Summary:Sixth of the Dusk
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- Plot Summary
Sixth of the Dusk, a trapper of the Eelakin, paddles across the open ocean when he spots a deepwalker, a large oceanic predator which hunts prey by sensing their minds. Dusk is with his two Aviar, Kokerlii and Sak. They are birds that possess magical abilities called talents, which they can bestow on humans. Kokerlii in particular provides Dusk with a protective aura that prevents Death from sensing him.
Dusk remembers a visit from the Ones Above earlier in the year, when he purchased accurate sea maps from them.
He soon reaches an archipelago called the Pantheon and its first island Sori, where he trained as an apprentice, but he continues onward to the Pantheon's largest island, Patji. He lands on the shore and sees his own corpse floating in the water, a vision given to him by his second Aviar, Sak. The visions act as a warning of lethal danger.
As Dusk drags the boat up the shore and hides it behind some deadly vines, he finds some debris. After packing his equipment, he goes to investigate the source of the debris and finds a camp of the Northern Interests Trading Company, apparently destroyed by a deepwalker.
Dusk finds signs of several survivors making their way into the jungle and thinks they're likely dead by now. Before he gets to investigate further though, he is distracted by some meekers — small venomous rodents with telepathic abilities — and gives them some food. He then places some Aviar feathers near the meekers' den to lure in rival trappers and tells the meekers to bite them.
Dusk then follows a trail that goes near one of his safecamps. After not finding a corpse for a while, he thinks the survivor must be a young trapper apprentice hired by the merchants. He follows the trail for a little while longer, closing the distance to the survivor. One of Sak's visions warns him of a nest of deathants which he narrowly evades.
As he reaches his safecamp, he finds most of his traps disarmed. However, the survivor ended up being caught in a net of jellyvines and turns out to be a woman: Vathi, a clerk from the merchant company Dusk has met before. She also has an Aviar, Mirris, who was wounded in an attack on the beach. All Dusk knows about it is that is also protects the mind from predators, like Kokerlii.
Vathi assures Dusk that she means no harm, so he frees her and they continue onward to his safecamp. Vathi remarks that Sak is not an Aviar, as the species is not from the Pantheon, and Dusk doesn't correct her. When Dusk asks her how she found him, she answers that she was looking for a trapper to help her survive and was following the sound of a nearby stream.
They reach the safecamp, which is built into the canopy of a gurratree, and climb into it. Vathi checks the room for insects while Dusk climbs onto the roof to check on a number of Aviars he raises up there to sell them later. Vathi and Dusk have an argument about the company's expedition, him calling it foolish, and her calling it a necessary distaster along the way to progress and discovery.
Dusk renews Mirris's bandages and places her with his other Aviar. Vathi tells him that she needs to get to the company's main camp on the other side of the island, where they have soldiers, scientists, merchants and two ironhulls to protect them from deepwalkers. The smaller expedition to this side of the island was to scout out suitable locations for a second fortress, though Vathi joined it for her own reasons. The company is trying to secure a foothold on Patji to investigate why birds need to be born on Patji to bestow their talents.
Vathi returns to check the rest of the room for insects and Dusk hears a nightmaw scream in the distance. As he turns to return into the safecamp's room, he sees his corpse in another of Sak's vision, when suddenly all the Aviar in the trees around start screeching. His corpses multiply until he sees dozens of them. Suddenly, they vanish again and the Aviar calm down, leaving Dusk terrified. He has never seen anything like it happen before.
He returns downstairs to confront Vathi about what the company is doing. While the flood of visions has stopped, he still sees a couple of corpses, indicating that the danger has not yet passed. Vathi reveals that the company has been meeting with the Ones Above, though they seem to follow rules that prevent them from trading with the natives.
She shows Dusk a device from the Ones Above that can be used to translate between languages and which can locate Aviar, which is how she really located Dusk's safecamp. The company also has a second, larger device on the ship which can create a large printed map of all Aviar on the island, which was scheduled to be used that night after sunset.
Dusk decides that they need to prevent the company from using the machine ever again, as he believes it will destroy the island. He starts packing supplies, but Vathi calls him mad for trying to navigate the island at night. He says, he's done it once before, but thinks to himself that his uncle did not survive that trip. Vathi wants to stay behind, but Dusk lets Sak show her visions of her own corpses as well.
Vathi reluctantly joins Dusk, leaving the wounded Mirris behind. She realises that Sak is effectively a new species of Aviar, bestowing a talent no one else knows about. They start to make their way through the jungle and Dusk quickly notices that he cannot rely on Sak's vision now, as they are dominated by the danger to the island as a whole.
