Globe Without Goodbye - The Shore, Revisited (11)
 
Hello Patrons and potential Patrons!  Adjusting to my new job has proven more difficult than I anticipated, and I wasn't able to get much creative writing done this week.  I am about 1/5th of the way through Linmayu's Patron Reward short fiction; it has involved a measure of research to make detail realistic.  The original artwork that I commissioned for the cover photo has been delayed in production, but the artist has informed me that it will be back on schedule soon.  Without further ado, on with the story!

Nadja told Jeffrey to go back the way he had come, and he followed  her direction. A few steps away from the cave, Nadja began beaming  thoughts to Jeffrey, unbidden. “I was not the first Earth exile to live  and die in this place. The vortex likes to hover in an abandoned  village, making it the center of this world. I tried to make my home in  that village when I first arrived. It’s the only mark of civilization  I’ve seen here and I’ve traveled through the forest, to the foot of the  diamond mountains.”

“Diamonds?”

“I thought that would get  your attention. The mountains are beautiful and very, very big. Much too  big for you to bring back with you.”

“Diamond is a brittle stone. I could chip off some pieces?”

“I’m  probably exaggerating because of their beauty. The mountains are  probably not made of diamond. Maybe you’d travel all that way to learn  they were only common glass.”

“Maybe. Maybe not.” He kept his eyes  on his tracks as he retraced his earlier steps. “Maybe you’re trying to  fake me out because you don’t want me to bring back a diamond that  barely fits inside a wheelbarrow. I’ll figure out what I’m going to do  after I talk to the vortex.” He paused to look around. “Will the world  turn gray again?”

Nadja laughed raucously in his head. He wanted  the nasty sound to stop immediately. It seemed like a disgusting forever  before her thought-beams shifted back into words. “You saw gray before  you came to my cave?”

“Yeah, everything was monochrome.” He started walking again.

“The color came with me, frog-man. You must have a very rigid mind. Did you like the gray?”

“What? No, of course not. It looked ugly.”

“You should thank me for the color I have brought to you. Go on, thank me.”

“Thanks. Sure. Whatever. How do I get to the village?”

 “It  will be visible from this shore once you travel in this direction far  enough. The exiles that built it settled at the mouth of a river. If I  remember right, it will be the very first river we come to. You won’t  have to ford in between. A shame, because fording rivers here is the fun  part.”

“Fun? Sounds inconvenient to me. I think I’ll pass on the  fording. I’m amazed at how convenient this village sounds, to be honest  with you.”

Nadja’s thought-beam sounded mournful. “I really wanted  to live in the village. I liked it best there. The huts, the wild  gardens. But the vortex wouldn’t leave, and we just don’t get along. So I  made my cave as close to the village as I could stand to be close to  the vortex.”

“Makes sense, I guess. So what’s between here and there?”

“Not  much. Sand. Water. Me. You were right; to someone of your temperament,  this is a very lonely place. I, however, just feel safe. There aren’t  any animals here you don’t conjure up yourself from memory. At your  level of sophistication, you wouldn’t be able to conjure anything that  would last more than a few minutes. But you won’t get hungry here, so  it’s not like you’ll need to hunt. If you miss eating, go inland, past  the dunes, into the forest, and eat a plant. But you won’t need to, and  while nothing here will poison you, nothing will taste good either. The  plants from the village gardens were the only things I’ve found here  that I actually wanted to eat.”

He wondered if Nadja had told him  the truth. “So you’re seriously saying that all that’s between me and  this vortex is a pile of sand?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

“How many miles will I have to walk before I reach the village?”

“Stupid  frog-man Jeffrey. Still thinking in miles. You’ll get there when you  get there. Now let me sleep. All this bird speak-chattering has drained  me. I don’t want to talk to you any more.”

He tried beaming some  more thoughts into his shirt-sack but Nadja either couldn’t or wouldn’t  think back to him any more. He guessed that she hadn’t been lying to  him, and that nothing waited for him behind a dune. He didn’t  particularly enjoy “talking” with Nadja anyway, although it did give him  an excuse to theorize about his newfound telepathy. He wondered, as he  walked, how it worked. What other powers would he discover here? Maybe  he would stay, like she had. Maybe he too would see diamond mountains.  Maybe he would travel even further than Nadja had. He could probably  figure it all out after he talked with the vortex. Everything would fall  into place then, he was sure.