The Call of the Rift: Flight480
The Call of the Rift: Flight480
Seventeen-year-old Kateiko doesn’t want to be Rin anymore not if it means sacrificing lives to protect the dead. Her only way out is to join another tribe, a one-way trek through the coastal rainforest. Killing a colonial soldier in the woods isn’t part of the plan. Neither is spending the winter with Tiernan, an immigrant who keeps a sword with his carpentry tools. His log cabin leaks and his stories about other worlds raise more questions than they answer.
Then the air spirit Suriel, long thought dormant, resurrects a war. For Kateiko, protecting other tribes in her confederacy is atonement. For Tiernan, war is a return to the military life he’s desperate to forget.
Leaving Tiernan means losing the one man Kateiko trusts. Staying with him means abandoning colonists to a death sentence. In a region tainted by prejudice and on the brink of civil war, she has to decide what’s worth dying or killing for.
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|Series:||Call of the Rift Series , #1|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.40(d)|
|Lexile:||HL650L (what's this?)|
|Age Range:||13 - 17 Years|
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"Ouch!" I cursed under my breath and sucked on the line of blood that appeared across my thumb.
"You're doing it wrong." Fendul took my hunting knife and peeled a curl of dark wood from the palm-sized figurine. "Hold it like this. You'll stab yourself in the gut otherwise."
"Nei. It doesn't work that way." I yanked it back from him.
We sat cross-legged on the rocky beach of Kotula Huin, a still, glacial lake. Drifts of fog surrounded us. Colossal hills loomed over the valley, its dense layer of trees barely visible against the dark sky. A dull pink glow silhouetted the jagged peaks to our right. Behind us, the forest dripped. My fingers were too damp to grip the rawhide cord wrapped around my bone knife.
Voices drifted down the shoreline. "Don't you have somewhere to be?" I asked.
Fendul shrugged. "Not until the ceremony starts."
"So you're up this early for the fun of it." I rolled my eyes. I'd been awake for an hour already drying wood for a bonfire, along with my aunt Isu and three others who'd spent years learning to call water. Our skills weren't usually required so early in the morning, otherwise I might've been more reluctant to learn. Not that I had much choice. As the eldest — and only — child of an antayul, I was bound by custom to become one as well.
I bent my head over the driftwood. In my peripheral vision I saw Fendul tossing a stone from hand to hand.
"Can you stop that?"
The stone fell with a clatter. "Concentration conquers distraction."
"Don't underestimate yourself," I muttered.
"Ever consider I'm not the problem?"
"Ever consider shutting up?" I tossed my knife away and flopped backward, piling my hair into a pillow.
Fendul's face appeared in my field of vision. We shared the same dark eyes, sharp features, and wiry builds. Even after a summer apart, our skin had tanned to the same warm muted shade — but while my light brown hair spilled past my waist, his hair was charcoal black and cropped short. We didn't have much choice in that either. He couldn't grow his long until he married. I'd never been allowed to cut my hair and never would be.
His amulet swung back and forth as he leaned over me. I reached up as if to touch the crow, carved from a black shark tooth, then pushed on Fendul's bare chest. "You're blocking my view."
"Of what? It's barely light."
"Of the clouds, bludgehead."
"Come on. Try again." He grabbed my hand and pulled me upright. I sighed and picked up the knife, letting him place my hands in what he insisted was the right position.
"What is that? A fox?" he asked.
"Nei." I could hear the pressure to elaborate. "It's a wolf."
"That's not the colour used for wolves. Lighter wood is more suited to ..."
I stared at him. He trailed off. Without breaking eye contact, I flipped the figurine over my shoulder. It rustled through some bushes and thumped to the ground. He muttered something that sounded like "immature."
The clouds were brightening, turning pale pink and white like the smooth rocks I used to collect from creeks. The lake was turning turquoise. I stood up and sheathed the knife at my back next to my throwing dagger. "I'm going to find Nili."
