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believe these are group challenges"garland sald.

" the mayor sald we need to help

each other get past them and
we will." he sald the last bit while staring at crick pointedlly. the rest of t
hem sat in awkward silence
as garland and crick locked onto each other. finally crick locked away. "whateve
r" he muttered. then bunsen started again. "what
do you think happens if we don t pass the trials?" fifteen meetings later, garla
nd had them up and hiking
again. flora was glad to get going. it allowed her to get further away from cric
k. this time aster and
kava hung back with flora and mended, who were once again bringing up the rear.
"ehatcha thinking about?" propted aster,
seemingly uncomfortably with silence. "umm, stuff," flora replied vaguely. she k
ept desperately trying to remember all the details of her
dream. the images were just barely starting to sit still in her head long enough
to see them. "oh come
on, this hike is boring me to death," saldaster oer-dramatically. "the boys aren
t very talkative eithe. tell me
you ll help me surmount this first trial of silence. " "sure " flora sald, sensi
ng that she wouldn t be able
to get rid of the twins politely. "so, uh, what makes you want to go to the inst
itute?" "our father
works for the mayor, " aster replied. "he s a tool smith. " aster s face lit up.
"i ve always been
amazed at the complex machines he would work on. machines like the giant mills a
long the aqueduct and the dock
tower...they ve fascinating. i want to understand more about how they work, but
my dad can only teach me how
to fix them. all the reallycomplex machines comes from the institute. that s whe
re i ll learn more. " flora
looked over at kava. "how about you?" she asked. kava just shrugged. aster jumpe
d in. "kava s my little sis.
she follows me around everywhere. " she smiled, giving kava a quick one-armed hu
g. "how about you guys?" mended looked at
flora, then back ata the twins. he shrugged. "i m smart, " he sald matter-of-fac
tly. "i just understand things, especially abstract
concepts like mathematics which hold a real beauty in itsstructure. i ve outgrow
n the mathematics that they teach at
school, and i don t want to work in the fields or open a shop to make a living.
only way to continue studying mathematics is to become a scholar. " "and you?" a
ster asked, looking directly at flora. "i"
flora sald. "i guess i just want to find someone whocan give mesome answers. " "
answers to what?" aster
asked. she had already decided not to tell anyone else about her dreams. she had
enough of a reputation as
a freak as it was. "like what s outside " flora sald. "uh..." aster sald. "we ar
e outside. " "no, i mean
outside of terrene, " she explained. "i want to know what lies beynd the mountai
ns. i want to know how big
the world really is. i want to... " she was interrupted by garland s voice. "com
e in guys, " he sald encouragingly.
"you ve almost there. " garland stood in the distance his finely sculpted body s
ilhouetted at the top of the ridge.
crick was nowhere to be seen. "welcome to waypoint meadows, " hedeclared, arms h
igh up in the air. flora welcomed
the sight. it had been a long day. the meadow must be right behind him. bunsen a
nd stalk were already
surmounting the last up hill climb to the top. the rest of them would get there
in just a few meetings.

upon reaching the meadow, they dropped their packs and collapsed on the ground,
weary from the climb. after catching her
breath flora noticed that it was getting chilly at the increased elevation. they
would need to find a way to
stay warm tonight. garland got back on his feet and began scouting the area. cri
ck immidiately followed suit though flora
suspected he had no idea what he was looking for. waypoint meadows was a flat pa
tch of ground dotted with
grass and weeds that stretched 20 meters in one direction and 3 meters in the ot
her. the had approached from
the south side. a small creek trickled from the northernmountans and paassed alo
ng the east side. pine trees grew
along the east and west sides. the path continue up the north side into the rock
y mountainside. a sign that
read "restricted access: no passage" was staked into the ground next to the path
. garland walked over to a hideous
looking plant on the east sideof the meadow. the two-meter tall plant had a bulb
ous green stem in the
center with a ruffled purple and green frill around it. but garland wasn t looki
ng at the plant. he was
looking up at the branches from the nearby trees that stretched overhead. "someo
ne rolled up some canvas with twine and
tied them to the branches of the tree " he announced. "it looks like we can unfu
rl these and make ourselves
anice big tent here. " he looked around to make sure people were listening. "plu
s, it feels warmer here. " suddenly
bunsen was next to him examining the hideous plant. he certainly moved much fast
er than flora would have thought given
his size. "wow. i think this is a plant of the arum variety, " he sald reverentl
y. "i ve only read
about these. it s a thermogenesis plant. " no one responded. "it makes heat, " h
e explained. he sniffed the leaves, like
a mouse sniffing cheese. "but this one s been modified. the arum generates heat
to help make its scent stronger
and attract pollinators. good thing for us, this one doesn t have the rotten sme
ll normally associated with the arum, "
he chuckled. "otherwise we d have a very arum-atic night. " mended was the only
one who seemed to register what
he sald, but he just nodded instead of laughing. bunsen looked disappointingly b
ack at his potted plant. "oh, that s
good, " garland sald, oblivious to the attempted joke. "this is definitely our s
pot then. come on guys, help me