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the burning wheel

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Sometimes there's a tiny black crack that forms where the sky presses against the flat, brown pan of the earth. Always moving. It's delicate, wavering and racing through mirage shallows on the horizon, only to evaporate in a flash of midday heat. Never lingers long. Then it's gone for months.

That would be Max. Operating on something the Dag calls gentlefolks honour, Furiosa doesn't blaze out to corral him or drive him off -- and he doesn't ever come close. If survival supplies disappear from inventory and rare, sun-scoured parts materialize in the shop, surprise: those things are unrelated. The shop kids dare each other to press Furiosa about it but exactly none of them have taken it up with her. The standard retort is: No, thanks. I'm not sick of the way my face looks. (The shop kids have cautionary tales for a lot of things that never happen but that one in particular has good mileage, probably because it rings true.)

Inevitably, it's an event when the crack appears and a car rips straight through it. Dust rising long and silver into the air, people smacking steel scraps and stones together to announce the presence of an interloper. A profile that looks like a gutted Camurro, at least through a pair of cracked long-glasses. It skids and parks within howling distance of Hot Top Tower, site of the old Citadel. Nobody just drives up and parks near the old Citadel, so out goes Furiosa with some light cavalry in the form of Toast and Capable. Wondering what they'll find. Prepared to deal with whatever.

They discover that the car is indeed a Camurro, looking worse for wear. Could be five different cars stapled together, Furiosa figures; though if it runs she supposes there's no sense in being haughty. Shelled up inside, the driver looks at least a little better than his outfit. Ragged, true, but hands fairly steady on the wheel, level in the eyes. Furiosa's not sure what that means. Before cutting the engine, she turns to her passengers, looms close to remind them what it's like to be wary. Says: "Get out. But stay back."

Nods all around, and then everyone pops a door, eases out slowly. Toast and Capable see it too.

Max is standing behind his door with both hands casually resting in plain view. As Furiosa draws near, she realizes that the door looks uneven. A long, melted scar bisects it vertically, like unmatched pieces soldered together. He moves one hand, almost a wave.

Furiosa stands a good three-second sprint away and indicates the Camurro with her chin. "Where'd you get that?"

He shrugs.

There's something useless in her pocket, a stripped screw. She digs for it, throws it at the hood, and Max watches it arc closer with lines of consternation sinking deep into his face. The sound of its landing is lost as he slams the door and stomps closer; three accusatory steps.

"Took it," he coughs. "Raiders coming west. Just a few but maybe turning off this way." He shrugs again, sharp and dismissive. "You would have seen the smoke."

"Yeah," Furiosa says, careful not to smile. "What do you want?"

"Need you to get the girls, follow me."

Furiosa turns sideways and gestures. "Got them."

Watching his emotions change in real time is alarming. For an instant Furiosa feels like she's steering a big steel slug around corners that shear off into the black guts of a bottomless pit. His eyes flick over from Toast to Capable and it's like she can see the individual muscles ticking through a hundred calibrations until they finally settle in an arrangement of guarded pleasure.

"I didn't know," he says, and suddenly smiles right at them.

Furiosa looks over her shoulder at the two women standing behind her truck, shoulders solid, hidden hands likely closed on their weapons and bodies wrapped in sleek muscle, in scrubbed cloth, in chain. These days, Toast goes bald and hooded most of the time and Capable wraps her hair with leather in a high, elaborate knot, unwilling to trim it but conscious of her mobility in a closed cab or a fight. Imposing at a glance, both of them. Even when they're grinning like little kids. With a rush of pride, Furiosa realizes she'd have trouble recognizing them too.

"But," Max adds, "we need everyone. Found something you need to see."

Toast clears her throat hard enough that the sound becomes a kind of laughter. "Come on. Glad you're not roadkill but you've got to know we're not going anywhere unless you say where and why."

Squinting at her, Max nods like that's a good idea. "Not far," he replies, but then just looks at her, then at Capable. And finally, gravely, he fixes Furiosa with a stare that says a lot more than his mouth ever seemed to manage. "Everyone, together. They'll want to see."