While crossing some mud, Dusk notices a fainter vision in addition to a normal one and realises that this is how Sak can still give him warning of immediate danger. Vathi asks if there are others like Sak and Dusk tells her that there are many, but only she bestows any talents. Vathi realises that she's a mainlander bird who was raised on Patji and thus gained her talent, becoming an Aviar.
They find the corpse of a rival trapper, First of the Sky, in front of a tree known as Patji's Finger, whose blossoms attract predators known as tuskrun by mimicking the mental signature of prey. He takes a notebook from the corpse which contains the locations of Sky's safecamps and notes on the traps he set there. Vathi wants to collect a blossom from Patji's Finger, but Dusk presses on through the jungle.
They take a break. Vathi notices an Aviar mating plume, but as she tries to investigate it triggers a trap. Dusk saves her by catching the falling spikes but impales his arm. Vathi bandages the wound and Dusk gives her a speech for apprentice trappers, saying she should always ask herself if something seems too easy. They continue until a nightmaw breaks through the trees in front of them. Dusk throws his machete, but Vathi shoots at the beast with a spear launched from a tube she had been carrying, mortally wounding it.
Dusk is shaken by the power of the weapon. As he and Vathi discuss the possibility of eradicating the nightmaw population with it, the dying nightmaw lets out a final scream, which is answered by many nightmaws in the distance. Dusk panics and flees with Vathi further into the jungle. He decides to try and make for Patji's Eye, a lake near Patji's peak, and they run through the night.
They reach Patji's Eye through a small river running from it. As they huddle next to the lake to wait for the nightmaws to lose their trail, Vathi notices hundreds of juvenile Aviar from every island around the lake. There are several of Patji's Fingers around the lake and Vathi figures out that the Aviar eat the fruit which contains a parasite that is responsible for the birds' talents.
The nightmaws draw closer and Dusk decides that the only way to stop the company is for him to lure the nightmaws away so Vathi can escape Patji's Eye. He hands his Aviar and his notebooks over to Vathi and turns to leave. Just as he's about to leave the Eye, he and Vathi both have a better idea. They tie a blossom of Patji's Finger to Vathi's last spear and launch it far away from the lake, which draws the nightmaws away.
At dawn, Dusk and Vathi arrive at the company fortress. Meanwhile, Sak's visions have returned back to normal, showing only immediate danger. Vathi returns to her people where she is shown more deference than expected for a scribe and called "Lady Vathi". She tells the others to turn off the machine from the Ones Above, but they tell her they never activated it. Instead, they only opened it to study it.
Dusk tries to warn the companymen about the danger of the machine, but his words fail him. They pull Vathi into the fortress and leave Dusk alone outside. He returns to the jungle and makes his way towards another of his safecamps. After a short while he stops, frustrated. He realised that the machine from the Ones Above was never meant to be used, but the technology was meant to accelerate the native's progress, so the Ones Above can soon get around their laws forbidding trade.
Sak suddenly flies back the way he had come and he follows her back to the fortress. There he finds Vathi standing alone outside the fortress. She looks terrified. They have found a manual inside the machine, explaining the technology in great detail. Reminded by the mating plume about Dusk's speech, she realises that this seems too easy and came to the same conclusion that the machines are a trap.
Vathi asks if exploitation by the Ones Above is inevitable. Dusk pulls out his own mating plume from when he first fell for a trap and his uncle gave him the same speech. He answers that, no, they will not fall for the traps of the Ones Above and have been hardened enough by Patji to defy them. He steps into the fortress to help Vathi defend their culture.
Dusk was originally going to refer to himself as "Sixth", but this was changed after feedback at how confusing it was. Dusk was found to fit better thematically, as well as be easier to track in a sentence. The story was brainstormed on Season 8: Episode 16 of Writing Excuses, and is set on a new world, First of the Sun. The story was not brainstormed as a Cosmere story, but became one during the outlining phase. The setting is inspired by Brandon's fascination with Polynesian culture. The events of this story occur farthest down the timeline of any of the stories, included in Arcanum Unbounded.
|Sixth of the Dusk (First of the Sun)|
|Characters||Sixth of the Dusk · Vathi · First of the Sky|
|Places||Pantheon (Patji · Sori) · Eelakin Islands · Mainland|
|Magic||Patji · Aviar (Sak · Kokerlii) · Patji's Eye|
|Groups||Northern Interests Trading Company · Ones Above|