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.