Home > A Girl From Nowhere (The Firewall Trilogy #1)

A Girl From Nowhere (The Firewall Trilogy #1)
Author: A Girl From Nowhere (The Firewall Trilogy #1) - James Maxwell

1

Taimin’s father always said that of all the intelligent races fighting to survive under the two suns, humans were the boldest. Throughout the wasteland, humans hunted, foraged, scavenged, and stole.

Yet Taimin didn’t think that what he was doing was bold. What he wanted was to explore, to seek out adventure far from home. Looking for eggs wasn’t the same as hunting.

He dangled from a rope at the top of the cliff where wyverns nested, but as always the sunburned plain below kept distracting him. He gazed down and imagined himself visiting distant places. Despite the fact he was just a short distance from the homestead, this was as far as his family ever traveled. There were other people out there, so his father said, and he longed to meet them. His aunt warned him there were dangers. Still, he wasn’t afraid.

Taimin’s curiosity grew as his eyes roved over the world. The yellow disc of Dex was rising, which meant that both suns—one close and golden, the other a distant crimson orb—cast their rays on the scorched earth and banished the pale moon. He saw a land under cloudless skies as clear as still water and bounded by hazy red horizons. It was a land filled with fields of cactus, deep ravines, stone formations, and ancient riverbeds. The shades of red were innumerable: ochre and amber, pink and rust. A savage land, a land of contrasts, it appeared completely uninhabitable; yet he knew it contained a bewildering array of life, adapted to the harsh environment, buried within the cracks, nestled wherever water was near.

He searched for movement, or anything to catch his eye, and then his stomach rumbled. At eleven, he was growing fast, and as his brown hair grew thicker, his wiry frame was filling out. He ate as much as his father, Gareth, and his body was reminding him that he was here for food.

“Taimin.” It was his mother’s voice. “Don’t dawdle. Your father can’t hold on forever.”

Taimin felt a flash of guilt as he pictured his father, standing firm while he held the rope that curled around a hermit cactus and stretched down the cliff face. Taimin wasn’t heavy, and his father was strong, but he knew that his father would be anxious. Gareth never stopped talking about the danger they were all in away from the homestead.

He had only been daydreaming for a moment but he forced himself to stop wondering about the mysteries of distant lands and the lives of other people. He rotated his body on the rope and put his back to the view. As he scanned the vertical cliff below the escarpment, he looked for nests; where he saw nests, he might find eggs. Sometimes the wyverns built their nests in caves set into the cliff, other times they found ledges that jutted from the sheer wall.

“Taimin?” the voice of Tess, Taimin’s mother, called again. “Can you see any? Are you all right?”

Looking up, Taimin saw her head pop over the escarpment thirty feet above. The wind blew her dark hair over her face and although Taimin could barely see her eyes, he heard the familiar tone in her voice.

“You’re not daydreaming again, are you? You know what your father says.”

“‘Dreams are for the night,’” Taimin muttered. He called up to his mother as he continued to search the cliff. “I’m fine.” The harness chafed under his arms and the glare of Dex, the near sun, was hot on his back. He spied the entrance to a promising hollow. “I need to go down . . . another ten feet.”

Tess nodded and her face vanished from view. Taimin braced himself in the harness, expecting to feel the familiar yet nerve-wracking sensation of being dropped down the cliff. He was light, but that didn’t mean his father lowered him at a snail’s pace.

Instead, he made a sound of surprise when, rather than drop, he felt himself pulled up. As he drew closer to the summit he again saw his mother’s face. This time when she spoke he didn’t hear concern, he heard fear.

“There’s someone here,” she said in a low voice. “Quickly, climb up.”

Tess’s head disappeared from view and the upward force on the harness ceased. Fortunately, the last part of the ascent was an old rock fall, and by clambering up the boulders, Taimin soon reached the top of the escarpment on his own.

Taimin’s parents stood side by side, shielding their eyes and staring toward the blazing sun Dex; the softer crimson sun was on the opposite side of the sky. Taimin’s father had tied off the rope around the broad hermit cactus, which explained why Taimin had stopped moving. As Taimin wriggled out of his harness, he looked in the direction his parents were watching but saw nothing. He then noticed something that caused a lump of fear to form in his stomach.

Gareth, a lean man with gray threads in his black hair, had drawn his sword. Tess’s left hand gripped her bow and she had an arrow nocked to the string. The obsidian arrowhead glinted in the morning light.

Taimin couldn’t tell what his parents were thinking. Were they just being wary? Was there real danger?

“Are you sure they’re humans?” Gareth asked Tess. Taimin thought his father sounded more excited than scared.

“I’m sure,” Tess said. “They’re riding wherries.”

“By the rains, people . . . How long has it been?”

Tess looked over her shoulder at her son. “Taimin, coil the rope and pack up the harness. Then go and hide behind one of the big boulders until we call you out.”

“What about the eggs?” Taimin asked. “We still don’t have any.”

“Forget the eggs,” Gareth said. “Do as your mother says.”

Taimin felt a thrill even as he unwound the rope from the hermit cactus. People! He had never seen other people, only his mother, father, and Aunt Abi. What would they be like? His father seemed confident, but looking at his mother, Taimin sensed her uncertainty and wished his aunt were here.

“Should I go and fetch Aunt Abi?” he asked. “She was going to join us.”

“There’s no time,” Tess said.

“They’ll certainly want to trade. Don’t worry.” Gareth glanced back at Taimin. “Your aunt will get to meet them soon enough.”

“They’re approaching,” Tess said. “What are they doing so close to the firewall?”

Taimin wondered if he was supposed to hide now. But he wanted to see the people. His mother said they were riding wherries. Taimin hadn’t known people could ride wherries.

He turned toward one of the stacked red boulders dotting the landscape. Then he forgot all about his instructions to hide as he heard the rumble of heavy feet pound the earth. Two broad-shouldered men came forward; with the yellow sun behind their backs they appeared as black shadows astride four-legged creatures. They reined in a short distance from Taimin’s parents, before one of them kicked his wherry forward.

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