Stumbling from the entrance of the cave into the darkness had surely disappointed Lina and Doon, but the sunrise the following morning had been breathtaking. Now, however, they were in for their biggest surprise yet…

Doon turned from the crevice through which they had dropped the note for Ember's salvation. Lina, however, was no longer paying attention to his motions - even Poppy had slipped from her grasp.

"Doon! There was a tower, a giant black tower! Over there, on the other side of the hill."

Scanning the surrounding greenery, Doon saw nothing.

"What are you talking about, Lina?"

"There, that line of fluffy smoke in the sky. It came from the top of the tower!"

"Lina, that's impossible, you know that buildings can't mov- wait, Lina! You can't go off by yourself." He shouted in vain, however, for Lina had already begun clambering up the hill, Poppy holding on tightly to her back. "We don't know anything about this place! What about the citizens? If they come up and we're not here, they'll be lost."

"Calm down, Doon," Lina's voice traveled back to him, "they won't get here for three hours at least. And how will we learn about this place if we don't explore? Come on!"

Defeated by indisputable Lina-logic, Doon jogged up the hill to catch up with Lina. Arriving at the crest of the hill, both Doon and Lina gasped. Spread before them was a swath of exotic flowers and bushes which reached as far as the eye could see, stopping only at the foot of the very hill on which the two children stood. But, more astounding to Doon, there was an enormous black tower, four-sided, and built of jagged rocks. And it was moving!

Doon's mind struggled with this incomprehensible fact. A gigantic building, larger than even the Town Hall of Ember, lazily drifted on grassy lanes between the flowers. And the flowers! Nothing like this had grown in Ember. What sort of creatures might live in such a colorful world?

"Doon, look…" His gaze following Lina's outstretched finger, Doon saw four small figures exit from a little door in the side of the tower. The two oldest (one more distinctly so, she looked even older than Lina's grandmother!) soon separated from a younger boy - 'a year or so older than me,' Doon thought - and a small, furry creature. The tall man seemed to be showing the old woman around the flower-filled fields. The next moment, however, Poppy shrank behind him as Lina stifled a gasp. The woman, as she looked around, was becoming younger!

"What's happening to her?" asked Lina, as she sank down into the grass in which Doon had already sheltered Poppy.

"I don't know, but it's better that they don't see us until we know more about them or their mysterious tower. Let's stay a little while longer, until they go back inside, so we can get back to the cave undiscovered."

As they watched, the woman began to walk back to the tower, becoming older as she went along, until she was bent and hobbling at the little door. The tall man followed quickly after her, calling to the boy and creature. To Doon, however, there now seemed to be a trace of sadness on his features.

With the strangers safely back inside their strange house, Doon turned to Lina, preparing to leave. But Lina's eyes were once again glued to the sky, this time, however, she clutched Poppy close to her chest. Feeling a shiver of fear himself, Doon turned to follow her gaze. Far above them, too high up to distinguish many details, a black mass with a decidedly human-shaped figure on it was silently rolling towards the west. The three children maintained a deathly silence until the thing had passed. Whatever it was, the thing was clearly malevolent.

Rising from their grass seats, Doon led Lina and Poppy back to the cave's entrance before they could encounter any more of this world's strange oddities.

Hello, readers! A few notes about my story:

Yes, I shamelessly mixed the book and movie for my Howl's Moving Castle references, so if you've only seen/read one and are confused, it's not your fault.

This story is not for the unprepared. It probably won't make much sense unless you've read both The City of Ember and Howl's Moving Castle.

Okay, apart from those discrepancies, I hope you enjoyed the story. It's my first foray into writing fanfiction, so feel free to critique. For spirited debates on its merits, just click the "Review" button. Also, the first person to correctly identify both the scene from HMC which Doon and Lina encounter and the mysterious darkness at the end of the story (I threw in that bit myself, but in context, it should make sense) will win 60 awesome points (per correct guess)! Thanks for reading.