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Excerpt from Z Lequidre and the Amazing Grendel Conspiracy, page 9, by Allain Atienza

Z Lequidre and the Amazing Grendel Conspiracy

By Allain Atienza

Page 9

"Well, holy shit..." he whispered to himself. Before him, the land fell away gently, blanketed in thick powdery snow. All about him snowflakes floated to the ground in the windless wintry slate gray sky, then began to dance sideways as a gentle breeze picked up, then became a flurry as the wind whipped into him. Zorikh lowered his head against the sting and the wetness. Then just as suddenly as it had started, the wind stopped. Zorikh, who had been leaning against the gust, nearly tumbled forward into the snow. He shook his head vigorously and straightened himself. Theodora was standing before him, removing her hands from over her ears.

"You stayed put, well done." She spoke as she brushed snow from her shoulder. "Zorikh Lequidre, this is the Rift." She gestured broadly, and Zorikh allowed his eyes to follow her hand across the landscape. He was on an endless mountain, stony crags jutted from a snow covered slope that descended farther than he could see. Behind him, the ground climbed, carrying higher crags beyond his view, until the mist and snow swallowed their tops. Beyond the peak on which he stood rose other peaks, other mountains, impossibly huge, each shrouded in cloud at the base and summit, smooth white faces broken in places by crags and stone of all colors. Zorikh let out a long low gasp and jumped as Theodora placed a hand gently on his shoulder. "It's something to see yes?" she whispered. "Like the bones of the world, I thought when I was first taken here. I never imagined how close I was to the truth." Zorikh could only nod at her words. Theodora was not entirely sure that he had heard her. "The item you are wearing on your wrist is the Sadja. As you now know, it takes you to the Rift." She regarded him closely to see if any of her words had hit home. "Come."

She took his hand in hers and led him down the slope. The snow gave way easily, not hindering them at all, as long as they didn't mind the cold. Theodora's big brown boots kept her warm. Zorikh had worn boots as well, with thick fleece lining. This was simply because Zorikh always wore boots. He had once entered a three-legged race with his favorite pair of steel toe engineer boots, much to the disappointment and eventual hospitalization of his partner. Theodora halted their stroll after a few moments and turned to him, her face grave. "Take your Sadja off."

Zorikh took a deep breath. "Well, here goes." He undid the silver clasp and bit his lip. The same rushing sound filled his ears that had assailed him when he had first put on the Sadja. When the roar stopped, he found himself standing next to Theodora on the forested bank of a wide river. Theodora pulled him down to crouch beside her under the overhanging branches of a nearby tree. She silently gestured with her chin at the river. Zorikh saw, to the further breakdown of his safe little world, something that he would later regard as one of the coolest things that he had ever witnessed.

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