It was cold and windy out, so I put Chinch and Chonch into an inner pocket. They looked out nervously, two heads on one frail chinchilla body, but stopped shivering.

Calloway the guinea pig, for his part, was happy in the coat’s outer pocket, seemingly oblivious to the snow falling on his fur.

The car’s battery had died just before going over the bridge, and the Chasm of Süd was a ten-day trek to bypass. I’d given my last speck of gold to the tollbooth man, who promised to get a new battery for the car and let us cross…in return for both the gold AND the car.

It wasn’t a good deal, but the shimmering sands of Nør weren’t going to come to me.

Up ahead, I saw the corrupt tollman struggling to drag a car battery over the bridge. It was an early-model one, the kind that had magic and nuclear fusion in an uneasy dance within it. I was about to shout something to that horrible man, hoping that the wind would carry it, but before I could, the battery detonated in a spectacular blast. It left a smoking gap in the middle of the bridge.

“Well, Chinch, Chonch, Calloway,” I said. “Looks like we’re walking after all. Why do I always have such rotten luck?”

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