What happens next is very strange, possibly the strangest event in the whole story. A single figure materializes from a phenocryst. It stands erect and looks around, trying to figure out what’s wrong. Then it looks at itself and stifles a scream. The figure has Leenah’s body, but instead of hands and feet, it has lion’s paws. Shaggy tufts of fur sprout from the creature’s upper arms and from its cheeks. It has Negasi’s shaggy ears and tail as well, but it also has Leenah’s emerald eyes. Finally, the creature says, with Leenah’s voice:
“What the Tenebrous…”
Another voice responds out of the same mouth, but this time, it’s Negasi’s voice:
“Something must’ve happened when you fell. We’re in Asthenia.”
“Negasi?” says Leenah’s voice. “Where are you?”
“Where am I? I know where I am, Leenah, but where are you?”
“I can’t see you, Negasi!”
“I can’t see you either, Leenah! And what’s happened to me?”
“I was about to ask the same question?”
“You know what I think happened?”
“When we somehow got zapped into this world from Pergola, I was touching you. The erresdy powder must have combined our bodies into just one and spit us out that way.”
“Are you saying that we’re together in one body, Neg?”
“More or less.”
“No wonder I feel like I’m wearing fur gloves and boots!”
“Those aren’t my appendages,” says Negasi’s voice. “The powder must’ve taken my feline qualities and singled them out.”
“Why are we able to talk out of one mouth without having two heads like that vulture we met in Escarpa?”
“I don’t know. Both our minds must be in one head, though, because I remember everything.”
“So can I.”
“But…Leenah, how are we going to move? It’s like half of this body is yours, and half’s mine.”
“Well, I can move any part of my body if I want to,” says Leenah, flexing her right paw. “Perhaps we’ll just have to tell each other which way to move so we don’t end up going in circles.”
“All right. Er, Leenah, would you mind turning around so that we’re facing the phenocryst?”
“I just want to see what I…er, what we look like. That crystal should be reflective enough.”
“If you insist,” says Leenah, turning around. Two gasps come out as one as Negasi and Leenah stare at their combined bodies.
“I look like Veder!” screams Leenah.
“You think you’re ugly?” yells Negasi. “I’m wearing your dress!”
“And what’s happened to my hair?” says Leenah, touching it cautiously with a paw. “It’s my color, but look how ragged it is!”
“It looks like my hair!” says Negasi.
“What happened to my earrings…and my headdress…and my boots?”
“I have no idea. They’ve probably disappeared…just like my pants. Lucky that erresdy powder didn’t decide to take away your clothes too, Leenah.”
“Shut up, Negasi. Now how are we going to unmerge ourselves? Travel back to Pergola somehow?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“Why the Tenebrous not?!?”
“Well, one, I don’t think this crystal is a two-wayer, and two, with my pants’ disappearance, my stash of erresdy powder has also vanished.”
“Great. Just great. So we’re stuck here?”
“No. Leenah, I’m going to walk over there to where there’s a shaft of light coming in.”
“You think that’s a door?”
“I know it’s a door. So just let me do the walking until you think you should.”
Negasi walks their body to the shaft of light. The light is indeed coming from an open door. They look out and see a desolate world. The sky is a bloody crimson, and the land is more or less the same. The small island they are standing on is surrounded by a sea of lava, dotted with other isles and tiny rocks. The lava bubbles and steams. The heat is choking and there seems to be no way off the island whatsoever.
“Well, Negasi, what do we do now?”
“Not really, but I have a few ideas on what we shouldn’t do.”
“Well, when I played Torin’s Passage, Torin got off this island by catapulting himself out to that spit of land and walking through a long maze. After that there was another maze and than a slab-hopping routine and after that…well…”
“Are you saying that you don’t want to go though that again?”
“Yes indeedy. Besides, the phenocryst we’d find at the end of all that would lead us back to Tenebrous, and I don’t want to go there again.”
“Neither do I. And we don’t have any erresdy powder either.”
“Wait,” says Negasi. I just remembered something.”
He walks over to the east end of the island, past a large catapult and a broken fence, to a small yard where a balanced see-saw and a little hut carved into a rock wall reside as well as a long-dead tree.
“Look over there,” says Negasi, pointing a paw beyond the tree, towards the north. Both he and Leenah look in that direction (with only one pair of eyes between them, they have no other choice) and see another island even larger than the one they are on, with a long, white phenocryst piercing it like a sword.
“That island has a phenocryst on it. It’s the only other one I know of in this land. I remember it from Torin’s Passage.”
“But you said you don’t have any powder on you…on us.”
“True, but there may be someone living there that could help us.”
“There’s no one living here…”
“Yeah, but who knows? There might be someone still living there.”
“Aren’t you the optimist.”
“Maybe. It’s better than the alternative.”
