“Our world is not like other worlds,” said Hub. “But other worlds are made for other purposes.”

“And what is the purpose,” said Nic, “of such a world as this?”

Hub waited a moment to reply, the lines of his face trembling as he spoke to himself, arguing both sides in an internal debate. “Our world is a puzzle box,” he said. “It was designed to keep a secret from all but the most dedicated.”

“What secret?”

“It’s better not to know!” snapped Hub. “To let that curiosity in is to be bones upon a distant shore, like so many of our youngsters.”

“I’m not interested in any of your secrets,” said Nic. “This is purely for my research.

“Beyond the furthest shores of the most distant of our lands, there is the Infinite Sea,” said Hub. “One must somehow be able to traverse an endless expanse of sun-kissed water.”

“Hmph,” Nic said. “And then?”

“The Endless Lands, devoid of aught but sun and soil. Crossing trackless wastes with no water is a challenge none have even been able to attempt. At least none who have returned.”

“And then the secret in the puzzle box?”

“No. The Unchiseled Rocks, a sphere of the hardest stone without a chink in its armor, infinitely thick.”

“And let me guess, beyond that, the Airy Air, air without end,” laughed Nic.

Hub bristled but said nothing.

“How do you know all of this?” said Nic. “if none have ever returned from even this ‘infinite’ sea?”

“Myths, legends, and song,” Hub said. “Passed down since before we knew how to inscribe them.”

“Uh-huh,” Nic said. “What else have you got?”

“Only this.” Hub pulled something from beneath his shirt: a glass vial filled with water. “I took these waters from the Infinite Sea myself, before I made the decision to turn back. Analyze them if you like. You’ll find it unlike any other water you’ve ever seen.”

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