This week’s reading was hard. There are more hard chapters coming. There is also “light and high beauty forever beyond the reach of shadows,” but we must go through the shadows to get there. Take heart.
The next day Janner woke before the bell-clanger arrived. …
He needed a way out, and as far as he could see, the only way out was through the portcullis. But even if he figured a way to get through the long corridor to the empty floor, he had no way to open the gate. He’d seen the way two children strained to raise it; there was no way he was strong enough or fast enough to do it alone.
But what if he wasn’t alone?
Sara Cobbler had helped him once. Maybe she’d do it again.
Janner smiled. He knew what to do. He just had to find Sara.
He scanned the faces around the table carefully. Of the forty or fifty children eating their soup in silence, none was Sara Cobbler. He studied the children serving the soup, the ones who stirred the vats of soup, but none was Sara Cobbler. Throughout his first shift he looked for her, in the faces of those who passed, those who brought him new carts of bad blades, those on the high walkways, and even among the Maintenance Managers. But she was nowhere to be seen. He began to wonder if he had dreamed her up.
When he returned to the dining hall after his shift, he found her at last.
She sat at the table on the opposite side of the room, stirring her bowl mechanically. Her face was still dirty, her hair still matted, but he knew it was her, even before she raised her eyes and rested them on him. Stars in a storm, Janner thought again, and he smiled at her across the room. Almost imperceptibly, like the swish of a redgill fin beneath the surface of the river, she smiled back.
Janner’s insides swelled. Before he had time to think about it, he walked straight toward her. Her eyes widened, and she went back to her soup, stirring it a little too fast. Janner sat across from her and lowered his voice.
“Thank you,” he said. “I remember you—from the Dragon Day Festival last year.”
She didn’t answer.
A Maintenance Manager passed, and Janner looked down quickly and slurped a spoonful of broth. “I need your help,” he said after a moment. “We’re going to get out of here—I’ll get you back to your parents. But I can’t do it alone. Can you help me?”
“I can’t,” she whispered. “They’ll put me in the box again.”
“You’ve been in the…?” Janner’s heart ached for her. He wondered how many of the children in the factory had endured that awful place. “Listen. I can get us out of here. Will you help me?”
She shook her head again.
“Sara,” Janner said, then he paused while another manager walked by. “I can’t stay here. There’s something I’m supposed to do. I don’t know what it is yet, but my brother and sister and I—” … He wanted to tell her. …
“You have to trust me,” he said instead. “Please.”
She paused. “What do you want me to do?”
Janner grinned. “I knew you were a brave one. I knew it.”
Sara Cobbler smiled.
Janner was glad she smiled. He knew he would need it to carry him through the next three days and nights in the coffin.
Discussion: What passage stood out to you most this week? The rooftop chase? The heat of the factory? The name Flavogle? Janner’s experience in the coffin? I would love to hear how you’re connecting with the story, either here in the comments or in the forum.
Bonus activity: Check online to see if your local historical society has a blacksmithing demonstration. It’ll be interesting to watch, and they probably won’t kidnap you and force you to make swords.