Hero kicked the ashes at his feet. Having walked Amanda to the mouth of the path that led through the Garbage Dump, he now stood in the ashen field and peril at Burning Place. She was making another night Crossing, and he was uneasy. With so many Power-Outs, the dark things had became bold.
“Amanda,” he asked, “do you have to go at night?”
“Yes.” She was eager to arrange a Great Park transport, so that the remaining muddy play plazas could be transplanted and provide no more ammunition for riots in the streets. She and Ranger Commander had agreed to this haste.
“You know better than to worry about me,” she chided, buttoning the collar of her blue runner’s jacket. She knelt to tighten the strap that secured her felt running boots. “You know I can detect the deceits as well as any. It is a Crossing Again, which I have made countless times, and I am not afraid. I am never out of the company of the King.”
Hero grinned at the confidence in her tone. Even in childhood, Amanda had been sure, sure of her gifts and sure of the strength she derived from being sister to the King.
“Well,” said Hero, teasing, “don’t go too far without a weapon. You’ve obviously left yours somewhere else.” He pulled his silver-bladed woodsman’s hatchet from its sheath and offered it to her.
Surprised, Amanda patted her belt. Sure enough, it was empty. She turned, searching the ground. Had she set it aside here? No. Where could she have left her hatchet? How could she be so careless?