing and came over to where the three travelers stood.

“Who are you?”

“Where are you from?”

“Why don’t you have more arms? ”

“How do you fly?”

“What’s in your bag?”

They stood looking eagerly at the newcomers and spoke all at the same time. For once, Seeya seemed shocked into silence; Dante was still trying to make sense of what was happening.

Without a word Addis opened his bag, reached in, and threw a handful of what looked like shiny marbles into the crowd of Brox youth. They squealed with delight, and ran around and over each other to retrieve their treasures.

Dante watched, delighted, as they played. They ran and shouted and laughed and when one stumbled or fell, several others stopped to help their friend to its feet. Often they would roll themselves into balls and be batted around by the others. One rolled past Dante and she batted it. It rolled right into one of the adults, who without stopping what it was doing, batted it back out into the crowd of children.

Dante found herself liking the Brox, despite their apparent lack of warmth. It was obvious they took care of, and cared deeply about, each other. It’s not that they’re unfriendly, she thought, they’re just busy getting their work done.  But I do wish they could stop for just a little bit to talk with us.

After they stood there watching for a moment, Seeya crossed his arms and sighed pointedly. “Well, we can’t just stand here watching this all day.”

Addis said, “Well, Seeya, for once we’re in agreement.”

He headed over to a sandy clearing between several of the rocks and opened his bag. He pulled out a beach umbrella, three folding chairs, some sunglasses and a pair of flip flops. He set up the umbrella and chairs, took off his hiking boots and vest, donned the sunglasses and flip flops and sat down.

“Have a seat.”

Seeya snorted. “No, I’m going to sit in front of all these people. What if I fall asleep? How would that look? I’m just going to take a look around and get our bearings.” And he zipped away from the clearing and out of sight. Addis watched him go then looked at Dante.

“He’ll just find somewhere else to take a nap where no one can see him,” he said. “Too bad, he’s missing out on a comfortable chair.”

Dante sat next to him. “How do you do that?” she asked.

“Do what?” he looked at her.

“That,” she said, pointing to his chair, the umbrella, his flip flops.

“It’s my bag,” he said slowly, in that ‘you’re really not very bright’ tone. “Just like you get the things you want from your bag.”

“You mean my backpack?” she asked. “Well, I can only take out what I’ve already put into it, and I certainly couldn’t fit in all of this stuff, and all the other stuff you’ve taken out. Yours is like a magic bag.”

He just looked at her for a moment, and then said defensively, “I don’t know. Look, it’s just my bag, and that’s just what it does. I don’t ask it why, it just does it. And really, if the bag wanted anyone to know, it would be up to the bag to tell them wouldn’t it?”

Dante was surprised that Addis seemed angry, but before she could say anything he looked away and closed his eyes. “Perhaps,” he said loftily, “you and your bag have some issues.”

Dante studied him for a moment, but he didn’t move or speak again. She took her journal out of her backpack and began to draw Addis sitting in the chair. As she finished, she heard a gentle snore. She got up and stretched, and then walked over to where the Brox were working.

She approached the closest Brox. “Is there something I can do to help?” she asked.

Without stopping what it was doing, the Brox answered, “Do you know what it is we’re doing?”

They were weaving some kind of baskets, or maybe it was some kind of chair. Four arms were moving very quickly, and Dante had trouble keeping up.

She finally answered, “Well, it looks kind of like you’re weaving something, but you’re going so fast it’s hard for me to tell exactly what you’re doing.”

Without stopping the Brox simply said, “It would take me more time to explain than I would gain by your help.”

Dante just nodded, feeling stupid. Then the Brox gave her what looked to be a smile. “But I’m glad you asked. I doubt your friends would. They seem to be a little lazy. You at least were doing something.”

Dante looked over to where Addis was sleeping, mouth wide open, looked back at the Brox and they both laughed.

“I’m Turra,” she said, “ and if you want something to do, why don’t you just go spend some time with the little ones. It will be a treat for them to play with someone new.”

Dante wandered back over to where the Brox children were playing, and spent the rest of the afternoon with them. She learned several new games – all all of which required a lot of arms – but no one yelled at her if she did something wrong, and she found herself having a very good time even though she wasn’t very good. It was just fun to be playing and having a good time.

