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For as long as Rigg could remember, Father had been his only home. He could hardly
count the rooming house in the village of Fall Ford. The mistress of the house, Nox, didn't even
keep a permanent room for them. If there were travelers filling all the rooms, Father and Rigg
slept out in the stable.
Oh, there had been a time when Rigg wondered if perhaps Nox was his mother, and
Father had merely neglected to marry her. After all, Father and Nox had spent hours alone
together, Father giving Rigg jobs to do so he wouldn't interrupt them. What were they doing, if
not the thing that the village children whispered about, and the older boys laughed about, and the
older girls spoke about in hushed voices?
But when Rigg asked Father outright, he had smiled and then took him inside the house
and made him ask Nox to her face. So Rigg stammered and said, "Are you my mother?"
For a moment it looked as if she would laugh, but she caught herself at once and instead
she ruffled his hair. "If I had ever had a child, I'd have been glad if he'd been one like you. But
I'm as barren as a brick, as my husband found to his sorrow before he died, poor man, in the
winter of Year Zero, when everyone thought the world would end."
Yet Nox was something to Father, or they would not have come back to her almost every
year, and Father would not have spent those hours alone with her.
Nox knew who Rigg's mother and sister were. Father had told her, but not Rigg himself.
How many other secrets did she know?
Father and Rigg had been trapping in the high country, far upriver from Stashi Falls.
Rigg came down the path that ran on the left side of the river, skirting the lake, then coming
along the ridge toward the falls. The ridge was like a dam containing the lake, broken only by
the gap of the falls. On the one side of the ridge, the land sloped gently down to the icy waters
of the lake; on the other side, the land dropped off in a cliff, the Upsheer, that fell three hundred
fathoms to the great Forest of Downwater. The cliff ran unbroken thirty leagues to the east and
forty leagues to the west of the river; the only practical way to get a burden or a person down the
Upsheer was on the right bank of the falls.
Which meant that Rigg, like everyone else lunatic enough to make a living bringing
things down from the high country, would have to cross the river by jumping the ragged
assortment of rocks just above the falls.
Once there had been a bridge here. In fact, there were ruins of several bridges, and
Father had once used them as a test of Rigg's reasoning. "See how the oldest bridge is far
forward of the water, and much higher on the cliff wall? Then the bracing of a newer bridge is
lower and closer, and the most recent bridge is only three fathoms beyond the falls? Why do you
think they were built where they were?"
That question had taken Rigg four days to figure out, as they tramped through the
mountainous land above the lake, laying traps. Rigg had been nine years old at the time, and
Father had not yet taught him any serious landlore -- in fact, this was the beginning of it. So
Rigg was still proud that he had come up with the right answer.
"The lake used to be higher," he finally guessed, "and the falls was also higher and
farther out toward the face of Upsheer Cliff."
"Why would you imagine such a thing as that?" asked Father. "The falls are many
fathoms back from the cliff face; what makes you think that a waterfall can move from place to
"The water eats away at the rock and sweeps it off the cliff," said Rigg.
"Water that eats rock," said Father. But now Rigg knew that he had got it right -- Father
was using his mock-puzzled voice.
"And when the lip of the cliff is eaten away," Rigg went on, "then all the lake above
where the new lip is, drains away."
"That would be a lot of water each time," said Father.
"A flood," said Rigg. "But that's why we don't have a mountain of rocks at the base of
the falls -- each flood sweeps the boulders downstream."
"Don't forget that in falling from the cliff, the boulders shatter so the pieces are much
smaller," said Father.
"And the rocks we use for crossing at the top of the falls -- they're like that because the
water is already eating down between the rocks, leaving them high and dry. But someday the
water will undermine those rocks, too, and they'll tip forward and tumble down the falls and
break and get swept away, and there'll be a new level for the falls, farther back and lower
That was when Father started teaching him about the way land changes with the climate
and weather and growth of plants and all the other things that can shape it.
When Rigg was eleven, he had thought of a question of his own. "If wind and rain and
water and ice and the growth of plants can chew up rock, why is Upsheer still so steep? It
should have weathered down like all the other mountains."
"Why do you think?" asked Father -- a typical non-answer.
But this time Rigg had already half-formed his own theory. "Because Upsheer Cliff is
much newer than any of the other mountains or hills."
"Interesting thought. How new do you think it is? How long ago was this cliff formed?"
And then, for no reason at all that Rigg could think of, he made a connection and said,
"Eleven thousand, one hundred ninety-one years."
