Silver Moons, Black Steel by Tara Harper

Silver Moons, Black Steel by Tara Harper

Author:Tara Harper
Language: eng
Format: mobi
Published: 0101-01-01T07:00:00+00:00

Silver Moons, Black Steel—Harper, Tara K - Wolf 05


Rhom Kheldour neKintar

To strive, to seek, to find,

And not to yield

—Epitaph on the marker of Captain Scott, Antarctic expedition, oldEarth

(from the oldEarth poem “Ulysses” by Tennyson)

Rhom’s lips were white-chapped and cracked. They didn’t bleed; he was too dehydrated for the tissues to do more than split and dry again. He forced himself not to rub his burning eyes as he stared at the moonlit canyon.

Desert suns, he thought of the moons. Enough light to see, but not enough to burn. It was the dark day that burned their skin. Moonworms, he muttered under his breath. His brains were getting scrambled.

Gamon squatted just back from the edge of the cliff. They weren’t on the road. They had left it days ago when even the deepest well was dry. Now they followed a zigzag line from the road to springs and cave ponds that Gamon tried to find in the dark.

Rhom waited. Shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Squinted at the moonlit cracks that ran the deep ravine. It was a steep drop, overhung where the rocks had fallen away, and he could barely see the bottom. They’d be Silver Moons, Black Steel—Harper, Tara K - Wolf 05

lucky to get down in one piece. His voice was hoarse from the lack of water. “Moonworms, Gamon, I’ll be a mummy before we go on.” The other man did not turn.


The older man let out his breath with an almost inaudible curse. “I made a mistake.”

“A mistake.” Rhom glanced down at the ravine floor, then back along the print-pocked soil that now marked their path through the rocks. His voice was suddenly careful. “What kind of mistake?” Gamon gestured with his chin. “We can’t get down from here.”

“Why not? We have eighty meters of rope.”

“It’s not the rope.” Gamon pointed more clearly. “Those patches aren’t shadow. They’re blind lichen.”

“Blind lichen,” Rhom repeated.

“Touch them, and the powder gets into the air. Blinds you permanently.”

“We could go down at a different spot.”

“If they’re in this canyon, they’re likely to be all along it. Which would you rather have: a little thirst or blindness?”

“You might have mentioned these lichen before.”

“Wasn’t any to show you.”

“What exactly does this mean, Gamon?”

Gamon stared across the bone-dry canyon. He could see the silhouettes of tenor trees kays away in the distance. “It means the water is over there, and there’s no way in hell we can reach it.”

“And that means?”

Gamon did not turn around. “It means we must go back.” Rhom looked at their pitted tracks in the soil. “Back to where?”

“Back to the fork in the trail.”

“That was almost eight kays ago.”


“That will take all night.”

Silver Moons, Black Steel—Harper, Tara K - Wolf 05

Gamon nodded.

“We’ll have been two days without water by then. And it will take another day to cross the canyon and find a tenor tree.”

“Aye,” Gamon said simply.

Rhom looked at him through his burning eyes. Ariye was close, and the chill that ran down his spine had nothing to do with the dropping temperature.


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