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The Wishing Map
Chapter Nineteen: The Naim Games
Previously: Zack chose semi-finalist storysmiths for the upcoming Naim Games. Meanwhile, his sister Gina and her friend Maerith continued to search for him…
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Gina lifted her cloth-creased cheek from the folds of Maerith’s skirt, the echo of her dream still rattling inside her head: She’d seen the man in the golden helmet again. “Help me!” he’d cried, just as in the previous dream, but this time added, “Stop them!” He said the words as if they caused him horrible pain, as if he had to force his vocal cords to make the sounds, and force the air in his lungs to push them out. And then Gina saw the Dark Tinkurs. Had they captured the helmeted man? They were smelting purple gold, amarrildin. A dragonskin-cloaked Tinkur was extracting a diamond-shaped mesh of violet metal from a crystalline furnace when he suddenly began to scream and shake. The object consumed him, and with him all memory of his existence. Suddenly the helmeted man loomed before her once again. “Find the Revealer! Stop them!” And then he vanished.
The words “Revealer” and “stop them” played like loops in Gina’s mind as she and Maerith set out in silence, eating hard bread and dried fliffers. Gina sipped from a leathern jug, but Maerith whetted her lips and moistened her face with sea water from the fishskin bottle.
“Why do you do that?”
“Fisher folk is peculiar. They must ha’ the sea wi’ them or their skin begins ter peel away.”
“Uch! But you didn’t start out as a fisher person.”
“Yet the sea chose me, all the same.”
‘Chose,’ Gina thought, just like the helmeted man chose me. But first I have to find Zack. Only what if the naims don’t have a clue where he is? Or what if he’s dead?! She let out an involuntary gasp.
Maerith stroked her eyebrow, which was oddly comforting, and said, “Uol will not forsake yer, lee sister, nor your brother.”
After a lavish and peculiar feast, the Naim Games began. What struck Zack immediately was how utterly uncompetitive they were. There was a sort of race in which four naims faced each other, each with one leg hooked onto the belt of the naim opposite, making an X in the center. Then the four were set loose to spend the rest of the day walking around like an animal with four giggling heads. There was no finish line, and no winner, just a lot of laughing. Another race had a finish line, but the contestants weren’t naims, they were grookwarfs riding big eyeless muldywarfs. It was fascinating to watch the grooks navigate as the muldies crashed headlong across the clearing, their sickle-shaped claws tearing up the turf.
“Who do the teams belong to?” asked Zack.
A bit perplexed, Noddie answered, “We’re theirs, and they’re ours.”
“You and Sniggle, you mean?”
Noddie stared uncomprehendingly for a moment, and then said, “Aye, me and Sniggle belongs ter all as well.”
“So…everybody belongs to everybody?”
“Aye,” said Noddie, as if he’d asked,
“So sky is up and earth is down?”
Thoughts: Have you ever played just-for-fun games in which it didn’t matter who won? What would the world be like if there were no “them,” only us?
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