We broke bread with the wayfarers behind the leeward wall of a crumbled building that had long ago forgotten what it was supposed to be.

Only the three of us now — Tan, Maggie, and me. The rest had fallen in ones, twos, and threes along the way.

We squatted in a loose circle with them, these wayfarers, dipping hunks of the hardtack into tin cups of soup in a vain attempt to make it more palatable.

“Where y’all be headed?” one asked.

Tan answered with an indifferent wave of his hand.

“Out yonder,” he said, “beyond the peaks.” He ventured no more information than that. No reason to, not here in the Wastes.

Another of the wayfarers spoke up. “Ain’t no reason to be going that way,” he said. “Thems that go there only be serving up their own death sentence.”

“Be that as it may,” Tan acknowledged. He said nothing more.

“Your death warrant,” the first muttered.

There were no more words. We ate in silence, then packed up our gear and set out again as the sun set behind the scorched peaks.

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