Father roared with laughter. "The calendar! You think that our calendar was dated from
the formation of Upsheer Cliff?"
"Why not?" said Rigg. "Why else would we keep a memory that our calendar began in
the year eleven-one-ninety-one?"
"But think, Rigg," said Father. "If the calendar began with the cataclysm that could raise
a cliff, then why wasn't it simply numbered from then? Why did we give it a number like
11,191 and then count down?"
"I don't know," said Rigg. "Why?"
"Why do you think?"
"Because when the cliffs formed" -- Rigg was not going to give up on his idea -- "they
knew that something else was going to happen 11,191 years later?"
"Well, we reached Year Zero when you were three. Did anything happen?"
"Lots of things happened," said Rigg. "A whole year's worth of things."
"But anything worth remembering? Anything worth building your whole calendar
"That doesn't prove anything, Father, except that the people who invented the calendar
were wrong about how long it would take to get to the thing they thought would happen in Year
Zero. People are wrong all the time. It doesn't prove that the calendar didn't begin with the
formation of Upsheer."
"Good thinking," said Father, "but, of course, wrong. And why are you wrong?"
"Because I don't have enough information," said Rigg. It was always because he didn't
have enough information.
"There's never enough information," said Father. "That's the great tragedy of human
knowledge. No matter how much we think we know, we can never predict the future."
Yet there had been something in Father's tone that Rigg didn't trust. Or maybe he simply
didn't trust Father's answer, and imagined he heard it in his tone.
"I think you know something," said Rigg.
"I should hope so, as old as I am!"
"I think you know what was supposed to happen in Year Zero."
"Calamity! Plague! The end of the world!"
"No," said Rigg. "I mean the thing the calendar-makers were thinking of when they
started in eleven-one-ninety-one."
"And how would I know that?"
"I think you know what it was," said Rigg, "and I think it actually happened, right on
"And it was so big and important that nobody noticed it except me," said Father.
"I think it was something scientific. Something astronomical. Something that scientists
back then knew would happen, like planets lining up or some star in the sky blowing up or two
stars crashing or something like that, only people who don't know astronomy would never notice
"Rigg," said Father, "you're so smart and so dumb at the same time that it almost takes
my breath away."
And that had been the end of that. Rigg knew Father knew something, and he also knew
Father had no intention of telling him.
Maybe Nox would know what happened in Year Zero. Maybe Father told her all his
But to get to Nox, Rigg had to get down Upsheer to the village of Fall Ford. And to get
down Upsheer, he had to reach Cliff Road, which was on the other side of the falls, and so he
had to cross over the very place where the water ran fastest, the current strongest, and where he
knew the boulders were being undermined and eaten away and it was quite possible that his step
on one of the rocks would be the tipping point, and it would tumble over the falls and carry him
down to his death.
And his consolation, all the way down, until the water or the rocks or just the force of
landing pulverized him, would be that at least there'd be a big flood of water gushing out of the
lake, so he wouldn't die alone, the whole village of Fall Ford would be swept away in moments.
He remembered that this had been one of Father's test questions. "Why would people
build a village in a place where they know eventually there'll be a terrible flood with no hope of
survival and no warning in time to get away?"
"Because people forget," Rigg answered Father.
"That's right, Rigg. People forget. But you and I, Rigg -- we don't forget, do we?"
But Rigg knew that it wasn't true. He couldn't remember a lot of things.
He remembered the route across the rocks. But he didn't trust that memory. He always
checked it again when he got to the starting place, just above the surface of the lake.
It seemed so calm, but Rigg knew that if he dropped a stone it wouldn't sink into the
water, it would immediately be pushed toward the falls, moving as rapidly as if someone under
the water had thrown it. If he dropped himself into the water, he, too, would be over the cliff in
about two seconds -- having been bashed into six or seven big rocks along the way, so that
whatever fell down the waterfall would be a bloody bashed-up version of Rigg, probably in
He stood and looked out over the water, seeing -- feeling -- the paths of countless
It wasn't like a main road, which was so thick with paths that Rigg could only pick out an
individual with great difficulty, and even then he would lose the path almost at once.
Here, there were only hundreds, not thousands or millions of paths.
And a disturbing number of them did not make it all the way across. They got to this
spot or that, and then suddenly lurched toward the cliff face; they had to have been swept away
by the water.
Then, of course, there were the ancient paths. This is why Rigg had been able to figure
out about the erosion of the rock, the way the falls moved back and lower over time. Because
Rigg could see paths that walked through the air, higher than the falls and fathoms outward.
