Heart of God
by Debbie Smythe
The heart of god teetered on the mountain ledge. I held my breath, like my panting from twenty feet above might actually blow our prize over the edge. Gravel rain fell hissing into the ravine, but the heart held.
Jak frowned at Teela, who clung to the mountainside halfway to the heart. I'd often wished he'd study me the way he did her, but with his face a-streak with the blood of dead outlanders and Trial-kin alike he wasn't so pretty.
I inched nearer the edge. Nothing dislodged, but it was the lower ledge, and the crumbling rock-face between here and there turned my dirt and blood palms to sweaty rue. "Teela, come back."
"No." Jak blew her a kiss. "You can do it."
She nodded, and she climbed spider-like down the rock-face. Only spiders didn't tremble with exhaustion. Stone fractured. She gasped, hung one-handed and grabbed the heart. A dust-cloud erupted.
She coughed through the grit and stowed our salvation between her breasts. "Safe."
A wooden echo—spears on stone—said otherwise. Teela climbed, a dust-gray mote spiraling upward, but shale crumbled time and again. Spears drummed closer.
"Throw it," said Jak.
"Screw the heart. Screw Trial." I dropped to my stomach and reached down. "Climb."
Spears hammered. Teela tossed me the heart. And fell.
"Power's drained," I said. "Fifteen dead for nothing."
"Fifteen dead in Trial. Elder can shrink the perimeter field and we won't be outcast, nobody'll be outcast. We passed Trial."
Spear-thunder closed in.