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Novel – Lindy

Let me begin by saying that Lindy now has, not a new edition, but a new cover, with jacket art graciously provided by Larisa Koshkina.  That, however, is the last positive thing I will say in this entire post.  The remainder of it will descend to the level of a rant in which I savagely critique lulu.com’s cover editor.  You may not want to read further.

So, Lulu provides three options for designing a cover.  There is a basic online template, which is useless in the extreme, not much better than trying to design graphics in a word processor.

There is a new online template, which is awkward and cumbersome but that mostly gets the job done, unless, of course, you want to do something crazy, like have an image on the spine of your book, which it will not allow you to do under any circumstances.  The reasoning, in theory, is that the spine width changes depending on how many pages are in the book, and so the image size for the spine is different with each project. Yet, by the time you get around to designing the cover, you have already uploaded your book file to Lulu, and Lulu already knows exactly how wide your book will be, so all Lulu really needs is an online template with the capacity to change spine widths according to the information it already has.   Apparently, however, this is too difficult for a company that sets and prints many thousands of different covers a year, which is, in short, remarkably inept.

The third option is to create your own cover and upload it to the site, but Lulu once again makes things as difficult as possible by providing no template at all.  To generate this template,  based on the book you have already uploaded, would be simple in the extreme.  It need not be interactive.  It need not be editable online.  It need only be a file generated to the book’s dimensions.  Instead, Lulu just lists the dimensions for you and tells you to go do it yourself,  which is  simply horrible customer service.

So, I think Lulu may have lost my business in the long term.  I will leave things as they are for now, but I am exploring other more professional options, and I am hopeful that I will be able to judge at least some of these publishers by their covers.

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I agree, it does seem a little early to be making a second edition of Lindy, but I have some excellent excuses:

First, I was not sure exactly how to do some things in LaTeX the first time around, so my ellipses were all messed up and some of my end punctuation was a little strange, all of which has now been fixed.

Second, I had not discovered how to do Creative Commons licensing through LaTeX, and now I have, so I have included that bit at the front.

Third, I had several people complain that I had not included an About the Author section, so I have now added one at the back of the book.

Fourth, many people were kind enough to send me editing suggestions, so I have now corrected a bunch of typos and whatnot.

Fifth, the original hardcover edition had my name correct everywhere but on the physical spine, which read Hill Jeremy Luke. I have corrected this too.

So, the end result is that there is now a second edition, still printed through lulu.com. Hopefully there will be quite a long time now between the second and the third.

I have been learning a little about LaTeX recently.

For those of you who are unfamiliar (as I was only a few months ago), LaTeX is a program that uses mark-up language (something like html) and a document preparation system to produce documents through the TeX typesetting program. It is used, mostly in academia, to produce publication-quality documents, and is particularly useful when building bibliographies, using graphics, and representing mathematical or scientific symbols.

When I went about trying to self-publish Lindy, my friend Dave used LaTeX to help me mark-up the manuscript and prepare it in a form that www.lulu.com would accept, but then I needed to make some revisions, and then I wanted to typeset a short story for someone, and then I started putting the Island Pieces together into a more formal shape, so I figured that I had better learn how to work with LaTeX myself rather than pestering Dave every time I needed something. Unfortunately, this has traditionally meant downloading the entire program and a whole set of additional packages,  setting them up, and doing the sort of computer work that generally ends up making me deeply frustrated with the world and everything in it.

However, as of quite recently, there is another option. ShareLaTeX, which describes itself as LaTeX in the cloud, provides a dedicated .tex editor and typesets to .pdf without having to download any part of LaTeX at all. The site is in its infancy, and it has not been without its growing pains, but the hassle that it saves more than makes up for it, and the creator of the site has been very good with responding to issues as they arise. To this point the service is free, and it will always be free to have a limited number of active projects, but eventually there will be a cost for larger numbers of projects.  I recommend the site to anyone who is interested in experimenting with what LaTeX can actually do.

