A story about airships and adventures; the title is inspired by a fantastic song called From Finner from a fantastic group called Of Monsters and Men and the story is very vaguely inspired by the scenery and imagination in Hayao Miyazaki's movies (:. I don't plagiarise ever, so if you find story that is exactly the same as this one, with similar characters and character names that was published before mine, let me know!

Remember that if you review my story, I'll review one of yours no matter what!

ch.1 wordcount: 4800

Asha never planned to fly. But the world, apparently, didn't pay attention to your fears.

Still, at the moment, flying seemed a whole lot better than what was left for her in Iso.

"Tate," she said, trying to keep her mind off the rubble, "How close are we?"

He smoothed a map, holding it precariously close to the small fire and frowning. Asha had never really seen her brother—normally so confident—confused before. A lot of things had changed since that morning though. His thin finger traced the flimsy parchment. It was hard to see in the dim light, but Asha made out the small dot and the familiar characters that read, Iso. Their village had always seemed so close to the coast on that map, but an entire day of running and walking had brought them nowhere near the legendary Brightwaters.

"I don't know, alright?" he sounded frustrated, like his confidence was all he had. Now that it was gone, Tate was left with nothing. The effect was obvious. "The map only says where Iso was and where the Brightwaters are. Not where we are. I just know that as long as we keep our eastward path, we'll be fine."

The rest of Tate's sentence barely registered. "'Was'," she repeated stonily. "Can you please say 'is'?"

"Why?" he asked, rolling up the map and shoving it back into his large burlap bag. "It doesn't exist anymore, Asha."

"It does exist!" retorted Asha hotly. "So don't say otherwise!"

"If you call a pile of wreckage 'existing'," snorted Tate without any real sense of humour. He stared at the fire intently like he it had words and he was reading them.

"We'd better get some rest."

She stared at her big brother coldly. "Thought you wanted to get more firewood."

Their eyes locked. Tate wouldn't lower his gaze, but for once, neither would Asha. He sighed. "I did. And I thought we agreed we couldn't fight."

Now she let her eyes fall to the dusty ground. "If you wouldn't say things like that—"

"Just please, will you go get some twigs?"

"We don't need a bigger fire. It's not even cold. And I don't want anyone to see us."

"No one's going to see us, Asha, and we do need it. By midnight we'll be freezing. You know how the nights are."


"And no one is even out there to see you. Look around. It's completely clear. Besides, what would anyone do to a pair of travellers? Kids, at that?"

"Steal our things," muttered Asha. "And it's dark out. Unless you have night vision—"

"No one is going to come after us, alright?" exasperation was etched all over Tate's face. "But fine. I'll collect firewood if you're too scared." He stomped off, scouring the plain for fallen branches and snapping twigs of withering trees. Asha watched him carefully, a large shadowy mass with a bad attitude. She sighed and ran a hand through the braid in her hair. The one Mother had carefully done that morning.

"I'm never taking out this braid," she mumbled to herself dully.

Asha rummaged through Tate's huge—but mostly empty—drawstring bag until she found what she was looking for. The book.

She couldn't read—not really, anyway, not the way princes and princesses learned to. But Asha could make out the title even in the darkness: Stories From the East, it said.

When they got out of Iso, Tate had only said one sentence: 'we need to get to the ocean'. But she knew exactly what he was looking for. Guided by the dim firelight and her years of running her hands over these pages, Asha flipped to the section she was looking for.

It was easy to find, and even though the pictures were barely discernible, they were vivid in Asha's mind. The Finner. A giant airship—one of the first of its kind—manned by children. 'The Finner goes all around the eastern world, saving and recruiting children from their fates,' she read aloud, partly from memory and partly from the firelight. It was hard to know whether or not such a ship even existed, or if it was just a story. How could children man an entire air vessel? Everyone knew only the best pilots drove them.

Still, the Finner was all Asha and Tate had, and if it wasn't real, she wasn't sure what they would do. All the desert towns had enough issues to deal with without being hounded by refugee children.

Tate soon returned with the dry twigs and tossed them on to the fire. They did little to help, but he seemed satisfied, and presently burrowed back under his blanket. For a few minutes he watched his sister carefully, the way she looked at the old book's pages as if they were the gods themselves. He knew The Finner was out there—it had to be—but there was still that lurking voice in his head that said, what if? There was no future for them without the children's airship.

"We're going to have to take turns sleeping," announced Tate, already not looking forward to the imminent shifts.

His little sister swallowed visibly, eyes darting the plain. "Why?" her voice came out weak and cracked. "I thought you said there was no one to see us."

"There's not, probably. But we have to wake up right when the sun rises or we'll be far too hot with our blankets and fires. People die from that."

