A reader came up to me at the Savannah Book Festival and asked when the next Molly book would be out. I honestly don’t know. I have two versions of this book in draft, one of which is long and complex; the other dives right into her next adventure. It might be a month of playing around with these before I decide which direction to take it. I can tell that I was writing the first of these for myself and the other draft for the reader. After the break, you can read the opening bits of the former.
Is this on?
The table? Yes. Of course.
The Circle records everything.
But the Secretary manages the recordings. Right?
Speak freely. My office will handle the rest.
Will someone tell me why the war council has been summoned? I’m assuming you all have heard—
One war’s end does not mean the end of war, Councilman.
This is about the Human girl, right?
Astute as ever.
Careful who you insult. My Wadi was a pace longer than yours—
Now it’s a full pace?
Enough. Both of you.
I side with the Counsel of Interior. Are we really here for a single girl?
Not a single girl. There are two of them. The one who is your queen will be trouble enough, but I believe if we work together, the crown will crush what lies beneath it.
And the Human?
My sector is erecting monuments to this girl.
It’ll be a religion in a matter of sleeps.
Is it too late to simply dispatch her?
Would you douse a fire with oil?
Cultural is right. Killing her would launch a crusade.
Killing her is always an option, but we must discredit her first.
Discredit a child who ends wars? I wish you luck.
Your wish may have already been granted.
What do you have to report?
Her Wadi is dead.
The living Queen?
Those rumors have already cooled in my district.
The more provincial of districts are the last to know.
Pants of Laughter
We have the body.
The Wadi Queen’s?
No, the Human’s you idiot.
Yes, the Wadi Queen. It was buried on Lok.
And you have it?
I can work a shovel.
It’s truly dead?
Does this mean she is no longer a Drenard? No longer a threat?
It means she’s a Drenard in name only. Like you.
With a dead Wadi, the fourth verse means nothing.
So the rest was coincidence?
Are you a believer?
Of course not.
Where is the body?
We have it.
We’ll put it on display.
Or serve it for soup.
We’ll do neither. We will encourage this cult.
They think her incapable of dying.
Let’s have them put this to a test.
The powerful winds of Drenard filled the Wadi Thooo’s wings, driving her high and fast through the air. Far below her lay a cracked and brightly lit landscape, canyons splitting off and rejoining, over and over, to create a world that looked from dizzying heights like a Wadi’s scales. The newly born Wadi watched as thousands of footsteps passed by with no effort, the fierce and steady gusts powering her and the other flying Wadi along.
One of her siblings screeched with a lungful of delight as he soared beside her. The three of them flooded the air with powerful scents of delight, of mixed memories from before their births, all of the thoughts and emotions swirling with the much fainter memories rising up from the ground, from the millions of other Wadi leaking their thoughts into the air.
Wrong way, one of the flying Wadi scented, a male kin, but it came as a happy observation, not a complaint. They were all too joyously alive to dare complain.
No. This is right, another scented. I feel it.
The Wadi agreed, but she was sure that it was a leftover memory, a recollection from some wingless life. They had their mother’s memories in them, leftover in a complex aroma to fill their eggs and teach them all a child should know. Among these lessons were memories of memories, ancient things, little hard stones of truth trapped among the day-to-day of surviving. Mother-of-mother truths and even older. A scent of some great journey Wadis embarked on back before wings withered to nubs. A great journey with winds at one’s back, a companion at one’s shoulder, soaring toward the center of the light, rising above the cracked earth before peeling away toward darkness. Even as these newborn Wadi soared over the home of their brethren—who were bound to the ground with their wingless backs—this Wadi was sure that this was their journey, one not taken in many a memory.
Up. Up! A sister scented, and the Wadi remembered. Not remembered, so much as knew. Deep in her bones, in the parts that get passed from mother to daughter, she knew that this was right. They were going the wrong way, but that was a brief part of the journey. Up ahead, with the two lights directly above them, the currents of wind would rise in a great, turbulent column of air. They would ride these, lifted to magnificent heights, before the powerful currents turned the other way, running in circles above the whole of their home, driving them all the way back around to the other side of a great sphere, larger than any egg could ever be, one side of which was lit, the other side bathed in darkness.
This is right, she scented the others. This is right. She flapped her mighty wings and darted forward, slicing ahead of the rushing air. The others screeched and followed, diving and turning and reveling in the freedom of life. This way, she told the others. This is where the dark Wadi go.