These paths jogged and lurched the way the current paths did, for the people who made those
paths had been crossing on another set of rocks that penned in a higher, deeper lake.
And where the bridges used to be, thousands of ancient, fading paths sweeping smoothly
Of course the land had moved, the water had lowered. Someone who could see what
Rigg could see was bound to figure out that the falls kept moving.
But today, here is where they were, and these rocks were the rocks that Rigg would have
He always chose a route that almost everyone had crossed safely; he always tried for a
route that was well back from the edge.
Rigg remembered -- or remembered Father telling him about it, which was as close to
memory as didn't matter -- how Father had first discovered Rigg's ability to find old paths, right
here at the footcrossing of the water. Father had been about to leap, carrying little Rigg, from
one stone to another, and Rigg shouted, "No!" He made Father take a different path because, as
Father told him, "You said, 'Nobody fell into the water this other way.'"
Rigg saw now the thing he saw then: Paths from stone to stone, different people, days or
years or decades apart. He saw which of the paths of fallers were old and which were new. He
chose a route that looked dry, that had been used most recently.
He saw his own past paths, of course.
And, of course, he saw no path at all belonging to Father.
What an odd thing for a son to be blind about -- to see every person in the world, or at
least to see the way they went, except his own father.
This time Rigg had to make doubly sure of his calculations, because he had to make the
crossing with many pounds of bulky, unwieldy furs and hides bound on his back. A crossing he
could make easily, carrying only a canteen and traps and a bit of food, would now require him to
jump onto too small a rock; he would overbalance and fall in.
He was three leaps out, on a dry platform of rock a full two fathoms wide, when he
caught a glimpse of movement and saw, on the far side of the water, a boy of about ten. He
thought perhaps he knew him, but since Rigg only came to Fall Ford a few times a year, more or
less, and didn't always see everybody, it might be the younger brother of the boy he thought it
was; or it might be a boy from another family entirely, or a complete stranger.
Rigg waved a greeting and the boy waved back.
Rigg made his next leap, and now he was on a much smaller rock, so there'd be no room
to make a run. This was the trickiest place in his crossing, where he was most at risk of dying,
and he thought that perhaps he should have let down his burden on the big rock he had just left,
and crossed with only a third of the furs, and then gone back for the rest. He had never made this
leap with such a burden -- Father always carried more than half.
It wasn't too late to go back to the big platform and divide his burden.
But then he saw that the boy had moved out onto a rock. It was much too close to the lip
of the falls -- Rigg knew that it was the beginning of a path that had the most deaths of any.
Rigg waved and gave a sign with both hands, as if he were pushing the boy back. "Go
back!" he yelled. "Too dangerous!"
But the boy just waved, and made the push-back sign in return, which told Rigg that the
boy hadn't understood him. Obviously Rigg could not be heard above the roaring of the water as
it swept among the rocks.
The boy leapt to the next rock, and now he was on a path that was pure peril. It would be
hard for him to get back now, even if he tried. And the boy was apparently so stupid he was
determined to go on.
Rigg had only a moment to decide. If he went back the way he had come, he could set
down his burden and then take a dangerous path that would get him nearer to the boy, perhaps
near enough to be heard, near enough to stop him. But it would take time to get the furs off his
back, and he'd be farther from the boy while he did it.
So instead he simply made the leap he was already planning. He did it exactly right, and
a moment later he was ready to leap for a slightly bigger rock. He made that leap, too.
He was only two stones from the boy.
The boy jumped one more time, and almost made it. But the water caught just a part of
one foot and swept his leg toward the lip, and it threw the boy off balance and he whirled around
and both his feet went into the water, and the water pulled savagely at him.
The boy wasn't quite stupid after all. He knew he was doomed to lose the rock he was
on, so he tried to catch at a smaller rock that was right at the lip of the falls.
He caught it, but the water whirled him around so that he hung by his fingers from the
outward, dry edge of the rock and his body dangled over the vast drop to the river below.
"Hold on!" cried Rigg.
A whole winter's trapping, and he was about to discard it in order to have a slim chance
of saving the life of a boy so stupid that surely he deserved to die.
It took Rigg only a moment to get the thongs untied, so he could shrug the load of furs
from his back into the water.
He was so close to the lip now that the huge bundle caromed only once against the rocks
as it hurtled toward the lip of the falls and then flew out into empty air and fell.
Meanwhile, Rigg dived for the rock that the boy had not quite made; Rigg made it, even
though the boy had splashed water onto the surface and made it wet. "Hold on!" Rigg cried
again. All he could see of the boy now was his fingers on the rock.