They drive back out, everyone white-lipped and wordless. It's a strange trip; fast as freefall but divided into frozen winks where nothing seems to move. They go split between the two running vehicles, and somehow it still feels hot and close like the war rig's rattling cab. The sun stands tall and the highs and lows in the rocks all blur together, dashing precious water out of any eye that tries to separate them. With Toast installed like a backseat turret, Furiosa rides passenger in the Camurro, gripping the dash hard enough with her grappling hand that Max starts making sounds at her. Might be eloquent criticism in some language that no one else speaks. She never finds out because Toast lunges between them, her arm straight as a sword, and breathes: "Stop. Look."

Hard to disobey. They've run up right to the end of the known road. It's the two tall red rocks themselves blocking the thrown line of her arm and Max is braking as carefully as anyone could manage in a polite effort not to put her through the windshield.

"Belts," he grunts to himself as they puff to a stop, like that's part of a list running in his head.

Toast, meantimes, is out of the car nearly as fast as a pitched body anyway, and Furiosa is just a shadow's length behind her. Because Toast certainly isn't pointing at the Tootrox. She stabs the air again and does not speak as she is lost briefly in the nimbus of dust raised when Capable slams her truck to an expert short stop. An instant later, she and The Dag emerge from that billowing cloud like claps of thunder, leaving Cheedo at its centre, standing in the truck's box, a goddess of the storm. Everyone is out. Everyone sees. Toast lowers her arm slowly. Everyone sees.

Standing in the centre of a road leading nowhere, Angharad sweeps out one arm in a wave. Wide and high, like an imitation of the sun.

At first, it's not her. If every set of eyes had a different explanation, all could still agree: it's not her. But it feels in that moment as if they all have one heart, joined by far more than tubes and needles. All that hope changes things. Makes solid flesh out of a shining mirage. It's her. Furiosa does not know where her conviction comes from, or why it suddenly twists in her like a blade. Angharad, she thinks, and is shocked to discover that the thought is old. Years old and aching, stiff as scars.

Before anyone can move again, something kindles under Cheedo; she bursts from the truck bed like a strip of flame, her dark eyes narrowing on Max and not the slightest tremor dulling the edge of her fury. "You said she went under the wheels. You said that and we — "

"He didn't lie."

It's that same voice, the very one she remembers. Rattling raw, more like the cough of a diesel engine than Furiosa would have believed possible, but still full and clear enough to fill every open space. The rasping wind pauses thoughtfully. Even the grumble of the idling engines seems to ebb away, astonished. It's quiet and Angharad stands just beyond the red rocks marking the end of civilized roads. As if she is going somewhere. As if she only waits to see who might follow.

"We tried to go to The Green Place," The Dag tells her, perhaps answering a question that only she can hear. She's moving closer with Cheedo gathered against her back. They're all moving closer until Angharad takes one small step back. Then they stop. The Dag shakes her head soothingly, adds singsong, "It was not so green. Blue and black like you wouldn't believe. Sick, the way people get. Only deeper." Her face pinches around the memory of wet rot. "Sick in the roots."

"You should be dead," Furiosa says suddenly, loudly; and Cheedo swings around with a gasp, and Toast snaps back, "Well, so should you."

Angharad smiles strangely, and Furiosa's disbelief slowly sours to doubt even as Max begins to raise his hands — open, placating, foolishly trying to hold back the inevitable wreck — but it's Capable who cuts the engines without warning.

"Nobody here should be dead," she says levelly. "So we're not."

A good, clean judgement; one that Furiosa finds hard to accept wholeheartedly. Not out amid the grit and the howling heat. Not under pressure. She had stood on the other side of this very same sort of reunion, those many years ago, and she knows one thing. Vengeance had followed her. It ripped a hole through her kin and kindred, charging in on her heels. The Vuvalini never blamed her for that, all of them as sentimental as they were stalwart. But Furiosa, she'd been gone too long to remember sentiment. And Angharad? Even if there was no way around Capable's wisdom, she'd been dead.

"Come and see, then," she says at last. Less an invitation than a command. "It's different now, the whole place. You'll be surprised."

"Come with us," Cheedo says over The Dag's pointed shoulder, wonderstruck. "We're in the truck. Dag and I ride the box. There's already a spot in the front for one."

