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By the time we reached the cliff on the side of one of the smaller mountains, where Scout had said we might be able to build, the sun was rising behind the clouds of dust, making an eerie red glow with orange and purple rays slowly beginning to break through to the rest of the sky. Storm’s wings were drooping a little bit, and Rune kept yawning as we walked, even as he watched how the sky was changing color in curiosity. Scout let us all walk slowly, though I knew that he would have been capable of travelling much faster on his own.
The cliff overlooked a large beach, with a worn-down wooden structure reaching out from the sand into the water.
“What’s that?” Rune asked.
“Something from when humans lived here,” Scout explained. “They used to stand on it while fishing and use it to attach their boats to. It’s not stable enough to be used any more, though. The wood is rotten.”
“That’s a shame,” Rune muttered. “I’d like to make a boat one day.”
“Where would you go?” Scout asked.
“I wouldn’t leave here, or maybe I’d just go find somewhere peaceful and see what things are like without the dust. Maybe it would give me something to work towards… something to look forward to…”
“And what about what the books said?” I asked.
“Some of them are just stories… Sentinel told me that there are parts of them that are true, like that there are places with no dust, but… what if those are just as bad as here, somehow…?”
“Then we’ll figure out how they survive,” I said. “You’ll be able to help with that, I think.”
“Everywhere has its own problems,” Scout said, putting his hand on Rune’s shoulder. “Even without the dust, the snow season would still be extremely difficult to survive, and there would probably be something else we’d notice without the dust that isn’t so clear right now.”
“So why even try to get rid of it…?”
“Because whatever else is there might be better than the dust,” Storm said. He smiled a little bit, and looked at Rune. “Are you scared?”
Rune hesitated, flattening his ears. “A little…”
Storm put his hand on Rune’s head between his ears. “I understand that. But even if you don’t figure everything out, you’ll get everyone a step closer to understanding the dust. And maybe you’ll even figure it out enough to where even if we can’t get rid of it, it’ll no longer be a problem.”
“You really think I could do that?”
“Yeah, I do.”
I smiled at Rune a little as he glanced over at me, even though I wasn’t as sure that Rune would be able to do that much. It wasn’t necessarily that I doubted his capabilities, or intelligence… more that I highly doubted that the dust would ever be a non-issue.
“We should build shelter before the sun rises fully,” Scout said. “Rune, I’m assuming you’ll have your experiments in a different room to where we’ll sleep and stay in dust storms…”
“Yeah,” Rune said quickly, looking around. “Maybe we could build into the cliff there a little bit? That way it’ll mean less supplies that we need to gather and would maybe give us a little bit more shelter.”
“That seems like it’ll work,” Scout said. “Let’s go gather some wood to start.”
By the time it was getting almost too light for Storm and I to have our eyes open, we were almost done with the frame and some of the outer walls to the shelter, and had hung our thickest cloth over the top of it and successfully fastened it to the side of the cliff that we were building our shelter into. We had made a thin wall that was barely more than a few planks between the part that was in the cliff and the part that was covered by the cloth. The part in the cliff would be where Rune would work; it was shallow at that time, but we’d work on expanding it a little bit and building the frame of it so it wouldn’t collapse. By the time we needed to sleep, however, we just needed the outer walls and a ceiling, just in case a dust storm came while we were all asleep. But even unfinished, it was nice inside the shelter. Nice enough for Storm and I to make the mistake of sitting down, intending for it to just be for a few minutes.
“Hm?” I had to blink my eyes open as Scout spoke to me. I looked at Storm, who was across the shelter, rubbing his eyes quickly. “How long were we here?”
“I don’t know,” Scout said with a chuckle. “I got back and you two were fast asleep.”
“Is it dark out?”
“No. But… you two look like you need sleep badly. You’ve been travelling for longer than I have and you’re not used to having to work this much.”
“But the walls…”
“I can deal with those. You need to sleep, Gray.”
I growled a little bit in protest, but at the same time, my eyes just… couldn’t stay open. I looked over at Storm again, and he looked like he had already drifted back to sleep the moment that Scout had told us we could sleep. I sighed, defeated, and nodded. “Fine. But if you’re still asleep when I wake up, I’m going hunting without you, Scout.”
He chuckled softly, putting his hand on my head for a brief second. “Sleep well.”
I didn’t wake up when Rune came in and lay down next to his laboratory, or when Scout was finishing the walls and hanging a cloth in the doorway.
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