There wasn't room on the rock for Rigg to jump for it; though it was very close, it was
too likely that he would kick the boy's fingers in the process of stepping there. So instead, Rigg
knelt on his rock and then let himself topple forward, planning to catch the boy's rock with his
hands, making a bridge of his body.
Only something strange happened. Time nearly stopped.
Rigg had been in tense situations before. He knew what it was like when your
perceptions became suddenly keener, when every second was more fully experienced. It felt at
such times as though time held still. But it did not really happen that way. As Father explained
it, there were glands in the human body that secreted a substance that gave greater strength and
speed at times of stress.
This was not the same thing at all. As Rigg let himself fall forward, an operation that
should have taken a second or less, it was suddenly as if he were sinking slowly into something
very thick. He had time to notice everything, and while he could not turn his eyes any faster
than he could move any other part of his body, his attention could shift as rapidly as he wanted it
to, so that anything within his field of vision, even at the edges, could be seen.
Then his attention was engaged by something far stranger. As time slowed down, so did
the paths he saw in the air. They thickened. They became more solid.
They became people.
Every person who had tried to cross these rocks at this place became, first a blur of
motion, then solid individuals, walking at their real pace. Whoever he concentrated on, he could
see walking, jumping, leaping his or her course across the rocks. As soon as he focused his
attention on someone else, the other people all became a streak of movement again.
So in mid-fall, he became aware of, concentrated on, a barelegged man who was standing
right in the middle of the rock to which the young boy was clinging. The man's back was to
him; but because Rigg was falling so slowly, he had plenty of time to register that the man was
dressed in a costume rather like those on the old fallen statues and crumbled friezes of the ruined
buildings where the newer of the two old bridges had once rooted into the cliff.
Rigg realized that he was going to fall right into the man. But he couldn't be solid, could
he? This was just part of Rigg's gift, weirdly changed in this moment of fear, and the paths were
Yet this man looked so real -- the hairs and pores on his calves, a raw place where
something had scraped against his ankle, the frayed and half-opened hem of his kilt, the drooping
band of embroidery only half-attached to it. Once the man had dressed in finery; now the finery
had become rags.
Whatever ill-fortune had come upon the man, the fact remained that at this moment he
was in Rigg's way. Rigg thought: The people I'm not paying attention to become blurs of
motion. If I turn my thoughts away from him, he, too, will become insubstantial.
So Rigg tried to focus on a woman who had tried to make the leap to this same rock, but
had slipped and fallen immediately into the current and been swept over. He did this -- and saw
the horror on her face, flashing almost immediately to the death look of an animal that knows
there is no escape. But then she was gone, and his attention returned at once to the man in front
of him. If he had become insubstantial for a moment, he was solid enough now.
Rigg's forehead smacked into the man's calf; he felt the force of it, yet he was moving so
slowly he could feel the texture of the man's skin on his forehead and then, as Rigg's head was
compelled to turn, the abrasion of the hairs of his leg on Rigg's face.
Just as Rigg's face was forced to turn in order to slide down the man's leg, so also the
weight of Rigg's head and shoulder striking the man caused his leg to buckle, and the man
twisted, started to topple forward.
I came to save a boy and now I'm killing a man.
But this man was a soldier or athlete; he whipped around in mid-fall and reached out and
clutched the rock, so that when he fell he dangled from both hands.
His left hand completely covered the right hand of the boy.
Apparently two solid objects could occupy the same space at the same time. Or,
technically, not at the same time, because the man was actually here hundreds of years ago, but
to Rigg it was the same moment. The man's hand was solid. Rigg could feel it as his own hand,
flung out by reflex to support himself after the collision with the man's leg, slid across the rock
and rammed into the fingers of the man's right hand.
The result was that Rigg stopped sliding forward barely in time to keep his knees from
sliding off the previous rock and into the water. Rigg's body now made the bridge between
rocks that he had planned to make. The man had, without meaning to, saved Rigg's life.
But Rigg had not returned the favor. First he knocked him off his perch and toppled him
over the side; and then Rigg's hand, sliding across the rock, had jammed into the man's fingers
and shoved his right hand from the lip of the stone.
Now the man held on only by his left hand -- the hand that completely covered the right
hand of the dangling boy Rigg was here to save.
