Chapter 12 (part 1 of 3)

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Chapter 12

Gallen stood up to his knees in the warm water of a new world, panting, holding onto Everynne's hand. He spared the world a quick glance: twin white-hot suns spun on the horizon. In every direction, a shallow sea reflected the yellow sky, and fingers of vapor climbed from the water. The sea was calm, with only tiny lapping waves, and when Gallen looked toward the distant suns, a strange prismatic effect caused the waves to sparkle in a rainbow. Maggie and Orick were searching about, unable to spot land. But to the southeast, Gallen's mantle showed him distant bluffs of coral, rising from the water.

"Where the hell are we?" Gallen asked angrily. He was shaking—they'd come close to getting butchered on Fale, and Gallen didn't like that. Even worse, he didn't appreciate Everynne hiding things from him—like the fact that she carried a weapon that could destroy a world. She put the Terror into a fold of her robe. Veriasse opened his map.

"We're on Cyannesse, of course," he said. The map showed them as a fiery dot of red, but showed no gates. Veriasse pushed a corner of the map, and its scale expanded to display a continent—if continent you could call it. Cyannesse was mostly ocean, and the land here looked to be only a rough archipelago. "Ah, here is the gate," he said, pointing to a blue arch. "Only about a thousand kilometers. We're not far from a city." He pointed southeast, toward the cliffs. "Let's go."

"I don't get it," Orick bawled. "Why don't we see the gate from this side? Why did we get dumped in the water?"

"You don't see a gate from this side," Veriasse explained, "because the gate doesn't have two sides. Each gate on a planet is like a bow, shooting you toward a single destination, and you are the arrow. You simply land where you are pointed, within reason. An intelligence is built into each gate, and that intelligence continually tracks the destination planet. There is a beacon buried beneath us that tells the gate how deep the soil is, so you don't land in a bed of rock. When this gate was built, this spot was on land, but now the oceans have risen. Still, I've been through this gate before—this spot is only underwater during high tides. We can make it to shore easily enough." Veriasse made as if to depart.

"Wait!" Gallen said, looking first to Veriasse, then to Everynne. Gallen still had not sheathed his sword; it dripped blood into the clear, warm water. "Neither of you are going anywhere until I get some answers."

"What?" Veriasse said. "You wear the mantle of a Lord Protector for two days and think you can beat me in combat?"

Gallen stuck his sword into the sand under the water, swiftly pulled his incendiary rifle, aimed it at Veriasse. "I've known you less than a week, but I have heard two very different stories about your plans. First, you said you planned to start a war to win back your realm. But a minute ago, you said you plan to destroy nearly a hundred worlds. I may be a Backward, but I've learned a few things in the past week. If that Terror breaks, it will destroy this planet. You are jeopardizing every world you set foot on. No one has that right! You've been traveling between the Maze of Worlds, and by your own admission you have sabotaged world upon world. Though you may be a Tharrin, Everynne, I have yet to see evidence of the compassion that you claim as your birthright."

Maggie and Orick kept still, not daring to interrupt. Veriasse held back. Everynne watched Gallen and licked her lips.

"You are right, of course," she said. "I'm not what I seem. On Fale, they so wanted a new incarnation of their great judge that they were willing to believe I was her without any evidence. But I am not so certain that I am my mother's daughter."

"Don't say that!" Veriasse interrupted. He said to Gallen, "How dare you! How dare you set yourself up to judge her, you miserable little piece of filth!"

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