Suddenly, without warning, banks of fog started rolling in. It was so thick that you couldn’t see through it. Dante stopped in her tracks, the swirling mass surrounding and blinding her. She was a bit frightened, and was surprised that none of the Brox children seemed to panic.

She heard a voice to her left saying, “Central point here. Central point here.”

She wasn’t sure what to do, but as she heard and felt movement around her began moving toward the sound of the voice. She could hear the footsteps of the other Brox, and occasionally she bumped into someone. There would be a “sorry,” from the fog, and they all kept moving toward the voice calling “central point here.”

When she began bumping into more and more bodies, she stopped. There seemed to be a large group where she was standing. There was a moment of quiet, and then the voice spoke again.

“Everyone call out.”

And then each Brox began to call out their name. It was very orderly, and Dante realized that they all knew the order in which to give their names. When they were done, the voice said, “Visitors?”

“I’m here,” Dante said, “but I don’t know about Addis or Seeya.” At that moment something smacked her from behind. She heard a thump.

“Ouch!” she said rubbing the back of her head.

“Sorry,” it was Seeya’s voice. “I couldn’t see a thing, but I flew toward the sound of your voice.”

As she rubbed her head she heard Addis’ voice off to her right.

“I’m on my way,” he said. He was heading toward them, holding a yellow fog light in front of him, and working his way toward the group. Once he reached Dante’s side he put the light back in his bag.

“That’s not really very helpful after all,” he said.

“Good,” the voice said. “Everyone stand still and don’t move.” There was a collective groan.

“I know, I know,” the voice said, “but we can’t risk anyone getting lost or hurt. Just sit down and wait.”

Dante felt the ground around her and sat down. She wondered how long they would be waiting there. She asked, “How long does this usually last?”

“We don’t know.” She recognized Turra’s voice. “Sometimes it just lasts for a little while, and other times it lasts a long time. We lose a lot of work time.”

“Not to mention it makes us crazy just having to sit here and do nothing!”

“How long has this been happening?” It was Addis who asked this question.

“Well, it’s hard to say. Of course it’s distressing each time it happens so it seems like a long time, but now that I think about it, it’s probably only been two or three dig cycles.”

Of course, only the Brox knew what a dig cycle was, but the answer seemed to satisfy Addis.

He spoke again. “I’ll bet it’s about as long as the sudden rain storms have been happening at the Bulu.”

“What’s a Bulu?” asked a small voice.

“Not now, dear.”

They sat for a few more minutes, and you could hear restless shifting. Then, in the distance, a faint sound of chanting could be heard.

“Oh good, the diggers are coming back.”

The first voice began calling out, “Central point here, central point here,” and gradually the chanting stopped. Soon Dante heard shuffling footsteps moving toward them, and when he spoke she recognized Greff’s voice.

“How long?”

“We were mid-way through the day’s tying cycle.”

There was no answer. With the diggers back, everyone seemed content to sit. Just as suddenly as it had come, the fog lifted. Dante looked around and could see Brox surrounding her. Addis sat next to her in a folding chair, wearing a yellow slicker and hat. Seeya sat between them. Dante looked at Seeya and began to laugh.

“What?” he seemed slightly annoyed. Then suddenly horrified. “What?!”

“Your hair,” Dante said, trying to stop laughing. “The humidity must have made it friz a little.” She took the little mirror he had given her out of his backpack and held it up so he could see. His hair was a fuzzy mass.

Seeya’s hand shot to the top of his head and he gasped. He zipped off so quickly that you almost couldn’t see him go.

Dante looked at Addis with smile. “I tried not to laugh, but it was too funny.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Addis said, “he’ll be back.”

Although the fog had lifted, it was starting to get dark. The Brox quickly put away their tools and their work, while the children all ran over to a set of large flat rocks and began setting out gourds and dishes. As the food preparations began, Dante was astonished at the change in the Brox community.

The Brox hugged and laughed and patted the children. They all worked together to build fires and cook the food, sharing stories of their day and playfully teasing each other. It was ready quickly and all the Brox began taking their places at the large rock tables. Greff motioned to Dante and Addis to come and sit next to him. As they sat Dante looked around for Seeya.