The man's hand was not transparent in any way. It was real, thick, muscular, tanned,
hairy, callused, spotted with freckles and ridged with veins. Yet at exactly the same time, Rigg
could also see the taut, slender, nut-brown fingers of the boy, starting to slip just a little. Rigg
knew he could help the boy, could hold him if he could only reach past his fingers and get ahold
of his wrist. The boy was smaller than Rigg, and Rigg was very strong; if he could lock that
wrist between his own fingers he could hang on to him long enough to get his other hand out for
the boy to grab.
He could imagine it, plan it, and he could have done it except that he could not get past
the thick wrist and forearm of the man.
You're already dead, for decades and centuries you're dead, so get out of the way and let
me save this child!
But when Rigg's hand clutched at the man's forearm, trying to get through him to the
forearm of the boy, the man felt him and seized the opportunity. His right hand came up and
caught Rigg by the wrist with a grip as much stronger and thicker than Rigg as Rigg's grip
would have been stronger and thicker than the boy's wrist.
And the weight of the man began to drag Rigg forward.
Rigg's right knee dipped into the current, and if the man had not had such a tight hold on
him, he might have been swept away; at it was, it spun his body so he lay on his side. But that
took his knee back out of the water, so once again his body was a bridge between stones.
Still the man's weight dragged at him. Rigg momentarily lost all thought of the boy --
he couldn't save anybody if he himself was dragged off the cliff.
Rigg clutched at the man's fingers with his other hand and pried his little finger up and
bent it backward, backward. All of this took forever, it seemed -- he thought of the movement,
and then, slowly, his hand obeyed, reached out, clutched, pried, pushed.
The man let go. With agonizing slowness his right hand slipped away from Rigg, his
fingers sliding over Rigg's skin. Just as slowly, Rigg righted himself so that he could once again
try to reach out for the boy; but still the man's left hand covered the boy's right.
Just as Rigg's hand once again settled over the man's left wrist, trying to get past him or
through him or under him to reach the boy, Rigg saw the boy's fingers lose their grip and slide
away from the rock, slowly, slowly ... and then they were gone.
In fury and frustration and grief at his failure, Rigg raised his hand to strike downward at
the man's hand. It did not enter his mind that he was preparing to do murder. In Rigg's time the
man was already long since dead, no matter what the outcome here; all Rigg knew was that
because that man had suddenly become visible and tangible, Rigg had not been able to save the
boy -- a boy he almost certainly knew in the village, if he could only place him.
But Rigg never got the chance to complete the action of striking the man. Instead time
sped up again, became normal, the man simply disappeared without Rigg seeing whether he fell
or somehow managed to clamber back up onto the rock, and Rigg's fist struck only stone.
A moment later, Rigg heard a scream. It couldn't be the boy -- he would already have
been so far down before the scream began that he could not have been heard where Rigg was,
and the scream went on much too long. Yet it was not a man's scream -- the voice was too
So there was someone else on the shore, someone else who had seen the boy die.
Someone who might help Rigg get himself back off this rock.
But of course no one could help him. It would be insane for anyone to try. It had been
insane for Rigg to try to save the boy. For here he was, his body bridging two stones, barely out
of the water himself, and if he even bent his knees he would be carried away by the torrent.
He inched backward, trying to get his knees back onto the rock where his toes were.
Already his arms and shoulders were aching with the strain of holding himself like a bridge.
And now, when he might have used the slowing of time to help him pay attention to even the
slightest move he made, his fear gave him no more than the normal degree of heightened
Yet after a while his knees were on the hind rock, and he was able to rise up on his hands
till he was as high as he could get above the water, and his fingers still had enough strength in
them that he could shove himself up and back, and ...
He shoved, rose up, and then teetered for a moment that felt like forever, unsure whether
he had pushed too lightly and would fall forward again, or pushed too hard and would tumble off
the back of the rock.
But he found his balance. He stood up.
A rock hit him in the shoulder just as he was standing up. For a moment he lost his
balance, could have fallen, but he recovered and turned to see a boy of perhaps his own age,
maybe older, standing on the first rock from the shore, where the dead boy had started his fatal
journey, and he was preparing to hurl an even bigger rock.
It was not as if Rigg had anywhere to hide.
So he had no choice but to try to slap the rock away with his bare hands. Rigg quickly
discovered that his own slapping motion caused him to lose his balance as surely as if the rock
had hit him. Somehow, though, he managed to twist himself and turn his fall into a lunge that
got him, barely, onto the next rock back from the falls.
"Stop it!" cried Rigg.
But the rock-throwing boy couldn't hear him. Only the boy's scream had been loud
enough to be audible over the roaring of the water.