“Well, your extended hours spent playing that game are coming in handy after all,” says Leenah. “But how, pray, are we going to get there from here?”
“Well…that catapult wouldn’t be long enough to fling us there even if we could turn it around…”
“And no one can walk across that lava unless they have metal shoes or…Negasi, what are you doing?”
Negasi had started walking towards the lava, and Leenah was trying to stop him at the same time, but Negasi finally reached the edge of the lava and extended his paw out over it.
“What are you doing?” hissed Leenah, trying to pull the hand back.
“I’m trying to see how hot this stuff really is. I’ve heard that lava can congeal if it’s in this quantity. Yeah…it doesn’t seem very – YEOWW!!”
This last word comes out from both of them and Negasi retracts his hand, fanning it wildly.
“What happened?” asks Leenah. I wasn’t looking at our paw--hand!”
“A lava bubble burst on the surface and singed my fur,” growls Negasi. “Dang it…”
“Well, you burned my hand too, Neg. If we weren’t in the same body, I’d box your ears until they fell off!”
“Yes, that’s one of the advantages to sharing a body with someone else, isn’t it?”
“Oh, let’s stop arguing, Neg. How do you think we should go about getting to that island?”
“Well, I was thinking about what you said about metal shoes…I think I have something that might serve for metal shoes?”
“But I thought your possessions all vanished when we materialized from the phenocryst!”
“Yes, but I think they’re still with me…I just can’t see them.”
“I don’t get it.”
“I figured as much. But perhaps if I felt around where my pocket used to be hard enough, I just might be able to…ah-HA!”
Negasi is feeling around his left hip when suddenly he grips something and pulls a paint bucket out of a slit in the air.
“How did you do that?” gasps Leenah.
“It has something to do with our combined bodies, I guess. I mean, your headdress and earrings are probably still there, you just can’t see them. But if you really try hard enough, you just might bring them into existence.”
“That’s a pretty crazy idea, Negasi.”
“I know. But not as crazy as the two of us as one creature, that’s for sure.”
Negasi snags the other bucket and places both of them on the ground.
“Now, these things might be just right…”
“Why, for getting across that lava, of course!”
“Well, I’ll fit these on our feet and dent the rims so that our feet don’t slip out. Then, wearing these protective shoes, we’ll run out across the lava, quickly, mind you, so that they don’t start melting, until we reach that island.”
“You actually think that will work?”
“Yeah. Like you said, I’m an optimist.”
“Well, I hope you’re right.”
So Negasi fits their two feet into the cans and bangs on the sides until they are securely close around their feet. Then he gets to his feet and gets ready to romp across the lava.
“I think so.”
“Well, let me do the running. I’ll tell you if I need your help. Okay. Let’s go!”
Negasi takes off running across the hard rock, then leaps through the air and begins sprinting across the lava, which isn’t as liquid as it appears. The two estimate that the material can support their weight for several seconds before giving way and causing them to sink. For several seconds they run, until the island is nearly fifteen yards (or a few thousand duqaws) behind them.
“Negasi?” asks Leenah.
“If you were able to grab those two buckets, why couldn’t you grab any erresdy powder?”
“Because I told you that that phenocryst was a one-way trip, and you should’ve asked me that when we were back on the island!”
“But couldn’t you have at least tried that phenocryst?”
“No way! We might’ve ended up somewhere dangerous.”
“Dangerous? I’ll need to find out what you define as dangerous as opposed to what you call what we’re doing now!”
“Leenah, please let me concentrate. Your thoughts are crowding my side of this head.”
“All right, all right!”
The two continue their sprint across the lava, with Negasi controlling their movements. The small island in the distance grows closer. Gradually, their gait begins to slow, and their metal footgear starts sinking deeper and deeper.
“Negasi, what’s wrong?”
“I’m…I’m running out of strength…”
“If you stop running, we’ll sink!”
“I know, but I…WAUGH!” yells Negasi as Leenah, realizing their peril, takes control of their body’s movements and takes off across the lava, her untapped energy bursting forth with the fury of a tidal wave.
“My feet are getting warm, Leenah,” says Negasi.
“Anything you feel, I do too,” pants Leenah. “Don’t waste your breath telling me about it.”
“All right, but in case you haven’t noticed, we’re almost to the island,” says Negasi.
And so they are. In a few more seconds, Leenah and Negasi are on the rocky island. They quickly step out of their smoldering cans.
“We did it!” cries Negasi. “Leenah, do you realize that you saved our lives back there?”
“It was the only sane thing I could have done in that lake of lava.”
“Well, I gratefully thank you for doing so. If you weren’t attached to me so firmly, I would give you a big kiss.”
“Maybe it’s good that we are attached, Negasi.”
“Ha ha. Very funny, Leenah.”
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