Chapter 13: The Land of a Thousand Skies

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-Jack

Skai's snakes were moving before the sky finished cracking. Then she had disappeared from my sight once again.

The cracks looked much bigger up close. Skai had easily slipped through before they were even done widening. Now, we rushed up towards my fate.

It was all I could do not to puke at the thought.

I slid through what looked like a hole of splintered glass and rose up into a strange new land.

As I rose through the crack, I wondered if the sky's ground was glass. When I looked down, I could still see the same clouds and stalk below me. Then my vision rose to the horizon line.

The glass ground was nice, but what really stopped my breath from coming was the sky. It was something of a patchwork quilt, only it was a stretch to call any of the cuts of fabric neat squares, or even rectangles. Also, some of the transitions between the patterns weren't exactly seams; instead they faded into each other. There were shivering iridescent shades; a sickly green cut; a section of unnatural blues, purples, and pinks; and night sky, black and bejeweled with stars. We rose right below the seam of a ceiling of still but stormy cloud and wheat-golden sky. The Edge between Juxtaposition and the Farmlands. The sky to the east was an intense red that eventually faded into dusky pink.

Below, the world was turning to night, but here I doubted things were so simple.

The only landmarks within my field of vision were the kind that must have been there for a very long time: a tall, dark mountain gushing deep red and gold; a giant dent in the glass, with much of the inside surface cracked; and a lake of intense reds and pinks and greens.

Skai and I were currently making our way east, towards the red and pink cut of sky. Soon we'd pass the dark mountain. It seemed we still had a ways to go before we reached our destination. Either way, the sooner we escaped, the better.

But what did I have? I'd used up all the beans, traded away my mum's painting, and my only solace was that I was now at least being carried away rather than killed.

I looked around, at the blue and white showing through the glass below, at the golden field above, and the few scattered landmarks. There was nothing to use, and even if there had been, we were way up here.

Skai looked back at me, all signs of her usual brisk, matter-of-fact self gone. Instead, her eyes were wide, full of awe, and pleasure. She'd never seen anything half so colorful, and it had disarmed her.

For a moment I forgot the snakes waving below and around me.

"Still want to live at the Edge?" I called up to her.

Her face clouded, and she looked away.

Great.

We were close to the mountain now, so close that I could actually feel the heat radiating from it. Not normal heat, but a kind that made my fingers and tongue tingle.

Then, as we drew even closer, I became aware of something so terrifying and majestic, I almost couldn't contain my emotions. A large black cat with blue dragonfly wings stood atop the mountain, watching us solemnly, its eyes shifting like fire. I'd never, in all my wild imaginings, dreamt up anything so awe-inspiring. I could only wonder at the sheer power it must contain.

Skai was turned toward the cat too, mind obviously embarking on a very different horse of thought. "Hey! Hey you! Weird black thingy!"

I waved my arms at her frantically, but she didn't notice. What was she doing?

"Hey. Could you-"

But she didn't get to finish. The cat sprang, dragonfly wings shivering. It soared towards us, staring at Skai with an intense expression that would inspire terror in even the bravest of hearts. Never bait a magical creature.

Turns out the cat didn't just scare us- the snakes scattered.

"AHH!"

I had been so preoccupied with finding a way to get away from the snakes, it had never occurred to me I would still have to survive even if I had.

Now we were dropping, wind whipping past, cat diving after us, claws outstretched, heedless of the snakes that were all gone by now. Which would have been so cool, even if it was also so terrifying, if that was all.

But no- the nightmare was never ending. Before the cat could even reach us, I saw a flash of scales, these ones lightning blue. No thank you. Between the cat and another snake, I'd pick the cat.

"Hang on!" said a high-pitched voice that was almost more of a chirp, then I was yanked to a stop by my duffel. I tried to look behind me, but we were now shooting towards Skai, racing against the winged cat. It hissed at us, but whoever was carrying me didn't stop. From my position, I couldn't tell if we'd gotten Skai while zooming past, but I figured from the way my ride whooped, it was a pretty safe bet.

"Jack?" Skai called.

"Are you insane?!"

"What? No thank you? I got us away from those horrible snake thingies, didn't I?"

"Right. And now we're being carried off by some other creature."

"That's right," said the creature in a singsong voice.

If I had been able to see Skai, I'd have quirked my eyebrow at her. Instead, I again tried to turn enough to see our definite rescuer, possible captor.

While I was turning, the creature angled up sharply, and my arms slipped through the straps.

"Careful there!" the creature chirped, moving a clawed foot around to grab me, one claw on each shoulder, the other three wrapped around my back. Each claw was thicker than my head and looked razor-sharp. Thankfully, though, aside from a small discomfort increased by turns and dives, they didn't seem to be doing any damage.

"So," I asked somewhat hopefully. "You're not a snake?"

"What's a snake?"

Did no one know? "Then what are you?"

She rose straight up, then dove. "I'm Marrianna! What are you?"

"Um, Jack." I guessed I had to expect sky creatures to talk a little differently.

"And the other one?"

"I'm Skai." She sounded lost.

The creature chirruped. "Yay! Two new friends!"

I curled my toes, surprised to find them missing the feel of dirt. "Well, I mean, that really depends on where you're taking us."

We had now passed by the giant dent in the glass, and were veering away from the lake of liquid color, towards a pit of black sludge. I was pretty sure we were doing a lot of extra loops and dives, which didn't much bother me. Now that I had talked to the friendly sounding creature, I was sure we were no longer in any danger. Still, it couldn't hurt to make sure. My stomach rose to my throat, and I grinned.

"To be my lunch, of course!"

Retract my grin.


A/N: Thanks for reading! Comment below: what did you like? Dislike? I'd love to hear from you!


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