"And a half," Angharad declares. "I need my navigator or I don't go."

Lizard-quick, a tiny shape flits up from the cracks and the golden glare to crouch in her shadow as if summoned from the earth itself. At the sight of that, Furiosa grows cold. Small as a war pup from the old days. Nearly as pale. She sees it in parts: arms, legs, knobby joints, dirty hair. And she looks up, expecting Angharad's face to be transformed into some demon's leer that reveals the whole thing for a dream, but Angharad is the same. Unlike herself in at least a hundred ways, but just the same.

Bending her knees to shield the child's head from the sun, she hums an odd, vibrating note that makes them both laugh. "Off to The Whole Place with us," she says, and the tiny form folds away into her bandit's cloak, nearly vanishing completely. "What do you think?"

It's hard to tell over the rasp of the wind, returning from exile, but it sounds like the only answer is a growl.

She nods and glances up. Straight at Furiosa. "I guess we'll see."



The sun, the great unblinking eye that blinds, had vanished. Angharad remembered wondering how she'd missed the sunset; her favourite time lit with her favourite colours, and ragged old Joe always left them alone then. Too much to do in that narrow shred of easygoing daylight before it cooled to unworkable stone. Gone now, somehow. Well past. She found herself looking up at a night sky with treads rather than stars. Some cold part of her mind commanded: don't mind the pain. There was too much of it in the world already; and besides, she felt none during the fall or inside the tumbling sheets of sand that rolled her up or the wheel itself turning, its revolutions thumping like a heart as it reared up, ready to come down hard. Hard as thunder's landing, as hammers drumming on battered hoods. Even the wound left on her leg by a bullet's kiss had felt like nothing, just sudden numbness, salve on a scorpion sting.

And then the hammer of the night sky came down. Lying there, Angharad decided that she didn't believe in collisions but fear was climbing out from the deep pit that opens up and screams when something impossible happens as if it was trying to reach out and warn her. Worst of all, her mind was still working, still trying to search, trying to claw, trying to answer itself when she asked what will happen—what will happen to me—what will happen to them—does this mean that he won—

In that instant she knew the wheel for a ending, and darkness the last place she could hope to hide. Curled tight without thinking, trying to protect the child who shared her body and her blood; that child who had never known anything else. Darkness came. The last place.

And then, again, the sun.



She looks older. She is older, and she looks it, and somehow that's all wrong. On the hazy drive back, Furiosa takes out the memory of her, turns it over and around and doesn't find a single spot or sand rash, not one dead nail or sun blister. That's how Angharad has existed since they came back from the Fury Road: out of the world, unchanging, immaculate. Dead. There is nowhere Furiosa can plant this new image of a woman who carries calamity in her skin and her bones, a blemish for every hardship handed down to her by the hot sun. Up close she has a serrated edge — burst vessels in her eyes, deep lines like cracks in the mud all around them — and cuts an uneven gash down the middle of everything.

The whole ride back, Furiosa's hands clutch the dash so hard they feel fused to it; but Max, he makes no comment on that. He stares straight ahead, watching the truck bed jostle its haul of cautious, joyful women into each others' arms at last. The little boy is in there with them, hidden low, probably still under the tarp he'd taken for a burrow while they were loading up. He looks to have been trained how to duck and dodge and find sanctuary in the thinnest shadows. After they enter the darkness of the parkabout, the brake lights go out and Capable hops up into the box with everybody. He crawls out a moment later, like it's finally safe. Drapes himself over Angharad's shoulder and accepts a few scratches on the top of his head. Furiosa watches this from the Camurro, aware that Max is watching her.

"You have a problem with that?" he asks finally, brow furrowed clean in half.

"That?" She eyes the smiling faces half-seen in shadow; the gleam, perhaps, of tears. "No. That?" She tosses her head back toward the waste. Shrugs.

"Needs time. Always hard to go back."

"Yeah," Furiosa says, folding her arms against the rebuke. "So I hear. You want a room?"

A question asked mostly to rile him into a real reaction. Immediately he makes a face like he's caught scent of something foul. "No. No, I'll come by again sometime. Have a look."

