23: The Night Everything Changed (Part Two)
The Scar defined Torsten. It dwarfed everything, from the Fourth Wall to the forest to the Sophist church looming over the town from a nearby hilltop. It was, as Joel Gibson had once put it, like a zit that nobody could pop. Their schoolteachers called it a monument to the town’s folly for ever trusting Seelie, while Katy Ritches thought it a secret place ripe for exploring, and the Donara — well, the Donara considered it a cursed place that none could enter, and, if Dante believed anyone, it was the people of the forest.
But the Donara had also tasked him with protecting his mother so, putting his fears behind him, he followed after her.
Dante was crawling on hands and knees when he spied the light ahead of them, dim yet firm, a cool mix of blues and purples. As he pulled himself out into the open, his first sight of the Scar was like nothing he could have imagined, even in his most vivid of dreams.
Katy Ritches called it a graveyard, Shelley Eoghan thought it a place where people went to be alone, and Mr Bachmann, the old history teacher, called it the true Torsten, the town that vanished into ruin when Dante was still a baby. It was, Dante thought, all of those things and more.
He mother took his hand and helped him down to the battlements below. The Fourth Wall continued unhindered through the Scar’s interior, its grey stone and armour plating melding into the tapestry of roots as if they were one and the same.
“A lot of people think this is an evil place,” said his mother, as they took in the view. “I used to be one of them, until I saw it with my own eyes.”
The lost town lay silent beneath a shroud of light fog, peppered with a glitter of stars as the dust caught the light from an array of multicoloured beacons scattered about the streets and courtyards. The closest was a vivid blue, nestled between a cluster of houses, its light spilling out between them like the spokes on a wheel.
Dante’s mother took his hand. “Come on,” she said. “There’s a place I want to show you. An important place.”
She led him along the wall until they reached a stairway leading down to the streets below. As they made their way through a series of darkened alleyways, Dante recalled Mr Bachmann’s rants about how Seelie cursed Torsten. He insisted that they were the ones who created the Scar, but he could never explain why. Katy Ritches called him delusional. Seelie would never do such a thing, she argued, and Dante was inclined to believe her. Seelie fought to protect the world, not cast it in darkness. They would never have sealed the old town away like this. If anything, Seelie would be the ones trying to save it.
“It’s a long story,” said his mother, as they stepped out onto an empty road. One way led back to the wall, and to a great archway, its gate scattered in pieces beneath it. The other led to wide plaza, surrounded by a trio of the glowing beacons. Dante’s mother crossed the road and entered another alleyway. This one led to a group of houses cast in purple light. They were making their way towards them when Dante noticed a subtle shift in the atmosphere, as if they had just stepped from late summer into early winter. At the same time, a thin mist began to stir around their ankles. He felt his mother shiver.
“Is this bad?” he asked.
“Just keep walking,” she replied.
He did, but half a dozen steps later, his mother stumbled and fell to her knees. Dante was at her side in an instant. She was shivering with cold, her teeth chattering.
“It’s—it’s okay,” she said, but the strain in her voice said otherwise. “We’re almost there. I walked—” she pulled herself up with Dante’s assistance and wrapped an arm around his shoulder, “I walked the Transantarctic Mountains, I can walk this. Just … just don’t let go, okay?”
Of course he wouldn’t. He’d made a promise.
They used the same passage Astrid and her friends used in Chapter 11.