"I know." She clasped her braid with one hand. "How can the heat vanish so quickly with the sun?"

Tate shook his head, eyes closed. "I don't know. But we have to get moving as soon as we can if we want to get to the Brightwaters. When the airship leaves to go west, we'll have missed it for good."

Asha closed the book, placed it back in the burlap bag and tried to get comfortable on the ground. But no matter how much she squirmed, there always seemed to be another stone underneath her.

"You take the first shift," she murmured, already seeming to be half in sleep. "Wake me up when you can't keep your eyes open…"

Tate stared at his sister as she sighed with something that sounded a little like contentment, resting with her head on his arm. He stared at the sky, trying to remember the position of the moon as it made its westward path. He didn't want to wake Asha too early for her shift, but he didn't want to be up all night either. Back in Iso they had sundials everywhere. It was easy to go and check on the time.

The hours dragged. With no Asha to busy him—whether he was fighting with her or taking care of her—it was too hard not to think of home and the great huge things that had come, monsters he couldn't even name. Tate wasn't able to stop the tears that welled up in his eyes, even though he was fifteen and didn't cry. He had never left Iso before, and now he was never going back…

But the Finner. That was the one thing he could anticipate. Father once said it was a five days' journey to the Brightwaters…but if they were quick, like they had been, they could make it in three…

All of the stars began blurring together. Like one massive white, silver, yellow, blue, pink blob. They really were beautiful, whatever they were made of…

"Asha!" he hissed, shaking her shoulder. "Asha, I'm falling asleep. Please, you have to take the shift."

His sister groaned quietly. "What?" she hissed. "Is someone there…"

"No," replied Tate immediately, but he scanned the empty plain to be sure. It was dark, sure, but it was so clear that he was sure no one could sneak up on him.

If someone did, though?

What then?

They had two jagged old daggers, cut from some bird's tooth. Asha was barely twelve. And he had no fighting experience; nothing other than the odd scraps in the back alleys, but those were with boys his age and younger. He couldn't defend himself against adults.

"Alright," she sighed, tugging him out of his thoughts.

"Asha, listen to me."


"You have to wake me up if you feel yourself falling asleep." He turned, all seriousness, to look down at her glazed eyes. "You have to. Understand? We could die otherwise."

She took the large picture book from the burlap bag once again. Nothing in it was legible now—the fire, in the hours she had been asleep, had once again shrunk considerably. And without the sun the entire plain had turned cold. Tate was smart to get more firewood, though she'd never admit it. The moon had shifted visibly from the last time she was awake and it was cold now. And Tate fell asleep within minutes so the only way to spend her time was to count the stars and think about how Iso was a pile of wreckage and there would never be another morning of eating flatbread and braiding mother's hair with her stubby fingers and getting water from the well.

At least, Asha tried to console herself, Tate probably cried too, during his shift.

The sun rose fast and Tate shook his sister awake. "Come on, Asha, sun's rising, we have to leave now."

Her dark eyelids fluttered open and she stared at him for a moment. "I don't want to go to the sea. I want to go home."

He hauled his sister up by the shoulders, stamped out the mostly-dead fire, and threw the sack over his shoulder. "Get it into your head, Asha, you're not going back there. The Finner's going to be our home."

"How do we even know it'll be at the Brightwaters when we are?"

"The travelling bard, remember?" said Tate. "I got the calendar from him. They're going up and down our coast until the full moon. Then it's all the way to the west and we've missed our window."

She stared with big, hopeful eyes that made his chest tighten. "How long until the full moon?"

"Three days. We're making good time, I'm certain of it."

"We should get walking, then."

Tate smiled a little. "Finally, you're saying some smart things. But put on your headscarf before we go."

She mimicked her older brother, wrapping the white cloth around her hair and neck. The sun was glaring at them already—by midday it would be hellish without the protection that their houses or the water gave them.

"Could we reach the sea today?"

"Ye—" Tate wanted desperately to say yes to his little sister. But there was nothing more disappointing than false hope. "No. Tomorrow."

They walked then. An unspoken agreement seemed to settle between Asha and Tate; that neither of them would speak. They conserved their energy as much as possible, walking in slow, dragging steps and keeping their eyes on what was ahead. The vast desert had turned slowly into rolling sandy hills that stretched into eternity, like Asha imagined the ocean would. She found the golden brown of the sand and the soft blue of the sky melding together, until she was walking on air, or maybe water. It was dreamlike.



Everything Tate said had a muted quality. Asha frowned. She knew, somewhere, that he was saying her name. Asha. Asha. But when she moved her mouth, sticky with sweat and throat dry from dehydration, she found she didn't have the energy to speak. And she didn't particularly want to.

