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  • majoki


The waves rolled and crested as the shorefolk slept. A clutch of trilly probed near the tideline, their fluted snouts grubbing deep in the sand, as razor gulls circled in the offshore breeze.

The trilly scattered when a gull dropped senseless among them. Another gull hit nearby. The trilly fled.

Nightfell. The spreading vapor blotted out the stars and enveloped the coast. A dark silence followed, until the wailing began. Too slowly, the impenetrable vapor dissipated, too quickly the reality set in. Nightfell.

In the pre-dawn bleakness, the shorefolk gathered and tallied the missing. Seventeen taken in the vapors. Seventeen children gone. There was heartbreak, anger, resignation.

Nightfell was mystery and misery.

Nahry knew that. Her younger brother, Tabbiou, did too. They were untaken. Always spared, though not blessed. They were marked with suspicion, resentment, envy. Othered.

Nahry led Tabbiou away from the newly grieving parents. Into the tall grasses above the wide beach, through scrub brush and lone palms, up into the foothills where hardwood trees thickened into towering forest. She stopped before going on. A second night waited under the thick, far-reaching canopy, not the terror of Nightfell, but dangers were legend in its unexplored gloom.

Nahry looked from the darkness ahead to her brother’s bright eyes. “Your choice.”

“You only say that when there’s no choice--or a terrible choice.”

She didn’t disagree. She waited.

“We’ll always be untaken,” Tabbiou said after a few moments. “Outcasts. We know where that road leads.” He peered deep into the forest beyond which lay Doon, the taken, and all the horrors of Nightfell. “If you still think our only choice is through here, I’ll help search for your secret path, but it’ll be a dark way.”

“The darker, the better,” Nahry said and pushed her brother forward.

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