Even without having to setup the program myself, however, the learning curve for marking up the text in a .tex file was fairly steep for me.  There are bits about LaTeX that make absolute sense, and other bits that make sense once you know them, but some bits remain counterintuitive even once you have used them, especially if you approach learning like I do, by throwing yourself into a project and just troubleshooting your way through it, rather than sitting down to read through a manual.

It took me some time, for example, to discover how to insert blank pages between the table of contents and the first chapter of a book in memoir class.  The newpage and clearpage commands did not seem to produce what I wanted, even when followed by thispagestyle{empty}, which were the standard suggestions for this problem.  Eventually I stumbled upon the cleartorecto and cleartoverso commands, which seem to have done the trick, though nobody else seems to use them in this way.  All of which is to say that learning to markup text for LaTeX has been an interesting experience for me, and though I am fairly certain that I will never make a career of it, I am pleased to be a little more self-sufficient in this respect.

So, I have finally gotten around to publishing Lindy through Lulu.com. There is a hardcover format, a trade paperback format, and a free ereader format as well, so hopefully there will be something for everyone. You can find them at this link if you are interested in a copy.

I will also take this opportunity to thank everyone who read along with the story as I posted it, those who took the time to proofread it and offer comments, and those who encouraged me along the way. I also want to offer a special thanks to Dave Humphrey, who typeset the whole thing in LaTeX and made it presentable for me.

Here is the last chapter of Lindy.  I will now be setting about some extensive revisions, so if you have any suggestions or criticisms, please do leave me a comment or send me an email at jeremylukehill@gmail.com.  As always, those who are new to the story can find the beginning at Chapter One, and those who would like to have the story thus far in a single file can find it in both .pdf and .rtf formats on the Longer Works page.

Chapter Twenty-Three:
In Which Some Final Things are Settled

The walk home from the bridge seemed like a dream to Lindy, because she could not quite bring herself to believe that it was true.  She and her mother and Alisdair and Moe went quietly at first, each with their own thoughts. but then they began to tell each other their stories, and soon they were laughing and crying and carrying on like the oldest of friends.  They had not gone very far before they were joined by Bayard and the others who had been waiting to do battle with Khurshid’s armies, and so the stories had to be told all over again, and then fastest of the creatures were sent off to The Crofts to spread the news, while those who remained went on at a more leisurely place, shouting and singing and generally making the biggest party that Lindy had ever seen as they made their way along the road.

They arrived at The Crofts while it was still quite early in the morning.  The sun had not yet even brushed the horizon, and the cool of night still clung to everything, but they found everyone very much awake.  The doors of the house all stood open, and the windows all shone with light.  The cottages were all alight as well, and there was a great bonfire burning in the common between them.  People were coming and going between the house and the fire, and they were all carrying food and drink to set at tables that had been dragged from the cottages.  Others were playing music or singing and dancing, as if they were celebrating every holiday rolled into one.

Lindy was too tired really to join in, but she found a spot with her mother at one of the tables, and she let someone put a plate of sausage and cheese in front of her, and she laid her head down on her hands to let everyone’s joy swirl around her.  She closed her eyes and felt her mother’s hand on her shoulder, and smelled the fire burning, and heard some kind of pipe playing a song like a bubbling river, and she fell asleep.

When she awoke it was just morning, the sun rising on a day that was still cool but that promised to grow hot.  Everything was very quiet, and Lindy could see people sleeping all around her, sitting at the tables or lying on the grass or resting against the cottages.  In fact, there was no one at all awake, as if everyone had fallen asleep all at once in the midst of their celebration, like the castle in sleeping beauty.  Even her mother was asleep at the table beside her.

Lindy did not try to wake the sleepers, but she felt wide awake herself, so she got to her feet and began slowly walking the path that had wound its way to the house through long grass when she had first arrived and had since been pressed flat by the passing of countless feet.  She had set out in the direction of the house idly, because it was where the path naturally led, so she was halfway there before she remembered that she was no longer welcome at The Crofts.  When she looked up at the house, however, the side door stood open, and she could imagine the little coat room through it and the kitchen beyond that, and she felt a longing to be back there again.  Surely The Crofts would not forbid her now, she thought, not after everything had come out right at the bridge.  Besides, if she could be brave enough to face Khurshid, she could certainly be brave enough to face the house, so she gathered herself and walked to the door and called out softly with her mind.

