The elders are talking again, and the parents. Everyone's talking, but no one's talking to me or Kee. They won't tell us what's going on. Which explains why Kee and I are in one of the passageways off the Great Council Hall.
"Mizuti, we're going to be caught!" Kee whispers. His mask always makes him seem to be looking down, being very bland and boring. It's a silly sort of mask for the best storyteller ever, even if he doesn't fight like he should. It should be a nice bright one, but Kee always insists on using this mask. I guess it works for snooping around like this.
"The Great Mizuti will not be caught!" I murmur back. "Never ever. Not once. Impossible."
Kee shakes his head. "They'll hear us-"
"So be quiet then, Kee! Shhhh," I say. I lean against the door to the main room of the Hall, sound vibrating through the wood door and the wooden ear of my mask. Loud sounds.
"So then something is happening above the Taintclouds?" That is Father, certainly.
"I'm afraid so," says a voice that must be the Great Kamroh's. I know it after him teaching me so much, so long. "There are trickles of information from the Sky involving the old prophecies."
"But which prophecies?" someone asks. "There are many we Children of the Earth have left from the old times."
"Those of the evil god."
"Someone's trying to awaken Malpercio?" Mother says sharply. "But the seals our ancestors placed on him-"
"Are weakening," the Great Kamroh says. "I fear one has already been released. The old spells tracking Ar have failed."
The adults start arguing. I turn and stare at Kee. This is bad. Awful. Maybe even lethal. I know his eyes have to be as big as mine at the moment.
"What should we do?" one of the elders shouts above the crowd. "We do not have the power to fight the god as our ancestors did."
Someone calls out, "Does anything in the world match that power?"
"Silence! I said, quiet!" The crowd shuts up. Mother always has quite a way with words. If I could ever learn that magic that makes people do what you say, I will be one happy Child of Earth!
"We are still shielded by the wards at Zosma Tower. The Sword of the Heavens is safe," the Great Kamroh says. "We are still safe here, under the Taintclouds."
"We won't be safe if the world ends," Kee's mother says. I watch Kee wince at the truth in that.
"Indeed," the Great Kamroh says. "We are looking for some way to affect this turn of events. Malpercio is in part our responsibility. Somewhere in all these events must be some way to stop it again…"
Kee grabs my arm, dragging me back away from the door in good time as it opened. One of the elders grabs a book and pen from the shelf near the doorway, but never noticed me and Kee huddled behind the oil barrels. He shuts the door, leaving us in almost-dark.
We take the other door out and go to our house, the one Kee's family and mine shared. There we curl up on the bunk, or Kee did. I stay floating above it, precious adventure book hugged to my body, thinking hard.
"What would make someone release Malpercio?" Kee says softly. "It's crazy to let the dark god walk free."
"People do things to get things," I respond. "Love. Friendship. Leadership. Power."
Kee hugs his knees to his chest. "The god will kill them. He's evil." He shakes his head. "I guess whoever's releasing him doesn't know that, huh."
"Or it could be someone dark releasing him, like in your stories," I say.
"You may be right, Mizuti," Kee says, looking miserable.
"No, Kee, I joke! That was a joke! Funny!"
Kee twists around to look at me. "Mizuti, this isn't a joke!" he yells. "This isn't one of the legends!" I bounce back, eyes very wide. Kee does not yell, never; that is why he gets picked on so bad. Something was wetting the bottom of my mask. A tiny drop slips out, minuscule, but Kee suddenly stops and looks down. "I'm sorry, Mizuti. I didn't mean to yell at you."
"It okay," I stammer. "Kee is right." I settle all the way down on the bunk. "We must do something."
"Well, if this was the time of the ancestors, of the first Children of the Earth, a hero and his trusty sidekick would go out and make sure the seals didn't fall into the wrong hands."
"But Mizuti, this isn't a legend or the time of the ancestors."
"But does that make the action wrong?"
Kee jerks back. "You mean we should?"
"Think, Kee," I say, straightening out my plans. "I have a lot of magic, you have a lot of story wisdom. Everyone says so. Together, we are invincible. Unbeatable. We could do it like the ancestors did!"
Kee stares at me. "The elders may say you've got as much magic as an ancestor, but that's nothing next to an evil god!" He shakes his head again. "No, Mizuti, we can't!"
"We must," I say. "Someone must stop Malpercio. We're the best there is for the job. But we must decide quickly," I tell him, "or the adults will come back and we'll never get out."
Kee tugs at his shirt.
"Hey, I don't want the world to end," I tell him. "I'm going!" With or without you, Kee, best friend. I'm not letting you all die. Never ever. Impossible. Not fated.
Kee sat there.
I frown under my mask, knowing Kee would sense it. I make a huge noise of gathering my spells and borrowing some travel goods. I hope they never find out I took the Sacred Wine; that would just scare Mother and Father silly, thinking where I could go and need that. Of course, it doesn't work so well if you're the one dead already. I turn around. Kee still sits on the bunk.
He was my best friend, my only friend, sometimes, when the others were scared and jealous of my magic. We had shared stories and adventures, both real and imaginary. He was the only one not to get mad when I call myself the Great Mizuti and slip into that heroic creature act the ancestors must have used, like in the stories. He never minds when I hover-walk, or talk in big archaic ways, or brag, or anything. Kee is just my friend. And now here we are, about to embark on the voyage of a lifetime- several lifetimes, how often did the world get threatened?- and Kee wants to stay behind. He's going to leave me alone to save the world.
"Good-bye, Kee," I say cheerfully as I can. "The Great Mizuti will tell you all about her adventures when she returns!" I walk out the door and start on the path to Duhr Port. Dodge Capella and the Tower, no reason to try to find ghosts. I hate ghosts. They're creepy and spooky and can reach right through you…ugh, I wish Kee was here. Kee's scared of ghosts too, but ghosts can be taken care of, if there's enough people. I hope there's no ghosts near the seals!
The port is always very windy, and I have to walk on the ground to keep from being blown away. What sort of hero gets blown away before even reaching her steed? My skirt is caught against my legs by the wind. There's a small skiff, a tiny thing used to fly to check spells around the shield. That is my target. It's small enough to be flown by one, although it is much easier with two. But Kee does not come with me, and the Great Mizuti can do this. See how she strides towards the boat without looking back…
But that was Kee's voice, no? I turn and see Kee coming. "Kee!"
He jogs up to me and he's panting from the long run. He shoves a huge pack at me. "Here, Mizuti," he says. "You forgot food. And maps. And your spare chakram."
I feel myself blush under the mask. "The Great Mizuti needs no maps," I say loftily, "but the Great Mizuti does need a friend. Is Kee coming?"
Kee looks at me so sadly and shakes his head. "I'd be a burden-"
"I can't fight, Mizuti, or be brave like you. Go have the adventure. Save the world. I'll make stories about when you come back and tell me." He slips the pack over my shoulder, and I hug him. I would never do that, never ever, but this is special. So just this once, I hug Kee hard and don't mind that we're both crying scared. Finally I pull away and jump into the boat. "I'll sing the old songs to guide my way, and it will all be okay. Solved. Perfectly," I tell my best friend ever.
"Okay, Mizuti," Kee says. "Try to sing on key this time?"
He knows I'm sticking my tongue out at him. We untie the boat and Kee gives it a shove, pushing it into clear air. I take the rudder and start northwest, towards the Trail of Souls. Kee's pack is beside me, and he stands waving at the port until the multicolored non-clouds of the Trail of Souls hide him from sight.