They were home. Twinsun, the scorching
planet, had not changed a bit since their hurried departure seven years ago.
Everywhere they looked, the sand dunes extended beyond the horizon, dotted with
the occasional rock. Camellia followed her mistress with her heart pounding in
her ears. She had not expected to ever come back.
They had been walking through the sand for
hours. The temperature was over forty degrees even if it was only spring.
Camellia could tell the season by looking at the suns: one was bigger than the
other. In summer, when the planet would be positioned between the two stars,
there would be only one sun in the sky, and no night at all. It would be too
hot to even venture out. By winter, however, the planet would have moved away,
orbiting one of the suns until they were in a straight line, and the closer sun
would eclipse the other. The light would be dimmer and the nights freezing.
They finally reached the buildings they
had seen on the horizon. The town they entered was half-ruined and completely
deserted. The houses were made of stone and looked very old.
“Lady Licorice?” asked Cedric. “Why… why
are we here?”
But the mistress did not answer. Instead,
she entered one of the huts.
“Search it, try to find something useful,
anything we can use,” she instructed.
The dwelling was partially demolished and
full of dust. The few furnishings that had survived were worn and broken.
Camellia opened as many drawers as she could find but had no luck. The results were
no better in the next place they inspected.
It was then that the tremor started. The
ground shook as they hurried outside the house they were searching and what
they saw left them breathless. Eight enormous tentacles, tall as two grown men
each, emerged from the sand, towering over the buildings. The tentacles were
red with white suckers. Each one curled and moved independently from the rest.
“Run!” shouted Cedric. “We have to…”
He couldn’t finish his sentence. One of
the tentacles was already plummeting towards them. The group ran to safety but
the tentacles were everywhere! Soon they became separated and Camellia could
not see her brother or the mistress. She ran, starting to get breathless, when
she heard it: a loud horn blowing.
She turned in the direction of the sound
and saw four desert nomads, dressed in brown and black. Each one was riding
some sort of long elliptical wooden board, held up by two large wheels, one at
the front and one at the back. Each board had a single mast in the middle,
connected to a large sail. They passed Camellia at high speed, propelled by the
wind, dodging buildings and tentacles as they went by.
One of the nomads came to a stop beside
Camellia. She was a young woman with dark curly hair tied back in a long
ponytail. Her face was completely covered by a scarf, thick protective goggles
and a helmet. The girl stretched out her hand to the cyclops.
“Hop onto the glider if you value your life,
Camellia didn’t need to be asked a second
time. She let herself be pulled onto the board and the driver positioned her so
that she could hold the large horizontal handle of the sail. Camellia could now
see that the handle had several sections and small levers. The nomad pulled
some of them and Camellia could hear two clipping sounds as the wheel locks
were released. With a strong pull, the sail was set loose, filled with the
wind, making them soar across the dunes at top speed.
“I am Reina,” said the girl, shouting over
the sound of the wind.
“Camellia,” she replied.
“Nice to meet you, Camellia.”
They were now catching up with the rest of
the gliders and Camellia could see, with relief, that two of them carried Cedric
and Licorice. Reina smiled. They were getting dangerously close to one of the
“Tell me, how would you like some nice
octopus for dinner?” she laughed.
And with a twist of the handle, two large
curved blades popped out of the sides of the board.
“Attack formation!” shouted one of the
Soon the four gliders circled the
tentacle. One by one they approached it, leaving a deep cut along the base. It all
happened so fast the creature didn’t have time to react. The last blade severed
the muscle and the tentacle came loose. The monster roared, a loud groan coming
from the depths of the ground.
“Now, do not let it retreat!” shouted
The gliders were not only fast but also nimble,
and they easily avoided the rest of the tentacles that were now smashing
everything in their path, the octopus driven mad by the pain. From her board,
Licorice performed spell after spell and soon the tentacles were surrounded by
lightning bolts that slowed them down. The nomads managed to cut two more
before the creature retreated completely, immersing the rest of its limbs in
the sand and disappearing.
“Good job, everyone! That was a good haul,”
said one of the drivers as he dismounted. He
was a young man with brown hair who introduced himself as Leno. Cedric was with
him and approached one of the fallen tentacles to examine it.
“A sand kraken,” he announced.
He had never seen one of the creatures in
the flesh but every Twinsun native knew about sand krakens.
“Aren’t they usually in the depths of the
desert?” asked Camellia. “What would one be doing here?”
“I am afraid this was our fault,” Leno
apologised. “We have been tailing this beast for a while now. He tried to hide
in this town where it is more difficult for us to manoeuvre. We didn’t think
anybody would be here.”
He turned towards Licorice and offered a
“We were extremely lucky. We have never
been able to pull off a hunt as successful as this. You are really talented.”
The lady made no comment. A blonde girl
with a shy smile was helping her to dismount the glider.