“Crofts?” she asked, “May I come in?”  The house did not answer, but she could feel it at the edges of her mind, full of emotion, happiness and embarrassment, gratitude and uncertainty, joy and fear.  “I know how you feel,” Lindy ventured again.  “I’m not really sure what to say either, but it would make me very happy if we could just start over again.”

There was a long moment where Lindy wondered whether the house would ever answer her, and then it said, “Come in,” said it very quickly, as if a little ashamed, but Lindy feel a swell of happiness in The Crofts, and she knew that things would be better now.

She stepped across the threshold into the coat room with a heart lighter than any time she could remember, reaching out to brush her hands along the walls as she passed them, thinking back to when she had first come this way, when Clinton and Moe had frightened her half to death by changing into strange creatures before her eyes.  She nudged open the door of the kitchen, expecting to see Penates already at work, but even he was asleep at his hearth, and the room stood empty except for two people sitting at the long, rough kitchen table.  One of them was Alisdair, sitting back in his chair, his legs crossed, and his hands holding a cup of tea in his lap, as if he was in the middle of a chat with an old friend.  The other was a man whom Lindy had never seen before, at least, he was a man when she first saw him, young and handsome with light hair, but almost immediately he became a much older man, white-haired and bent with age, and then a moment later he became a young girl, not much older than Lindy herself, and the moment after that she became a middle-aged man with deep red skin and golden eyes.  The figure took on one shape after another, each only for a second or two, so that Lindy thought that it must eventually look like every person who had ever lived, and she wondered whether it had ever looked like her, even just once.

“Welcome, Lindy,” said Alisdair.  He stood, and so did the other person, who looked now like a poor woman dressed all in rags.  “This is Aigonz.  He is the spirit of this world, as The Crofts is the spirit of this house, and as you are the spirit of your body.  He is The Weald itself, you might say.”  He bowed his head in Aigonz’ direction as he said this, and Lindy bowed her head too, not only because Alisdair had done so, but because she felt somehow that Aigonz was someone to whom bows were rightfully due.

Aigonz stood now as well, taking the form of a dark-skinned man with a broad smile and a carefully pressed suit.  He put his hand out to Lindy.  “I’m very glad to meet you, Lindy,” he said.  “You’ve done a great good here, and I am truly grateful to you.”

“I only did what seemed like the right thing,” Lindy said, feeling a little embarrassed.

“That is the only thing worth doing,” Aigaonz answered,” becoming a small boy in a white robe, “and many are unable to do so much.  Each of us, you and Alasdair and I, and even Khurshid, only ever need do what seems right, and no one may do it for us.  We either do it or not.”  He looked Lindy in the eyes.  “This is not only the task of gods and heroes.  It is the task that faces us all.  We have no other.”

“But I don’t always know what the right thing is,” said Lindy quietly.

“None of us ever do,” said Aigaonz, now a beautiful young woman with chocolate skin and long black hair.  Her voice was gentle.  “You can only keep watching and listening, and you will know it when it comes.”

“I see,” said Lindy, but she felt a little overwhelmed.

Aigonz smiled, her white teeth flashing.  Come,” she said “let me show you what you’ve helped accomplish.  Her hand was still outstretched, and Lindy came toward her and took it.  There was a sound like a sudden gust of wind, and then the kitchen disappeared, and all three of them were standing in the great room at the top of the house.  The places on the great table had all been set with gold and with crystal, and there were tall candles, and boughs of fir, and wreaths of ivy.  On every plate there was a crown, and they seemed alive to Lindy, as if they were filled with a joy of their own.