Greff looked at Dante and asked, “Hungry?”

At Dante’s nod he handed her a plate laden with steaming food, a cup, and some eating utensils while heaping food on the plate of the small Brox to his right.

Dante began eating. She wasn’t sure what the food was, but it had a nutty taste to it, it was hot, and she enjoyed it. Greff waited until she had begun eating and then looked over at Addis, who was already busy stuffing his face with food.

“Where’s your other friend?” he asked.

“Well,” Dante said, “I don’t know. He got a little upset after the fog lifted, and he flew off somewhere.”

“Yes, it can be quite upsetting to lose so much work time, but going off by yourself certainly doesn’t help.”

“He wasn’t upset because he couldn’t work,” Addis said, between bites, “he was upset because he thought he looked funny.”

The Brox stopped eating and looked at each other.

“But,” Turra said, “what does that have to do with getting your work done?”

Addis just shrugged and kept eating. The children were staring at Addis until Greff said “Eat!” and they all began hurriedly cleaning their plates.

Turra said, “The one called Dante asked if she could help me with the tying today.” The others looked at her in surprise, and Greff eyed her with a new appreciation.

“But she couldn’t do much with just two arms,” another one said.

“No,” Turra agreed, “but she asked.”

The other Brox nodded approvingly, and Dante felt Greff pat her on the shoulder. “So,” he said, leaning back in the woven chair, “do they chant where you come from?”

“Well,” Dante said, “we sing sometimes.”

“Sing?” Another Brox was looking confused.

“It’s like chanting,” Dante said, “but it’s more, well, musical.”

“Show us.”

“Yes, yes,” all the Brox were chiming in now, “show us what you mean.”

Dante felt her face getting hot. She looked to Addis for help, but he gave her a ‘you wanted to talk’ look and just sat back.

“Uh, well, o.k.,” she said. “Um, let me think of a good song.”

The Brox waited expectantly, and Dante thought for a minute. “O.k.,” she said, “this is a song my mom used to sing to me when I was a little girl.”

She began to sing ‘Sing a Song of Blackbird’ and the Brox listened eagerly. They seemed to enjoy her singing, but before she could reach the end of the song she felt her throat close up and she began crying.

“I’m sorry,” she said, trying to stop her tears, “it’s just that I kind of miss my mom and dad. I don’t know where they are, or when I’ll see them again.”

“Oh little one,” Greff put an arm around her, and with another arm wiped her tears, “of course you’re sad. I’m sure all three of you are sad to be away from your others.”

“Addis doesn’t have any others.” The voice came from above them, and they looked up to see Seeya enter the clearing.

“At least not any that he can remember. I, on the other hand, miss my friends.”

“Come and eat,” Greff motioned to a chair across from him that had been left empty. Seeya eyed the table warily.

“Well,” he began, “that’s very nice, but you see, well, I usually eat alone.” The Brox all stopped eating, and Dante heard one of them gasp.

“Alone?” Turra seemed incredulous. “But why?”

“Oh, well,” Seeya began, but Addis interrupted. “They’re afraid they’ll look bad.”

Everyone seemed confused, but Greff finally spoke. “You can’t look bad to us, not if you’re eating,” he said.

He motioned to the chair. “Sit.” There was something about his tone that let you know it wasn’t any good to argue. Seeya sat down and watched as food was piled onto a plate for him. When it was set in front of him, he looked around. He looked at Dante, who quickly looked down at her own plate and began eating. He looked at Addis, who was still busy with his own food.

Seeya slowly began to pick daintily at his meal, and was soon eating without worrying that the others might be watching him. Dante couldn’t help but notice that his manners were impeccable.

Greff turned back to Dante. “I’m sorry you’re sad, little one, but we’ll do our best to put you to work so you can be happy and not think about your troubles.” The other Brox nodded in agreement.

Dante smiled at him. “That’s very kind of you, but I’m not sure we’re going to be able to stay.” She looked at Addis questioningly and he nodded. “I’m guessing that in the next day or two, another portal will show up and we’ll just keep on going.”

“Where is it you’re going?”