I wandered down the shore. The beach would only exist for a few more days now that the autumn rains had started. Kotula Huin sat in the eastern reaches of Anwen Bel, a rainforest where everything was wet, covered in moss, or covered in wet moss.
Dozens of canoes made from hollowed tree trunks had been pulled up past flood level. My father had carved our family's canoe. A thin-billed kinaru with its long slender neck rose from the prow, its wings flowing down the sides. Supposedly our ancestors came from a kinaru egg laid on this very spot. Our tribe's name, the Rinjouyen, was an ancient term for people of the lakeshore.
These days I shared our canoe with Isu, my mother's sister. We 'd just returned from the east where we traded every summer with itherans, the foreigners who settled around our lands. My hair still smelled like goat from their alpine pastures. The remaining Rin had trickled in last night, exhausted after canoeing the lakes and rivers of Anwen Bel on their own trading trips.
Past the canoes, at the tip of a small peninsula, stood a pyramid of stacked driftwood. Drummers, carrying their hide drums on straps around their hips, stood angled toward it. Dancers faced them from the far side, their embroidered shawls making surreal silhouettes in the dawn light. I barely had time to notice Nili's absence before she dashed out of the forest, clouds of dark brown hair flying, her shawl streaming behind her.
"Help." She thrust out a handful of tangled black ribbon and a thin polished stick.
I gathered her hair into a tail and tied it with a ribbon. "Every year, Nili." I wouldn't have done it for anyone else. Hair was as sacred as the heart or blood and was bound by even more taboos, but Nili and I were long past the point where that mattered.
She half-turned, her round cheeks wide with a grin. "Isu said the firewood was done a while ago. What've you been doing?"
"Wasting my time." I slid the stick into Nili's hair and tied ribbons to each end so they hung down to her shoulders. "Fen thinks he can teach me to carve."
"Fendul couldn't teach a fish to swim. Don't let it get to you, ai?"
"Yeah. Whatever." I knotted her shawl laces around her wrists. "There. Get in place."
"I'll find you later." Nili waved and stepped into the dancers' line.
Fendul now stood on the opposite side of the bonfire from his father, Behadul. Both held lit torches. As sunrise crept closer, the rest of the Rin assembled on the shore, leaving gaps for those we'd lost. The dead took up more space than the living. We were a small jouyen now, just over a hundred people left. The elders said we once had thirteen thousand.
Among the gathered Rin, Isu turned, looking for me. I retreated under cover of the trees. Antayul were expected to watch and sing along. Not talk, not move, not be disturbed that six years ago I found my cousin, Isu's elder son, washed ashore here — months after we buried him. Storms had uprooted his grave and dumped his body in the lake. We could only tell it was him from his tattoos.
The elders said it was a blessing he returned to our sacred place of origin. Every autumn ceremony since then, I'd stood at Isu's side twisting snare wire around my hands until they bled, watching the lake, wondering which of my eight dead cousins would turn up next. This year I'd had enough.
A drum boomed as the sun burst over the mountains. Behadul and Fendul lowered their torches to the tinder. Flames licked up the pyramid. They retreated to the base of the peninsula, their torches forming a triangle with the bonfire. Drummers filed into a half-circle around the fire, swaying and stamping their feet as they pounded drum skins with leather mallets.
Dancers whirled and moved their arms like birds soaring across the sky and diving to earth. Their shawls — black outside and white inside, like kinaru wings — billowed out behind them. Clusters of crow feathers in their hands sliced the air. The dancers seemed to float above the earth, a second away from taking flight into an invisible world just out of reach.
Drumbeats echoed off the slopes. Behadul's voice resonated in a chant. The others joined until the entire jouyen called out to the lake valley. Legend said that the drums were loud enough to be heard in Aeldu-yan, the spirit world of our ancestral dead, and the echoes were the spirits' reply. The ceremony announced our return home from our summer travels.
Or, in my cousin's case, from his grave.
The music compelled me to move. No one would notice me back here. The spiritual stuff was bearshit, as far as I could tell. Dancing just kept me from thinking. Looking. Remembering.
