It began like the creation story I told to the children, in a time so long ago it felt like someone else’s life.
At first, there was nothing. Cold nothing and darkness.
At some point I became aware of a sound, thump-thump thump-thump thump-thump. It grew louder and louder, until I realized it was not a sound at all, but my heartbeat. This was around the same time I realized I had a body, because the chains that bound it were too heavy, too cold, too tight.
The world began to whisper. I strained to make out words.
Sensa, whispered the darkness.
The word was vaguely familiar.
Perhaps it was not the word, but the voice I recognized.
My name, I remembered. My grandmother is calling my name.
I looked around, straining to see.
There–close and far away all at once, lying on the ground, wearing even more chains than me.
Gramma looked different than I remembered. There was hardly a streak of brown in her gray hair. Wrinkles of pain and worry creased her face. Where before I had thought of my grandmother as strong, not fattened by indulgence or softened by age, I now saw her build as frail.
Sensa! she screamed.
Gramma, I said. I must have whispered, because I heard no sound. Gramma did not notice me.
Sensa, where are you?
Gramma! I screamed. No sound came out.
Sensa? She called. The despair in
I’m here, Gramma! She neither heard nor saw me. I tried to move toward her, but with my chains, I could only inch forward.
I thought…I thought Sensa would come for me, said Gramma.
I’m here, Gramma! I’m looking Gramma!
Gramma sobbed bitterly. I was a fool not to see the truth. Sensa has forgotten me.
My heart broke.
Sensa, she cried.
Sensa…Sensa has forgotten me.
I started awake, sitting up so fast my head slammed into Will’s.
“Ow!” said he.
“Sorry,” I said. I rubbed my face. It was wet with tears.
Will shook his head. “No, it’s okay. It’s just…I was…you were screaming in your sleep.”
“Oh.” I was embarassed. “Did I wake everyone up?”
“Surprisingly, no.” He pointed to the sleeping forms of Gwen and Richard. Rich snored softly. “I have the watch right now.”
I laughed breathily. “Those two could sleep through a troll stampede.”
“True,” Will laughed. But his worried eyes were searching mine. “Seriously, though…are you okay?”
I almost said yes, but hesitated. I resigned myself to the truth. “No.”
Will waited for me to go on.
“It was a nightmare. Not, like, a nightmare, but a nightmare.”
“I thought you said you didn’t get dreams,” said Will.
“This would be the first,” I conceded.
“Wow, okay. So what happened in this dream?”
I told him.
“Sensa, that’s…that’s awful.”
“The worst part is, I bet Gramma actually is thinking all those things. I bet it seems to get like I’m not even looking for her.” I shook my head.
“I’ve got to find her, Will. I’m her only hope. The people in the City may send out search parties, but she’s not a priority. You want something done, you’ve got to do it yourself. I’ll never stop looking, not until I find Gramma or I find her body or I die myself.”
“Whoa, whoa, wait–her body?” said Will. “Your grandma is alive Sensa. You’ve got to believe that. And we will find her. We will, Sensa. We will.”
“We?” I asked.
“We.” Will assured me. I smiled.
I had plenty of determination, and perseverance in me, but I had to constantly remind myself that my search was not in vain. Will’s seemed to have deep, naturally occurring reservoirs of steady faith. My own hope was unyielding, but Will made the endgoal seem real, attainable, inevitable.
“Is it my turn to take the watch?” I asked.
“Yes.” Will said.
I got up and put on my hooded cloak and leather armor over my clothes.
“Yes?” Will was studying his shoes. When he looked up, I couldn’t recognize the emotion on his face.
“I wanted to apologize to you, about…earlier. At the orc camp.” Will was ashamed, I realized. The emotion looked strange and foreign on his face, a word said perfectly in the wrong accent. “I shouldn’t have fought that orc. It was incredibly stupid of me, and arrogant.”
If Will could bear the humility of apologizing, so could I. “Will, I was wrong to say you were arrogant. It’s not exactly true; you’re overconfident in your abilities.”
Will laughed. “And I shouldn’t have said you were selfish. It’s not exactly true; you’re self-absorbed.”
“I’m beginning to realize that.” I muttered.
“So, will you forgive me?” he asked.
“Will you forgive me?” I retorted.
“I forgive you,” Will smiled.
“And I forgive you.” I said.
I bent to pick up my knife, and saw something glittering on the ground.
“What’s this?” I said. I picked up the object and held it up to the moonlight. It was black, shaped like the letter D, and about the size of my palm. It was thicker on the straight edge and tapered off into a razor-sharp rounded edge. Its patina reflected the moonlight like a mirror.
“It looks like a bit like a nightmare scale,” said Will. He drew one of his swords and touched the tip to the surface of the scale. It should have vanished into swaths of shadow.
The scale stayed put, real as ever.
Will and I looked at each other. My own burning curiosity was reflected in his face.
“We should stay put,” Will said.
“We really should.” I concurred.
“Maybe set up an extra guard for the watch.” he continued.
We looked at the scale in my hand again for a long moment, then back at each other. Will bit his lip. Wordlessly, we came to an agreement.
I ran silently over to Rich and shook his shoulder.
“Wake up! We’re going exploring!”