Tate whirled around and shook her shoulders. "Asha!" his face was fuzzy and his voice shrill.

She was grateful for his hands on her shoulders; they provided support, they allowed her to drop all her weight onto his hands as she sunk into the ground.

He caught her in time, holding his little sister by the armpits and hoisting her back up. Tate's eyes were blurred with tears—he wasn't going to lose Asha, not now, not to something stupid as the weather—as he tried to shake her back into full consciousness.

"Asha, listen to me," he said firmly, and as loudly as his weak voice could. "We have to keep moving."

Hands shaking, Tate fumbled around for the water skin. It was mostly empty, yes, but at the moment he didn't care. He didn't care if he was dehydrated—Asha needed it more. She wasn't going to move, not without some help, and if they got stranded in this isolated part of the desert…

"Here," he said, willing his voice not to break. "Drink this."

He prayed she wouldn't take much.

Holding the skin to Asha's cracked lips, he watched as she swallowed one large gulp, and one more. Her eyes fluttered shut and open again.

She could feel everything coming back into focus, if only slightly. Tate looked worried—more worried than he had at any point before this. Her throat, now wet, was able to form words at last. "Are we there, Tate?"

Her brother sighed heavily, shoulders deflating. "No. Tomorrow. I promise. But not unless we keep on walking, alright?"


"We're going to find a town. There's going to be a well there. And supplies."

"I know." They continued walking; Tate supported his sister on one shoulder and their sack of supplies on the other. The sweat dripped down his face, but the promise of a village kept him going, because he had seen maps before, and there would be another between here and the Brightwaters, there had to be…

With the sun sinking lower in the sky, the worst of the heat had passed, and Tate spared some of their precious food to share with Asha, and although it didn't expel the ache from his stomach, he knew it was keeping him and his sister alive.

Asha swallowed, saliva thick in her throat. "When will we stop?"

"It's not dark yet," he replied, "And we'll get there quicker if we walk for as long as we can."

She nodded. "I understand. Where's the town?"

"I don't know, alright? But it'll be somewhere here. I know there will be something. And we have money."

"How much?"

His hand slipped to his pocket, the only place he dared to keep the precious coins. Two copper coins were light as air, but they would be enough for a meal, surely, if the other towns were anything like Iso.

"Two copper," he said. "We'll be able to get some proper food, maybe even some to take on the road. Alright?"

"A meal'd be fantastic," sighed Asha dreamily. The sun that reflected off her brown eyes made them dance, more alive than they had been since yesterday morning.

He smiled easily for once, ruffling her hair and continuing to walk as the sky grew more and more colourful until it faded into an inky blue. "Here," he said, stopping to pull the blankets out of the sack. "Put it over your shoulders if you get cold. We can walk for longer that way."

"My feet hurt, though."

Irritated for a moment, Tate huffed. "Would you rather die of starvation? Heat? Cold? Would you rather be picked up by Recruiters?"


"Then we're going to keep walking for a little while longer."

They couldn't walk forever—or maybe they could. Tate wasn't sure. But they didn't. "No fires tonight," he announced. "Can't make a fire with sand."

She stared up at him, fear etched into her eyes. "What do we do, then? Won't we be too cold?"

He sat down on the slope, frustrated. "I've heard from bards that pass through…that it's not as extreme in the sand dunes. The sun isn't as strong among the hills and neither is the moon. If we can make ourselves a sort of cover by piling the sand around us…"

"Sand scorpions," reminded Asha, staring at her hands. Gaze still downcast, she said carefully, "Tate…what about the fire thing? I know you've done it before. I know you can."

Fear squeezed his stomach. Without giving it a second thought, he said, "No. No fire."

She stared imploringly. "But it could keep us safe, I know it could, and I don't like fire now either, but you know we don't have much of a ch—"

"No!" he said, more harshly than intended. "I'm not going to use that fire. We always have another choice. We're going to keep on walking, and we're going to think of something along the way."

"I don't want to. I want to go to sleep. I want to go home."

Tate's throat felt oddly tight, and his eyes stung. He tilted his chin towards the sky. "Don't you get it? We don't have one right now, not until we find the Finner. OK? Home is where we're going. And we will get there in one piece."

"We would get there in one piece if you would do that thing with the—"

"Stop asking me to use the fire. Now." Hissed Tate. "It isn't going to happen, so you may as well quit asking."

Asha took a step away from him, visibly shaken. Good, he thought despite himself.

"You said yourself that the cold was milder here," she replied slowly, "so we can stay for the night. We'll use the blankets and we'll keep close. We can endure. We have until now. As soon as morning comes it will heat up again, and we can be on our way the second the sun is up."