Which doesn't suggest he has to allow himself to be seen by any lookouts, or show up any time in the next ten years; but Furiosa studies the dash, newly dented by her lucky left hand. And she makes no comment on that.



By morning, they lose track of Angharad's boy in the mesa caverns tangled all around the upper vaults of the aquifer. Bikkie, The Dag's girl, had seen him last, tumbling all crumbly from one of the pantry pockets scratched into a stone wall.

"Not even a good one with fruity sticks," she reports, mystified. Pearly loops of her hair wrap around and around the lone finger on her right hand. "He didn't see me but he knew I saw him. He's quick."

"His name's Buglatch," Angharad explains, a face full of light for the child before her. "He lived when he should have died. That means he can't be stopped." She leans forward indulgently then, a secret slipping from friend to friend. "But if you yell his name into a place that echoes, he'll like you."

Bikkie puts the hair spool in her mouth, wide-eyed and wise. Backs away with her left hand fluttering. Important places to be for a child, when there are newcomers to catch and caves for yelling.

A torrent of questions pour in through the path she cuts out of the room and it's like the sun suddenly descends. Angharad closes up, refuses to offer up any answers. Not out of spite. There's no anger in the way she comes to her feet. She just stands up and walks away, drawn to a dark archway that breathes cool air. Room by room she goes silently, touching cookpots and utensils where they've been arranged on the ledges, eyeing the dishes stacked on shelves crowned with the breakable stuff. (Bad idea, she murmurs, creeping along the outer edge of that room, and Furiosa is pleased at least that someone finally agrees.) There's nearly no illumination where she's heading. Just a few electric elements strung up and linked to the crank generator outside but they only cast a sickly green light and fade in a way that feels like falling asleep.

"No machines in here," Furiosa calls up. "Too damp. Auto shop is in a cave plot higher up, right on ground level. Takes up a whole mesa. Gets hot but it's safer than keeping everything on hooks."

Angharad ducks away into the next room. And the next. In a dry storage room, Cheedo goes digging for a blanket to throw over her narrow shoulders, sensing that she wants to keep delving and isn't planning for company. Sweeping some tattered blue upholstrey over her like a net, Cheedo catches herself an Angharad — just as Angharad catches Cheedo's hands and pulls them close to her hooded face. A collective breath is drawn and the stone floor almost seems to bell upward, a lung in the world filling sympathetically.

Cheedo gazes up into her eyes, squints at the patchy leather gloves wrapping her palms. Wraps the cloth tighter around her body. They exchange whispers. And then part. Loosed, Angharad dashes back toward the shiver of chill drafts and moisture, where the rough walls gleam ever so faintly with sweat. After she is gone, Cheedo comes to The Dag's outstretched arm. She looks troubled rather than scared.

"She says she'll be back. I guess there's something else I could have told her but I told her to go ahead. I mean, if she wants to go somewhere," and her soft voice trails, and she exhales for all of them.

True enough, Furiosa thinks, turning the whole party around before the lights could begin to wink out completely.

From there it turns over into a matter of waiting on her. That game would have been a hard knock on any wastelander — measuring wealth in days, hoping to make a fortune in reverse — and it eats at Furiosa with a particularly jagged set of jaws. For years, she had been an Imperator; and for years fewer but always growing longer, she has not. But the waiting is something she would not be able to forget, not if she lived to the age of the last standing tree. Waiting on a slavemaster's whim. Living by his sense of time as the absolute, no matter how it leaped and stuttered, no matter what the sundials or the precious waterclock said. She would wait, had always been good enough at doing it. But the trick to pretending she liked it, well, she never really found out where that part attached.

Over the next few days and nights, stories start to rumble up from the underground, to ripple at the fringe of Camp City. People who have been asked to watch for a figure in scrappy blue over scrappier rags say she has been wandering the yawning holes down the deep grey paths toward complete darkness. Others have seen her traversing the laneways in Camp, taking the hands of pups and young folks, telling them things — or, well, she did it to everyone who didn't jump away from the snag of her hand but it was the young ones who listened, sometimes intently. Maddie of the Vuvalini met her that way and speaks about it later with a sage, sad sort of confidence, as if she knows just what happened to her and where she's been. Her certainty stings Furiosa somehow, but it makes her realize a useful truth. This new haggard Angharad is like The Green Place she'd been seeking: not the same as it looked in the dreams.

