The mountain has disappeared. Eryke’s heartbeat loses its train of thought for a moment when she sees it. Her brother died on that mountain, years ago. It’s unnerving to see the horizon without it.

“There was an earthquake last night,” says Mirail. “It sank.”

“I don’t think that’s how earthquakes are supposed to work,” says Eryke, squinting into the distance. There’s no jagged edge to the skyline, no rise or dip. It’s smooth, like the mountain was never there.

Mirail shrugs. The scientists are gone by now, served poorly by curiosity, and their camp only had the plant kind in the first place. If anyone else has geologists, they’re not sharing.

Some of the men decide to go find out what happened to the mountain. (This is why there aren’t very many men left.) It’s very important for them to investigate, they explain, as Mirail and Diyo try to convince them not to go.

Eryke stays out of it. Their camp is closest to the river, but there still isn’t enough food to go around.

A group of raiders storm in from the camp to the northwest and try to take their stockpiles by force. Eryke sets most of them on fire. She lets one escape, just in case the remnants of their camp are too far away to hear the screams.

There’s some grumbling around the camp that she should have been more thorough, shouldn’t have let the one get away, and aren’t there better ways to get the job done than using up precious gasoline anyway, but the reputation it earns ends up doing them good.

A new mountain swells from the ground. It isn’t the one Eryke’s brother died on. No one wastes time wondering, at least not out loud.

One of their own men–only one–comes back from exploring the vanished mountain.
“Nothing but flat dirt,” he says. “Like it’s been there for centuries.”

Mirail points behind him at the new mountain. He packs his bag and heads right back out. Eryke almost picks a fight over the food he takes with him, but he won’t come back this time, so she lets it go.

Someone has a baby. Someone wanders off to join another camp. It evens out.

“What happened to the river?” Diyo asks.

“Earthquake,” Eryke says. “It’ll be back.”

“There’s no point being so sure,” says Diyo. But there is.