Aigonz had become a pale man with a scar that blinded him in one eye.  “Do you see the crowns, Lindy?” he asked.  “They are all in their places once again, and soon Keepers will come from all the worlds, one by one, and they will take up the crowns, and The Crofts will be filled with people once again.”  As he said this, Lindy’s mind was filled with images of the house bursting with people, coming and going and living together.  She saw people laughing around the kitchen tables and hanging laundry outside the cottages and hoeing rows of vegetables in the fields, and there, in the midst of them, she also saw her mother, chopping vegetables in the kitchen, and she saw herself, standing on the bridge, looking out across the river valley.

Lindy was so filled with happiness at that she could hardly speak, but she somehow kept from crying and looked up into Aigonz’ eyes.  “So,” she managed, “does this mean that I can stay here?  And my Mom too?”

Aigonz nodded, his eyes becoming those of a shy-looking girl in floral-print dress.  “Of course,” she said.

“Will we live in my cubby?” Lindy asked.

The little girl laughed, and it sounded like a thousand laughs joined gently together, babies gurgling and children giggling and grandparents chuckling all at once.  “Not exactly,” she said.  “Come, and I will show you.”  She took Lindy’s hand again, and there was the same sound of wind, and they appeared now at the centre of the bridge.  The morning sun glistened on the waters, and the trees moved gently, full of their summer leaves, and the sky was a light, morning blue.  It was so beautiful that Lindy could hardly believe it was the same place where such terrible things had almost happened the night before.

“You won’t be staying in your cubby,” Aigonz said from beside her, “because this, if you’ll remember, is now your home.”  She had become now a very handsome young man, and Lindy quickly let go of his hand, feeling a little embarrassed.

“But we can’t live here, can we?” she asked.

The handsome boy laughed his thousand laughs.  “Can’t you?” he said, but his voice was teasing.  “Though you didn’t know it, Lindy, you’ve become something that has never been seen in The Weald before.  There have been Keepers ever since Khurshid betrayed his home, and they were set to meet Khurshid at the bridge each year, so the veil could be renewed.  But you have made the bridge your home, like a second seal on Khurshid’s prison.  So I’m going to make you a house here where you have already made your home, and you will keep watch over the bridge.”  He laughed again.  “Yes, we’ve long had Keepers, but now we have a Watcher as well, and the Watcher needs a house.”

He motioned with his hands, and the whole valley trembled.  Stones rose from the ground, shaking free from the earth.  Trees toppled along both banks.  Everywhere there was the sound of rocks splitting and wood creaking, as the very stuff of the valley transformed itself into masonry and timber.  All of it came flowing up the bridge in a rush, like water running up hill, and it joined itself together, stone on stone, timber on timber, until there stood before them a most beautiful house.  Its foundations rested on the walls of the bridge, leaving a passage beneath it for people to pass, and it had a stairway leading up to a door in its floor, just like the one that led into Lindy’s attic cubby.

“This will be your home,” Aigonz said, looking now like a grey-haired woman with kind eyes.  “Through its windows you can keep watch over the bridge, and through its door you may go to your cubby in The Crofts any time you will it.”

Lindy walked slowly toward the house, her house now, looking back to Alisdair and Aigonz only once.  Then she set her hand on the rail, climbed the stairs, pushed open the door, and at last she knew that she was home.

Previous Chapter

Here is the second to last instalment of Lindy.  It is short, but I am making up for it by posting the final chapter right after it.  As always, those who are new to the story can find the beginning at Chapter One, and those who would like to have the story thus far in a single file can find it in both .pdf and .rtf formats on the Longer Works page.

Chapter Twenty-Two:
In Which There Are Two Remarkable Happenings

When Lindy placed the crown on Alisdair’s head, two quite different but equally remarkable things began happening at exactly the same time.

One of those things happened right before Lindy’s eyes, and this was the thing that more or less everyone saw once they realized that something was going on and turned to find what it was.  All at once Alisdair’s chains dropped away, and he came to his feet without ever seeming to stand, and he became the king that Lindy had first seen coming through the arch in Mister Hat’s garden, stern and beautiful and terrible.  His green-gold face seemed almost to glow, and the patterns on his robes danced and swirled around him.  He had no sword, only a golden branch, topped with leaves of many colours, orange and yellow, green sand silver, red and gold, but he held it before him like a weapon.

