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The rivers of zadaa, p.1
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       The Rivers of Zadaa, p.1

           D. J. MacHale
 
The Rivers of Zadaa


  PENDRAGON

  JOURNAL OF AN ADVENTURE THROUGH TIME AND SPACE

  Book Six:

  The Rivers of Zadaa

  PENDRAGON

  JOURNAL OF AN ADVENTURE

  THROUGH TIME AND SPACE

  Book One: The Merchant of Death

  Book Two: The Lost City of Faar

  Book Three: The Never War

  Book Four: The Reality Bug

  Book Five: Black Water

  Book Six: The Rivers of Zadaa

  Coming Soon:

  Book Seven: The Quillan Games

  SIMON & SCHUSTER BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS

  An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division

  1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020

  This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2005 by D. J. MacHale

  All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

  SIMON & SCHUSTER BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS is a trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data TK

  ISBN-13: 978-1-4169-1435-8

  ISBN-10: 1-4169-1435-8

  Visit us on the World Wide Web:

  http://www.SimonSays.com

  For Frankie, Marcus, Andy Boy, Noodle, Mov,

  and Franny Jae. My oldest friends

  and constant source of inspiration.

  FOREWORD

  Hello to everyone in Halla.

  It’s time once again to rejoin Bobby Pendragon and the Travelers as they track down the evil Saint Dane and try to thwart his next twisted attempt to topple the territories. Since the publication of the last Pendragon adventure, the books have done almost as much traveling as Bobby. As of this writing, Pendragon has been published in seven different languages. I’ve gotten letters from readers in such far-flung locales as South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Israel, Tokyo, many European countries and, of course, every one of the United States. As exciting as that is for me, it’s also interesting to know that no matter how far apart we may live and how different our cultures may be, people everywhere enjoy reading a fun adventure. I’m honored to be able to provide one.

  I always like to thank the people who were so important in getting the Pendragon books out to the world. This foreword will be no different. My editor, Julia Richardson, has once again provided invaluable guidance in helping me shape Bobby’s latest adventure. Rick Richter, Ellen Krieger, and all the great folks at Simon & Schuster have continued to support the Pendragon books, for which I will always be grateful. Heidi Hellmich has once again done her copyediting magic and turned my writing into something that actually resembles proper English. Debra Sfetsios and Victor Lee have come up with yet another stunning cover. Loor looks great, no? I’ve got some terrific guys who are always watching out for me when it comes to the business side of things. Richard Curtis, Peter Nelson and his team, and Danny Baror are my own personal acolytes, and I thank them.

  Of course, my wife, Evangeline, has once again helped me fashion this latest story. I even have to thank my daughter, Keaton, for allowing me to exist for hours at a time in my own private flume (better known as my office) and not knock on the door too often, wondering where Daddy is. (I don’t think she’d understand that Daddy was on Zadaa, matching wits with Saint Dane. She’s not even two.)

  And of course, my final thank you has to go out to you readers. I’ve gotten such wonderful letters and warm greetings from everyone. I especially love to meet readers at the various book events I’ve attended. As much as I love to write these books, it’s an extra bonus to hear from those who enjoy them. Thank you all for reading, and thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.

  So, is this boring foreword done yet? Yes. Enough preamble. It’s time to get back into it. When last we left Bobby, a flume had collapsed. Spader and Gunny were trapped on Eelong; Kasha the Traveler was killed; and Saint Dane was headed for Zadaa, Loor’s home territory. Can it get any worse? Is Bobby destined for more trouble? Has Saint Dane hatched another evil plan to destroy a territory?

  Do you really have to ask?

  Hobey ho, let’s go.

  D. J. MacHale

  PENDRAGON

  JOURNAL OF AN ADVENTURE THROUGH TIME AND SPACE

  Book Six:

  The Rivers of Zadaa

  JOURNAL #20

  ZADAA

  It began with a battle.

  A nasty one. Then again, is there such a thing as a nice battle? I guess this one seemed especially vicious because it was over something so trivial. At least that’s what I thought at the time. At stake was a couple gallons of water. I’m serious. Regular old everyday water. Not exactly the kind of thing you’d expect a group of professional warriors to fight to the death over, but that’s not the way it works here on the territory of Zadaa. Water here is more valuable than food, more valuable than treasure. It’s even more valuable than life. I know. I’ve seen people risk theirs to get a few precious drops.

  How messed up is that?

  Mark, Courtney, it’s been a while since I’ve written a journal to you guys, and for that I apologize. I think after I tell you all that’s happened since my last journal, you’ll understand why. From the time I arrived here on Zadaa, I haven’t had much time to think, let alone kick back and write. I’m doing it now because I’m about to set out on an adventure that was long in coming. I’ve tried to avoid it, but now I have no choice. Starting tomorrow, life is going to be very different for me. I feel as if I’m closing the first chapter on my life as a Traveler and beginning a new and more dangerous one. I know, that doesn’t seem possible, but it’s the truth. Before I tell you about it, I need to let you know what happened since I landed back on Zadaa. You’ll need to hear it all to understand why I’ve chosen the path I’m about to take. Maybe writing it down will help me understand it a little better myself.