I spun in a circle, eyes shut tight. I felt the familiar tingle in my fingers as I called water to me, and tendrils flowed out from my fingertips and snapped through the air. Then, everything changed. The tingle crept up through my chest and into the back of my skull. I opened my eyes.
Maybe it was the dawn light, fog in the valley, or smoke from the bonfire, but suddenly the world opened up and I could see through to the other side — to Aeldu-yan.
My heart thudded. I didn't want to see my cousin's mottled, bloated face again.
Dizziness rolled over me. My water whips dissipated as I stumbled and fell to my knees. I blinked until my eyes focused on an immense rioden tree on the near shore. Its branches sprawled green and lush. I leaned sideways until my hair brushed the ground and I nearly tipped over — and the smudges of green vanished from the rioden, and it was once again black and bare, as it had been for the six years since lightning had struck it.
Rin elders said that the spirit world, Aeldu-yan, was a quiet forest that never changed. I always wondered how they knew. Curiosity battled with fear. I stretched out my arm, but the void drifted beyond reach.
An odd feeling lingered after the dance ended and the bonfire was extinguished, when the drums were just an echo in my head. I waited until the others dispersed before I drifted down to the lakeshore. Water lapped at the toes of my boots. The air smelled of fish and wood smoke.
Nili appeared at my side. "What're you looking at?"
"I ... don't know." I turned away from the lake and looked down at her bright eyes.
Nili was two years older but half a head shorter than me, and had a feather tattooed on each forearm that marked her as a dancer. Sweat gleamed over the kinaru inked on her upper left arm, its wings spread and long neck held straight — the same crest all Rin had.
"Do you ever ... see anything weird when you're dancing?" I asked.
"Hmm." She bounced on the balls of her feet, ribbons swaying. "Sometimes it's like I can see the earth from above. Why?"
I had no idea what that meant. "Never mind."
"Let's go then. I'm starving." Nili ran back up the beach ahead of me.
I followed her into the forest. Auburn rioden swelled above me, their crowns a green blur in the fog. I shoved aside prickly branches that sprang back into place and flicked dew into the air. Evergreen needles carpeted the dirt. The damp was smothering after dawn in the open valley.
We emerged into a cluster of tents. They were more of a formality than proper shelter, just thin canvas panels roped to branches and staked into the ground. Nili left to find her mother and brother while I went to the tent I shared with Isu.
"Kateiko," Isu said. "Where did you run off to this morning?"
"I was with Fendul."
Isu skewered a fish and set it on the fire. She was lean and had calloused hands and greying hair. "You've been spending a lot of time with him since we got back."
"Only because boys keep hanging around Nili. It's like they forgot what she looks like over summer. Even Fendul's less annoying."
Isu huffed. As she turned away, she might've smiled. Maybe that'd distract her from asking where I went during the ceremony.
Breakfast was hurried, followed by stripping the camp. I half-listened to Nili's chatter as we set off in a winding column of people, wicker carryframes on our backs. Anwen Bel looked the same as always, glowing with yellow and white mushrooms, orange lichen, and a thousand shades of green — but something breathed under the surface. Some world I'd never believed in.
"I wish I attuned to a bird," Nili said hours later as we climbed Aeti Ginu on wooden steps half-hidden under clumps of feathery ferns and roots thicker than a man's waist. "Imagine if we could fly up this mountain."
"You wouldn't be able to fly with a carryframe," I said.
"Then I'd be a giant bird. Maybe a kinaru. Yeah, a kinaru would be good —"
"Kinaru don't exist," her younger brother, Yironem, said in front of us. "Mudskull."
Nili threw a scaly hemlock cone at him. It bounced off his head. She dropped her carryframe and ran laughing into the trees, skidding down the slope as he pelted her with cones. I rolled my eyes. A brawny drummer lingered by her carryframe as the rest of us went on.