Now Rigg recognized him -- this was Umbo, a village boy, son of the cobbler, who had
been his best friend when they were both much younger, and Father had kept him longer in Fall
Ford than in recent years.
Now Rigg realized why he had known the boy who fell -- it was Umbo's little brother,
Kyokay, a daredevil of a boy who was always getting into trouble and always taking insane
chances. The boy's arm had been in splints, healing from a break, during the time Rigg and
Umbo had been friends, but even then he would climb impossible trees and leap from high
places onto rough ground, so that Umbo constantly had to go and stop him or rescue him or
scream at him.
If I could have saved Kyokay, it would have been a gift to my friend Umbo. A
continuation of the many times I helped Umbo save the boy back when he was even smaller.
So why is Umbo trying to kill me by throwing stones? Does he think I made Kyokay
fall? I was trying to save him, you fool! If you were there on the bank, why did you let him go
out on the rocks? No matter what you saw, why didn't you try to find out what really happened
before you passed a death sentence on me?
"People are never fair, even when they try to be," Father said more than once, "and few
are the ones who try."
Rigg made it back to the rock where he had been when he first saw Kyokay. If I had just
stayed here, he thought, and let the boy take his chances and, of course, die, Kyokay would be no
more dead than he is now, and I would have been so far from him that no one could possibly
have blamed me for his death.
And I'd still have my furs, and therefore I'd be able to take money with me on my
journey to wherever in the world my mother and sister might be.
Umbo was still throwing rocks, but few of them came close now, and with so much rock
to stand on, Rigg could dodge those easily. Umbo was weeping now in his fury, but still Rigg
could not hear his words, nor hope to be heard himself if he tried to answer. Rigg could think of
no gesture that would say, "I did nothing wrong, I tried to save him." To an angry, grieving boy
like Umbo, a shrug would look like unconcern, not helplessness; a bow would look like sarcasm
instead of respect for the dead.
So all Rigg could do was stand there, waiting until Umbo gave up. Finally he did,
running from the water's edge back into the woods.
Either he's heading down Cliff Road to the village, where he'll no doubt tell everybody
whatever he believes happened here, or he's lying in wait till I come closer.
Rigg hoped Umbo was waiting to ambush him. He was not afraid of fighting Umbo --
Rigg was strong and agile from his life in the forest, and besides, Father had trained him to fight
in ways that a cobbler's son would never have learned to counter. Though if it came to driving
tiny nails through thick leather, Umbo would no doubt prevail. Rigg only wanted to get close
enough to explain what happened, even if they were fighting while he talked.
When Rigg got to the other side, Umbo was gone -- Rigg could see his path, bright and
clear and fresh in the air, heading right down the difficult part of Cliff Road.
Rigg would like to have taken a different way, in case Umbo set some trap for him, but
there was no other way down the cliff, except of course the ever-present option of falling. That
was half the reason for Fall Ford's existence as a town, this road up the cliff. At the bottom it
was a road, an ancient one, high-curbed and paved with large stones, switching back and forth up
the steep slopes at the base of Upsheer.
But then the switchbacks got narrower, the ramping road gave way to a high-stepped
path, and paving stones gave way to carved and weathered rock, with makeshift repairs or
detours where some ancient calamity had torn away the original path. Still, it was just possible
for someone to carry a burden in both hands up the road, and for a boy like Umbo, bounding
down, energized with grief and rage, it would take very little time to reach the bottom.
If Rigg still had his huge bundle of pelts and skins, that would be a problem. Umbo
would have plenty of time to get to the village and back again, no doubt with men who would
believe his story and who, in their rage, might not listen to Rigg's version of events.
As it was, if Rigg hurried, he would be at the bottom of Cliff Road and away before
Umbo could get back. And unless he or someone else in the village had an ability like Rigg's,
there would be no tracking him. An expert tracker was hard to track, Father had told him, since
he knew what signs a fugitive shouldn't make in the first place.
Father! Rigg felt another pang of grief, as fresh as the first, and tears came into his eyes.
How can I live without you? Why couldn't you hear the groaning of the wood and get out of the
way before the tree fell on you? Always so quick, always so perceptive -- it's almost
unbelievable that you could ever be so careless.
And I still need you. Who will explain to me what caused time to slow, caused all those
people from the past to appear, caused that man to block my way so the boy died?
Tear-filled eyes don't find a good path. So Rigg stemmed his grief, cleared his eyes, and
continued through the woods, looking for the back way to get to Nox's rooming house.
Copyright © 2010 Orson Scott Card