"I want to talk to her," Furiosa says. Discovers as she says it that it's true, and it's all she wants.

"That might be hard," Maddie says. "She just don't seem to hear human voices sometimes. And the other times, she don't care. Always searching, her. It takes up all her time. You want her attention, you got to show her something, I think. Something she's not seen before. Or else something she has," the old girl declares, her voice and her hands suddenly finding new eloquence, "but when she sees it she don't know it anymore."



The easiest way to the high spire of the old Citadel is a ride up on the system of cranks and pulleys rigged to raise huge, heavy loads of precious things no common wastelander was ever allowed to touch. Since those only had controls in the spire itself — and those had caught sand freeze years ago — they take the second easiest route: the yellavator cage with its shrieking wheel, built into the great shafts that ran scaffolds and stages up to the vehicle bay. As they climb inside it, Furiosa wonders how long she can trust the workmanship of the dead — but the wheel still spins as smooth as ever and the cage climbs its chain tooth by tooth, fast and then faster. Legacy-long, she supposes and tries not to think about what that means. Pressed into the corner, Angharad starts to sink down as if menaced by a hand from above.

"We gutted the whole place," Furiosa assures her, surprised to find herself winded by the crank. "There's nothing here anymore. It's just the lookout you'll want to see."

Taken by the wrist, Angharad allows herself to be guided out of the cage and forward, past rooms she expects to recognize and others she could never have seen before. The tension between what she remembers and what she sees begins to intrigue her, and soon she is leading, moving toward the sound of wind trapped against its will.

When they finally come up to the ledge, she gasps. Peers directly up at the sun and makes some strange gesture at it until Furiosa draws her back out of the glare. It's difficult to determine her feelings. Her worn fingers are peaked over her mouth. Her eyes are wide, flicking from one landmark to the next; the mesas, the Tootrox, the smudged debris of the Bullet Farm, the trails of smoke rising from the guzzoline refinery. All swimming on the surface of the shimmering wasteland.

"It was the right thing to do," Angharad says, then laughs as the wind whirls her hair up into a sunspun cloud.

Furiosa tenses, feeling like her last breath kicked her on the way out. "What?"

"Coming back. You agreed to take us away from him. Make him leave us alone. And that you did." Wiping at her lips, she points and adds: "You can see so far down the road from up here. I forgot about that. I forgot."

Furiosa shakes her head. Even before this, before she had seen the ghost of a brave girl standing at the end of all roads, every one of the wives-who-had-become-widows still seemed unreal to her in a way. Sun summoned, cloud born; something from beyond the wounded earth. Women of their own, now. Free because they had asked to be set free, knowing what that meant. Knowing they would need to fight and bleed and burn for each other. She wonders if they'd seen their own unthinkable fearlessness reflected in the flames that had streaked the war rig's windows at full steam. She remembers the very first time she encountered them in the Vault, a family of movers and thinkers lit up with captivity like fire in a tin drum; remembers thinking with great pleasure: You old shit, you can't hold down this many claws and wings for long.

More true than she'd known. Of course, she'd had the thought herself so it felt right to watch it happen. But it had been Angharad's voice that made the dream take its first step to tangible form. It had been The Splendid Angharad's face, the very thing trapping her at the top of a trembling tower filled with paradise, that transformed with joy when Furiosa had said that she would help.

"You would have found a way without me," Furiosa says at last, rueful in a way that makes her feel gray and grim. An old hunter who missed her last shot.

"You helped us. Nobody else was going to help us. Now he's dead. I'd say you had everything to do with it. The Immortan's long dead and we can go anywhere."

It hangs between them, that word. Anywhere, and Furiosa feels a flicker of something like fear, realizing what it must be like to have left, and died, and found her family returned to the grounds of their old prison. From the Citadel's old eye in the sky, Angharad looks out at it, all the anywhere visible from the top of the world, all of it gold and brown and melted down. Like a bone buried in the sand, there is far more to it that lies hidden, even from here. She closes her eyes like she is trying to see it in her mind from high above but there is haunted, humming stone all around them. The hot wind gusting inside seems to erode her smile slowly. Piece by piece. The way any good thing can be broken down.

