An exterior shot of a familiar spaceship floating in the middle of some red-looking rocks.
OC Voice: “Phone: call my agent.”
Phone: “Certainly, The Will. Home or Office?”
“Office,” says The Will. He’s sitting in his chair, with some sort of joystick in his right hand. Perhaps it’s the control for the spaceship. I don’t know yet. Lying Cat is resting to the left of his chair. The interior of the ship looks homey, with a kitchen and hanging utensils and soft, warm lighting.
“Hey, you,” says The Will’s agent. He’s a serpentine-looking character, with a long reptilian neck and catfish-like whiskers. The agent is seated at a desk, but the desk appears to be outdoors, on a beach, with combers rolling in, with a giant sun or moon on the horizon and rock promontories in the background.
“Your signal sucks,” continues the agent, “where are you?”
“Cutting through the Red Band. Believe it or not, I landed that gig. Client was paranoid about secrecy, but the assignment sounds boilerplate: lance a couple of star-crossed dumb shits, grab their unlucky brat, etcetera.”
“The Wreath job,” says the agent. “Look, don’t hate me, but . . . you know you’re not my only guy, right?”
“Yeah, they warned me this was a bake-off. I can handle the competition. Who else they commence? The Import? The Fluke?”
“I’m sorry, Will . . . they specifically requested The Stalk.”
“Oh,” says The Will. This even seems to get Lying Cat’s attention.
“Already left a few days ago,” the agent says. “Just thought you should know. Obviously, there’s nothing to prevent you both working the case . . .”
“. . .other than the fact I never want to see that asshole’s face again? Forget it. I’m changing course for Sextillion. Might as well max this thing out on whores before somebody remembers to cancel it.”
“Come on, I know it’s a crowded field,” the agent says, “but a guy like you could retire on this kinda payday. What if your targets give everybody else the slip?”
“We both know the score. If The Stalk is on their trail . . . those kids are already dead.”
Since we can’t cut to a commercial, we’ll just switch scenes. Alana and Marko, our heroes from Chapter One, are being held up by clinging vines. Alana has one at her throat, around her left arm and legs. Marko, meanwhile, is being suspended upside down by his left leg.
Hazel: Actually, against all odds, I’d been alive for three whole days.
Alana says, “This is what I get for marrying a vegetarian! Even the goddamn plants want us dead!”
Hazel: My family’s quest for Cleave’s mythical Rocketship Forest has sent us doubling back into its all-too-real Endless Woods.
“Alana!” Marko calls. “Are you all right? Is Hazel okay?”
Hazel: Dad had been awake for sixty-five of the seventy-two hours since I was born. Mom hadn’t closed her eyes once.
“She’s fucking snoring,” says Alana. “Meanwhile, I’ve got quick vines trying to get inside me! Use your sword already!”
“I can’t reach it!” Marko says. He still suspended upside-down, and more wrapped in vines than ever. “Also, sacred vow! Just tell me a secret!”
“Because spells require ingredients, and this one needs a secret! Something you’ve never shared with anyone!”
“I’m . . . not as tall as I tell people?”
“Do you seriously need me to define what a secret is?”
“Fine,” says Alana. “I enjoy the taste of my own breast milk.”
“Velki,” Marko says. Then the quick vines disappear with a glowing light and Marko falls onto his face with an “Uhnf!”
“You really . . . ?” Marko says, beginning to rise from the ground. “I mean, when did you even . . . ?”
“Hazel spit up in my mouth last night. Whatever, we should keep moving. The map says we’re almost out of the woods, literally. That means we’re halfway to getting our girl off this turd of a planet.”
“Hold on,” Marko says, “that’s if that thing is to any kind of reliable scale. I say we look for shelter. We don’t want to get caught out in the open after sunset. Not while the Horrors are still out there.”
“Marko, if those things were real, they would have already eaten us and shat us back out by now. Why don’t you just admit that you’re tired, too?”
“I’m not tired, just . . . winded.”
“Ha. My drill instructor used to say that Wreath soldiers could go a month without sleep.”
“Yes, ours said the same thing about your lot . . .”
Hazel: If there’s an opposite of a honeymoon, it’s the week after a couple’s first child is born.
“I love our girl,” says Alana. “Don’t you love the way she smells?”
Alana and Marko lean into each other, sitting now, resting, eyes closed.
“mm,” Marko makes a noise that suggests he’s drifting off to sleep.
“Don’t you . . . just. . .?” Alana is drifting off as well.
Hazel: No matter how hard they try, no matter how pure their intentions . . .
Marko begins to snore. “hnnnk.”
Hazel: . . .everything will go wrong. And that’s when the gawkers show up.
It looks like Chapter Two of Saga will have only two parts in this series, and this is as good a place to cut it as any. The reader gets to experience more furious worldbuilding, first with The Will, where the name of the Freelancer known as The Stalk is dropped with some heavy foreshadowing. I bet we meet this character soon. Then, we’re back with our young parents, Alana and Marko, who currently seem to be the protagonists of this story, along with Hazel, currently an infant and our story’s narrator.
We learn a little more about the rules of magic in this world. For the spell Marko crafts to free them from the clinging vines, he needs a special ingredient from Alana: a secret. The secret she shares is surprising, but also a bit endearing. The Horrors, whatever they are, get mentioned again. Again, with heavy foreshadowing. We’re going to meet them soon as well.
I’m still engaged in the story. It continues to move forward, both dramatically and geographically. I’ve always been a sucker for any story that comes with a map.