“We don’t know,” Dante looked into Greff’s eyes as she spoke. “But I think that if we can find the Lost Council, it might help us answer some questions. Like why I’m here, who Addis is, and maybe even why these weird things are happening, like the rain and the fog.”

Greff looked steadily back and her. He seemed to be making some kind of decision. “All right,” he said, “if another portal appears, I’ll go with you.”

“No!” Turra cried.

Greff looked at her kindly. “I must,” he said. “It’s as important to us as any other work I could do. We need to find out what’s going on with the fog; it’s happening too frequently and we’re unable to finish our work. Eventually there won’t be enough burrows, or chairs, or blankets.”

Turra just nodded. “Well,” she said hopefully, “maybe another portal won’t appear.” No one said anything, but there were three people at the table who very much hoped that wouldn’t be the case.

After dinner the Brox, with their usual efficiency, cleared the table. They let Dante help, although she felt rather silly and ineffective. But they all seemed to appreciate her desire to pitch in. Addis and Seeya had already retreated to the clearing, where they were gazing up at a clear sky full of stars. When Dante was finished she came over and joined them.

“Well,” she said, “how long do you think we’re going to be here?”

“Who knows,” Addis said looking up.

“Well, I certainly hope it isn’t long,” Seeya said, “I just don’t think you realize how difficult it can be living among people who don’t share your values. You know, people who don’t seem to understand what’s important.” He looked expectantly from Addis to Dante, but they both stared blankly back at him.

“Oh,” he said suddenly, looking slightly embarrassed, “yes, well, anyway, it would be nice to get back to the Bulu.”

“For you.” Addis said, and the three of them were quiet until the Brox began to join them. Greff started a small bonfire, and they all sat around in a large group. Greff stood up on the far side of the fire and began to talk.

“The Brox are a community of workers. We know that for each of us to prosper, we must all work. As long as we can remember it’s been this way. When it was time, we sent our Council members to the mountain for instruction.”

Greff paused and looked at the others around the fire. Each Brox looked very solemn. Unlike the Oralians they didn’t seem afraid, but this was obviously something they took seriously.

“The last time we sent a member to the mountains, he came back without the knowledge he was supposed to have gained. He tried to tell us not to work so hard – that there were other things to be enjoyed in life. He wasn’t contributing to the digging and he wasn’t bringing us news from the other tribes. The thing that was hardest for us to understand, was there were times he simply wanted to be alone.”

Here Greff paused and took another look around. At this point some of the Brox were looking away from the fire, and Dante sensed that something bad had happened.

“We tried to keep watch on him, because we were worried. Of course that was hard, because it took us away from our other work. Eventually, he slipped away without us seeing him. We organized a search party, but we never found him. Neither he nor any portals have appeared since.”

Here Greff stopped and looked down. He shuffled his foot for a moment and then looked back up. “If another portal appears, I’ll try to go through it with you. Since you’re all here, I have to believe that you’re part of the next Council.”

Seeya spoke immediately, “I can tell you that I most certainly am NOT part of the Council,” he said. “I’m just an unfortunate victim who was pushed through the portal – and what a nasty trick I might add. Addis just shoved me through and dragged Dante with us.”

No one said anything for a moment. Dante thought about it for a moment and then asked, “Well, if you’re not part of the Council, how did you get through the portal?”

Everyone looked at Seeya. “I…I…” he stuttered.

Addis spoke. “Maybe it was because he was with me.”

Greff looked at Addis with surprise. “What makes you say that?”

Addis fingered the pendant around his neck. “I don’t know,” he said, “I just think it was because he was with me.” They were all silent.

“There is one more thing,” Greff said.

They all looked up. He walked over to where they had put the food away, and pulled out a small wooden pipe with holes. He held it out to the visitors.

“What is it?” asked Seeya.

“We can’t remember,” Greff said, “but it came to us in the time of sharing, before the portals vanished. We don’t know its purpose.”

“May I see it?” Dante asked.

Greff handed it to her. She put it to her mouth, put her fingers over the holes and blew. Soft music came out. She moved her fingers to make different notes. Several of the Brox children gasped, and the adults seemed astonished. Dante handed it back to Greff who looked at it, and then her, suspiciously.

“How did you know?” he asked.