In only a moment, he had reached the top of the stairs, though he hardly seemed to move.  Khurshid’s guards recognized the danger too late, and though the feline woman sprang at him with clawed hands, and though the lizard-man drew a long sinuous blade, Alisdair only motioned with the branch, and they fell aside as if they had been struck by some huge and invisible fist.  Khurshid had also turned to face Alisdair, but he made to attempt to attack, only stood on his throne, and Lindy felt as though the world was balanced between them, waiting on what would happen next.

“You will leave now,” Alisdair told him.  There was neither anger nor fear in his voice, only a steady calm, and as he spoke, he casually bent to close the chest of crowns, as if he were merely tidying up around the house while speaking to an unruly child.

Khurshid gave no answer, but seemed to gather himself, his eyes glittering like gems and his hair lit-red-gold in the torchlight, and then he flung himself into the air, high over Alisdair’s head, caught himself on broad wings, and fell upon Lindy in an instant, seizing her in one arm and holding a knife to her throat with the other.  Then he turned to face Alisdair again.  “If I leave,” he said, low and guttural and savage, “it will cost you dearly.”

Now, as I said, this was one of the things that began happening when Lindy returned the crown to Alisdair, but there was a second thing, a very different thing, but just as important in its way.  You see, in the same instant that Lindy put the crown on Alisdair’s head, the same instant that he was freed from his chains, Lindy made quite an astonishing realization.  Somehow, without quite knowing what she was doing, she had done what was needed to be done, and everything changed for her.  She saw quite clearly, for the first time, what it meant really to do something.  It was not that she was the only one who could have given the crown back to Alisdair, or that she had been somehow destined to do it, or even that she had needed to do it.   She had just been in a time and place where something needed to be done, and she had done it.  What was more, she also knew, not in her mind only but also in her spirit, that this thing she had done had made the place her home at last, had made all The Weald her home in a way, but the bridge in particular, made it her home in a sense that she could not hope to describe.  She had laid her things in the middle of it, and she had claimed it, and now she had done something to make it what she claimed.

This is why, when Khurshid swooped down and seized her, Lindy was not at all afraid.  Though she was still not quite clear about what had happened, she was already certain that there was no longer anything to fear, and even as she saw the look of resignation on Alisdair’s face, even as she saw him hesitate where he stood between Khurshid’s throne and the golden chest, she did not hesitate herself, only spoke out with a clear, strong voice.   “Let me go, please,” she said, as firmly and boldly as she had ever said anything, and she felt Khurshid flinch.

“I’ll do no such…” he started to say, but Lindy could already feel his grip loosening despite himself, and he gave a roar of surprise and anger.  “What magic is this?” he screamed, his hands now pulling completely free of his prey.

Lindy turned to look into his eyes.  “This is my home,” she said, for the second time that night, “and you must leave it.”

He held her gaze for a few seconds longer, and Lindy could feel him struggling against the truth of what she had said, and then he howled in rage, the howl of a beast.  He sprang backward, taking the shape of a lion, and dashed up the steps of the carriage.  Lindy thought for a moment that he would strike at Alisdair, but he only rushed past him and off the carriage in a single leap, and by the time Lindy reached the top of the steps, he was already fleeing between his followers down the road toward the forest.

A great silence fell over the river valley then.  Even the breeze died away, and the torches burned more still.

“Hear me now,” Alisdair called into the stillness, his voice filling the valley, seeming to come from everywhere, like a distant thunder.  “I am a Keeper of The Weald, and I have met your master at the bridge as it was appointed that I should, and your master has fled, as you have witnessed.”  His voice had taken on a formal tone, as if he was reciting something at a ceremony.  He paused, and there was a murmur now, as those gathered in the valley below began to wonder at what had happened on the bridge above them.  “Not only has your master fled,” Alisdair continued, “but he has left behind him the crowns of the Keepers, and so those of you who once wore them, those who betrayed them into his hands, are no longer bound to him.  You need no longer be his servants, though it lies with you now to choose another way.”