  You won’t be surprised to hear that Saint Dane is here. I’ve already run into him. It wasn’t pretty. But more about that later. I also have a good idea of what the turning point is here on Zadaa. I think it has something to do with water…or the lack of it. I’ve no doubt that Saint Dane’s evil plan for this territory is somehow tied in to the water trouble they’re having. Bottom line is, our quest to stop Saint Dane’s plan to crush all of Halla has come to Zadaa. This is our next challenge. And so we go.

  I first want to tell you about the battle that happened soon after I arrived. It’s important to hear because in many ways it’s a small example of the bigger trouble I found on this territory. That, and because one of the warriors involved in the fight was my friend. Loor. The Traveler from Zadaa.

  “Keep to yourself, Pendragon,” Loor ordered as we strode along the dusty street of Xhaxhu. “Stay in the shadows. Do not look anyone in the eye. It is dangerous for a Rokador to be seen in the city.”

  “But I’m not a Rokador,” I complained.

  “Do not argue,” Loor said sharply. “Do as I say.”

  I didn’t argue. I knew what she meant. There were two tribes living in this area of Zadaa. The Batu lived above ground in the cities. They were a dark-skinned race, made so because they lived for generations under the hot, desert sun. Loor was a Batu. The other tribe was the Rokador. They lived underground in a labyrinth of tunnels that spread throughout Zadaa. They weren’t moles or anything; they were definitely civilized. But as you might guess, living underground didn’t do much for their tans. The Rokador were a light-skin
ned race. So with my white skin and light brown hair, I pretty much looked like a Rokador. And since there was some serious bad blood between the Batu and the Rokador, making myself invisible up here on the surface was a smart idea. To that end, Loor had me wearing heavy, dark clothing that covered my head and arms. It was great for a disguise, not so great for keeping cool. I’m guesstimating that the temperature in Xhaxhu averages about ninety degrees. On a cool day. So I was sweating like a fiend. Or at least a fiend in a sauna wearing a winter coat.

  “Can’t somebody take your place?” I asked. “I mean, we have more important things to worry about.”

  Loor looked straight ahead as she strode along. Her jaw set. I’d seen this look before. She had her game face on. I know you guys can picture her. She’s hard to forget. I’d grown a few inches since I first met her on Denduron, but she still had me by a solid two inches. Her once almost-waist-length black hair was a bit shorter now, falling to her shoulders. I guess the long hair got in the way when she did her training. As you know, Loor is a warrior. Here on Zadaa they call the warrior class “Ghee.” When I first met Loor, she was a warrior-in-training. Since then, she has been elevated to full-fledged warrior status. I’m guessing she was at the head of her class. She’s that good. She even looks the part. This girl is totally cut. I’m talking stupid-low body fat. It isn’t hard to see this since her lightweight leather armor reveals a lot of skin. Wearing heavy metal armor like the knights of the Round Table wouldn’t fly here on searing-hot Zadaa. You’d end up cooking like Spam in the can. Assuming Spam is actually cooked, which I’m not so sure about. But whatever. You get the idea. The warriors here had to be protected, but cool. Unlike me, who had to be wearing a wool-freakin’-blanket.

  The muscles in her long arms and legs flexed as she moved down the street, making her look even more formidable. I guess when you’re a professional warrior, having an awesome athletic body goes with the territory. So to speak.

  “I have no choice but to fight today,” Loor finally answered. “I am next in the rotation.”

  “Rotation?” I snapped. “What are you, a baseball pitcher? Have them change the schedule. Find a relief pitcher. If something happens to you then—”

  “If I do not fight,” Loor interrupted, “the Ghee commanders will mark me as a coward and banish me to a labor colony in the desert. Or I could get lucky and they would execute me.”

  “Oh,” I said soberly. “Not a whole lot of great choices here.”

  “Do not worry, Pendragon,” she said, finally looking at me. “Our destiny is to stop Saint Dane. I will not let anything stand in our way.”

  I believed her, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to worry.

  “Loor!” came a voice from behind us. Running to catch up was Saangi. I’m not exactly sure what her official title is, but I guess on Second Earth you would call her Loor’s squire. You know, one of those young servants who are assigned to knights to take care of their every need. The Ghee warriors of Zadaa operated pretty much like the knights of old, without the Spam-can suits.

  “You forgot this!” Saangi said, out of breath. She handed Loor a small, leather container that was about the size of a canteen. In fact that’s exactly what it was, a canteen full of water.

  “No,” Loor said sternly. “I cannot use this.”

  “But you will need water if the battle is difficult—,” Saangi protested.

  “Take it back to my home,” Loor said firmly. “And do not let anyone see you with it.”

  When Loor spoke in that serious tone, you didn’t mess with her. At least I didn’t. I figured Saangi knew better too. The girl’s shoulders fell in disappointment. I’m guessing she was around fourteen, only a few years younger than me. She had the dark skin of the Batu, but unlike Loor, her hair was cut tight to her head, like a guy. She wore simple, dark clothes that looked sort of like Loor’s, but they were made of cloth rather than leather. Someday she would wear the armor of a Ghee warrior, but until then, her job was to take care of Loor.