“It’s just that we have musical instruments where I come from,” she said. “It looks kind of like a recorder, so I just thought I’d try it out. I think you make music with it.”

Greff continued to stare at the pipe, then tentatively blew into it. He jumped at the sound that came out. He frowned, then extended the pipe to Dante. “Why don’t you take it, you seem to know how to use it, and it doesn’t help us with our work.

“Oh, well, o.k. Thank you,” she said, putting the pipe in her backpack. She felt a awkward, and didn’t know what else to say.

“Well,” Addis broke the silence standing and stretching, “I think it’s about time to call it a night.” Greff looked down at Dante and Seeya, who both nodded.

Turra said, “Addis, you and Seeya can sleep in one of the nursery burrows that’s not being used right now. Greff will show you. Dante can sleep with the little ones. Kell, show Dante where to go.”

Addis and Seeya followed Greff. One of the young Brox stepped forward, and Dante followed the rest of the Brox children down into a burrow. They entered through a large tunnel, and Dante realized that must have been what the diggers were doing – creating new tunnels. They passed large cavernous rooms, filled with woven furniture. There was no artwork or fabric coverings. Everything was very simple, and crafted with gourds or woven materials. They went deeper and deeper into the burrow. Small lanterns were set into the walls at intervals, so they could see where they were going. They turned down another corridor, and reached a large room with a very large woven mat on the floor.

“This is where we sleep,” Kell said, plopping down on the mat.

The other Brox children simply began piling down on top of each other. Dante looked at them in dismay. They reminded her of a litter of ferrets she had seen once in a pet shop, sleeping entangled in one another. She looked around at the stone walls.

“What’s the matter?” Kell asked.

“Aren’t you afraid that the walls might cave in on you?” Dante asked.

Kell looked surprised. “No, of course not. The burrow would tell us if there was a weakness in one of the walls. We would feel the vibrations before the walls fell.”

“Really?” Dante asked. “You can feel that?”

“Yes,” Kell answered. “Now come and sleep.”

Dante tried to find a place for herself in the heap of Brox. She tried very hard to stay still and go to sleep, but found herself having to roll, scratch, and occasionally move out from under another body.

Each time she moved, no matter how slight, they would all wake up and begin asked her what was wrong. She finally convinced Kell that she needed to find Addis, that he was the one she wanted to be with. Kell led her sleepily through the underground tunnels to the guest burrow where Addis and Seeya had gone. He pointed to the door and left.

Dante peeked inside. Addis was sitting in an overstuffed purple rocking chair with a reading lamp, dozing with his hands folded on his tummy. A small screen was set up on the far side of the room; Dante assumed Seeya was on the other side. Addis had on a robe and slippers and was smoking a pipe.

“Hey Addis” Dante said softly.

“Umpf?” Addis started awake and sat up. “Oh, come on in.” She heard a small sound of displeasure from behind the screen. Addis turned and spoke to it.

“It’s o.k., Seeya, it’s just Dante.”

“Well, I’m staying back here and no one come on this side! I’ll come out in the morning when I’m ready.”

Addis rolled his eyes and turned back to Dante. “What are you doing here?”

“I couldn’t sleep, and every time I move they all wake up and want to know what’s wrong.”

“Ah yes. We couldn’t seem to get it across to them that Seeya wanted his own place to sleep. Apparently it’s just not done here. It’s fine, you can stay here with us tonight.” With that, Addis reached into his bag and pulled out two folding cots, two sets of sheets, two blankets and two pillows.

“Aren’t you going to put away the chair?” Dante asked.

Addis looked at the chair, and then back at her. “Don’t be silly,” he said, “it’s obvious that chair didn’t come from my bag.”

Dante looked at the chair, but couldn’t see anything about it that was any different from any of the other items Addis had taken from his bag.

Addis looked at her and snorted, “Hmmph, as if my chair would be that color.”

“Oh please,” came the disembodied voice behind the screen, “as if you’d even know a good color.”

“Then where,” Dante began, wondering how a purple rocking chair had gotten into the Brox burrow but Addis interrupted her. “It’s not my chair.”

She didn’t argue, and they settled into their beds. Dante, exhausted, fell into a deep sleep.