The murmuring of the crowd had become almost a roar, but Alisdair took paid it no attention.  “See?” He demanded, “Midsummer is come, and the veil has been renewed!”

As he said this last, Lindy saw a bright light shine out from behind her, and she looked to see that the two waves of silver fire had come together to make a great ball of flame in the centre of the bridge.  The flame flickered and rose and grew brighter, towering into the sky, and then there was nothing.  There was only a darkness then, a darkness so deep that the torches from the valley below could do nothing to dispel it.  How long the darkness remained, Lindy could not afterwards say, but it was suddenly split by a ball of silver fire once more, and then a wave of silver rushed out in both directions, leaving a veil of dancing colours behind it, like the joined tails of twin comets.

Behind her, Lindy heard the crowd crying out and rushing away in confusion, but she never looked back, only ran down the steps into her mother’s arms.

Previous Chapter < > Next Chapter

Here is the next instalment of Lindy.  As always, those who are new to the story can find the beginning at Chapter One, and those who would like to have the story thus far in a single file can find it in both .pdf and .rtf formats on the Longer Works page.

Chapter Twenty-One:
In Which Things Get Much Worse Indeed

If you have ever noticed how the distance between one thing and another can change depending on how you are feeling, you will understand a little how Lindy felt as she walked to the bridge that afternoon.  Her first walk from The Crofts to the bridge with Moe and Cleanna had gone by in a moment because her heart had been full of gladness and a glorious spring morning.  This second time, however, with evening coming on, and with the weight of the house’s anger, and with the fear of what Khurshid was about to do at midnight, the road seemed ever so much longer.  The pillow and the blanket she was carrying were not very heavy, but they were bulky and awkward, so she was always stopping to readjust her grip or to switch arms, and though it was not nearly as cold as the night before, there was a cool breeze blowing, so she was a little cold too, and the road dragged on and on, so it was getting dark by the time Lindy came at last to the edge of the forest and looked out across the river valley.

She had been able to hear Khurshid’s camp for some time already, and even from across the river she could see that fires were burning redly everywhere, and the whole valley smelled of smoke and mud and rot and even nastier things.  She was still not sure what she intended to do, but her feet seemed to follow the path, whether she willed them to or not, and the path led them down the hill and across the plain and, without any hesitation, right to the highest point of the bridge.  There she unrolled her sleeping bag and crawled into it, so that she was sitting against the wall of the bridge, the sleeping bag pulled up around her and the pillow tucked between her head and the cold stone.

It was not yet quite dark, and it soon became clear that Lindy’s presence on the bridge had not gone unnoticed.  At first there were only a few shouts and pointing fingers in the midst of the general noise and chaos in the valley below, but soon there were more and more people looking up to where Lindy was sitting.  The meadow gradually quietened, and  a crowd gathered at the foot of the bridge, and when there was nothing but silence across the valley, Khurshid himself stood on his carriage throne and looked up toward where Lindy lay.

“Lindy,” he called, “you must be eager to see your surprise if you’ve come so early, but I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait like everyone else.”

Lindy said nothing, just looked steadily into the clear evening sky, still grey with the last light of day.

“Are we no longer on speaking terms, dear Lindy?” Khurshid mocked.  “Very well, but we will speak later, and then you will answer me, I assure you.”

Lindy still kept quiet.  Khurshid’s taunts no longer bothered her somehow, and the sky above her was too lovely to spoil with even a glance in his direction.  The first stars were appearing, and her sleeping bag was growing nicely warm in the chill air.  Though she was only a few short steps from her enemy, and though she was only a few short hours from watching him invade her adopted home, she was full of a strange peace.  She did not yet know what to do, but she knew somehow that she was where she should be, and she felt content despite everything.  She still desperately wanted things to turn out right, of course, wanted her mother and Alisdair to be rescued more than anything, but her heart was at peace.  It was not a feeling that she ever managed to describe to me while she was telling me her story, but anything worth feeling is like that, I think, so I did not ask her to explain any further, and you will have to content yourself with that as well.

