Maya reached out and took her father's hand as they walked from the
Underground to the light. Thorn didn't push her away or tell Maya to
concentrate on the position of her body. Smiling, he guided her up a
narrow staircase to a long, sloping tunnel with white tile walls. The
Underground authority had installed steel bars on one side of the tunnel
and this barrier made the ordinary passageway look like part of an
enormous prison. If she had been traveling alone, Maya might have felt
trapped and uncomfortable, but there was nothing to worry about because
Father was with her.
It's the perfect day, she thought. Well, maybe it was the second most perfect day. She still remembered two years ago when Father had missed her birthday and Christmas only to show up on Boxing Day with a taxi full of presents for Maya and her mother. That morning was bright and full of surprises, but this Saturday seemed to promise a more durable happiness. Instead of the usual trip to the empty warehouse near Canary Wharf, where her father taught her how to kick and punch and use weapons, they had spent the day at the London Zoo, where he had told her different stories about each of the animals. Father had traveled all over the world and could describe Paraguay or Egypt as if he were a tour guide.
People had glanced at them as they strolled past the cages. Most Harlequins tried to blend into the crowd, but her father stood out in a group of ordinary citizens. He was German, with a strong nose, shoulder-length hair, and dark blue eyes. Thorn dressed in somber colors and wore a steel kara bracelet that looked like a broken shackle.
Maya had found a battered art history book in the closet of their rented flat in East London. Near the front of the book was a picture by Albrecht Dürer called Knight, Death, and the Devil. She liked to stare at the picture even though it made her feel strange. The armored knight was like her father, calm and brave, riding through the mountains as Death held up an hourglass and the Devil followed, pretending to be a squire. Thorn also carried a sword, but his was concealed inside a metal tube with a leather shoulder strap.
Although she was proud of Thorn, he also made her feel embarrassed and selfconscious. Sometimes she just wanted to be an ordinary girl with a pudgy father who worked in an officea happy man who bought ice-cream cones and told jokes about kangaroos. The world around her, with its bright fashions and pop music and television shows, was a constant temptation. She wanted to fall into that warm water and let the current pull her away. It was exhausting to be Thorn's daughter, always avoiding the surveillance of the Vast Machine, always watching for enemies, always aware of the angle of attack.
Maya was twelve years old, but still wasn't strong enough to use a Harlequin sword. As a substitute, Father had taken a walking stick from the closet and given it to her before they left the flat that morning. Maya had Thorn's white skin and strong features and her Sikh mother's thick black hair. Her eyes were such a pale blue that from a certain angle they looked translucent. She hated it when wellmeaning women approached her mother and complimented Maya's appearance. In a few years, she'd be old enough to disguise herself and look as ordinary as possible.
Excerpted from The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks Copyright © 2005 by John Twelve Hawks. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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