“And this specimen was one of the bigger
ones we have taken on,” she announced after introducing herself as Luna.
The last of the nomads was coming up to
them, removing his helmet and tossing his blond hair.
“Hey Leno, are you planning on helping to
collect those at all?” he said, pointing at the fallen tentacles. “They’re
heavy you know.”
He stopped abruptly when he set sight on
the cyclopes. His mouth popped open and his face became pale. Licorice almost sighed
in exasperation. It was a typical reaction and the twins were used to it, but
she had expected citizens of Twinsun to act more naturally, as this was a world
used to receiving travellers of different species.
“Litch,” intervened Leno, “what is wrong
with you? You look as if you have seen a ghost.”
“And I may as well have,” replied Litch. “Ced?
Cammy? Is that you?”
Cedric was the first to recognise him.
“Litch? As in our good friend Litch from
He gazed disbelievingly at the young man,
who could not be less than twenty.
“You’ve changed so much!”
Litch had been his best friend when they
lived in the orphanage. He used to be an energetic and scrawny boy who had
taken a liking to the strange one-eyed children. He had been sort of a big
brother to Cedric and Camellia. The orphanage had not been so bad. Yes, they
were hungry most of the time, because the rations were small – just enough to
keep them going – and the work was hard. Everyone had to contribute in some way
and they usually mended fabrics or cleaned pots. The care workers mostly
ignored the children, and the children mostly avoided them back. But even in
those conditions there was time left for fun and play, and Litch had had a
special talent for turning that playtime into successful attempts to get a bit
of extra food.
He used to call Camellia his little mouse
because she was shy, petite and light on her feet, light enough to scurry
inside the kitchen without being noticed while he and Cedric where distracting
the adults. More than once, the boys had been given a good beating from the
workers, but it had been worth it to see the girl pull some bread or, on the
luckiest days, a piece of dried meat, out of the pocket of her plain dress.
When other kids messed with the cyclopes, Litch had always been there to defend
them, even if it meant getting involved in brawls. He never took it out on
The man in front of them now was almost
unrecognisable but Camellia could see, in his eyes, the same spark Litch used
to have when he was planning one of their mischievous exploits.
“Well, of course I’ve changed” he answered.
“It’s been… ten years? Look at you, you haven’t changed even one bit. I bet you
haven’t grown one single inch.”
He kneeled down and placed his palm on top
of Cedric’s head, as if measuring him.
“Cut it out!” mumbled Cedric, feeling a
bit embarrassed. “We cyclopes have different growing rates than humans!”
Litch stuck his tongue out and Camellia
thought that, even if he had changed on the outside, he was still the same on
They decided to camp and spend the night
in the town. Once the suns set, a cold breeze took over, which was very welcome
after the heat of the day.
“Nights in the desert can be chilly,” said
Luna, handing them some blankets.
Reina showed them how to build an oven by
carving a deep hole in the sand and filling it with a small amount of coal and
a big flat stone. They carved some flesh out of one of the tentacles and placed
it in the oven. Soon the smell of roast meat filled the air, making their
“Kraken meat gets a nice price on the
market,” explained Litch as they ate. “After leaving the orphanage, as soon as
I turned sixteen, I wandered here and there and I eventually met them.”
He pointed towards the rest of the nomads.
“Leno, here,” continued Litch, “is a
genius mechanic. He build our first gliders from just scrap parts. And then it
just took some guts. As we hunted more and more, we became better at it and
could afford better parts for our boards. But enough talking about me. What
about you? What brings you here?” he asked. “Who is your friend?”
The cyclopes turned to their mistress.
Lady Licorice had not said a word since they had sat down to eat. She was
oblivious to the conversation, her gaze on the horizon, apparently deep in thought.
“It’s a long story,” said Cedric quietly.
“Those lightning bolts that slowed down
the kraken…” said Luna. “I have never seen anything like it. It was most
“Licorice,” answered the lady, standing up.
“If you excuse me, I am tired. I shall retire.”
And without further explanation she
disappeared inside one of the houses.
Luna looked troubled.
“Did I say something wrong?”
Cedric shook his head.
“No,” he reassured the girl. “It’s just...
We’d rather talk about other things.”
So they did. Litch and his friends had
plenty of adventures to share. The life of a kraken hunter was very exciting,
or so it seemed to the twins. The nomads knew the desert and all the creatures
that lived in it. The stories carried on until late, all of them too excited to
sleep. The stars shone in the clear sky over the sand dunes but Camellia found
herself missing the moon. There was no moon in Twinsun, there never had been.
It was one of the things that had shocked her most about Victoria.
“I have to say, I was not expecting to
ever see you two again,” said Litch. “One day you suddenly disappear and they
tell us you have been adopted. You can imagine the uproar that caused in the
Camellia’s smile disappeared and her
brother squeezed her hand.
“We weren’t adopted, Litch,” he confessed.
“They sold us. They sold us to the circus.”