The steps were almost vertical in places and I was out of breath by the time I reached the top — and home. Aeti Ginu's plateau, mostly grass with clusters of berry-laden bushes, was the highest point within a day's hike. To the west, the wooded slopes were teal from haze. The eastern range was white with snow.
People trickled between narrow plank houses that stood like scattered sentinels, sod roofs covered with fuzzy moss. Aeti Ginu always looked bleak when we returned in autumn. Fishing nets gone from the walls, wooden racks for fur tanning packed away. When I shouldered open the door to my house, a flock of squawking birds retreated to the roof.
Isu put me to work immediately. I dragged mattresses outside and dumped reeking straw down the mountain. I scrubbed the canvas and gathered fresh grass to stuff inside. As I drew the last bit of moisture out of the blades, the tingling I'd felt at the lake crept into my chest like an itch that couldn't be scratched away.
Behadul and Fendul were at the far end of our plank house when I went back in. I watched them talk as I arranged the mattresses on low dirt platforms. They stood straight-backed, hands on their sword hilts. They both wore breeches laced at the knees above their boots, their arms and chests bare. I wondered if Fendul would look like his father in thirty years. I pictured him with a long grey braid and stifled a laugh.
I flumped back onto my bed and stared at the vaulted ceiling. The house was too big. Too empty. Its one room could fit eight, maybe ten families, who would gather around the fire in winter to share food and stories under the gaze of wooden figurines on the mantelpiece. But it was just the four of us and the row of carved birds and bears and wolves.
Sometimes, during windstorms, it sounded like the figurines were howling. Isu said it was the voices of people who used to live in our plank house. I said they should find someone else to bother. They made it impossible to sleep.
Fendul interrupted my thoughts. "We should keep busy. There's a lot to do before dark."
I sat up and looked for Behadul, but he was gone. "It's barely afternoon."
"If we finish early, maybe we can go set some snares."
An opportunity to escape Isu. I ducked my head so he wouldn't see the smile that tugged at my lips. A thought surfaced that I'd rolled around until it was worn smooth. I hadn't planned to bring it up yet, but I couldn't wait any longer. "Fen, I need your help."
"With what?" He sank to the ground, sitting cross-legged with his elbows on his knees.
I dug my fingernails into the packed dirt. "I want to visit the Iyo-jouyen."
"You can't. You know the route to their territory is ruined."
"The storms were six years ago. It can't be that bad."
Fendul studied me, his dark brows drawn together. "Who's going with you?"
"Nili. Her mother already agreed. And ... Isu said I can go if you come with us."
"Kako, you don't know what you're asking." He pinched his temples with a thumb and a forefinger. "What do you want? To see the ocean? You always complained your parents never took you."
I flicked dirt out of my nails. "It's not about that. I haven't seen Dunehein, my own cousin — my last cousin — since he married into the Iyo. Don't you want to see all the Rin who left?" "It doesn't matter what I want."
"Then do it for us. You're the okoreni, the future leader of the Rin-jouyen. You're supposed to help with this stuff."
My gaze brushed over Fendul's tattoos. The kinaru on his left arm was wreathed by black huckleberries from his mother's crest. One day, the interlocking lines around his upper right arm, a finger-width shy of a circle, would be joined just like his father's.
Fendul hadn't been first in line for okoreni. His parents had two daughters before him. Neither girl reached a year — some foreign illness from itherans. Fendul, the third and last child, lived. He was eight when his father became okorebai and he became okoreni. He hadn't even been initiated into adulthood yet.
Growing up, I admired one thing about Fendul. Alongside me, he learned to trap game and tan furs, alongside Nili to sew and weave, plus he helped the woodcarvers, herbalists, leatherworkers — all so he'd understand the work of the people he was bound by blood to lead. That hadn't stopped ten-year-old me from rubbing itchbine leaves in his gloves after he reset my snares the "proper" way. Or thirteen-year-old me from filling his bed with ice after he told Isu I snuck off to meet a canoe carver's apprentice among the huckleberry bushes.
Excerpted from "The Call of the Rift Flight"
Copyright © 2018 Jae Waller.
Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
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