Note: To read The Wishing Map from the beginning, click here.
The Wishing Map
Chapter Twenty-Three: Return to Rennou
Previously: Zack and Gina’s quest led them to Rennou, the village where Gina had been celebrated as a dragonmeer (“dragon mother”).
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Gina stared at the rust-brown stalks for half an hour while Zack sat in the dirt thumbing through the big Frengan history book. He finally slammed the book shut and said, “Look, we can’t stay here forever!” He glanced up at the cinnamon-orange sun. There couldn’t be more than half an hour of light left. “I mean, you know people there, right? So we should just—”
Gina began walking down a barrow path between two shrennel fields.
Zack trailed after his sister for ten minutes before he noticed the condition of the crops. He reached out and clutched one of the stalks. Shriveled seeds fell through his fingers. “Crud, these are all messed up.”
Gina palmed a handful of shrunken seeds and stared at them, willing them not to be dead. “No, no, no, no…” she muttered, then walked toward the village, saying “no” over and over again.
The sun was gone by the time they reached the town; the shadows were beginning to run together, and darkness was stealing all remaining traces of color. Whatever it might once have been, there was something wrenchingly sad about this place now. A few of the shops had lighted lamps within, but not one had its lanterns lit without. It was as though they were saying, “Come in. Or don’t. We don’t care.” A handful of people moved silently along the main avenue. No one stopped to chat. No one even seemed to notice Gina and Zack.
The tallest structure in the village was a high, free-standing roof supported by eight intricately carved pillars. The pillar nearest Zack and Gina was horribly splintered, as though something huge had crashed into it, causing the corner of the roof to collapse. The stalls inside (Zack could see now that it was a marketplace) had been moved to avoid further damage, but no real effort had been made to repair anything. As his eyes adjusted to the indigo shadows, he began to make out the details of a remarkable building. “Wo, there’s a big honkin’ house over there!”
“Dragon Manse,” Gina whispered. She began walking toward it, stepping over benches and rough-hewn crates filled with rotting melons and fermenting grapes.
As Zack got closer, he noticed that the house had double-arched castle doors and a big stage-like porch. There were painted carvings of dragons everywhere. It was one of the most extraordinary buildings he’d ever seen. He worked his way between the booths until he arrived at the porch next to his sister. The collapsed marketplace roof had crushed a corner of the Manse, causing one of its gables to dangle like a half-severed limb over the fire-blackened platform. This was not the result of aging or neglect; something violent had happened here.
He fingered the charred wood.
Thoughts: Have you ever poured your heart into something, only to return and find it all but dead?
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