“She’s supposed to be here!” the Shopkeeper sounded distressed, something Maxine hadn’t seen before. His agitation bothered her but more in an annoyed kind of way rather than making her worried. We came all the way up this gigantic mountain for nothing?! she thought.
Yunil the Riant was dreaming. Each unconscious thought the ripple from a pebble landing in a deep, dark edgeless pool. One ripple ran into the next before they each faded off into oblivion. She felt serene, languid.
By the time morning came, Maxine found herself yet again traveling across strange lands but at least she felt more comfortable with her company. Kevin, the young man from Michigan, had brought her a savory herbed vegetable hand pie and a revitalizing drink made from the nectar from a flower of which she couldn’t remember the name. Captain Gray Wing also seemed to be a little more friendly than she had first expected as he started to tell her more about the sword she carried.
Maxine had been to many meetings in her life–staff meetings, Zoom meetings, impromptu meetings, annual review meetings–but this was her first time attending a meeting in the Hall of Kablooey. Well, at least Maxine thought it was the Hall of Kablooey but it was actually the Hall of Kabluii. How was she supposed to know how it was spelled?
There was no sunset that evening and the gray sky just gradually became black. There was no moon and all the stars were hiding behind their blanket of cloud cover. Maxine had been hoping for at least a glimpse of the moon so she could see a resemblance between this world and hers but it seemed that her fate was dragging her along on blind faith alone.
“Well, Maxine Waters, I can’t say I’m impressed but it looks like luck was on your side.”
Maxine blinked to find the dreadlocked man standing above her. What had Falcon called him? Captain Gray Wind? No, Gray Wing.
He held out a hand and, after a few seconds of hesitation, she took it and he hauled her to her feet. She immediately felt the need to sit down again.
“Did you hear me? We’re under attack!” the dreadlocked man stared at Maxine with an intensity that made her want to move out of his view.
“Um, sword?” Maxine flexed her right hand fingers unconsciously.
Before he could answer her, another BANG made the ship tremble and Maxine fell back against the wall of the cabin. The dreadlocked man cursed loudly and yelled to someone as he ran from the door, “Falcon, bring her a sword–a weapon of any kind, really–and tell the crew to hold positions. We aren’t letting this behemoth of a beast bring us down now when we are so close to Minka’s Port.”
Maxine was dreaming but she was only tangentially aware of it. The rain was still pounding and the wind was blowing but she wasn’t sure if she was in the middle of a storm or observing it from somewhere else. She drifted back and forth between one location and the next, simultaneously aware of being wet and cold and warm and dry. Her confused brain tried to make sense of up and down, light and dark. If she was able to form cohesive thoughts, she would say she was in one hell of a quagmire.
When Maxine left her house twenty minutes ago, the air was merely wet. A light drizzle left a soft mist on her zip-up hoodie. As she neared the corner market, though, the promise of a dry sky was quickly thwarted by a billow of cold wind and a swift downfall of heavy rain.