I held Pinar’s hand as he wept for his daughter.
“I’m sorry,” I said, and his shoulders shuddered. He was so thin — he hadn’t eaten since Mischa went missing three weeks before. “I’m sorry,” I said again. “We have to go.”
He nodded. He knew that we were already risking everything by staying in the rock flats as long as we had — the grasslands waited, and the tablets were clear that we needed to reach them before the dead moon was in the sky if we were going to make it to the Promised Land at the appointed time. Still, he gripped me with the fervor of an argument.
“One more night,” he whispered. “She’ll come back. She has to.”
“Pinar,” I murmured. “We’ve sent out search parties as far as they can go. She’s gone.” I had practiced this part with Marc that morning, lying in our bed with his ear to my belly. “She’s gone, and we have to leave.”
“Leave me here, then,” he said weakly. I leaned forward and pressed my lips to his forehead. My eyes were dry, and I clenched them shut.
“No,” I said against his skin. When I walked out of his small tent, a hundred eyes were pretending not to watch me. I walked to the tent of the pathfinder to order the breaking of camp. Pinar’s muffled sobs cut through the silent camp, and a hundred eyes looked away.
“Fisher.” Jonah, my best scout, appeared through the fog just seconds after his footfalls announced him. “Prophetess, you have to come. You have to see— we found something.”
“What is it?” I asked, and the boy looked up at me with shining eyes.
“Dinosaurs,” he breathed.
We’d been driving the animals hard all day, and they were overdue for a rest anyway. I called a halt. The wagon train formed a rough circle, and Naomi took the sheep and goats out into the fog to find good grazing. I caught her arm as she passed.
“Don’t go too far, all right?”
She nodded and gave my hand a squeeze. “You either,” she said.
Jonah led me to the place where he’d found the dinosaurs. We rode mules, rude and short but nimble on the tricky parts of the rock flats where they transitioned into clay. The fog was thick and omnipresent, and I wondered how Jonah could possibly find his way — but then, that’s why he was a scout.
“Look,” he said.
I looked into the fog and saw nothing. “What?” I squinted.
“There.” He tugged his mule’s reins until it was right next to mine, and he pointed so that I could peer along his arm. There, perhaps four wagon-lengths in front of us, a shadow loomed out of the white.
“Oh,” I said, and then I was off my mule and walking through sticky clay toward the shadow. “Oh,” I said again.
He’d been telling the truth. Dinosaurs. Not live ones, of course — bones, huge skeletons half-buried, jutting out of the ground like a forest of branchless trees. I ran my hand along a massive, curved rib. As we walked into the field of bones, the fog thinned, and I could see entire skeletons — huge curving spines, and ribs that splayed out like spread fingers, their tips resting on the earth. Fins, their outlines still clear in the heavy soil, their bones like knuckles on the ground. Massive toothless skulls with long, strange mandibles. “The Prophet told me about dinosaurs he saw before I was born, but I never thought I’d see one,” I whispered. “Gods be praised.”
As soon as the blessing passed my lips, the Gods Whispers began, so loud I couldn’t bear them. They were too much, too many, too fast and too sharp. I clapped my hands over my ears, but they only got louder. Animal panic made my heart stutter, and before I knew what I was doing I was running. I ran into the grove of bones, my feet slipping in the clay. I ran directly into the cathedral ribcage of one of the dinosaurs, finbones scattering behind me — and the Gods Whispers fell away.
The silence was overwhelming. I could hear my heartbeat thudding in my ears, the rasp of my breathing, Jonah’s distant shouting. Overhead, arching ribs almost met. I looked down to see that I was standing on a half-buried vertebra: the creature had died on her back. I wiped at a tickle on my neck and my hand came away red: a trickle of blood was running from one of my ears.
“Gods,” I wiped my hand on my cloak. The fog swirled in currents around me, and I laid a hand on the dinosaur’s bone.
I snatched my hand back immediately, swearing, shaking my fingers — the bone had… burned.
“Fisher?” I ignored Jonah’s distant shouts. I looked closer at the bone and saw that the place my blood had touched was steaming. Gods Whispers began again, soft this time, urgent.
As I watched, the Gods' own...