Lindy was never sure if she actually slept there on the bridge that night, lying on the hard, smooth stone under the high, clear sky.  She could not remember closing her eyes or falling asleep or waking up, but she did remember falling into something like a dream.  She thought that she could see the constellations sail across the sky, and she felt like she was drifting too, just like the stars, as if the bridge had been picked up by a silent and tremendous wave and floated along among the cool, white lights of the night sky.  The stars began to swirl, and there were ribbons of them gathered like mist, and Lindy felt only how small she was in the midst of everything.  After a moment she realized that the stars looked familiar again, and it seemed to her that she was now in two places at once, both on the bridge in The Weald and on the railway that ran down the middle of the street in front of her own house back home.  She had the feeling that the two places were the same somehow, that she was hovering between them, and that she could go home again that very minute if only she willed it.  The idea tempted her for a moment, but she knew that she could not abandon her mother and Alisdair, though it was comforting to feel that she was so close to home after all.

Suddenly, there was a shouting and a roaring and a beating of drums at the foot of the bridge, and Lindy all at once found herself very much awake again.  She scrambled out of her sleeping bag to her feet and looked down the curve of the bridge.  Huge creatures had seized Khurshid’s carriage by the bars along its sides and were dragging it step-by-step up the bridge, while the crowd pressed after it, waving torches and brandishing weapons and beating drums and playing horns.  The procession moved slowly, but it was not long before it had come close enough for Lindy to see the faces of the beasts struggling to pull the vast carriage and to see Khurshid sitting sprawled on his throne.

She backed along the bridge a few steps, just to be sure that she had the veil between Khurshid and herself, and then she waited for him to come.  She tried to think what she should do, but her mind was still distracted with everything she had just seen and with the feeling of being so close to her home, and she could not seem to make things come clear.   “If only the bridge was my home,” she thought, “then Khurshd wouldn’t have any right to it,” and this idea suddenly seemed to make perfect sense to her, though she had no idea how to go about making a bridge a home.

“Lindy!” she heard Khurshid cry, and there was a profound silence as the voices and the drums were stilled.  “You are indeed a most surprising child.  I thought you would be much too frightened to keep our appointment tonight, but here you are.  You must be very anxious indeed to see the surprise I have for you, though a smart girl like you has probably guessed what it is already.”  He skipped down to the very last stair of the carriage and held out his hand to her.  “Come up to my throne, my dear, and I’ll show it to you.  I’m certain you’ll find it most interesting.”

“You can show me from there,” Lindy called back, her voice much braver than she felt.

Khurshid threw back his head and laughed aloud.  “Very well, you may keep your distance for now, though it will not save you for long.”  Then he motioned grandly in the air with his hand and began slowly to remount the stairs of the throne as a small group of figures made their way from the dim mass behind the carriage into the light of the throne’s torches.  Though Lindy already hoped that her mother and Alisdair and Moe would be among the group, she still cried aloud when she finally made out their faces as they were shoved roughly to the stairs of the carriage.  Everything else became instantly unimportant.  The lights and the crowd and even Khurshid himself all but disappeared from Lindy’s mind, and in their place was only her mother and Alisdair and Moe.  She could not even remember afterward what it was that she shouted when she first saw them, only that she ran across the veil, no longer caring whether she was putting herself into danger, and she threw her arms around her mother.

If anyone said anything for the next few minutes, Lindy never knew, and if they did anything, she never knew that either.  All she knew was the warmth of her mother’s face and the smell of her hair and the sound of her voice murmuring from behind the gag.  It was as if time stopped for a moment, and Lindy found herself wishing that it would stop forever, even as the rest of the world began to return to her and a she began to remember once again exactly how serious their predicament really was.