"Hey," Furiosa says. Louder than she intended. Angharad jumps and stares at her, and Furiosa stares back, chagrined. Her voice still struggles on cold starts, flaking rust; but then she clears her throat and it runs smoother than she could have hoped. "This was a bad idea. You don't have to stay. Nobody can make you stay or go, you know that. Just — you should see the way some places have changed. Like you changed. There's another one below. Less... less like this. Can I take you there?"

She is going to run. That's what her posture says, the wide plant of her feet, the way she wraps herself tight. Then she nods. Then she puts out her hand and grabs Furiosa's arm just below the elbow. Doesn't speak, but doesn't run; and that's something.

Furiosa leads her down the long way, a complicated ladder of stairways and platforms on pulleys descending away from the smooth, worked stone into coarse tunnels, down and down, to catwalks over darkness and metal steps that sound outraged to have their years of rest disturbed. They come into a natural cavern illuminated by long shafts of light that fall through three slim breaches in the rock high above. The ceiling soars into shadow, its mineral fingers reaching down, dripping into black pools, unseen. Every movement echoes. When Angharad laughs, it goes on for a hundred years.

"The old chop shop," Furiosa tells her. "There was scaffolding against that wall right up to the outside. We took it all to brace the rooms in the mesa a few clicks away. The entrance used to be one mouth so you could drive anything through it, but we caved part of it in. There's still a lot of stuff down here that we decided to store. Don't think we'll be using it though. It gets a lot more water than I was expecting."

Wandering like a spirit, Angharad is peering at scars on the walls and enormous links of chain looped on warped metal hooks. The hulking shadows of several car frames, some with seats and doors still attached, draw her out of the falling light. Before she reaches them, she turns back. "Why did you bring me here?"

Furiosa has an answer for that, ready to go, but a selfish question is the first thing that clears her lips. "Why did you stay away? Why didn't you come down the road and find us? Why did it take a fool to find you?" She takes a sudden breath. There is perfect silence, and then the distant glitter and drip of moisture snaps her back into focus. "Sorry."

Angharad goes to the nearest frame. Swings up and sits on top of it, pulling her tatters close as if she is cold. Then she smiles, differently than before, unlike anything Furiosa has ever seen. A feral flash of teeth, wry and unkind.

"I did not know him. He circled over and over; this was out on flat land, away from the road. He drove close and I was going to bring him closer. As close as I could. Get him out. I was going to kill him and see what he had. Buglatch was ready to help." She swallows her teeth carefully and returns to herself, a small and thoughtful figure in the dark. "But he stopped too far away. Said he was going to get Furiosa." She leans over and clutches her bare toes, almost self-consciously. "I don't know how he recognized me."

"The scars, maybe," Furiosa says breathlessly, not caring in the least. "Who knows. So you waited. To see if we would come. Why?"

Tilting upward, her face looks young again; and that, now, is strange too. "I wanted Buglatch to meet you. I wanted to see your faces. I wanted to see you. And tell you everything I've just told you but more than that. Only I don't know what the rest is."

Furiosa waits but she says nothing more. This cold, secret space is no place for impatience so she walks to the frame, sits on the back bench and looks up at Angharad with a sigh. "A lot of people here like you."

"I know," she replies. And she laughs softly as Furiosa reaches up with that lucky left hand, grasps her ankle as airily as first light touches the skin of a cloud; and she slides down from the frame, pushing Furiosa down with her heel, down onto the bench, flat on her back with a knee coming up. First in self-defense, a reflex; and then Angharad gets her hands on it, pushes her legs wide apart and settles between them. Looks at her, as close as she'd ever been. Then closer. Then, pressing their mouths together in something that was far too savage to be a kiss, and she bares her teeth in a smile. Breathes: "I know."