He closed his eyes, feeling the weight of them. There was no energy left in him to fight. Not with Asha.

"Fine. You're right. We'll be fine." Tate motioned for his sister to join him. "Put your feet in the bag," he said. "It'll keep you warmer, if only a little."

She did as he was told, and curled up as close to each other as possible, they tried to fall asleep.

It was noticeable without the fire, and Tate drifted in and out of consciousness, clinging to his sister's warmth. He couldn't close his eyes without seeing his home, but that was to be expected from now on, he told himself, as he kept his eyes closed firmly…

"Tate! Tate! It's your turn to be woken up."

He opened his eyes to see Asha, shaking his shoulder urgently. "Sun's up! We need to keep going."

"You're right," he said, sitting up straight. "I'm sorry, I should have woken myself, we should have taken watches…" he checked the sun's position, but it was still far in the east.

"It's OK," replied his sister gently, shoving their blankets into the sack and pulling out two sticks of dried meat. "We were exhausted. But we could do it today, you know. We could get there."

"Yes," he said, giving a real smile. "We could get there."

"We'd better get on our way, then," said Asha. She chewed her meat as they walked, looking just as fatigued but decidedly happier than yesterday. They still didn't talk as they trekked through the massive sand dunes, but it was an amiable silence today.

"Tate…" started Asha slowly, squinting into the horizon. "Do you see that?"

The sun, right in the middle of the sky, glared at them.


"Look harder," she pointed, "Doesn't it look like something?"

"Asha, I don't want you to get your hopes up, it may not be a town, if that's what you're thinking—"

"We'll, we've got to check, haven't we?"

"I…I guess we do…"

"Don't back out now!"

With that, Asha grabbed Tate's arm and they half-ran, half-stumbled over sand dune after sand dune, hoping with every fibre of their being that it wasn't a mirage but real wooden structures full of people and food and shelter.

It wasn't a mirage. But Tate stopped abruptly, everything clicking into place a moment too late.

"Stop, Asha."

"What? Can't you see, it's just up ahead—"

"Listen, if that's a village, then so is Iso."

She stopped for real, finally listening to him, and beheld the rubble. Piles and piles of wooden beams, crumbled mud, stones littered the ground. The town only a little larger than Iso, had clearly met the same fate.

"I bet it was those same things that came to our town," said Asha, swallowing audibly. "There's still some smoke."
Tate stared. "Monsters move fast."

"Do we keep going?"

"No. People still will have left supplies, and there are things out there that don't get destroyed by fire. Plus, there may have been food that wasn't burned. We'll take what we can."

"But it belongs to people."

"So? They're all dead here."

"Probably not. There were people in Iso that—"

"Anything anyone has left behind," said Tate determinedly, "is fair game now. They could have come back."

"Fine," she muttered, "We'll take what we can."

They made their cautious way into the town, stepping over rubble and bodies. Asha kept the vomit in her stomach, unable to keep her mind off Iso and how it was in this state right now. "We need to go into a house, Tate, if we're going to find anything worth—"

He clapped a dry hand over her mouth, eyes scanning the wreckage. "Shut up," he hissed.

She stared apprehensively, mouth still covered, unable to see what he did.


"Don't talk."

He crouched slowly, pulling his sister down with them, and, hidden behind a mound of rubble, trembling like a leaf, she heard the voices.

"There's no one alive here," said a deep voice with a faint accent.

"Remember," another man replied, "Anyone with a heartbeat can be healed."

"Yeah, just so that they can be sold again," added a third voice scornfully.

"Shut it. You're here to do your job."

"Boss isn't gonna be pleased when we show up with this lot."

"Listen, if those bloody fire things came through here, they went to other towns. Next stop: the next place over to the west. There'll be more of these folk."

"Yeah alright. I just wanna back to Rhoyar and eat a proper pig. Not this preserved shit."

Rhoyar. They were recruiters!

"And you will, jus' soon as we get our quota."

Asha stared at her brother, eyes asking the question that her mouth couldn't.

He nodded at her, moving as slow as humanly possible.

We'll move slowly, he wrote with a stick in the sand, behind that house. Out of the town. Then run.

She tried putting on a brave face, despite the vise-like grip that fear had on her stomach as they moved sideways. Though the three men weren't all that close, they would be moving nearer and nearer to them…and slave drivers weren't going to be merciful to children…

It wasn't customary of them to raid towns. Slave drivers tended to target lone travellers. But she remembered once, men storming the area and bells tolling, and all the children were rushed into the White Hold while the parents defended themselves—some hid, some fought, some fled. But the little desert towns were used to holding off raiders. The Recruiters weren't stupid enough to keep trying. But now that the only living ones were defenceless, it seemed to make a perfect sort of twisted sense.

