- Author: David Farland
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Table of Contents
A Rarefied View at Dawn
Notes on A Rarefied View At Dawn
About the Author
A Rarefied View at Dawn
by David Farland
All Rights Copyright 2011 Dave Wolverton
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Cover art: Copyright 2011 by Dave Wolverton
Published by David Wolverton
# ISBN-13: 978-1-61475-780-1
A Rarefied View at Dawn
In the sandstone sanctuary atop the mount of Kara Kune, in ancient times there was only one punishment for men who committed crimes: the guardian droids, called Valkyries, hurled them from the battlements, to fall through the cinnamon-colored mists to the jungle below, and live or die as fortune decreed.
Now Bann and Maya raced along the wall-walk in the early dawn, their bare feet slapping the smooth sandstone ramparts, the mists boiling outside the castle like a cauldron while the coming sun silvered the sky. They were dressed alike, wearing the black silk tunics of schoolchildren with black skullcaps and golden sashes about their waists. Both had long dark hair braided down their backs, falling nearly to their knees. Of the two, Bann was the most beautiful. The girls of the city envied his lustrous dark hair, his incredibly long eyelashes, and his thin, graceful hands. He was so small-boned and delicate that he looked as if he were made of porcelain. Maya, at twelve, was two years older than Bann, and was developing the wide hips and breasts of a young woman.
Suddenly, Bann became aware that Maya was no longer following. He turned impatiently. Maya had climbed atop the fortress's smooth wall, and now sat with her legs dangling over hundreds of feet above oblivion.
Bann's heart thumped in his chest. He called back, "Mara, hurry, the muysafed said that there will be a surprise for us this morning!"
Maya grinned. "The muysafed often makes such promises, silly," she teased. "It is her way of making you want to come to school."
I know, he thought. And I'm grateful to her for it. School is so much better than home. Sometimes his mother's sad countenance weighed on him, and he hated being there.
"But I think that today she will have the baby chicks," Bann urged. It was no secret that their teacher had received some eggs from a far-off fortress, and that she had just been waiting for them to hatch.
"They're just chickens," Maya dismissed. "You've eaten chicken many times. Let's watch the sunrise."
"But this is different," Bann urged. "These are alive." He couldn't express how much he wanted to see them. They were, after all, fellow creatures from Earth, a tenuous connection to his heritage. They had eyes like other earth creatures, not probas with which to sense magnetic waves. They had hearts and guts and other organs like humans.
From far below the fortress, in the steaming jungles, sounded the rumbling hornlike cry of a yarrev, a creature that dwarfed even the largest dinosaurs of old Earth. It must have leapt a few strides, for Bann heard trees crashing and the fortress suddenly trembled slightly.
Bann ambled back to Maya, who sat upon the stone wall. He placed a hand protectively on her shoulder, lest she slip.
Below the walls of Kara Kune there were only rust-colored mists for as far as the eye could see. In late summer the omni-present clouds often raised high enough to tumble over the walls and cover the city for days on end. In the winter, as the air cooled, the clouds would drop low. But Bann had never seen the sprawling valley below the fortress. It was rumored that there were ocher hills and winding rivers the color cinnabar and tangled violet jungles bursting with alien life.
But Bann saw nothing more than he had ever seen in his ten years--the sun of Lucien groping at the distant horizon, as if seeking a finger-hold in the clouds.
"Look," Maya urged. "The clouds have dipped lower than I've ever seen, and the air is rarified today. Follow the lights toward the edge of the world."
Bann followed her pointing finger and spotted the lights from a pair of floater ships that skimmed above the boiling red clouds. Their shimmering air sacs filled with clear light from time to time as the hydrogen furnaces fired, and their stabilizer struts and gondolas hung beneath them, making the ships look like luminous jellyfish the color of ash, hovering in the distance.
And then Bann saw it just at the edge of the world--the very tip of a pale sanctuary shining above the mists, white castle walls dominating some mountain peak.
"Tahaj?" he asked. It was the nearest city, forty miles away.
"It must be," Maya agreed. "You're pretty smart, for a runt." She smiled at him playfully, then suggested. "Sit up here. There's a warm wind drifting up from the jungle. It feels good between your legs."
Not me, Bann thought. The notion of climbing up on the wall terrified him.
"Come on," Maya said. "It's fun. Even if you fell, we're on the east wall."
"East?" Bann asked.
"The east side is the easy side," Maya said. "The ground is only a hundred feet down through the mist, and the hill is steep and sandy. If the city ever comes under attack, jump off the east side, if you want to live."
Bann heard the whine of electric motors and noticed a Valkyrie