There is no discussion about what will happen in the days still coming; there's no bargaining or bribery. It's clear to everyone that Angharad is there to do as she pleases and for a while that means hushing through long corridors, exploring what they've become. It means perching with The Dag and Cheedo over an iron pot as Bikkie teaches them all to cook a squash and turnip stew that tastes like anything other than what it is. It means helping Toast mend clothing and toolbelts with any materials they can scavenge from things utterly beyond mending, laughing incredulously at every sock that looks like it's come from a trouser leg cut out of a leather seat at least half a century earlier. It means copying loose pages into books with Capable as she explains their flight across the Fury Road years before, tells Angharad more about the skinny war boy she'd terrorized, a driver with a spark that flamed him forward into some place far better than the one he'd been promised. It means taking Buglatch, when she can find him, to see the way that people live when they know they are with others they can trust. It means staying. Longer than Furiosa had expected, though not nearly as long as she would have hoped.

Angharad makes it easy. She tells no one and asks for nothing. One morning she and her boy are simply gone, along with supplies they had been earning themselves with hard work around the community. With them, too, went many children from Camp; but word of that comes out more slowly. It takes people some time to notice that the little ones who went uncared for finally went with someone who cared. Furiosa considers sending wheels after them, either to drag them all back or send all them the riches she could possibly move. Then decides to let them go unhindered. Reciting a mantra The Dag has been trying to teach her: sometimes nothing is the only thing to do.

She's only sorry about it on the day, years later, when preparations to demolish the Citadel are complete. Too bad, she thinks, that they couldn't stay to see it become a heap of rubble. She thinks Angharad would have liked to watch the scything shape fall and the dust swarm up to veil the sky, one last setting of the sun that drove the old days forward. Too bad, she thinks, and good luck.



Angharad traveled for days and days to stand before the toppled rocks that had once held her prisoner. There were boys and girls, growing too old for the affectation of childhood, who had come with her to witness the ruins. They were hanging back. Knowing, perhaps, that there was little to see. Knowing, certainly, that the approach should be hers alone.

The shattered stone lay like a great serpent half-swallowed by the earth, nearly black under the ledge of night. In time, she thought, the earth would take it all in and make something new of it. A strap girding the largest cave imaginable, a pillar supporting islands in a deep, deep sea. It did not matter. She did not care. Something else. The Citadel would be something else and no one who stood on its grave needed to divide their lives between free and not-free. Flicking out her hands, she sent the children forward to climb and scratch and play in the rubble. Even if they were getting older, she thought, they were still young.

Like a crook bird, she circled the carcass, unsure of what she hoped to find until she found it: a perfectly smooth surface, meticulously cleared of grit, where sets of pale and shining objects gleamed under the stars. Packs of clean cloth, knives ground clean and sharp, rubber scraps for covering feet. And metal plates, all with a serving of utterly pulverized ceramic heaped upon them. Angharad smiled. She did love to be right.

There was a quiet insistence to the offering, which she found that she could not ignore. She had hoped to come and go as quickly as possible. A long trip just to look but she had known that the sight would stay with her, a gift that could not be worn down or wasted. But looking upon it and seeing smaller offerings, she knew with a surety beyond knowing: these ones could not be left behind. Though mortal in their use, they had a purpose past scrubbing and binding and holding up things that were trying to fall. She called the children and they came, delighted by the strange trove of treasures she had uncovered. Everyone gathered up a safe, manageable load — which meant, for Buglatch, no knives — and then laid out everything they were willing to trade. Children had treasures with them at all times; some, even, that could be given away. Angharad took one of the wide, waxy leaves that had held their outbound rations and wrapped up all the trinkets she was freely given: bright stones polished in the shy, thin creek in the deep trench below their dens; strips of strong, woven vine painted with experimental lines of berry juices and saps; bulbs dug up from the black dirt in the deep bowl of a grotto; and a few threads from the blue shawl that straggled from her shoulders.

They put the folded leaf on the flat rock. Sat around it as they ate and drank and sang a few traveling songs. And when they walked away, a kind wind plucked at their hoods and cloaks, and the sticks they used for walking rose and fell in patterns like the legs of a clever insect. The Whole Place was at their backs and home was ahead. The leaf would sit safe in darkness, like a seed, like home, like the child Angharad had moved to shelter at the last moment; and at the touch of a hand under the bright sun, it would open onto a story about what the world might become.