  Oh yeah, one other thing. Saangi had another job. She was Loor’s acolyte. She knew all about the Travelers and our mission to stop Saint Dane. I thought Saangi was kind of young to have that kind of responsibility, but then again, I was only fourteen when I became a Traveler. Still, Saangi seemed more like an eager kid than a future warrior who could help us defeat a world-crushing demon. But that’s just me.

  “Do not be upset, Saangi,” Loor said, taking the edge off her voice. “You were concerned about me and for that I am grateful. But it would not look right for me to be quenching my thirst during a fight over water.”

  Saangi nodded. “I understand,” she said. “But do not begin the battle until I get there!” She turned and ran back the way she had come.

  “She is so young,” Loor said as we watched her run away. “I wish she did not have to know of the danger we are all in.”

  “Hey, you and I aren’t exactly ancient,” I said. “I’d just as soon not know so much either.”

  Loor gave me a quick look, and continued walking.

  “So what exactly is the point of this fight?” I asked, hurrying to keep up.

  “It is a contest,” Loor answered. “You have seen how precious water is in the city. The situation has become so desperate, it has turned us against one another.”

  “You mean the Batu against the Rokador?”

  “It is worse than that,” she answered. “Since the underground rivers have gone dry, the Batu are fighting among themselves in their quest for water. Families guard their small supplies fiercely. It is not uncommon for neighbors to battle one another over a small puddle after a rain shower.”

  One look around confirmed what Loor was saying. When I first saw Xhaxhu, the city was an amazing, fertile oasis in the middle of the desert. Troughs of fresh, clean water ran along the streets. There were rich palm trees, colorful hanging gardens and even fountains that sprayed water in intricate patterns around the massive statues of stone. But now, the city was dry. Bone dry. The troughs were empty, except for dust. The gardens were gone. The palm trees were dying. Sand from the desert blew through the streets and collected in every corner. Walking through Xhaxhu, I couldn’t help but imagine that this is what the cities of ancient Egypt must have looked like when the desert began taking over. Unless something changed, I could imagine the city of Xhaxhu one day being buried in sand, waiting for some future civilization to uncover it.

  Loor continued, “It has caused a divide among the Ghee warriors. Half of us remain loyal to our mission. We protect Xhaxhu and the royal family of Zinj.”

  “And the other half?” I asked.

  “They have the same goal, but differ in their methods. The royal family has made it known that they wish to work through this catastrophe peacefully. But there is a growing number of Ghee warriors who feel our only hope of survival is to wage war on the Rokador below and claim whatever water they may be holding. With each passing day, the numbers of this rebellious group grow larger. If this drought continues, I fear there will be war.”

  “Smells like Saint Dane’s kind of party,” I said.

  “I agree,” Loor answered. “He has found a time in our history where we are the most vulnerable. The question is, what is he doing to make it worse?”

  “That’s always the question,” I added. “Tell me about this fight we’re going to.”

  “A well was discovered,” Loor answered. “It is not known how much water it contains. It may hold a few feet, or lead to a spring. The dispute is over who will control it. The rebel Ghee warriors want it for themselves, to fortify their strength in preparation for their assault on the Rokador. The Ghee loyal to the royal family wish to have the water distributed to all the people of Xhaxhu.”

  “So this is a battle between Ghee warriors?”

  “It is,” Loor answered somberly.

  “Which side are you on?” I asked.

  “I would like to believe I am on the side of Zadaa,” Loor answered. “But in this
case I am loyal to the royal family. I do not wish to see a war…for many reasons.”

  “I hear you,” I said.

  We traveled the rest of the way in silence. Loor needed to get her game on, and I needed to keep a low profile in case a thirsty Ghee warrior saw me and felt like beating up on a Rokador. Loor led me to a city square that was nothing more than a sandy patch of ground surrounded on all sides by towering, sandstone buildings. They reminded me of pictures I’d seen of ancient Mayan temples in Central America. The buildings rose up like multi-tiered pyramids, finished off with flat tops. Some were taller than others, reaching maybe ten stories high. On all levels were carved statues that I can only guess were famous Batu from the past. Most of them looked like fierce warriors, clutching spears or arrows. It wasn’t a real happy-looking bunch.

  In the dead center of the square was an ornate fountain. Dry, of course. The fountain had a statue that was a larger-than-life depiction of a Ghee warrior battling a huge beast that looked like a fierce cat…with two heads. The beast stood on its hind legs, towering over the warrior with its claws out and ready to slice.

  “That monster looks familiar,” I said. “But that’s impossible.”

  “It is not impossible because you have seen one before,” Loor answered. “It is a zhou beast. That machine on Veelox took the image of the zhou from my memory and—”

  “The Reality Bug!” I exclaimed. “I remember! When it burst out of Lifelight, it looked like that thing. You’re saying those bad boys are real?”

  Before Loor could answer, a trumpet sounded a fanfare. I looked up to see that people were gathering on the tiers of the pyramidlike buildings.

  “How come nobody’s on the ground?” I asked.

  “Because that is the battleground,” Loor answered.

  “Oh,” I said. “I guess I don’t want to be here either.”

 
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