"You hear that?"


"Someone, up ahead. They're alive."

Tate wrote in the ground again. Move. QUIETLY.

Shaking so hard she could barely move, she shuffled alongside her brother, keeping low to the ground where the mounds of rubble protected her. They were behind a house now, so they had to be as safe as they could—surely the Recruiters weren't going to get them. Even Tate risked standing up, still doubled over as they moved.

"You're whacked, man, I don' 'ear a thing. Nor do I see a thing."

Behind the half-crumbled house, Tate pulled the two blades out of his sack. They weren't sharp enough, but they could do some damage if he placed a thrust in the right place.

"Take it," he hissed at his sister, shoving the blade into her hands.

She gripped it clumsily, and they kept on walking further and further away, along the edge of the town.


Two pairs of eyes made contact. Tate shoved Asha behind him and gripped his blade tighter.

A man, the one who had insisted he heard something before, was standing in front of them. "You kids alright?"

Tate, glaring as hard as he could, said nothing. His hand still rested on her arm, and she could feel it shaking.

The Recruiter took one step forward. "We can 'elp you. We know something's been terrorising these towns, we're pickin' up survivors which we take to our refugee camp."


He narrowed his eyes, looking Tate up and down. "Yeah? An' who else would I be?"

Asha felt her brother's weight pushing her back and she stumbled along the sandy ground, realizing that they were moving backwards. Away from the town. Was trying to run even worth it?

"Oi! I've found some livings! I need backup here!" the Recruiter yelled, tilting his head backwards.

Tate took advantage of their moments' reprise and began sprinting, dragging his sister by the wrist and jumping over piles of rubble. Asha glanced back to see two other men emerge in front of them, carrying weapons that would strike them down in a second if given the chance.

"You'll stay still," said the man in front of them with a mace. They were encircled now, trapped between a house and a triangle of Recruiters.

Just as he had done before, Tate shoved Asha behind his back, and she felt him push her down to the ground, against the wall of the decrepit old building. It wasn't until the heat surrounded them that she realised what he was doing.

The blue sky was lit up with red and orange flame and shouts of fear emitted from the once-vicious recruiters.

Tate was punching the air at light speed, face a mask of determination as the fire spewed from his fists.

"What the bloody fu—"

"Stand back—"

"Don't get near it—"

Shielding her eyes from the flame, Asha ran alongside her brother as he punched, again and again and again, more fire emitting from his fists each time and pushing the Recruiters further and further away.

"Don't go after 'em!" she could hear the first man shouting. "Not worth it! Who wants a monster for a slave?"

"But the girl—"

"I told you, don't bloody go after them!"

Their panicked, confused yells grew more and more distant but Tate didn't stop with his firey defence, not for many hundred yards. Fire caught on every dry piece of wood it found, until the edge of the village was nothing but a line of flame and three confused slave drivers.

"Don't stop moving, don't ever," gasped Tate, running with his sister's hand still in his.

The adrenaline pushed them forward for many hours, neither sibling daring to stop and take a breath. It was the destruction of Iso all over again, their panicked half-stumbling mimicking the events of two days ago. The sun dipped lower and lower in the sky, the dunes growing flatter and flatter until they were running along a plane of golden sand, holding onto the tiny sparkle on the horizon that had to be the Brightwaters.

"We're there," she breathed, slowing to a halt when they reached the beach, the flat expanse of sand that stretched into the ocean.

Tate's chest burned, his breathing ragged and his muscles trembling—he thought for a second that he might be dead—the sunset on the Brightwaters made them gold, pink, blue, streaked with purple and green like some sort of scene from heaven that he could have stared at forever. But he was alive, he had to be. He wouldn't have felt pain if he were dead.

It was so close, just a few steps away, and so promising. Able to cry at last, Tate buried his face in Asha's hair, allowing himself to lean entirely on her for once.

"Thank you, Nyfrio," he said, voice muffled. The God of Water was merciful today.

"Let's go," she said, voice dry, pulling him for once.

The sea was cold, colder than he could have imagined, nothing like the lukewarm oases but it was so pleasant…

They laughed for the first time, lying in the shallow water and letting the small waves wash over them. "We made it," he told her, inhaling salty air. "We made it, Asha."

She didn't remember getting out of the water, but they were soon drinking from a murky stream that snaked down to the ocean, wetting their throats with no worry that the supply would run out.

Still half in the stream, she fell asleep with Tate at her side. There was peace, for once.

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