The tale you beg is old and tired. I’ll not tell it again. Give me a new beginning, one tugged by the threads of your heart.” I glance about, taking in their their small eyes peeking from the shadows. “Well?”
“Can there be dragons?” Cressan pulls the woolen cloth to her chin.
“Dragons? No, I’m weary of dragons.”
Durn whispers from the back, “Flying machines and rockets?”
“You mean like those we dig from our rubble explores? I suppose you want cave-trains and smooth-cars too? No Durn. Deeper, pull from inside you, down in the dark, down where the light glows like a gem.”
They breathe a dozen breaths, minds click, lips pinch with effort.
“Death,” speaks a steady high voice, one not yet begun to turn.
I consider the source. Tawlins holds my gaze. The boy knows death and suffering, but for the sake of the story, that’s all he knows.
“Yes, boy, we’ll have some of that. Some quick, some that will last the whole tellin’.” Cressan coughs for effect. “Yes, starting with sickness like yours, my dear.” The girl grits her teeth defiantly.
“A… A story of c… courage and t… travel.” Syssa’s comment comes out in her hesitant way. I’d been waiting for it.
“And who shall be courageous? Who shall embark on this journey?” I stare back into the girl’s wide eyes, walnut brown and calculating. My challenge, they know, is staged, but I hold the questions up as proof of the story’s potential. “Hmm?” I look from face to face. “Will you stand and fight young Durn? Seek the cures and potions, Cressan? Syssa, will you struggle the mountains and rivers to find the answers?”
The brown eyed girl with the scarf that hides her scar nods solemnly. “I will.”
The rest volunteer their assent. I let my grin stretch from pleased to devious, cock an eyebrow and speak, “Then, let us begin.”