In ages past, the bowl of the earth flooded. The Djarini claim the evil of the ice giants broke the world. The Chattering Women say that it was retribution for the way their children had abandoned them to the forest. The Scarred Pilgrims claim their own evils brought the deluge. All remember the Flood. How could they not? It was the day that shattered the world.
A single boat, or a raft, or a tree, or a serpent (depending whom you ask) held those few righteous who refused guilt the way a kitsune refuses fire. Every other life ended in the cold waters’ embrace. But the walls of the world could not hold the weight of so much guilt, so many waters, so the very walls of the bowl of the world cracked and crumbled. The flood poured over the edge, and ever since the earth has been a disc with no walls to keep its people safe.
The Gray Islands saw the change first: wisps rose from the Edge, great tendrils of vapor. A few brave souls set out in their reedships. The boys dared each other to get closer, closer, as they always did. The few men who came with them stayed back. Each had seem someone fall over the edge. They knew. Those who ventured closest saw that the Edge now curved up; instead of falling, the water that came to the Edge plummeted into the sky. The wall of water became thicker and thicker.
And then the first boat from beyond hauled itself over the edge and floated back into the world.
Men and women so pale that the elders thought them the dead danced and sang. They squinted in the sunlight.
The men on the reedships fled back to the islands. The boys, curious, crept closer.
Mnesthe, oldest boy on the reedships, hailed the boats, his left hand extended in peaceful greeting as his right arm flexed outward to ward off any curses.
A tall, tall man came to the rail of the boat. He raised a single eyebrow.
Mnesthe’s voice cracked as he shouted, “You come to the Gray Islands. Come in peace, and we welcome you.”
The tall, tall man lowered his head into a graceful nod.
Behind him, the deck of the tall boat crowded with people. Some wept. Some laughed. The tall, tall man alone did not express joy.
A shadow rose in the new wall of water. It broke through the rising wave and skidded down, splashing onto the Sweetwater Sea. Shouts of mirth erupted from within it. Soon more boats came from beyond the edge of the world.
No, now it was the Wall of the World, as far as the horizon stretched, a wall of water fifty paces high and rising.
Mnesthe led the reedships to the boats and welcomed them all in peace, warding off any curse that might be uttered. That night, those who had known the Graveyard for many, many years dined on fresh cocoanut and slaughtered pig. The young ones refused to eat the strange fare.
Jeraeden also refused to eat, though he sat in silent approval of the festivities.
He kept glancing to the new wall that encircled the world, waiting, waiting.
Whatever he waited for did not come that night.
The Graveyard at the Bottom of the World nears its conclusion.