It was only then that she heard Khurshid speak again, much closer and much softer.  “I’m so glad you like your surprise, Lindy.   I knew you would.  And your happiness will make it all the more enjoyable for me after we cross the bridge and I kill you all,  just as I killed the other Keepers.”  He looked mockingly down at her.

A gong sounded then, a huge, deep sound that seemed to come from the earth itself, and everyone looked up startled to seea vast sheet of dancing colour, like the northern lights that Lindy sometimes saw at her Grandfather’s house up north.  The colours were in long streaks that reached up from the centre of the river all along its length, splitting the bridge at its highest point and reaching as far as the eye could see into the night sky.

“The veil!” Khurshid cried, and his eyes looked wildly joyful.  He turned back to Lindy.  “It will soon be time,” he said, “and I think we’ve had quite enough of this scene for now, don’t you darling?  It’s time that you took your seat to watch my triumph.”

Lindy saw two figures approaching from the sides of the carriage, the feline woman she had seen the night before and a tall, thin man who walked on all fours like a lizard, balancing on his tail when he stood.  She did not know how much time was left until midnight, but she knew that it must now be short, and so she knew that her own time was just as short.  She tried desperately to think what could be done, but her mind only kept repeating, “Make the bridge your home,” and she had no idea how.

She felt the lizard-man put his hand on her shoulder, and she flinched back instinctively.  “Get away!” she cried, because there was nothing else she could do. “This bridge is my home!  You can’t touch us here!”

The lizard-man shrunk back for a moment, and the woman paused as well, shifting into the shape of a spotted, black panther, but Khurshid only laughed.  “You foolish girl,” he snarled.  “A place isn’t your home because you throw a few blankets on the ground and say so.”  He stalked down the stairs, seized her arm, and jerked her to her feet.  “Now, ” he said, “you will sit where you’re told, and you would be wise not to interrupt me again tonight.”

He dragged her up the stairs of the carriage and threw her down at the foot of his throne against the chest of crowns, then seated himself on his throne.  The crowd still waited silently, and Lindy kept quiet too, looking down past the heap of crowns in the open chest to where her mother and Alisdair and Moe were tied at the foot of the carriage.  She knew that this was the end of things for them and for her and for The Crofts, but she could not really bring herself to believe it.  Everything had turned out wrong, despite her best intentions.  She had followed her visions and only lost the crown.  She had gone back to face The Crofts and only been rejected.  She had tried to make the bridge her home and only been captured.  She had failed time after time, and now there would be no more chances to make it right.

“If only,” she said, so quietly that even she could hardly hear herself, “if only Alisdair had never given me the crown.”  She said this only absently, without meaning much by it, but she happened to say it just as her eyes were on Alisdair’s crown where it sat atop all the others in the chest below her, and she found herself wondering what might happen if she were to put the crown back on Alisdair’s head right that moment.  She turned her head very slightly to the left, just enough to see that the tall, reptilian man was still standing guard over her, and she could only assume that the panther-woman was standing behind her as well.  She had no time to think any further, however, because just then there was a rippling shout that began at the furthest flanks of the great crowd and swelled to its center, almost like the wave at a baseball game.

Lindy could not at first understand what had caused the outcry, but she soon saw that the veil of light was being eaten up at both ends by a ripple of silver flame, like a sparkler burning from both ends, moving ever closer to the bridge from each side. The flame moved only slowly, but Lindy guessed that it would be only minutes before the two waves of silver met at the bridge and the veil of lights was eaten up entirely.

“At last!” she heard Khurshid shout to the crowd behind her.  “The veil falls, and there is no one to renew it.  At last we return to our rightful place.”  Another roar went up, and Lindy turned to see that Khurshid was now standing on his throne and looking back across the screaming throng below him.  She also saw that the guards on either side of her had turned as well, looking up to where Khurshid stood framed against the light of a hundred torches, and she realized that she needed to act then or not at all.  Though she had no idea if it would actually help anything, and though she was almost certain that she would be caught and punished before she could even manage it, she darted forward, seized Alisdair’s crown from the golden casket, and ran down the steps of the carriage.  Then she set the crown on its rightful owner’s head.

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