For the first time in her life, Jaya left the sea behind her. All the days since she was born she had never gone beyond the smell of the salt and the sound of the waves, the cry of the sea-birds when dawn came or the winds at dusk. Now she turned her path northward, away from the shore, into the mountainous heart of the island of Tarakan, away from anything she had ever known.
She passed through terraced farmlands, avoiding any contact with either her own people or the giants who traveled the black stone roads. The land lay under mist and rain, and it was not hard to remain concealed. It galled her to turn her back on scourging the invaders, even for a time, but now the tiger shrine called her, and she could not believe that was an accident. If she would follow the will of the gods, she must be ready to answer when they spoke. The forbidden heartland of her race called to her, and she would heed it.
The land rose up and up, the trees growing taller and the roads less well-kept, until once again she followed foot-worn trails through the mud. On the third day she stole sandals from a farmer’s hut and strapped them on, for the way was becoming more stony and rough, and she believed it would only become more rugged as she climbed. She had never seen mountains close, and the few glimpses she had through the stormclouds looked too far away and too immense to be real.
The path led upward, through a series of narrower passes between hills, and she saw fewer villages, fewer signs of the things of man. Only here and there did faded columns or worn archways mark that once her race had built great things on this soil. Stone heads watched her from the hillsides, half-covered with moss, their features all but worn away.
There was a last village, and she found it empty, the houses abandoned and the roofs falling in. She found no bones, no signs of death, but the lodges stood empty, many useful things still inside. Glad of the chance, she went inside and gathered dried meats, a new waterskin, and some javelins for hunting. She found new laces for her sandals and spent the evening repairing them, cutting them to fit her better. Already she had walked much farther than she ever had before.